Sermon for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 17)

Text: Exodus 3:1-15
The Lord said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt and I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them... So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt (verses 3,7,10).

Is God calling you?

The call committee responsible for seeking pastors for the congregation was having difficulty making a decision. One member of the committee, who was admittedly tired of the whole process, had received a letter of introduction from a pastor who was interested in being called. She read:
"To the pastoral search committee:
It is my understanding that you have a vacancy in your congregation, and I would like to apply for the position. I canít say that I preach very well. In fact, I tend to stutter when I speak and get stuck for words. I do have a lot of experience since I am over 75 years old. I have only just recently had an encounter with God. I heard a voice which told me personally that I was the one to be your pastor. One never knows when God will appear right before your very eyes. As far as people skills go, I do tend to lose my temper every once in a while.

I also am inclined to want things done my way, and can get impatient and cranky if itís not taken care of right away. Once I even killed somebody. But since I know you are gracious people, I know you will believe me when I say thatís all behind me now. I intend on showing up there in a few weeks to lead you into a brighter future. Although I was reluctant at first to work with you, I still feel called to be with you nonetheless."

The committee member glanced up at the rest of the group. "Well, what do you think? Is this the right person to be our congregationís leader or not?"

The rest of the committee was horrified. Have an old man with no seminary training, who is arrogant, temperamental, hears voices, an ex-murderer as their pastor? Was this committee member crazy? Who signed the letter of introduction? Who had such colossal nerve? The committee member eyed them all keenly before she answered, "It's signed, ĎMosesí."

God surprises us so many times in the way he deals with people that this story shouldnít surprise us. Moses didnít have the right qualifications from a human viewpoint, but that didnít stop God calling him to serve the people of Israel.

God still calls today; he calls you and me to work in his church, to serve people using our God-given abilities, to assist even when we think we donít have the right skills. Is it possible that God is calling you? What can we learn from Mosesí call to serve God that might help us discern if God is calling us?

When God calls, he calls ordinary people. Moses was the least likely candidate to receive a call from God, especially such an important call. He wasnít all that young; he wasnít an especially pious man. He did have a good education, but he had lived out in the wilderness looking after sheep, hiding from authorities because he had killed a man in a fit of rage. He certainly didnít regard himself as a leader.

Moses was not a volunteer. He wasnít looking for a career change. He wasnít interested in a special, risky task for God. So, God takes the initiative. The call was all God's idea.

In fact, God calls like this on other occasions. Jeremiah was still a lad, didnít consider himself as one who one stand up and speak out. Mary was just a young girl when she became pregnant. David an ordinary shepherd boy became a great king. Peter, James and John were just ordinary fishermen with no evident leadership qualities. You and I are people like that. God calls you and me, just ordinary people to serve him in some way. He calls us when we least expect it. You might consider yourself just an ordinary person, but is God calling you?

When God calls, he calls people out of their ordinary everyday routines. Moses was looking after sheep like he did every other day, when he met God for the very first time. He wasnít looking for a change of direction in his life. He wasnít looking for God; he was just an ordinary shepherd. There, on an average working day, something happened. It was so strange that Moses was filled with curiosity and went to investigate. God was getting Mosesí attention.

A bush burst into flame, but it wasnít being turned to ash. A voice came from the bush. How would you feel if one of the bushes in your garden suddenly caught on fire and started talking to you? Some of us would go and lie down or call the doctor. Perhaps others would investigate more closely. Thatís what Moses did.

When God call us, it may not be anywhere as dramatic as a burning bush. But he can use the circumstances of our life to call us to serve him in some way.

A lad left school as soon as he could to go on the farm and eventually took over running the farm. Seasons were tough on the farm, and he knew that he would soon have to give up what he had dreamt of ever since he could remember. He sold the farm and went to work for the local hardware business. He worked there for a good many years but all the time he felt there was something else he should be doing. He hoped that this uneasy feeling would go away, but it persisted. The more he tried to suppress the feeling the more it persisted that God was calling him to enter the ministry. "What about my family?" he argued within himself. "Iím no scholar and hated school, " he reasoned. It took a while, but God finally got his attention.

