As you begin reading this post, consider a few questions. When was the last time that you heard God speaking to you? When was the last time you actually became still so you could listen? And what was your response the last time you felt God tugging at your arm, inviting you to a place that you really didn’t care to go?
As each day passes there is never a shortage of opportunities for ministry in and around our community. Those burning bushes God uses to get our attention seem to be set ablaze at nearly every turn. They could take the form of a woman sitting at a bus stop, a homeless person staking claim to a park bench, or as was the case yesterday, a parishioner making a frantic phone call to my office. I am usually amazed at what God can do each time I am invited into difficult and stressful situation in the life of someone whom I am called to shepherd. Yesterday was one such day when God called me to a place I’d rather not go. Suddenly, I felt a bit like Moses when he saw the burning bush. What makes me so special that they should listen to me? What if I don’t have the ability to do what is required? What good can come out of my simply being there?
Moses is certainly one of the central characters of the Old Testament narrative, yet before he became such a key figure, he could have been best described as someone who was short of confidence and filled with doubt. He was born a slave but raised in the house of Pharaoh and later rejected by even his own people. He had to flee Egypt because he killed a guard. When God finally got Moses’ attention he was but a shepherd tending a flock that wasn’t even his own. God’s call wasn’t extended in dramatic fashion. There were no lightning bolts or loud claps of thunder. Instead, God used the sight of a burning bush.
This is where Moses gives us one of those great theological movements. Instead of sitting there with a puzzled look on his face, Moses turns aside. Turning aside is one of those things we learn about in seminary. Turning aside means dropping what you are doing, forgetting what you are thinking about so that you can look and listen for God. Moses turned aside in order to pay attention and noticed that this bush was not consumed by the flames. Moses turned aside and heard God. Yet even turning aside isn’t always enough.
When God called Moses his response was to the effect of “Who am I but a poor shepherd, uneducated in your ways and incapable of eloquent speech?” With each excuse Moses was able to conjure up, God promised to do more than simply meet his needs. Fast forwarding several thousand years, we may be quick to offer the same excuses when God calls us to ministry. “Who am I that I should be of help?” “I’m not qualified, send someone else.” “In this instance I don’t believe I have what it takes.” I’m not up to the challenge…am I?” Often at times we sound just like Moses, yet God still takes the time to bless us with the gift of the Holy Spirit and walk with us into the dark valley. Our calling as followers of Christ Jesus is simply to go and let God be God.
The burning bushes are out there in our midst. God continually calls his people to action using the most ordinary of means, but spotting those burning bushes takes patience and it takes practice. If we are not listening for God, if we are not paying attention we might not recognize a burning bush when we see one. As we go about our busy day, Christian folk need to be actively looking and listening for God. We need to be tuned in to the burning bushes in our midst, always remembering that as we are called to ministry, God is with us and provides what is needed to do his will.
So again I ask the questions that I have considered these last few weeks. When was the last time that you heard God speaking to you? When was the last time you actually became still so you could listen? And what was your response the last time you felt God tugging at your arm, inviting you to a place that you really hadn’t planned on going?