Summary: When God called Moses to the task of liberating a people, Moses felt self-doubt, uncertainty about God, and unreadiness. Actually these are positive values that will lead us as American Christians to take our place in the world.
How do you feel about eager volunteers? What’s your
reaction to the kind of person who is always ready to step up
to the plate and take a swing at some issue? How do you
really feel about those who quickly volunteer when
something needs to be done?
Maybe you remember what it was like to be a kid in the
classroom, and the teacher would ask a question. What did
you think about the kind of kid – and there was always one
seated next to me – who would vigorously wave her hand
and stage whisper, “Oh, oh, me, me, call on me, me!”?
Come on now; what did you really think? Miss Know-It-All.
Show-off. Teacher’s pet. You didn’t much care for the eager
volunteer, did you? She showed up your ignorance, and she
made you feel guilty. At the same time, you secretly were
glad she was there, because it meant that you didn’t get
called on. Volunteers are appreciated, and they’re not. They
are liked; and they are disliked. We feel uneasy about folks
who are always so available.
And so when there is a need, and somebody seems to think
we should volunteer, what goes on in our minds? What stirs
in our memories? When it is time to step up and meet a
challenge, we think we should, but we hope we don’t have
to. We think we maybe could, but then we suspect maybe
we couldn’t. When it is time to be available, we know we
shouldn’t feel this way, but we do want to say, “please send
someone else.” Anyone but me, please.
On that 4th of July in 1776 a number of men felt called to step
forward and to volunteer for a cause far larger than they
knew. They spoke that day of pledging their “lives, their
fortunes, and their sacred honor”. That was not an easy
thing to do. Some of them would lose their wealth. Others
would lose their families, as their sons would march off to
Lexington and Concord, Saratoga and Yorktown. And some
would lose their own lives as citizen soldiers who knew they
had to do more than shout ringing rhetoric in King George’s
face. They were volunteers; some of them were reluctant,
others more eager. But they found themselves at a time and
place where they knew they had to be available, available for
the cause of liberty.
Just as, at another time and place, a man who thought he
was settled and secure, fat and sassy, faced a call to
volunteer for the cause of liberating a people. That man, like
those of us who sat in classrooms with Miss Know-It-All, felt
several things. He felt self-doubt, he felt uncertainty, and he
felt unreadiness. But what he learned about being available
for liberation is of great value.
Moses had lived a rather unusual life. In fact, it was nothing
short of a miracle that he was alive at all. Born into slavery,
into a Hebrew family at a time when the powers that be in
Egypt were threatened by the strength of their slaves, Moses
should have been destroyed, along with a host of other
young boys. But he was not. By the grace of God and the
ingenuity of his mother, he was given not only his life, but
also an exceptional training, right in Pharaoh’s palace.
Moses had privileges well beyond what most of his peers
enjoyed; it looked like Moses was headed for something
But then Moses, like a lot of young people, made a mistake.
A big mistake. Not just a little boo-boo, but a huge, life-
changing blunder. He killed a man. In the heat of the
moment, he took another man’s life, and had to run. Moses
became a fugitive from justice, and ran to a far away land
called Midian. There he took on a wife, raised some kids,
and settled down into herding sheep. Sounds like Moses
achieved the suburban dream! It seemed the promise of his
earliest years had been forgotten, and that the mistake of his
young adulthood had been covered up. You can imagine
Moses just lying low and keeping cool. Like Bill Cosby said
when he observed a little old lady standing around looking
cool: “That’s how you get to be a little old lady, by standing
around looking cool”. That was Moses’ strategy: tend the
sheep, raise the children, keep the wife happy, be cool.
But Moses had not reckoned with God. God had other
things in mind for Moses. God wanted Moses to volunteer to
free His people. God expected Moses to be available for
liberation. Moses knew he should be available, and so he
spoke up, “Here I am”. And yet at the same time Moses was