We’ve zoomed forward again in our story, so let’s catch everyone up.
After the wrestling match on the banks of the Jabbok, Jacob reconciled with Esau and came back to his father Isaac in Mamre (remember the oaks there?), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lived a full life, and died at 180 years old.
Jacob (though remember, after that wrestling match, God changed his name to Israel) had twelve sons, who are described this way in Genesis:
The sons of Leah were Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, as well as Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.
The sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin.
The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant, were Dan and Naphtali.
The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant, were Gad and Asher.
And then the focus shifted to Joseph, whose story starts with this statement: Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons because he was a son born to him late in life.
We all know how well favoritism worked out for Esau and Jacob… It doesn’t go well for Joseph either. A special tunic, a baseball team worth of jealous brothers, a passing band of Ishmaelites, several dreams, a good relationship with Pharaoh, and a famine later, all of the children of Israel find themselves in Egypt. God has again allowed the descendants of Abraham to prosper, and to multiply, even when that seemed the least likely outcome.
Joseph lived in Egypt, along with his father’s family. He saw the descendants of his son Ephraim to the third generation. (That would be his great-greats, I think). Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to you and lead you up from this land to the land he swore on oath to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath, and then he died at the age of 110. (He was young)
And then there came a ruler who didn’t know about Joseph. Didn’t understand that Egypt prospered as the Israelites prospered. He saw the growing and fruitful population of foreigners as a threat. When making their lives miserable was not enough to drive them away, the Egyptian ruler turned to population control.
He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill any boy infants as they were born. Now because these midwives feared God more than Pharaoh, they let the boys live. They told the ruler that the Israelite women were so vigorous, their children were born before help could arrive. So then Pharaoh ordered all boy children to be thrown into the river.
It is at this point that a particular boy is born to a Levite couple and hidden away. Instead of being drowned in the river, he is placed in a tiny ark, and rescued by one of the daughters of the Pharaoh, who raises him as an Egyptian prince. This would be…. yes, Moses.
As Moses grew to maturity, his people continued to suffer.
The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.
And then came the day when Moses saw the bush that burned and was never consumed. There is so much in this story… so much in this one exchange, this first exchange of many to come between God and Moses.
We could talk about the way that God’s presence makes any space a sacred space. The way that God’s presence is thick enough even now, in this room that we should remove our shoes as we walk on holy ground.
We could talk about the way God made it possible for Moses to answer this call to lead God’s people out of Egypt. All the myriad ways that God assured that he would survive and come of age. How Moses came to be in that place on that day, so that he might see and respond to this strange vision.
We could talk about the many different interpretations and translations of God’s answer to Moses when he asked “Who should I say is sending me?”
We could even talk about what I thought I was going to talk about when I gave Lois the sermon title – Moses’ question… Who am I?
And yet, the part God keeps dragging me back to is this: behind the questions and the answers, behind the calling and the sending, is the same message God has been giving humankind from the very beginning. Two words…
I know. It’s not in the text. I didn’t read those two words this morning. But they’re in there.
Trust me, this is no ordinary bush, and this is no ordinary day. Take off your shoes and listen.
Trust me, Moses, I know who I’m asking to do this. You’re my guy.
Trust me, I don’t need a name. Everyone will come to understand EXACTLY who I am.
Trust me. I’ve got a plan.
Trust me feels like an awfully crazy way to run a universe. And yet it seems to be the way God hopes to get his point across. From the get-go.
It was in the instructions he gave our earliest spiritual ancestors: Everything you need is here in this garden. All you could ever want. And it is all good. Take good care of everything you see. Take care of each others. Just stay away from that one tree. Trust me, you don’t want it or need it.
Trust me, Noah. It will rain. It will rain so much that you will need a boat. Here is how to build it, here’s what you need to put in it. Follow my instructions, and I will keep you safe.
Trust me, Abraham. I will give you descendants, you will have an heir. Your wife will give you a son in her old age.
Trust me… I will keep my promises.
Just Keep Watch…. Wait
And yet we humans can’t just keep watch.
We can’t simply wait.
We make our own plans.
We dream our own dreams.
Sarah couldn’t wait for God to bring about the child of promise, and so offers up Hagar to bear Abraham a son. Rebekah and Jacob together schemed to assure that Isaac blessed him instead of Esau, despite the prophecy given directly to her from God as they boys battled in her womb…that Jacob would be blessed.
God sees us in our frustration, and God understands the impulse to create a way. After all, God is all about creating – making a way where there is no way. And we were make in God’s image.
And so grace abounds. God sees us in our pain, and in our despair.
When Sarah was harsh and Hagar ran away, the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.” And finally the angel said, “Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the LORD has given heed to your affliction…
God says to Moses…
“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 God came down again, to deliver all of us from the bondage of sin…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life…”
God sees us, God has compassion on us…
God goes beyond saying “Trust Me” and demonstrates undeniable faithfulness, showing up in our lives, over and over again, opening our eyes to this amazing truth. Especially if we are willing to trust that God is listening, that God is watching, that God cares what happens to us.
And here’s where it gets crazier- even as God says, “Trust me,” God is entrusting the same work to us.
To listen, to see, to care.
Remember this passage from Matthew?
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd…
Do you remember what he did next? You’d expect him to go into the crowd and start healing and teaching. Nope.
“…Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Jesus saw. And he responded by saying, I’ve got a plan. It’s you, and more just like you, laboring in God’s harvest.
Those laborers are meant to go out and see the crowds, to hear their distress, to observe their misery.
Those laborers are meant to go out and end the harassment, to bring peace and comfort
Those laborers are meant to bring water to the thirsty,food to the hungry, freedom to the oppressed
On this World Communion Sunday, we gather without fear: we can be fairly certain that no armed drones are overhead. We are free to worship God without being imprisoned. We have access to more Bibles in more translations than we could get through in a year, maybe a decade.
On this World Communion Sunday, our Syrian brothers and sisters are seeking safe places to lay their heads and raise their children, to worship God, to break bread and remember.
In Palestine, Iran, Egypt, North Korea, China and many other countries our sisters and brothers must share communion in small groups in homes and secret places to avoid arrest or worse.
God sees them.
God sees them and provides for them, empowers and emboldens them. They must trust God in ways I can never imagine. But they must also see things that are even more incredible as a result of their faith.
The power of all the stories we’ve read is at the intersection between God’s faithfulness and our faith. The place where people stop trusting in what they see in human terms and trust what God sees, what God will -ultimately – make clear…. when God’s kingdom comes.
The power of these stories for us, right here and right now, is also in that intersection. In the space where God’s plan meets our willingness to trust what God sees in us… The ones who embody that plan. The church. The laborers being sent to the harvest.
When I consider the great compassion Christ had for the people around him, I wonder who God sees that we do not.
When I think of the energy and creativity that brought our world into being… I wonder what God sees that we look past.
When I consider our call to love our neighbors, to embody the love and grace of our Lord in this time and place, I think who am I? Who are we?
And I hear those crazy words again: “Trust me.”
I’ve got a plan…
and I will always be with you.
Today and to the very end of the again.
Now come on, so I can send you.