Thursday, September 2, 2010

Exodus 3:1-14 - Sermon - Purpose

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Exodus 3:1-15
There’s An App for That

We all want some sort of purpose in life. We want our lives to count for something. This is something we all want in life. It is part of our DNA. At the basic level of who we are as individuals we desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves. We long to have purpose in our lives because it gives us meaning, gives us passion, gives us a reason to do what we do. Purpose helps us define all of that but without purpose we are lost and sometimes we feel very alone.

A rich man was determined to give his mother a birthday present that would outshine all others. He read of a bird that had a vocabulary of 4000 words, could speak in numerous languages and sing 3 operas. He immediately bought the bird for $50,000 and had it delivered to his mother. The next day he phoned to see if she had received the bird. "What did you think of the bird?" he asked. She replied, "It was delicious." Without knowing what our purpose is we can waste all the talent we have.

That is what Billy Sunday said. He said, “More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent.” Many of you here today, may feel that you lack purpose in your life. You want to have something that drives you to make a difference in this world and to give your life meaning. We all desire this but how do we find it? How do we understand what God has created us to do? How do we find our God given purpose in life?

The Bible is full of stories about this. A church word we use to describe this is “calling.” When people are coming through the ordination process in the United Methodist Church they are asked constantly about their calling story. “Why do you think God is calling you into ministry?” “Where have you seen God interact in your life?” “What passion is God laying on your heart?” These are all questions that are asked as a person goes through this process. But if you are not called into ordained ministry, you may never hear those questions, yet finding the answers to them will lead you to the purpose God has for your life.

I am not sure why we, as preachers, do not push you, as laity, to answer these questions more. I apologies I don’t do this more because we all have a calling for our lives. We all have a purpose. The hard part is finding it in the midst of everything else we have going on in our lives. The really hard part is knowing how to listen for it.

When looking at all the call stories in the Bible I tried to figure out which one to read from as the main piece of scripture. I could have gone with Abraham’s calling when God came to him and told him that at his age God would start to build his nation. I could have gone with Ruth and her calling to be loyal to her mother-in-law, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) I could have gone with the calling of Samuel who heard God whisper three times and he thought it was the priest Eli. Or David, who was asked to come in from the fields where he was watching sheep and was anointed the next King of Israel. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart,” (Jeremiah 1:5) is part of Jeremiah’s call and can speak volumes about God’s purpose for our lives. Mary had a visit from an angel to calm her fears about her calling as the mother of the Messiah. Philip listened to God and witnessed to an Ethiopian Eunuch because God told him to. I could have gone with Lydia, who was minding her own business before the Lord spoke to her through the Apostle Paul and she had her whole family baptized and provided a ministry of hospitality afterwards.

The Bible is all about how God comes down into the daily life of ordinary people and gives them purpose and a calling in their lives. Now some of you might be thinking, well those people are special. I’m not special and God can’t really use me if God really knew who I was and what I have done. The truth is God knows exactly who you are and what you have done and is still calling you. Plus if you can find a perfect person that God calls, besides his own Son, to do ministry go ahead. God calls the hurt, the lame, the outcasts, the ugly, the ashamed, the sinner, and the broken to do his work. King David knocked up his mistress and ended up sending her husband to his death to try and cover it up. He also Noah was known as a drunk. Joshua had major doubt and fear issues. Abraham couldn’t wait on God and so he knocked up with maidservant. Peter denied Christ and Paul, when he was Saul, was a relentless persecutor of followers of Jesus. God can use anyone anytime to do his will. We only have to be open to it.

One day on a walk Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. The scriptures say, “Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” I think our law of the land would call the premeditated murder and back then, like now, it would carry the death penalty. People saw what Moses did and the Pharaoh tried to kill him but Moses made a run for it. He found shelter with a the priest of Midian after saving his daughters from a group of shepherds. There he married and took up watching sheep for a living. He had gone from living in Pharaoh’s palace and a place of honor to watching sheep. He was a murderer on the run from the law and when he realized how his people were being treated by the Egyptians he cried out to God.

