ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
Sermon on Exodus 3:1-15 for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, June 22/25, 2017
At times we might find ourselves in a situation forcing us to ask something like this, “How can I ever do this?” We receive a big promotion at work. This means more responsibility on our shoulders. We now have a few people below us to oversee. How will I ever be able to do this? Who am I that I should be chosen for such a task? Or maybe it comes as a parent holds their newborn child for the first time. How can I ever be a good parent? Who am I that I am now responsible for another life?
It can seem like a lot. The task looks impossible. Any thought we had of this being easy soon evaporates into thin air. Problems will arise. It might not always be a smooth transition. However, we get through it. We grow in the task before us. We learn from others. We read books on how to be a better leader or which offer parenting advice.
Moses found himself in a similar situation asking, “Who me?” He was minding his own business. He led his father-in-law’s flock to Horeb the mountain of God. Moses might have taken this time to clear his mind, yet this day his mind would be filled with many thoughts.
Something caught his attention. A bush was on fire, maybe something not unusual. The unusual part was that this bush did not burn up. Moses went over to investigate this strange sight. As he got closer a voice called out, “Do not come any closer. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground… I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:5-6). This was no ordinary voice. The Holy God called out to Moses from within the bush.
God came with a very special mission. The Lord saw the misery of his people Israel. In Egypt they lived as slaves. They were being mistreated. They suffered. Now was the time for deliverance. God would free them from the land of Egypt and bring them up to a land flowing with milk and honey, the land he promised to their forefathers. Then came the kicker. Moses would be the one to lead the people on this trek.
Moses barely found the words. He blurted out, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:11)? Moses had tried to block that part of his life out. Forty years earlier he tried to force himself into a leadership role, when he killed an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite. This backfired. The Israelites questioned Moses. Pharaoh put out a death sentence on Moses. He had to flee for his life to Midian.
Still Moses could never comprehend how God chose him for such a task. God wanted Moses, a now humble shepherd, to stand before Pharaoh, the most powerful ruler in the world, and tell him to let the Israelites go. The Egyptians used the Israelites to build cities and erect monuments. Pharaoh would not be willing to let go of such slave labor. Even though God gave Moses a mission, Moses was not so willing to go.
God continues to call his messengers today. He calls pastors and teachers to carry out his mission in the world. Pastors go out on behalf of congregations to publicly preach his Word. God might even move pastors around from place to place through a divine call. Wherever they go, their message is not to proclaim a physical freedom. The gospel message speaks a about a Savior who breaks the chains of sin for the captive. God places this mission in the hands of his servants.
He also calls you as his messengers. The very same message spoken in this pulpit is the message carried out by all of you. All of you have a little mission field. It can be big or small. It might only be one person desiring to hear the gospel message. The Holy God calls his messengers with a mission.
As we receive this mission from God, we might also wonder, “Who am I?” We are only sinners in this world. It is also a scary world to carry out our mission. We stand before people not willing to listen to us. They think they know all the answers. They think our message is something they have heard before. They perceive God’s Word to be a bunch of made up nonsense.
God equips his servants for their mission. We pull out a long list of sin and excuses. God only sees Jesus’ blood washing away all those sins. God says those excuses will hold not water, for I will be with you. God equips us with his strength to carry out our mission in this world. He also lays his promises out for us to lean against when the times get hard.
God answered Moses’ hesitancy with a statement. “I will certainly be with you. This will be the sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12). Who am I? Moses thought that would get him off the hook. God said it is not about you. I am with you. God even promised Moses that the next time he would see this mountain it would be with all the nation of Israel. Moses needed to lean on God’s power instead of his own.
It is easy for us to rely on our own strength, isn’t it? We cruise through life. Everything is going well. We do not have a care in the world. All of a sudden we hit something. The bump of a little health scare causes some damage. The obstacle of a crisis in the family brings our trip to a screeching halt. The warning lights of all the dangers and temptations make us lose our way.
Our strength no longer gets us through. We need to find someone stronger than us. We need to find someone who will not be swayed by all the turbulence life throws at us. The only place to turn to is God and his promises. He will be with us. He will get us over the bump of earthly calamities. There might be pain, damage, and times we feel breaking down. However, God is with us. The obstacles all of a sudden do not look insurmountable. The warning lights quiet down.
Those promises of God will never go away. Amid all of life’s changes, God’s promises stand the test of time. We need to rely on them when our mission seems a little too daunting. We find our peace on these promises. Our power has nothing to do with it, but God’s power will get us through.
Moses still was not too sure about all of this. What if people asked for a name of who sent him? How would Moses respond to that? God told him, “I AM WHO I AM…You will say this to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). In English this looks and sounds a little funny to refer to God as “I AM”. In the Hebrew language it is a most beautiful and comforting word. The very same letters used in the name “I AM” are used in the word “LORD”. This name of Jesus reminds us of his grace. It points to God as the one that will keep all his promises. God revealed himself to Moses as the God who does not change.
“Say this to the Israelites: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered from generation to generation’” (Exodus 3:15). The same God who called Abraham to leave his homeland and settle in a foreign country with nothing to call his own would be with Moses. The same God who brought home a wife for Isaac to carry on the promise of a Savior born for the world would be with Moses. The same God who brought Jacob to Egypt over four hundred years ago to escape the terrible famine would be with Moses.
We follow the same God with his promises to us. As he sends us out on our mission, he will not change. He will not love us today but tomorrow will despise us. He does not walk with us today, but tomorrow will leave us to fend for ourselves. We too follow the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Those promises remind us that God’s work will get done. It doesn’t matter whether a pastor leaves or stays the mission of the church will go on. The fear of whether we are ready to carry out our mission depends not on our strength but completely on God’s strength.
Who me? This might be a typical reaction we have when something big comes our way. We have the same reaction when God calls us on our mission. We don’t look to ourselves but we look to God. The Holy God Calls His Messengers. He calls them with a mission to carry out in the world. He also calls them with his promises to get them through the work. Amen.