20 Questions

A sermon based on Psalm 105:1-6 and Exodus 3:1-15 preached on August 31st, 2014.

Sermon audio

 I’m here.

The first two words Moses speaks to this new mysterious presence that has appeared in front of him. Moses has heard of this God—the God of his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but that’s about it.

Hearing about God is one thing. Encountering God, having God speak to you, having a conversation with the divine, as Moses has here, is quite another thing.

I’m here,

Moses says to this presence.

Moses seems to know or at least have a hunch of what he’s seeing and who he’s hearing. He knows enough to realize that he’s in the presence of something or someone, really, who has a message for him, who wants his complete attention and availability. Moses seems to know right away that whoever this God is, this God wants all of him—all of his attention, all of his life, all of who he is, from the very first moment. In just these first two words:

I’m here,

Moses makes himself completely available to God. But, Moses has conditions.

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What are you called to? Has anyone ever asked you that?

Usually when someone asks that question, you get confused or at least you start asking more questions,

What do you mean by ‘called’,

you might ask.

You start nervously parsing the word. You might think of whether the career you had or have right now is a calling. You begin wondering what your dream job would be. You start thinking all these big thoughts about what to do with your life—the entirety of it, and you ask yourself these huge questions—all of them boiling down to something like: What’s my purpose?

I find it funny and a little depressing, to be honest, that whenever we meet new people, one of the very first questions we ask is,

So, what do you do for a living?

I’m a pastor, or a lawyer, a stay at home mom, a teacher, we respond, knowing that for the next few minutes, or as we wander around the room meeting new people, we will repeat this piece of information about ourselves over and over again.

In our culture, we are so often defined by our careers, and wouldn’t it be nice to be among people who were interested in something much deeper than that?

Moses’ answer to the question, “What do you do for a living?”, would not impress at a party. Moses was a shepherd, a wanderer, and a murderer. He was a loner in a lonely land. No credentials to his name. Moses was a lost soul, with no identity. He had a Hebrew mother, was raised in Pharaoh’s courts in Egypt, but was kicked out of both his families, left to wander the land all on his own. Moses had no people—he belonged nowhere and to nobody. There was nothing prestigious about him. So when God speaks to Moses and tells him the plans God has for him, we might forgive Moses for thinking that God has the wrong guy. Moses’ life story up to this point reads more like a criminal record than a resume fit for a messenger of God.

Who am I?

Those are Moses’ next words to God.

 Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

God, you got the wrong person. My resume has some concerning things on it. I’m pretty sure I’m not the guy for the job. Have you even done a background check, God? Because once you do, I’m pretty sure you’d go with somebody else.

I’m not the person for this.

That’s the statement behind every one of Moses’ questions.

Who am I that you’ve called me to do this, God?

But, God doesn’t seem to be interested in what Moses does for a living, what he’s done in the past, or what his qualifications are. If those were God’s criteria, Moses was indeed the exact wrong guy.But God comes confidently to Moses. With a short explanation of God’s plans for him, God says,

Get going. I’m sending you…

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And this is when Moses regrets making himself available to God.

This is where that initial

I’m here

turns into

Who Am I…?, I don’t know about this.

Moses starts protesting the call that God has just given him. That initial openness and availability suddenly turns into severe self-doubt.

If you’ve ever felt in over your head—if you’ve ever given yourself to something only to find out it was way too much for you—then Moses is your man, and this is your story.

Once God gives him his mission, Moses tries almost frantically to get out of it. God,

I’m not sufficient for these things,

Moses says.

You don’t even understand how wrong I am for this!

If we read on into chapter 4, we’d see how many objections Moses has to his new calling.

What if they don’t believe me or pay any attention to me, God.

I’ve never been able to speak well, God. Send someone else.

All of these doubts and shortcomings come pouring out of Moses’ mouth right in front of God, and one by one God listens to Moses’ anxious questions and answers them patiently. All of the questions Moses asks of God are like walls that Moses throws up between he and this new calling that God has just given to him. But, for every one of these objection, God makes another promise to him. Moses is sure he is not sufficient for the task God has given him. God is sure Moses is. Moses is focused on what he can’t do while God is focused on what Moses can do. Moses is sufficient not because he’s got the resume to match the job but because God is sufficient and will help Moses on each step of the way.

If Moses has 20 questions, God has 20 answers.

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Last week we talked about prayer as something much bigger than any words we say to God and tack an Amen on the end of. We talked about praying with every bit of our being, but we didn’t talk about prayer as being open to God. Now’s a good time to do that.

Moses was the one who had eyes opened wide enough to see the bush that was burning but was not being consumed. He had ears open wide enough to hear God speak to him. Moses listened deeply for God to speak and he opened every bit of himself to God—sharing with God all of his doubts and struggles. God took Moses seriously and answered each one of his questions. And in all of the questions and all of the answers—Moses and God establish a deep understanding of one another, and they seem to compromise and come up with a plan that works for them both.

Compromising with God? So often, we think that being faithful to God means having an unquestioning allegiance to God—that we’re just simply supposed to listen to God and absorb what God says because God is God and what God says, goes.

 God said it. I’ll do it. No questions,

we say.

But this story invites us to be open to God in a much deeper way. Moses didn’t take God’s call lying down. He didn’t simply listen and accept God’s plans for him. He fought with God. He was open to receive what God had for him, but he also pushed back against God. Moses thought God was wrong to choose him.

When we open ourselves up to God’s call, we’re not asked to follow blindly. Just like Moses, we’re asked to bring all of ourselves to God—doubts, criticisms, objections, questions, everything inside of us, and be completely honest to God about every aspect of our lives, just as Moses was. And having all these objections, and questions, and experiencing all this doubt doesn’t make us less faithful. It actually connects us to God in deeper ways. Asking these questions often make us more faithful.

Be open for God to speak with you, but ask God 20 questions, lay it all out there, because, as we see from the call of Moses, challenging God with our questions, our doubts, and our fears doesn’t alienate us from God, it leads us into deeper relationship with God—into a one on one dialogue where we can bring our complete selves and become transformed in God’s presence, just as Moses was, into someone completely new—with a deeper understanding of the divine and a deeper sense of God’s call upon our lives.

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So, what is your calling? Are you listening for it? Are you watching out for burning bushes Keep your eyes open. God comes to us in surprising ways especially when we least expect it. God calls us to something we would have never expected for ourselves.

Based upon his resume, we would assume Moses was the last one equipped for God’s call, but God thought differently.

Ask God 20 questions. Hold nothing back from God. Be willing to struggle with God just as Moses did. Open yourself up to God and God will open you up and help you to see things inside of yourself that you would have never imagined were there.

God has a calling for each of us, no matter who we are. Perhaps the best way to find out what our calling might be is to pray these words,

I’m here. What’s next?

And then listen for God to answer.

All praises to the One who made it all and finds it beautiful.

Alleluia! Amen.

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