facebook Google + Instagram Twitter YouTube RSS News
United Church of Christ

533 Route 28, Harwich Port, MA 02646 | Phone: 508-432-1668

Hearing the Call

Exodus 3: 1-12

Hearing the Call

Sunday March 5, 2017

Rev. Dr. Susan Cartmell

Pilgrim Congregational Church, Harwich Port


For the next six weeks our sermon series will be on the theme of Journey of Faith. The stories of the Bible are full of the journey theme. Abraham was called to travel and Jacob journeyed for many miles. Joseph went to Egypt and David was always on the road in battle. Elijah and Elisha were always on a journey for God, healing the sick and making prophetic statements. So when Jesus came along the Bible says that he had no place to rest his head. Of course Paul was a virtual travelling salesman for the early church.

You may well wonder why this theme of travel is so important in the Bible. I believe these journeys served as a symbol to remind us that faith involves change of scenery that prompt a change of heart. I believe that one of the strongest theme in scripture is that God calls people to take a journey that will be life-giving and life changing. These stories about people on the move, from Abraham to the apostles were not meant to describe unique individuals, but folks who could serve as example for you and me. In our series of sermons we will examine the symbolism in the journey that the Hebrews took from slavery to freedom, and see what this story informs the journeys we are on. By this I mean more than just the trip we take to Florida or Europe. I mean the arc of our lives that constitutes its own journey. What does it mean to live your faith in such a way that you pursue certain goals and set your sails for certain destinations so that your life becomes it own spiritual path? That is what we will be looking at all during Lent.

During this series I invite you to consider your journey and what path you have been on, and where you want to be heading. Consider your own map, not just how you make progress from one stage of life to another over the years but how you decide to prioritize your time. I believe that the journeying is such an important theme in the Bible and God invites so many different people to travel with God in faith, because that is what God does. God has been doing it for centuries and God still is call people to take the trip of a lifetime- the trip of faith.

Today we begin this series on journeys of faith with one of the oldest stories in Hebrew scripture, the story of Moses at the burning bush. To set the context for this moment let’s look at how Moses got here.

The Hebrews had been slaves in Egypt for several hundred years when the Pharoah was worried about their birth rate and ordered the midwives to kill the boy babies. But of course the midwives were ambivalent and the mothers took to hiding their children. Moses’ mother rigged up a basket that would float on the Nile while carrying an infant. She sent her daughter along and when the Pharoah’s daughter saw the basket  and what was in it, she wanted to keep the child, which her father allowed her to do. Moses, like many great leaders, grew up bridging two cultures. It proved to be his blessing and his curse. When he was grown, he saw a brick master beating a slave, and Moses grew incensed and turned on the overseer, killing him.

In that moment Moses realized that he had to leave town and he went far to the north to the land of Midian, an area now considered to be in Arabia. There Moses started a new life far from his homeland, but he met his wife and worked for her father tending his sheep. That is where our story begins.



The Bible says here that God calls all of us to journey in faith, but the question it how do we hear God’s call.

In the first place, you need to be curious. The Bible says that Moses noticed this strange bush which was inflames yet it was not consumed, and he turned aside from what he was doing to get a closer look. He stopped what he was doing to draw near. Think of all the other more likely responses: I have a busy day here with these sheep. They need my full and undivided attention. We have our schedule. I made a list when I woke up and tempes fugit. Moses did not know what was going on. But God was smart. A good Ted Talk makes you curious.  A successful ad at the Super Bowl makes you wonder and want to know more.  God set up something that was meant to attract Moses’ attention – a burning bush that is never consumed is a conundrum.

But it worked because Moser was curious. He was interested in life. He might be out in the wilderness watching sheep. He might have one of the dullest jobs ever. He might have settled into rural life and enjoyed working for his father in law, but he was not dead yet. He was still interested.

            Curiosity is a sign of a young person. If you remain curious you will never grow old whatever your age. The Univeristy of California at Berkeley has a website called Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. The homepage has an article on the Six Benefits of Curiosity. 1. Curiosity helps us survive; as we learn about our environment we are better prepared. 2.Curious people are happier and have higher levels of positive emotions. 3. Curiosity boosts your achievement at work and school. 4. Curiosity gives you empathy. 5. Curiosity strengthens relationships. 6. Curiosity improves health and healthcare. Now this was a scientific journal but I would also add that curiosity is essential to growing in spirit. People mistakenly assume that God wants us to be compliant, subservient, accepting. There are times when church leader may have touted these characteristic, but that is not what attracts God. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/six_surprising_benefits_of_curiosity

            God is drawn to curiosity. Abram was curious enough to walk from southern Iraq to northern Israel, because he was intrigued by this God who promised to give him children. Young David was curious about the giant Goliath and wanted to take his chances in the battle; and God loved that about him. Noah did not understand why he had to build an ark but he was curious enough to do it and his adventurous spirit saved his life and his bloodline. Moses was curious about the bush and about the possibility that God needed him.

            God made us curious and we tamp it down, and reign it in. Curiosity is the first step in a journey of faith.

Secondly, the second step is honesty. As soon as God explained Moses’ mission, he responded “Who am I to go to Pharoah?” He might have been flattered by this assignment, but instead he pointed to the elephant in the room. Why would I, a shepherd,  be able to convince the most powerful man on earth to relinquish his slaves while he is building the pyramids? If you want to take an authentic journey in faith you need a good smoke detector. You need to ask the hard questions. You need to question you motives, your plan and even question God.

            That is the difference between piety and faith. Pious people are afraid of these questions. They puff themselves up with the pretensions of faith. God chose Moses because he was honest about his own weaknesses. He reminded God he had a stutter. He suggested his elder brother, Aaron would be a better speaker. I bet the more he examined his own reservations, the more God was convinced Moses was the man for the job. You want to be honest about your reservation before you head down a new path.  Before you go hiking down a new trail you check the map, you take a hard look at your boots and water supply. You check the weather and honestly assess you plans. Bravada gets you in trouble but honesty sets you on the path for success. Be honest.

Finally, a journey of faith is a trip of a lifetime.  Moses knew you don’t see a burning bush every day. You don’t talk to God everyday.

 A school choir from Hyannis sang for Pope Francis this week in Rome. Last year the choir at St. John Paul II in Hyannis did a Cd and their priest sent it to the Vatican. When they were asked to do a singing tour with concerts in Italy and one this past week for Pope Francis, they knew it would be hard. They were a good choir but they had to improve and add rehearsals. They had to work especially hard to get visas for everyone including their Chinese students and the visas did not come through until the last minute.  But they knew when they got the summons that this opportunity would only come along once. These 60 singers and their 30 adult chaperones will remember this tour for the rest of their lives.

            I have to believe that something about this call of God at the burning bush met a great need in Moses. I imagine he was far from his family and longed to re-connect, far from the palace all the culture he knew. A lot of rabbis think the voice God used that day was actually Moses’ own father’s voice. Lonely on those hills with the sheep, that voice was so inviting that Moses could not resist it. In that moment Moses knew this call was meant for him.

I don’t know what lonely place in your soul is seeking God’s call. I don’t know where God need you to free the slaves of injustice in our time, or feed the hungry or work for prison reform. But I do know that the world is aching for men and women of faith who are curious about God’s call, honest about their limits, and come to faith with a sense of adventure.

This Lent I hope that you will hear a call which is so compelling it feels like an invitation you cannot refuse. Let us pray…


Posted: Sunday March 5, 2017