Exodus 3 begins the narrative of Moses and the burning bush. The burning bush was a new experience for Moses. He had been a shepherd for forty years, and had spent years in the throne room of Pharaoh, but he had never seen anything like this before.
Moses had taken the flock to the far side of the mountain, to Mt. Horeb, to graze. Mt. Horeb will later be the place that Israel camps for almost a year as Moses receives the Ten Commandments and the law. Mt. Horeb will later be the place that Elijah encounters the presence of God, not in the whirlwind, earthquake, or fire, but in the sound of sheer silence. Mt. Horeb will later become known as the mountain of God because God will show up there time and time again. But for now, it’s just a regular mountain, and Moses doesn’t expect anything special to happen. However, he sees a bush that is on fire, but not burning up, and he becomes curious. Moses must have been watching the bush for some time (twenty or thirty minutes, maybe even an hour) because it wouldn’t take long to notice something is on fire, but it would take some time to recognize it is not burning up. Moses watches and becomes curious. His curiosity causes him to approach the bush, and when he does, God calls him into ministry.
We know the feeling. That nagging feeling that has been gnawing at us for some time, there’s something we need to do. Most of us don’t begin a new ministry on a whim. Typically, it’s something that we think about, pray about, and dream about for sometime. I think this might be a good thing to do? What would happen if we tried to meet this need in the community? Here’s a group of people who could probably use some extra help, I wonder if I could help out? Countless times I’ve had the privilege to hear friends or parishioners speak of this gentle nudge that God had placed on their hearts of a certain person or group of people who needs to be served. Often, it’s not something that happens immediately. Instead, it’s a slow process of nudges and discernment that causes one to believe, perhaps this is God’s call on my life.
That’s exactly what is happening to Moses at this point. Moses approaches the bush out of curiosity, however, he’s being called into ministry. But the call to ministry reminds Moses of fear. Moses has been at this moment before. Forty years ago, Moses tried to lead Israel to freedom, but he failed. Instead of leading Israel to safety, he only caused terror and fear. Moses failed, so he ran away. He went and hid in Midian, afraid to enter ministry again. It’s easy to give up and quit when experiencing defeat or difficulties. When ministry doesn’t work the way we want, it’s easy to decide we don’t have the gifts or talents for the job. They need someone with more talent, more pizzaz, more something…something that we don’t have. So we feel defeated, and like Moses, we run and hide.
But God won’t let Moses sit on the sidelines anymore, or at least God doesn’t want Moses to sit on the sidelines anymore. God gives Moses the opportunity to join in ministry again. But notice what God says. “I have seen the misery of my people. I have heard their cry of affliction. I know their sufferings. I have come down to deliver them from slavery and bring them into the Promised Land.” (Exodus 3:7-9) God is the one on mission here. God is getting ready to set the people free, and God is inviting Moses to join the mission. Success is not Moses’s responsibility, it’s God’s work. Moses is simply invited to join the mission of God.
Which raises the question, what ministry is God calling you into today? What task, in which God is already involved, is God right now at this moment inviting you to join? It’s that nudge that has been on your heart the last few weeks. The reminder that keeps coming to mind over and over again. I really should invite my neighbor over for dinner, get to know them better, perhaps I could share Jesus with them. I really should volunteer to help children in the community, perhaps mentor at a local school. There are hungry people in our city, maybe I could try to feed them. What ministry is God inviting you to join? What does God want you to do?
I know the feeling, we all do. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed, or think we’re not ready. It’s easy to worry that because we’ve failed in the past, we’re not right for the job. It’s easy to think, God, are you sure you called the right person? Are you sure you are sending the nudges in the right direction?
Hear the words of God to Moses. I am sending you, and I will be with you, because this is my mission.
So listen to the nudge, and courageously step out into God’s mission of redemption for the world.