A reading from the book of the Exodus
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’
But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Homily by the Revd Lee Johnston
What would it be like to see God? Well, in this story with moses, we have a first hand account of what it was like for him and what it might be like for us. At the outset, Moses is not out to find God. Instead, he is out working for his father-in-law, tending his sheep. A few weeks ago, I myself was out working for my father-in-law, cutting the grass. Cutting the grass for the first time – don’t tell anyone. But the point is that this was an ordinary every-day scene of a days work. But then, something catches Moses eye, the scene of the burning bush, which keeps on burning. If I seen that on that day when I was cutting the grass, I’d not be expecting to see God – I’d be expecting to phone a fire engine. But it shows you the kind of way that God can make himself known to us and be seen by us in every day life. That’s been good news for us during lockdown when we’ve been unable to come to church, instead finding God at home or through walks in nature – moments which direct our eyes upwards. Helping us to see God as the source of all that is around us.
If what I’m saying is correct though – you can find God in nature or in your home – then what is the point of coming back to the church building – a holy set apart place. Well, we see in the story that Moses was also around what was called “The mountain of God”. Later in the story, Moses is also told to bring the people back to that mountain to worship after the people of Israel have been set free. It’s clear then that God does encourage us to set aside places to worship him, special and holy places that are intended to remind us that God is in our homes and in nature, with us always.
Although the church is people – as we have been shown afresh by the Coronavirus – the church building is also important because it is a permanent reminder that God is all around us and is with us. It focuses our mind and enhances our worship and God does call for places to be set apart and recognized as holy. Places where he wants to see us and be seen by us.
Secondly, Moses sees that God is not as he expects him to be. God says to Moses “I am that I am” – which means that God defines himself. God is who is he is, and we change our view of God based on that. The alternative is that we take our view and superimpose that on to God. When we are preparing to come to worship, either at home or in church, we need to be open to the idea that God may not be like us and not what we thought he was like. Each time we come to worship we need to be prepared to be surprised by who God is afresh.
And, of course, what remains most striking about this meeting is that God appears in the image of a burning bush. An image that remains the logo of the Church of Scotland. Moses sees in that fire that never ceases that God is the source of nature, the infinite power behind all created things. It’s is recognition of God that turns Moses’ vision into a worship experience – he sees God as he is, the infinite source of all created things, whether the nature he’s walking in or the love and justice which will later drive Moses to set the people of Israel free. When we see God as God is, it calls us to move beyond being discouraged by the Coronavirus or the many political problems that exist or how different church will be. Let’s see God as that infinite and almighty source of all this is, which is working for justice and love in the world and calling us to do likewise.
Prayers for Others
Heavenly Father, your love for the world is all consuming and everlasting. As we think on our streets and our neighbourhoods, we hold those who live beside us in your love, praying for those who are ill, those facing job losses and all who are afraid. Grant peace to Christine, Ian, Les, Sam, Olive, Chris, Bill, Joyce, John, Avril, Helga, Colin, Margaret, drawing near them and all of us in this time of need.
Lord Jesus, you live with us, walk with us and meet us in the highs and lows of every day life. In our homes and at church, online and offline, we can see and worship God afresh because you have brought him close to us. Be our protector and guide as we seek to re-open the church and remind us always that we are part of one family and one faith regardless of where we are, for you are in us.
Holy Spirit, wherever there is mercy and peace, we find you at work in our world. Help those who are striving for the good of others, giving selflessly of their time and talents to heal, comfort and strengthen our society. We give thanks for those you have called into public service in the NHS, Social Care and Policing, and ask for your blessing and protection on them and their families.
All of these prayers we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.