As our separation continues and our need for both peace and connection grows, I thought this Psalm (see Psalm 26 Nan Merrill) might be of help. This particular version is from “Psalms for Praying” by Nan Merrill. A number of lines speak to me in this psalm every time I read/pray it but now more than ever before, the verse “I love the company of faith-filled people, count myself among those who make your Word their own” is of great value. I do love the company of all of you and enjoy being with you as we seek to make God’s word the first and the last in daily lives.
I got a bit of a rise out of the notes in my study bible about Ps 26. “Such a prayer may be that of one who has come before God seeking vindication in the face of false accusations… or one who seeks entrance into the sanctuary…”
While we await stage 2 re-entry plans to be fleshed and approved which I hope will be accomplished by the end of October, I really do also pray that more of you will join the company of faith-filled people on the Wisdom Wednesday Zoom call.
The conversations are rich and varied based on the weekly content and attendees. While I get that, for some of you, your job creates Zoom fatigue, this is a gathering that doesn’t drain further but fills back up, the well that gets depleted during the day.
I genuinely pray that you will take time to read and pray with this Psalm in whatever version serves you best, and that just once, you will take an hour and join the company of the faith-filled (and faith-seeking) people in order to gain wisdom for the journey ahead.
Guest Speakers – Elders Ken Nickel and Denise Nickel
Musician – Sarah Berta
Prelude: Here I Am Lord -arr. John Carter
Introduction to the Worship Service
Call to Worship:
One-We come to this place to see what God has done.
All – We are here for burning bushes and holy ground.
One-Here in worship, we will find God on special days of celebration and ordinary days.
All – We seek the God of our ancestors knowing we may be called to new places.
One-Listen now for God’s call and know you do not go alone.
All – We are ready to worship and see God in this place.
Opening Hymn: Morning Has Broken (Blue 469)
Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!
Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where God’s feet pass.
Lord, we have gathered here today to hear your word for us. We marvel at the witness of Moses who received your call to liberate your enslaved people. We long for Your call to set us free from our bondage of mind and spirit. We seek to be released from our fears and struggles. Be with us this day, guiding our spirits and opening our hearts to hear your forgiveness and call to us. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.
Call for Confession:
God calls us, but we don’t listen. God recruits us into service but we say we are not worthy. God asks us to serve and love others but we often turn our backs. We deceive no one but ourselves. Let us confess our shortcomings and ask God for forgiveness and guidance.
Prayer of Confession:
Lord, perhaps your voice issuing forth from a burning bush is what we need to shake us from our complacency. We have a hard time comprehending your call to us because we feel so inadequate to respond in faithful service. So we look to others to do the work. We are happy to support their efforts with our funds and our limited interest. Now, Lord, we need to take the next step into actual service to you. Forgive our slowness of action and heart, O Lord. Quicken our spirits to accept the call you have for us. Give us courage and strength to do your will and help others in need. We ask these things in the name of Jesus our Lord. AMEN.
Assurance of Grace:
In the power of the burning bush, in the quiet stillness, in the everyday noises of living, God is calling to each one of us, telling us to trust in the gifts with which God has bestowed on us. You are beloved and blessed by God to be a blessing to others. Rejoice!
Message for the Children and the Young at Heart
Moses and the Burning Bush
Invocation: (Sung in Unison)
Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear; and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear. Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God Thy will to see. Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit Divine.
Old Testament Reading– Exodus 3:1-12 (Contemporary English Version)
One day, Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and Moses decided to lead them across the desert to Sinai, the holy mountain. 2 There an angel of the Lord appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. 3 “This is strange!” he said to himself. “I’ll go over and see why the bush isn’t burning up.”
4 When the Lord saw Moses coming near the bush, he called him by name, and Moses answered, “Here I am.”
5 God replied, “Don’t come any closer. Take off your sandals—the ground where you are standing is holy. 6 I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Moses was afraid to look at God, and so he hid his face.
