Have you ever been surprised by something? I’m sure we all have at one time or another. Life is full of surprises. Imagine how boring things would be if this were not true. It should not be shocking to discover that the creator of all, God, is full of surprises as well. I want to speak about two surprises in the lessons for today. Both occur in the lesson from the Book of Exodus.
Now the idea that God is surprising should not be that novel. I know that as I look back in my own life it is filled with surprises, things which I never would have expected. There are twists and turns in my life that have led me to places I never though I would be. I’m sure that many of you today can identify with those same experiences.
The Holy Scriptures are also packed full of surprises. In the Scriptures we find stories of old women having children. There is the most memorable story of a young maid giving birth to the son of God. Stories of angels appearing when no one expected them.
Even today here at St. Peter's we celebrate a surprising event. That most unexpected of occurrences in an Episcopal Church, a baptism in Lent. Today we will baptize Spencer and welcome him to our faith community. Life is full of surprises. And like the baptism today, surprises are not always bad things.
In the reading from Exodus today we see that God can come to us in surprising ways. Moses is out wandering around with his flocks. As he wanders, he sees something not all that uncommon in his experience. He sees a fire. But as he looks at it be becomes surprised. He sees something totally unexpected. Moses observes that while there is a bush blazing on fire the bush is not being burned up. That had to be quite a surprise. And then Moses discovered the source of this seemingly impossible event. And it was another surprise. It was God. God came to Moses in a surprising way, in a way Moses did not expect. And I think that often happens to us as well, God comes to us in surprising ways. God comes to us through people we would not expect or events we would not anticipate. And suddenly we realize that God is trying to tell us something or God is trying to show us something in a new way.
Next we see that God uses surprising people. As a matter of fact, God uses people who don’t think they should be used by God. God tells Moses “Guess what, you are going to be the one Moses. You are the one who is going to save my chosen people. You are the one who will go to Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go. I think at that moment Moses probably looked around to see if there was someone else standing behind him to whom God must be speaking. God sure surprised Moses in his choice of who he would use to bring God’s people out of Egypt. Moses was convinced that God had chosen the wrong man. I think many of us often feel that same way. The Lord can’t possibly be talking to me and calling me to do something. First of all who wants to go and tell anyone that the Lord has told me I’m supposed to do this. Most people would maybe take a few steps away from you and wonder either how they can get away from you for good or how they can get you to some treatment. But they are mostly likely not going to say “Oh hallelujah, I have been waiting for you to tell me.” And Moses knows this. And I think the other thing is that Moses knows himself. Here he is a simple shepherd and yet God is going to call him to do amazing things and deal with the most powerful man that Moses knows in the world. And he is going to have to tell the most powerful man in the world some things that man does not want to hear. “Who am I that I should go…” Moses responds to God. This might not be an unexpected response. It might be a response we have offered to God in our own past when we felt the call of God in our own life. No one really wants to have to tell everyone that God sent them to them. Or like Moses we might recognize that there is nothing special about ourselves. There is nothing powerful about ourselves and we might respond “Lord there must be a better person to do your work.”
And what do you think the Lord’s answer to Moses was. We all know. Moses you are the one. I know you are the one. You can do it. I sometimes think that God chooses people on purpose who don’t think they can do it. You see the problem is that if you think you can do it, then you don’t have to rely on God. You can just go out and do it on your own. But if you are convinced that you cannot possibly be the right person to do it, then you have no choice. You have no choice other than to rely on God to give you the strength and the power to carry out what it is God wants you to do.
And so my challenge to you is to look for unexpected things in your own life from God. Look for God to speak to you in unexpected ways. Look for God to ask you do to unexpected things. And then trust God to give you what you need to do it.
A look back: December 11, 1996...
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