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We are not alone.

Pentecost +9, Common Lectionary Year A

Exodus 3: 1-6

©2017 Rev Elisabeth R. Jones

For this year’s Summer Worship Series, we will be using the United Church’s “New Creed” in conversation with some lively Bible stories, so that we can experience together the good news that “God is with us, we are not alone!”

“We are not alone….” what happens in your imagination?

Does this happen? (slide of Close Encounters).
Seriously, that’s the first thing that comes up when you google the phrase
“We are not alone.” !
Very quickly after that Google offers up images of
crop circles
and alien visitations.
More seriously, scientifically,
as we learn more about this universe and the
possibility of others,
the question is very real:
“Are we alone?
In the Universe?”

For some of us this is not only a scientific question,
but one of belief,
fundamental orientation to the world we inhabit.

If we’re ever fortunate enough to sit at night,
away from the light pollution of the cities,
and are given this view of the heavens,
I think we all end up asking that cosmic question,
“Are we alone?
How do we relate to all– this?”
I think humans some of us, are just wired to ask that question.
Some of us just need to ponder, deeply, because the way we live our lives
depends on it;
“Are we alone, is there more to us, than skin and bone,
accidents of birth, life and death,
is there a point, is there a bigger picture,
a dream that binds us somehow
to something greater than we can ask,
see, or imagine?”

Today’s Scripture is a story about this question
and an answer
that has shaped who we are, as people of faith;
“Are we alone?”
“We are not alone.”

Shall I tell it to you, this story?
It’s one a lot of you know, it’s one of our favourites.
It comes from the book of Exodus,
and it’s a story about the day Moses figured out
his life-changing answer to that that question
“are we alone?”

Exodus 3: 1-6

Imagine a night, like this one,
in the desert of Midian (image).
Moses is guarding a flock of sheep.
The sheep belong to his Father-In-Law,
so he is taking very good care of them!
The sun has long since set,
the sheep, corralled for the night,
have ceased their bleating,
and Moses he sits guard at the gate of the fold.

And like a gift to the watchful one,
this beautiful tent of light stretches across the horizon…
it is awesome!
It makes his heart and belly swell with awe, joy… admiration.
And he asks, “Am I alone? Are we alone,
the sheep and me?”
Are we all there is,
how did we get here?
Why am I here?
Is there any reason for all this?”

Day and night, Moses watches the sheep,
watches the stars.
He watches a snake shed her skin,
he listens to the cat-like mewing of the eagle high overhead.
And asks his question,
over and over,
“Are we alone?”
– He is not alone.

Late one afternoon,
passing along a gully with the sheep,
a bush,
sage, thorn, an ordinary scrabbly little bush,
the sort that erupt from the sand,
little miracles of life in a hot desert.

Only this bush is burning….
it crackles, glows red, orange, fierce,
flames lick at its leaves,
but they don’t fall off,
they just burn, and burn, and burn.
Not like any other desert bush Moses had ever seen.

Moses stopped, and sat close by,
his sheep folded themselves around him,
as if it were night,
and he watched, amazed,
while the bush kept on burning,
burning, burning.

“We are not alone!” he whispered to himself.

A voice, crackled, like flame,
a voice, bright like the stars,
a voice, deep and dark like the night.
spoke his name,
“Moses, Moses.”

“Hineni” he whispered.
(Clear throat) Hineni, I am here!?

“Moses, you are standing on holy ground,”
Said the voice.
“Take off your shoes.”

Taking off his shoes,
Moses knew, in his soul,
in his bones,
that the voice was God.
“We are not alone!” his soul sang,
“God is with us!”

And Moses,
well he spent the rest of his life,
living, believing, trusting,
and telling all who would hear, like the people called Israel,
and even those who wouldn’t, like Pharaoh,
“We are not alone!
God is with Us!
This is God’s World,
and all of it is holy!”

This is the witness of Israel
Thanks be to God.

We have had those moments….
I dare say every one of us,
young or old, has had one,
maybe lots of moments
when we have been caught up into eternity for a second,
a moment, a season:
– the power of the ocean breaking on a rocky shoreline,
-a new dawn,
– holding that newborn to your cheek
name your own experience …
Those moments when we just know
there is more to life than us,
that we are not alone,
that God is with us,
that this is God’s world.

Not everyone of those moments is beautiful or easy,
for some of us that sense that
“God is with us” comes when
we are in the thick of some tragedy…
– that ‘knowing’ that prayers are holding us
or a loved one through frightening illness
– that squeeze of a shoulder, or phone call
from a friend, that reaches into the acute isolation of personal crisis,
– those individual acts of courage and bravery
and compassion that manage to overlay
the threatening fire, the bomb scare,
the terror of war, the plight of refugees
with this blanket of loving kindness
that is holy, divine, of God.

Not everyone in the world sees it this way.
We know we are surrounded by people,
by systems that function as if we are alone,
as it this is all there is,
this is our world to do with as we please.
(I’ll say much more about that next week).

My question for us to reflect on
together today with Moses is this:
what difference can it make to us,
what difference will we make in the world,
if we each of us, take those moments
in the night when the stars shine,
those moments in the day when we encounter our own ‘burning bushes’,
to lift our souls in awe and wonder,
and say with Moses
“We are not alone, God is with us!”

For Moses it made all the difference in the world.
For the people he led from slavery to peoplehood,
because he lived believing that they too were not alone, but lived in God’s world,
God with them, it made all the difference in the world.

If God is with us, and we are not alone,
what difference will that make for us
as a community of faith,
and for the world
if we live believing this is true?

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