7 The Lord said: I have seen how my people are suffering as slaves in Egypt, and I have heard them beg for my help because of the way they are being mistreated. I feel sorry for them, 8 and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians.
I will bring my people out of Egypt into a country where there is good land, rich with milk and honey. I will give them the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 My people have begged for my help, and I have seen how cruel the Egyptians are to them. 10 Now go to the king! I am sending you to lead my people out of his country.
11 But Moses said, “Who am I to go to the king and lead your people out of Egypt?”
12 God replied, “I will be with you. And you will know that I am the one who sent you, when you worship me on this mountain after you have led my people out of Egypt.”
Sermon – Doesn’t He Care? – Guest Preacher – Ken Nickel
If you caught my service a few weeks ago, I took you on a trip back two thousand years ago to the Sea of Galilee when the faith of the twelve disciples was tested by the storm. “Don’t you care that we’re about to die?” they asked of Jesus. And he responded, “Have you still no faith?” Today we’re not going back quite as far. I’ll invite you to go back to your very first day of school; maybe last year, or twenty-five years ago or maybe, like me, much longer than that. Remember sitting at your desk with your hands clasped in front of you. Your teacher stands in the front of the classroom with a clipboard or computer printout or laptop. On it are the names of all of the students in class in alphabetical order. Before the first lesson is taught, before the first student falls asleep in class, the teacher embarks on that time-honored ritual of taking attendance – reading all the names so that every student, upon hearing their name, can answer back with the one-word response: Here. It was your way of saying you were in the room, you were present, and you were ready to learn.
Well it strikes me, as I read today’s passage, that Moses does much the same thing. It’s just the he’s a class of one, about to be schooled by none other than God himself. But this was certainly not an ordinary day nor an ordinary time. Moses had been minding his own business, caring for his sheep to keep them safe, when he saw the burning bush; burning, but not burning. I’m sure Moses had no intentions of ever returning to Egypt, let alone to Pharaoh. In order to do what God would request of him, Moses would have to go back to the place from which he had fled, a place where he was raised to rule over the Israelites and then he later found out that he actually was an Israelite, the place where he then killed an Egyptian, and the place where he chose to give up his royal status and flee into obscurity.
Yet here he is. Like us in school on that first day; it’s not like Moses needed to tell God where he was, God of course already knew that, since God was the one who came to him. Yet God spoke his name “Moses, Moses”…
And Moses says…”Here I am”.
I believe that connecting with God is something that lies at the very heart of what it means to be human; to be in touch with that which is outside our own selves, that which is bigger than we ever will be. Do you think Moses could’ve ever have imagined the God who came to him on that mountain? The God who took on the form of a burning bush that did not burn up? The God who called Moses to call Pharaoh out? The God who, when asked for a name, offered up, “I Am Who I Am?” or maybe more correctly “I will be who I will be.” This God with the name too holy to even be spoken; this God that movies of the Charlton Heston variety, depict with a deep, booming, resonating voice; this God who tells Moses to remove his sandals, for the place where he is standing is holy ground?
And yet we wonder, how do you possibly connect with a God like that? As a child, I waited patiently for God to finally speak to me, like some spirit parent. After all, he spoke to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and a slew of others in the bible. Yet it’s been said that “God lives wherever we imagine.” Remember the reality Moses was living in long before he went up that mountain – a reality where he was a Hebrew raised in Pharaoh’s palace, where his own people had rejected him, where in many ways he was a man without a home. And yet here on this mountain, he is invited by the Almighty to take off his sandals. Moses, the man without a home, finds himself in the presence of God – who, in asking him to remove sandals, more or less is saying to him, Moses, make yourself at home. Take a load off your feet.
When you look at it that way, do you think that this is a God we can connect with? Not the booming voice from classic movies, but a God who calls us by name, who makes us feel at home, who creates intimacy in the midst of our vulnerability; a God who shares with us God’s very name – an act of vulnerability in and of itself.
