Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 17)

Text: Exodus 3:10-12a
The Lord said, “I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.”  But Moses said to God, “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  God answered, “I will be with you”.

Is God calling you?

The call committee appointed by the congregation to seek out a new pastor was having great deal of difficulty finding a pastor for their parish.  So they did what some congregations do these days, they sent out an email asking for expressions of interest from any pastor who might be see himself as a possible candidate to be called to the congregation.  There wasn’t an overwhelming number of responses but the committee met to work through those they did get.

One member of the committee read out one the letters:
“To the members of the call committee: 
It is my understanding that you are seeking a pastor and I would like to express my interest in filling that vacancy.  I can’t 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 almost 80 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’m also inclined to want things done my way, and can get impatient and cranky if it’s 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 that’s all behind me now.  Although I am kind of reluctant to work with you folk, I will turn up in a few weeks to lead you into a brighter future whether you call me or not.”

Silence fell over everyone in the room. 
An old bloke with no seminary training, who is arrogant, temperamental, hears voices, an ex-murderer as their pastor?  Hardly the right kind of person.
Finally, someone spoke. “By the way, who did you say wrote that letter?” 
The answer came, “It's signed, ‘Moses’.” 

Of course, the setting of this story is fictional but it does go to show that no committee would have picked Moses to be the leader of God’s people.

What can we learn from God’s call to Moses?

1.    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 wasn’t all that young anymore (about 80 years old); he wasn’t an especially pious man. 
He did have a good education, but he had lived out in the wilderness looking after sheep for the past 40 years, hiding from the authorities because he had killed a man in a fit of rage.
He certainly didn’t regard himself as a leader. 

Moses wasn’t looking for a closer relationship with God.  He wasn’t interested in a special, risky task for God. So, God takes the initiative.  The call was all God's idea. It was a gracious call that took the gifts and abilities that Moses had, along with his weaknesses, and used them all for the good of others.

In fact, God did this kind of thing on a number of occasions in the Bible. 
Jeremiah was still a young lad. 
Mary was just a young girl. 
Amos was a shepherd.
Gideon was a wheat farmer.
David was a shepherd boy. 
Peter, James and John were just ordinary fishermen. 

When I went to the seminary (remember this was a long time ago) I was surprised to see in my class blokes who were more than twice my age.  They had given up their careers and come to the seminary.  One evening over a glass of red the topic came up why these “old blokes” had decided to go back to study.  One had been a farmer.  He had left school as soon as he could and taken over the farm from his father.  There were good seasons and bad seasons – that’s how farming is but as he went around the farm on his tractor ploughing or harvesting or whatever, a kind of uneasy feeling came over him.  At first he didn’t know what it was and hoped it would go away.  He was an elder and lay reader in the small local congregation and someone said one day, “You ought to be a pastor”.  Suddenly that uneasiness took on a focus.  He described how he argued with God.  “I’ve got a farm.  I’ve got a family. I’m not a scholar.  I hated school”.  It took a while, but God finally got his attention.

Age, gender, status, qualifications are not important.  When God calls, he calls the person who is most suited to do the job. 

That day in the wilderness, on an average ordinary working day, something happened.  A bush burst into flame.  A voice came from the bush.  God was grabbing Moses’ attention.

God reaches down and grabs the ordinary lives of ordinary people for extraordinary purposes.
Is it possible that God is trying to get your attention? 
Is God calling you to do something very specific, very different, something out of the square?  Maybe it’s not something so out of the ordinary, so way out there, but for you it’s a challenge.
When God calls there is nothing unkind or harsh about it; he’s not being unrealistic or hard to gone on with; behind every call there is always God’s love.

2.  When God calls, he has a very definite purpose in mind.  
That day in the wilderness, God wasn’t interested in just a friendly chat.  God introduces himself, “I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  And then he 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.   
He has called you to be his disciples.  Do you sense that God is calling you to do something very specific as his disciple? 
What is God’s special call to you?  Don’t think for one minute that he doesn’t have something special for you to do in his Kingdom.
Is he calling you to be a peacemaker, a reconciler in the sandstorms of anger, jealousy, ill feeling, and anxiety?
Is he calling you to be life-giving water in the wastelands of the lives you come across in the classroom or office or wherever love and kindness and mercy and understanding are needed? 
Is he calling you to be his word of comfort to someone crossing a wilderness of sickness and grief? 
Is he calling you to be the voice of those who have no voice – the homeless, the hungry, the refugee, those caught in slavery to addiction of every kind.
Is he calling you to lead someone to the promised land of eternal life through Jesus? 
In what way is God calling you to be Moses-like and speak for God to others?

3. When God calls, we object.
When Moses heard what God wanted him to do, he said,
“What?  Who?  Me? 
People won’t believe me. 
I’m no one special. 
No-one will listen to me.   
I’m not a leader. 
I’m a poor speaker and I can never think of what to say”. 
What a list of objections.  Moses tried all the excuses he could think of and not one of them is original.  God had an answer for them all.

Moses would have done anything to dodge God’s challenge. 
When we start to do this, I suggest that we need to stop for a moment and remind ourselves that through dodging God’s call, we may miss a valuable moment to make a difference in a person’s life, or make a valuable contribution to the life of this community.

We may not always see the reason why God is calling us to do a specific thing, but be assured that when he calls us then it is for some very good reason.  When God calls, love is always behind his calling.   

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

When God calls are you ready to listen to the guiding of the Holy Spirit, take up a challenge, to step out in faith, even though you could easily give ten good reasons why you can’t? 
Even though you think you are the most unlikely person for a particular task, are you game enough to take up the challenge trusting that God will help you and that the person doing the asking is Jesus in disguise? 
Even when the task seems too big or too hard are you able to get past your initial fear and hesitation and step outside your comfort zone?

We may not understand the reasons why God calls us to take up certain tasks, but one thing we do understand – it’s not beyond God to call you or me to do something that we wouldn’t have thought of doing in our wildest dreams.

And at the moment when we’re busy thinking up all kinds of excuses, we can be assured God has very good reasons for placing that challenge in front of us.  Remember at the back of every one of God’s call to do something is his love.

He knew that Moses would be able to handle the job – 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 God’s commitment and promise to us in the flesh. There you see God’s promise of forgiveness and renewal for the times when we fail just as Moses and all the others failed.  Even when we blunder badly fulfilling the task of being his disciples, and we know that Moses did this often, we also know that we have a Saviour who is ready to forgive and set us right again and refocus as we get back on track.

When God calls, as difficult as it might be to say, may our response be,
“I don’t think I’m the best person in the world to do what you are calling me to do.  There are plenty of others better than me. But at this moment I believe I am the person you are calling to do the job and I know you will help me do it.”

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
31st August 2014

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