What happens next in Moses life is a story that many of us have heard before but listen to it again with new ears as we hear the word of God today from the 3rd chapter of Exodus.

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"
And Moses said, "Here I am."
5 "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending 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 And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you [a] will worship God on this mountain."
13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
14 God said to Moses, "I am who I am . [b] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

In this calling story Moses learns of his purpose in life. He will be the one to set his people free. He will lead them to their own land. God is calling him to do the impossible. God is calling him, a murderer. God is calling him to speak to Pharaoh. God calls Moses the stutterer. Moses is scared and comes up with every excuse why God has chosen the wrong guy for the job but God doesn’t back down. God’s criteria is a lot different than ours.

When we, as humans look for people to do big things in life, we want big people, famous people, attractive people, extremely talented people. We want Angelina and Brad to save us. We want people we can look up to, be inspired by, who aren’t too harsh on the eyes, who have their lives together, and who we can look up to and desire to be like. God doesn’t look at all that stuff though. Instead God wants faithful people. God is looking for people who are willing to put themselves on the back burner and do what God is asking them to do.

Usually if you think your life is together and you can look at it and can say, “I have accomplished a lot in life through my hard work and determination,” God is going to have a hard time using you. That’s because you think you have done it all on your own and when you get your God given purpose, you will think you can do it on your own as well. But when you look at broken people, sinful people, those the world wants to throw away, they know they cannot do it on their own. Typically these people have a deeper faith and trust in God because their egos have been shot and nothing to stand on except faith. God looks at these people and says, “These are my people. I can use these people.” And so he calls working class guys as his disciples. He calls a prostitute name Rahab to enable his chosen people to move into the holy land. He calls broken, sinful, and most importantly faithful people to do his work.

What I love about this story of Moses is the promise God gives him when he is unsure about his new purpose in life. God tells him, “I will be with you.” Jesus, before his ascension into heaven, leaves the disciples with the Great Commission to go out and make disciples of all nations. Not all of the eleven believed when this was happening because it states that “But some doubted.” (Mt. 28:16) Yet Jesus gives them assurance by saying, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age." We are never alone in our purpose in life. We are never alone in our calling. God is with us. God is always with us. We find that in the meal we are about to partake in and we find it out when we live out our calling on earth.

You might be telling yourself “I’m not called. I don’t have a divine purpose in my life.” But have you asked God about it? Have you prayed a prayer that asks God to come into your life and to give you a purpose? Have you gotten down on your knees and said to God, “Lord, my life feels empty. I want to feel a passion for something. I want my life to mean something.” Once you ask those questions of God you need to be ready for the response. You need to take time to be on holy ground and listen to God’s answer.

In the movie Prince of Egypt, which was an animated movie of Moses’ story, the burning bush scene is wonderful. It’s not wonderful because of the color of the flames on the bush or how scared and curious Moses looks. It is beautiful because of the voice of God. Apparently as they were making this movie the sound design team was trying to figure out how to do the voice of God. They played with different sounds like morphing the voices of men, women and children in and out. They looked up how it was handled with other movies in the past and they tried to come up with something unique and revolutionary. But theologically it was all falling apart. The solution was to use the voice of Moses himself, in this movie it was the actor Val Kilmer. In this pivotal scene when Moses and God have a conversation, what it sounds like is Moses is having the conversation with himself. As the sound design team put it in an interview, this dialogue represented “the kind of voice we hear inside our own heads in our everyday lives.”

That is the way I believe God speaks to us. When I have heard the voice of God in my life, it is my voice. It is that small voice inside me that calls me to do something in the name of God. When you ask God to give you a purpose in life, listen to that small voice inside you. Be guided by that voice because that is God. If you are looking for a purpose in life, a calling, a way to make your life mean more, than come today and get on your knees before the Creator of the universe and listen to his voice inside of you. Listen to your own burning bush and know that the I Am, is always with you.

And all God’s people said…Amen.

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