A God who cares;
A God of promise;
A God who is less interested in looking back and more interested in what’s to come;
A God not just on the mountain but longing to be in relationship off of the mountain, down with us, in all that life in the valley can bring.
Do you see? God is inviting us into something more than a one-time event, more than a mountaintop experience. God wants to connect with each and every one of us in an intimate and lasting way that compels us to want to do the same, long after the mountaintop. As one commentator put it: “Faith is a participation sport,” she says. “You have to get up off the couch and get in the game, take a risk, reach for something you thought unachievable, step out onto the winding road the end of which you cannot see from your doorstep.” She says, “To know God, you have to go with God.”
Many People don’t seem to understand the fullness of faith. Some people would even say it’s overrated. But in Hebrews 11, God tells us that faith is a crucial part of our relationship with Him. See without faith, there is no trust because trust and faith go hand in hand. Faith is believing in the things not seen, faith is the hinge that holds the Christian to a personal relationship with God. In John, we hear Jesus say to a formerly skeptical Thomas ““Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” God is there and God cares. No matter where you are, no matter what you are facing, God sees your affliction. He knows what you are going through!
Moses finally agrees to accept his new role, of course. Not without a little pushback, not without some attempts at bargaining and negotiating. Eight attempts, to be exact. Eight times, Moses tries to talk God out of it. But God would have none of that. I’ve invited you in, God seems to say. I’ve made you feel at home. Your bare feet have mingled with my sacred soil. You and me, we are bound to one another. You will go down the mountain. And I will go with you.
And the real beauty of it all, the true joy of this, is that we get to do the same. We, too, get to connect with a God who meets us where we are, who surprises us in wonder and awe, who calls us by name, and who says to us, in the midst of our crazy, hectic, worry-filled world, this: How about you take off your shoes and take a load off your feet. For the place where you are standing is not just holy ground: It is home.
In the name of God our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, thanks be to God – and may all of God’s people say, AMEN!
Affirmation of Faith– Here I am Lord Vs.1 (Sung in Unison)
I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard My people cry. All who dwell in dark and sin, My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear My light to them Whom shall I send
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord I have heard You calling in the night. I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.
Lord, we love the drama of the burning bush. Here is the quaking Moses, telling God that God has made a mistake. Moses does not believe that he can perform the task to which God has called him. But God knows better. God will provide the support structure for this awesome task. In our times of greatest distress, we are just like Moses. We tell God that God has made a mistake; we are not able or worthy to undertake the task of hope, healing and peace for this world. We mumble about responsibilities and commitments, but God chides us to be in service by helping others. God will give us the strength, the tools, the support that we need. What do we need to fear? We feel powerless to bring the healing words of hope, and so we offer these situations to God for God’s compassionate mercy. Our trust in God is rightly placed. For God hears our prayers and will respond. We can count on God to be present with us and with all those in need. Now it is our turn to respond to God’s call with a fervent yes, trusting in God’s presence and guidance. Let us go forth to serve joyfully and confidently in God’s world.
And now, let us boldly pray the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, as we forgive our sinners. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. AMEN.
Our Offerings to God
Closing Hymn: We Will Glorify (Sung in Unison)
We will glorify the King of kings; we will glorify the Lamb;
We will glorify the Lord of lords, who is the great I Am.
God Almighty reigns in majesty, we will bow before the throne;
We will worship God in righteousness, we will worship God alone.
Hallelujah to the King of kings, hallelujah to the Lamb;
Hallelujah to the Lord of lords, who is the great I Am.
Charge and Benediction
God promised to be with Moses, and we are here to witness to the fulfillment of that promise. From generation to generation, the God of Israel is also the God of (your community’s name). The God of the burning bush is waiting even now to encounter you, call you, challenge you, and change you. Go out to be sustained and surprised by the love of God. Amen.