His call was a call to the pastoral ministry. You may be called to a different kind of ministry, depending on the abilities God has given you.
You may be called to be a caregiver to the sick and elderly,
a teacher of children,
a supporter to our young people,
a leader some kind,
a visitor of newcomers or those who canít get to church.

Age is no restriction Ė
remember Moses challenged Pharaoh when he was in his 70s or 80s;
God called Jeremiah when he was a teenager.
God reached down and grabbed the ordinary lives of these people for extraordinary purposes.
Is God calling you? Is it possible that God is trying to get your attention?

When God calls, he has a very definite purpose in mind. That day in the wilderness, God wasnít interested in just a friendly chat. Moses may not have known a great deal about God since he was brought up in an Egyptian household and so God introduces himself, "I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." And then God revealed something of the pain in his heart as he told Moses how his people were being cruelly treated. He had heard their cries for help. Now he was sending Moses to lead the people out of Egypt to a new home.

When God calls, he has something very definite in mind. Is he calling you? Do you sense that God is calling you to do something very specific?
Is he calling you to be a peacemaker, a reconciler?
Is he calling you to let go of the slavery of anger, jealousy, ill feeling, and anxiety that traps you?
Is he calling you to be his spokesperson to someone who is crossing a wilderness of sickness and grief?
Is he calling you to lead someone to the promised land of eternal life through Jesus?

When God calls, we object. When Moses heard what God wanted him to do, he said, "What? Who? Me?
People wonít believe me. Who would believe a murderer who hears voices from burning bushes?
Who am I that I should go and confront the mighty King of Egypt? He wonít listen to me. Heís more likely to cut off my head.
And God, you are asking me to get a whole nation out of Egypt, to steal valuable slaves, and lead them across some of the most inhospitable country.
What is more, Iím a poor speaker. Iím slow, and I can never think of what to say".
What a list of objections. Moses tried all the excuses he could think of, in fact, he wouldnít have regarded them as excuses but legitimate reasons, but God had an answer for them all.

Martin Luther King was a young pastor in the late 1950s. He loved to read and to write, saw himself as a scholar rather than a public leader. A group of leaders of the black community came to King, asking him to help in their cause against discrimination. King begged them not to ask him to join in. But they persisted and King finally agreed to help, and the rest is history.

Is God calling you? Have you become an expert at making excuses? All of us are quite accomplished at doing this. Perhaps we all need to stop for a moment when we are making an excuse and think that this might just be God calling us to do something and if we make an excuse, we may miss a valuable moment to make a difference in a personís life, or make a valuable contribution to the life of the church. I guess we would all need to confess how many times we have made excuses always hoping that someone else would do it. You may not always see the reason why God is calling you, but be assured that when he calls you then it is for some very good reason.

When God calls, he reassures. Moses was given assurance that God would help him to speak, find the right words and what to do along the way. God would provide everything that Moses needed, even an assistant to help him, Aaron. God never promised that this would be an easy assignment, however, he promised to always be present to help.

Has it been your experience that God has called you to step out in faith, even though you could have easily given ten good reasons why you couldnít?
Have you thought that you were the most unlikely person for a particular job, but you dared to take up the challenge and you found that you were able to do it?
Had you gone by your first reaction to being asked to take up a task, you wouldn't have done anything. Paul would have considered himself the most unlikely candidate to be called as a messenger of the Good News. But we know how God was with Moses and Paul and all those who first reaction was "Who me?"

We may not understand the reasons why Gods calls us to take up certain tasks, but one thing we do understand - it is not beyond God to call you or me to do something that we wouldnít have thought of doing in our wildest dreams.
And at the moment we are busy thinking up all kinds of excuses, we can be assured God has very good reasons for placing that challenge in front of us.
He knew that Moses would be able to handle the job and be the greatest leader of his people - with his help.
When God calls us, he knows that we can handle the challenge - with his help. When God calls, he also promises, I will be with you. And you can be certain of that promise. Just look at Jesus and the cross. There you see Godís commitment and promise to us in the flesh.

When God calls may our response finally be, "I may not be the best person in the world to do the job you are calling me to do. There are plenty others better than me. But I believe I am the person you are calling to do the job."

By the way, if by chance, this story about Moses and Godís call to service doesnít relate to you and your experiences, just wait. It will. God will call you.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
1st September
, 2002
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com 

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.
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