Summary: Lent 3: Moses walked on holy ground and was commissioned to accomplish God’s purposes. We consider holiness, qualifications and efficacy of ministry in this message.
There’s a cute little story of Moses appearing in the Rose Garden of the White House. When the White House staff recognized this important visitor, they quickly rushed in and told the President. He too was impressed and so he rushed out to welcome Moses. But to everyone’s shock, the very moment that Moses laid eyes on ‘W’ – our President, Moses turned his back on him and started walking away. The President called after Moses, but no dice – Moses just kept walking away. So, the President turned to Vice President Cheney and instructed him to go after the prophet and figure out why his knickers were in such a twist. And so the VP ran after Moses - calling out to him. Well to his and everyone else’s surprise, Moses stopped and turned around. When Vice President Cheney reached Moses, he asked him, “Moses, why did you turn your back on the President of the United States and walk away from him?” “You want I should talk to him? What, do I look like a sap? The last time I spoke with a bush I ended up wandering in the desert for 40 years!”
Most of you have probably figured out we are going to be looking at the Old Testament Lesson today. The story of Moses at the burning bush is a well-known story that is rich in theological content. Today we will focus on three thoughts from this lesson. Each will be addressed by considering the following questions: 1) What makes holy ground holy? 2) What qualifies a person to answer God’s call to ministry? And, 3) What enables people to accomplish what God sends them to do?
OK, the first question: What makes holy ground holy? When Moses was called to serve God, he was tending a flock around Mount Horeb. The territory there was rugged. ‘Horeb,’ in fact, means: ‘dry, desert or desolate.’ In very many ways, the place where Moses was walking was very ordinary and common – nothing special. And it is there that a bush on fire caught the eye of Moses. In the middle of this desolate, semi-desert scene, Moses approached the burning bush. Then God called to him saying: “Moses, do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)
Now remember, we’re not talking about a place that looked especially hallowed. Rocks, sand and brush were the most obvious accoutrements. And yet, we know that Moses took what he heard from God seriously. Verse 6 of our text tells us that, “Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:6) Moses believed that he was on holy ground. But it wasn’t holy by nature. It wasn’t it’s location that made it holy. It was holy ground because of the divine presence of God.
We are a few months away from having to move away from this location. As we contemplate having to move from this place, I am certain that there is some sadness. But I say to you, beloved, it isn’t the stained glass, nor the pews nor the cathedral ceiling that make this the house of God. What makes this holy ground is the presence of Jesus who promises to be where his people gather in his name. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit working through his Word and bringing forgiveness and new life through the waters of baptism. It is God bringing forgiveness, peace and assurance when believers gather to receive the true body and blood of the Savior.
There is nothing in the stones, glass and wood that make this sanctuary holy. It is God and his presence that make this holy ground. The place that we move too will be holy because God will be there to. If we worship out of a tent – as the Israelites did while they wandered in the desert - it will be holy because of God’s presence. If we worship in a fine sanctuary like this one, it will be holy because of God’s presence. So, what makes holy ground holy? God does! It is his presence that causes a place to be holy.
Second question: What qualifies a person to answer God’s call to ministry? When we wade into these waters, we need to do so with care. Certainly we don’t want to minimize the giftedness of a person who brings many gifts and skills to ministry. God can use those for his ends. But at the same time, we don’t want to say that a person who doesn’t seem to be especially gifted, isn’t qualified for God’s service. People don’t have to be incredibly eloquent, musical or super intellectual to enter into ministry. Why? Because ministry really isn’t about us! Holiness – being fit to serve others in ministry – also comes from God! As people are washed in Christ’s forgiveness and called to the Lord’s service, God qualifies them to answer his call. What we bring or not bring to the table is not the key: it is what God brings through those He has forgiven and called to serve.