Janet Lawrence

Exodus 3:1-6,9-12
Moses at the Burning Bush
3 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

Psalm 103:1-7

Matthew 11:25-27
Jesus Thanks His Father
25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

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I have just read an autobiography of Michelle Obama, Barack Obama’s wife.

She met the Queen on more than one occasion, and was terrified at first, of the protocol; of meeting such a person of such experience, prestige and reputation.

But once the formalities were over the queen’s eyes twinkled at her and invited her to sit beside her – which the security agents weren’t too happy about!
I am not comparing the Queen to God – she would hate that, but who would else would be the human person who would inspire the most awe and respect in your life.
In these two readings we have indications of our great awesome omniscient God, and yet someone who loves and values each one.
Moses brought up in the Egyptian courts, yet educated as an Israelite – a man between cultures, as so many are today. He was also a criminal and had had to flee to the desert. But there, God caught up with him and in the miraculous display of control over the natural world speaks to him in a burning bush. A holy place where Moses has to remove his shoes as a sign of worship, and shows his power as he outlines his plans for releasing the Israelites from slavery.
Moreover, he is going to send Moses to execute the plan!
Now we know that Exodus goes on to tell of how horrified Moses is of this commission, how God sends his brother Aaron to help, and stays with Moses all the way when he meets pharaoh, through the Exodus, until on the Holy mountain “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend “ Ex 33 11.
God of might and power, but also care and love.

Jesus speaks in a similar way to his disciples.
He refers to God as Lord of heaven and earth, and yet as Father. Now we know that fathers for some people are not always the best model to see God. And yet to imagine what the best father might be like, loving supporting being there for you is possible.
And that Gods greatness can be revealed to “Infants” by whom Jesus means, not the religious leaders, the celebrities, the rich and powerful, but to ordinary people like us. We can learn to hold in tension, the fact of his greatness his power and glory, and yet the intimate care he takes of each one of us.
I admit it may take some effort. But we have all been blown away by something in the natural world, mountains, hills, the sea, by animals, or the way flowers grow, or the colours of leaves – or even the intricate way your own body works. Then at least the amazing creativity of God can be glimpsed. And if you have ever pondered about the rightness of behaviour, the of the question of justice, then you may catch a glimpse of the nature of God and that he has it all in hand.
And if you have known what it is to love and/or be loved you can catch a glimpse of what it might be like to be loved by one who copes with our failures and forgives us

God’s great awesome power and his love

And it is a paradox, an enigma, a contradiction, but one which has to be embraced with faith.
Some people can dwell on the awesomeness of God, up there far away – that’s why medieval churches were built with naves and screens, and steps up to the altar. It can live alongside extensive fear of judgement and hell, a tactic which the church has used at times in history to control people.
Is that all there is to God?
But perhaps in more recent years, with life becoming less formal, Gentle Jesus meek and mild has prevailed.
Of course, Jesus is friend and brother, and God like the best fathers never stop loving and wanting to be loved
But this can lead to a lack of awe and respect for God and the immensity of his nature and character.
Reading the Bible, biographies of Christians throughout the ages, noting their relationships with God can help us get this into perspective.
I hope like Moses, that we never forget the awesomeness and power of God, but that we might learn to speak with him, as a person speaks with a loving friend.

[Janet Lawrence]

 

A PDF version of this text can be downloaded here:

Talk 14 July 2021