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 the Lord 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.’
The Christian faith is a strange thing. I mean, think about it— every week we get together, and we profess allegiance to a God who chose to reveal God’s self to the world in the most powerless, helpless form possible— that of an infant. And we’re not even talking about a royal infant. God didn’t come to us in the form of a prince, or the son of a mighty warrior. He came to us as the son of a poor carpenter— a nobody from the nowhere town of Nazareth. So there’s that. But then of course, this God that we follow also chose to hang out with the poorest, most questionable, most vulnerable people he could find— fishermen and tax collectors, lepers and prostitutes. And so, not only did God choose to come to us in the most powerless form possible, he then chose to associate himself with the most powerless people possible. And it doesn’t even end there. In addition to all of that, God then chose to become even more powerless, by letting himself, in human form, be arrested, persecuted, tormented and brutally killed. He gave up all of his earthly power to become just as powerless—maybe even more so—than those he fought to protect while he walked in human form upon this earth. That’s the God we come here every week to worship and pledge our allegiance to as Christians—the God of the powerless, the God of the weak and the vulnerable, the God who said, “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” It’s a strange thing— this faith we profess.
I say it’s a strange thing because power is something that most of us, if we’re being honest, wish we had a little bit more of in our lives. We wish we had more power at work, especially when it comes to difficult co-workers or micro-managing bosses. We wish we had more power at home, especially when it comes to unruly children, or opinionated spouses, or hyper critical in-laws. We wish we had more political power—particularly right now, in the middle of an election season, it’s easy to feel like our voices don’t really matter, or like no one is really listening to what matters to us. We wish we had more power when it comes to things like fighting climate change or world poverty, human trafficking or global terrorism. We wish we had more power to protect the people we love from things like grief, or disease, or suffering, or even death. In all of these things, we all wish we could be more powerful, not less, and so why on earth would we choose to come to church every week to be disciples of a man who tells us that in order to have true life, we must first die to ourselves, give up our power and our wealth, and become like a servant to others? What on earth do any of us have to gain by following such a path?
Yet here we are. And indeed, for thousands of years, with the exception of maybe a few blips on the radar screen, Christianity has survived and thrived precisely because of it’s claim to be a faith that holds special concern— not for the powerful and the privileged— but for the powerless and the vulnerable. Even before the days of Jesus, our Jewish ancestors too, claimed that theirs was a God who held a preferential option for the poor and the oppressed. It was the God of Israel, after all, who said to a young man named Moses, who stood in front of a burning bush, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters.’ And who did God choose to lead the people out of their misery? A powerful warrior? A rich and influential political figure? No. A man with virtually no power himself— a fugitive shepherd, full of self doubt, who elsewhere in scripture describes himself as slow of speech and slow of tongue. At one point in the book of Exodus, Moses is described as one of the most humble men to ever walk the face of the earth. And this is who God chose to break the chains of the Egyptians and lead an entire people into freedom. A humble shepherd.
The point that God seems to be trying to make here is one that we humans seem to be awfully resistant to, which is that God is squarely on the side of the poor, the vulnerable, and the powerless in our world. We humans usually want to align ourselves with the powerful. Indeed, we would preferably like to be among the powerful in this world. But God has shown us in scripture, time and time again, that God’s heart beats for the poor, and if we want our hearts to beat more like God’s heart then we are called to stand at the margins and fight for the powerless in our world. We are called to stand up for the poor, to align ourselves with the vulnerable, and to advocate for the oppressed. We are called to be friend to the immigrant and refugee. We are called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. This is all part of what it looks like to “Be the Church.”
Now maybe, like Moses, we hear this call, and we say to ourselves and to God, “who am I?” Who am I to take on the powers that be? Who am I to stand up to the political machine? Who am I to make a difference in this world? Well if there’s one thing that’s clear when reading through the pages of scripture, it’s that God doesn’t always call the most powerful, most eloquent, most successful people to do this work. In fact, more often than not, God calls ordinary, everyday people- people just like you and me. People who make mistakes and are full of self doubt. People like Moses— a wandering fugitive shepherd. People like Peter— a fisherman and laborer. God calls us, not because we are so powerful, but because we are endowed by the spirit with the power of love. And sisters and brothers, at the end of the day, that’s what it all comes down to. It’s not worldly power we need to do this work, it’s love. We fight for the powerless, first and foremost, by loving them. And through that love, we gain all the power we will ever need. Through that love, we gain the power of the Holy Spirit, and the power of a liberating and resurrecting God. Through that love, we part seas and move mountains. Through that love, we have the power the transform lives.
Moses stood in front of burning bush and heard God’s call to free his people. He didn’t know how he would do it, but he heeded the call anyway, and what followed was nothing short of miraculous. What might happen, if we heed the call for ourselves? What seas might we part? What mountains might we move? Let us, together, as a church, heed the call and find out.
Amen, and may it ever be so.