Sermon: Moses and the Burning Bush Experience

Moses and the Burning Bush Experience
Exodus 3:1-15
RUMC 17 September 2017
Pastor Paul R. O’Neil

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher once told a story. A goose, who was injured, had landed in a barnyard with some chickens.  While there, the goose played and ate with the chickens, and after a while, the goose began to think it was a chicken.  Then one day a flock of geese flew over the barnyard and gave a honk up there in the sky, and the goose heard it.  Something stirred within the goose, and it began to flap its wings.  It rose a few feet in the air; then it stopped and settled back into the barnyard.  The goose heard the call but settled for less.

All of us at some point in our lives have heard God’s call, either to believe or to serve. It might have been subtle or faint, obvious or loud.  However it is nevertheless important that we respond.

My scripture text, Exodus 3:1-15 is about the story of Moses and the burning bush. It is also the story of God’s call and how Moses responded.
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. 2 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. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 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.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 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. 7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 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.” 13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:  This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.

Last week we saw how baby Moses was placed in a basket of reeds in the Nile River and rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. Many years later as an adult, Moses killed an Egyptian who mistreated a Hebrew slave and was forced to flee into the Sinai desert.  There in exile he married, had a family, and worked as a shepherd.

One day as Moses watched his father in law’s sheep, he saw a scrub-brush type of tree catch on fire, but the branches and the leaves did not burn up. It was like one of those fake logs that you can buy at Wal-Mart.  As Moses got closer, God’s presence called Moses through the bush.  For Moses…

  • The ordinary had become the extraordinary.
  • The usual had become unusual.
  • The normal had turned into the supernatural.
  • And his life was never the same.

For believers, coincidences are not chance events. They are God’s way of tapping us on the shoulder and time for us to listen.  God’s attention getters are not always in the form of a burning bus; they may be as simple as a particular Bible passage or a song.  It could be a conversation with another person that points us in the right direction.

Childhood is the most influential time in a person’s life; children are the most open to becoming a believer and attending church. That is why we have Vacation Bible School, Sunday school, Grove Street, and the Youth Bells.  Just being around young  people, we cans see their hearts are more open to the things of God.  Unfortunately, society does not place such a premium on those things.

If a child is raised in a home where there was no spiritual emphasis, the chances are pretty good that particular child will not embrace spiritual things. That is why we have so many in our society who fall into this new classification called NONES or none of the above.

Let me explain. The word NONES come from religious surveys.  For example, here is a sample question.  What is your religious preference? A) Catholic, B) Protestant, C) Jewish, D) Muslim E) None of the Above.  Today, 23% of the population classifies themselves as E or None of the Above and it seems that this number is growing every year.   These NONEs are either atheists, agnostics, or they do not believe in organized religion.  Their belief system is to believe in anything they want as long as they are sincere.

Fortunately I was introduced to spiritual things when I was a child. The “burning bush” experience in my life took place when a priest gave me a Bible for Christmas.  When I read the gospel of Matthew, it changed my life.  I asked Christ into my heart and walked with Him ever since.

God’s call to believe or serve is different for everyone. One thing all famous Christian leaders have in common is that they had a “burning bush” or an attention getting experience.  Some were dramatic and others were more subtle.

Let me share an example of what I would call a subtle call to service. Late one evening, a college professor sat at his desk as he went through his mail.  He threw a lot of into the trash, but there was a magazine that was delivered to him by mistake.  He opened it up, and an article caught his attention; it was titled “The Needs of the Congo Mission.  He read further.  “The need is great here.  We have no one to work the northern province of Gabon in the central Congo.  And it is my prayer as I write this article that God will lay His hand on someone who will be called to this place to help us.”  The professor closed the magazine and wrote in his diary, “My search is over.”

He was Albert Schweitzer, the great medical missionary.

People have shared their “burning bush” experiences with me. I have met people who have had visions, dreams, answers to prayer, and physical healings. Others have found their “burning bush” through scripture passages or when they experienced medical emergencies.  Subtle or obvious, these experiences have changed the people involved.

Here are three Bible passages that speak of the call to God:

  • Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
  • Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;
  • Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Martin Luther King talked about what happens after the call. “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Sometimes God’s call may have no fanfare, but just a recognized need. For example, hairstylist Teresa Russo Cox, a member of the Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago had looked for some type of ministry or volunteer position, but nothing that was offered seemed to be a good fit.  So she asked God, “Why did you give me a talent which is so much about vanity?  How can I serve you?”  God spoke to her heart about starting a group that communicates God’s love to women in need.  So she started a ministry called HIM or Hairdressers in the Marketplace which offers a one day a month of free beauty sessions for needy women to get their hair done and manicures.  Teresa’s ministry soon excited other hairstylists and within a short time she had a small group of professionals armed with blow dryers, scissors, nail polish and love who went into nursing homes, homeless shelters and facilities for the mentally disabled.  Teresa and her ministry team were able to bring a needed service to these ladies, but also God’s word.

Let me ask this? Is there something that you do that can be used for the Kingdom of God?  Perhaps you can drive, cook, make, collect, sing, teach, sew, clean, listen, talk, or visit.

What if Moses had not responded or flat out refused. I would venture to say things would have been different and God would have had to get someone else.

Let me close. Is the Lord calling you into a relationship with his son Jesus?  I urge you to ask Him into your heart.  Has the Lord spoken to you about some type of service?  In a few weeks we will be looking for people to fill lay positions in our church.  I would ask that you prayerfully consider when asked.