Today our scriptural story begins with Moses out doing his job minding his business. He is astonished to catch sight of a strange bush that burns with light. Mosesâ€™ curiosity gets the better of him and he approaches it. Did you notice that God does not address Moses until Moses notices the bush and moves toward it? That makes me wonder how many other times God had tried to get Mosesâ€™ attention? How many other holy moments, other invitations, other signs had God been putting out there that Moses did not pay attention to? How much patience did God have to have to get the attention of this guy? Now if Moses were still in the palace, there might have been so many distractions around, that he might have missed it. Perhaps a royal reception; a temple rite to perform, or maybe the chariot would have been going too fast; or there could have been soccer or ballet. Lives that hurl along at breakneck speed, donâ€™t have time to notice burning bushes, or often any other kind of sacred encounter.
But this new Moses, the one in the desert, whose life has been broken, whose world is slowed down, is open to awareness, to the burning presence of Godâ€™s light even when it comes through an ordinary desert shrub. Sometimes, it takes wilderness to clear away the chaos, and crack us open to the holy; to get us beyond our self-absorption and fear so that we can hear Godâ€™s compassion for others, and Godâ€™s desire for us to do something about it.
You may never have known a burning bush, nor heard a voice speaking out of flames, but Iâ€™ll bet youâ€™ve had deep spiritual encounters. Some of you have told me about them. A sense of guiding presences during a Healing Pathways treatment; A presence of one who had died in a way that was profoundly lifel-changin. A soul searing awe looking at the night stars while out on a quiet lake; and a knowing that you are stardustâ€¦.connected with this vast mystery. Or sitting by a death bed of a loved one and finding a deep peace that passes understanding in the centre of your pain and loss. Or hearing yourself called to leave the life you had been living that was soul-destroying and to embark on an unknown and frightening new path.
We know these experiences of standing on holy ground; in the presence of the Sacred. Sometimes, these images or visions come in dreams- or meditation, sometimes in a simple thought that crosses our mind in the the midst of ordinary life. They are often about a call from the soul to deeper living, new life. Sing:
This is holy ground —- We’re standing on holy ground,
For God is with and where God is is holy, 2X
These are Holy Hands Godâ€™s given us Holy Hands
For the God is with us and where
God is is holy, 2X
These are holy lips Godâ€™s given us holy lips
Our God speaks through us and so these lips are holy 2X
And when you stand on Holy Ground, When you discover Holy Ground in you, you are never the same again. Moses sure wasnâ€™t. His life was turned around.
This voice names itself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The meaning of this present moment is rooted in the past. This voice could not be taken lightly. Now Moses is being given the birthright of his ancestors – direct relationship with the Holy.
Mosesâ€™ reaction is natural enough. He hides his face, afraid. His fear was well founded for that encounter came with a purpose. When it came to Abraham, he was called to leave the familiar to journey with Sarah into a whole new land. When Jacob heard the voice in his dream of the ladder reaching to heaven, it shook his egocentricity to the core. Moses would be called to face into a past that he would rather avoid.
Notice what this God who confronts Moses is like. This God is not some academic idea of a God. This is a God of passion and compassion, and of liberating justice. God confronts Moses in this way because God has been moved to the core by the pain and oppression of the people in slavery in Egypt. God has heard their cries, and suffering and known, in a way that in Hebrew means to have felt it for oneself, (a word that means womb love) the sorrow of the people. God longs for the people to be set free, to be led out of slavery. God begs Moses to go to Egypt and tell the Pharaoh to let the people go.
Now Moses must have found that a prettyriduculous proposition! You think Pharaoh is going to listen? Let his slaves go free? no economic sense there! And donâ€™t forget Moses is wanted in Egypt for murder- And besides heâ€™s made a nice life for himself here.
His every instinct is to run! -to get out of there! – to forget this burning bush business! Moses comes up with a whole series of excuses to try to avoid Godâ€™s call on his life. It seems he has a Ph.D. in excusology. â€œWho am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the slaves out of Egypt?â€- â€˜Iâ€™m a nobody, Pharaoh wonâ€™t listen to me. I canâ€™t possibly do this impossible job. Thereâ€™s got to be somebody else who could do a better job.â€™ (not excuses any of us have ever used of course!)
The irony is that when you really think about it , Moses is the very person to go. He speaks the language. He knows the Egyptian mind. He was raised in Pharaohs court. All his past has prepared him for this task, yet Moses doesnâ€™t want to know that. He is afraid to live his potential fully.
â€œWhat shall I say when the people ask me who sent me?â€ asks Moses next. God answers this by giving the gift of the name which has been so sacred in Hebrew tradition that to this day, many Jews will not say this name out of respect. The voice says tell them that â€˜Yahweh has sent meâ€™
In Hebrew, oneâ€™s name reveals the inner essence of the personality. The name means â€œI am who I am, or I will be who I will be, or Beingness becomingâ€- This God is beyond time, eternally present, this living, being, becoming God,who can not boxed in by the past or the future, or by images or names we create to try to contain God.
Moses still keeps on with the excuses, this time hiding behind low self-esteem. â€˜I am a slow speaker and not able to speak well. You really should get someone else, â€
Did you ever notice that once Moses accepts his inner calling, his speech problem seems to vanish? At least we never hear any more about it. Moses wants to deny his giftedness, so he can hang on to the safe life he has carved out for himself in the Midian suburbs.
Fear of our power can immobilize us. If we are free, we must accept responsibility for our lives. We have to make our own choices and give up dependency. It can seem easier to remain unfree, a victim, a slave. Then we can complain about our condition, blame our failures and unhappiness on others and avoid the burdensome responsibility of taking on our lives.
When Moses says to God find somebody else , Godâ€™s anger blazes at Moses, Eventually, after some more wrestling Moses reluctantly takes up the call to do this very scary thing; to stand up to the most powerful ruler of the land, to stand up against exploitation and injustice and call for freedom for the people.
His courage changed the course of history; and his story, even with its humble, ragged beginnings, has sustained those seeking both inner and outer liberation ever since.
It doesnâ€™t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
And if you dare to dream of meeting your heartâ€™s longing.
It doesnâ€™t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
For your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesnâ€™t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
If you have been opened by lifeâ€™s betrayals
Or become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
Without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own,
If you can dance with wildness
And let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
Without cautioning us to be careful,
To be realistic, to remember the limitations of being humanâ€¦
â€œThe Invitationâ€ from THE INVITATION by ORIAH. Copyright Â© 1999 by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Where have you stood on Holy Ground? Where have you encountered God calling you to live your passion? What was that like? Did you follow? Or did you resist? When have you been called to be more than you thought you could be? When have you tried to run away in fear, only to find that that was really not a choice,, and you would have to grow into what you were called to be? What kind of excuses have you used to avoid taking on your light and your power? How have you been called to live more fully by God?