In our first reading (Exodus 3:1-15) the same God who had met with and made the great covenant with Abraham hundreds of years before (in Genesis chapter 15) now meets with Moses. The epic journey of humans with God, the journey of faith, continues to unfold.
The true story of Moses is a dramatic one. Up to this spectacular encounter with Yahweh, Moses had been raised in the palace along with the man who by the time of this reading has now become Pharaoh of Egypt. So the great Pharaoh is the half brother of Moses!
Moses has been an impulsive person, who went so far as to murder an Egyptian slave driver. Fleeing to the desert and now surviving by minding livestock, the originally quite promising Moses is now a refugee from vengeful Pharaoh.
When Moses followed his own will, the result was pitiful. So Moses’ life at 80 years old or so has become a picture of futility. It is a bit like the Stephen King book “1922”, where a murder results in complete disaster for the perpetrator.
This scene of Moses meeting with God in the burning bush is brilliantly portrayed in the Disney movie, “Prince of Egypt”. In this meeting, Yahweh says to Moses, “I am who I am” – or, “I will be who I will be.” Insofar as Moses engages with and can learn to identify himself with Yahweh and with the divine purposes, Moses will find his own identity, purpose, and reason for living – namely, to lead Israel out of slavery in the Exodus, the great signature moment of the nation of Israel.
In the gospel reading (Lk 13:1-9) we are warned that life is short and God expects us to be fruitful. Fruitful is what a growing economy looks like, versus what a stagnant economy looks like – like Detroit today, perhaps. We may think of all the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Galatians chapter 5 (especially verses 22 and 23).
God expects us to show the fruits of the Spirit, each day. There are many great examples of using God’s gifts in God’s service, fruitfully. One example is a person whom we remember on February 27th in the church calendar: George Herbert who died in 1633 at 39 years old. Life is short! George was a Welsh born English poet –enormously popular, deeply and broadly influential, and arguably the most skillful and important British devotional lyricist. Also we recalled Eric Liddell on Feb 22nd, the great Olympian world record holding athlete from Scotland and rugby player remembered in the movie “Chariots of Fire”. Eric became a missionary to China, dying in 1945 at 43 years old. Our span of days is very brief! Moses, George Herbert, and Eric Liddell all came to offer their lives in God’s service and God used them and their abilities for the divine purposes.
So we too are to take off our shoes because we stand in the presence of an awesome and holy God. As we worship God and as we lay our lives before God, like the Israelites, we are freed from slavery and addiction. As we follow God’s call to us, like Moses, Herbert and Liddell we find our true identity and the meaning of our lives. Also, God brings from us fruit that is tasty and with a sweet aroma.
In honor of all those endowed with musical gifts who adorn our praise of God, here is one of George Herbert’s hymns:
King of glory, King of peace, I will love thee; and that love may never cease, I will move thee. Thou hast granted my request, thou hast heard me; thou didst note my working breast, thou hast spared me. Wherefore with my utmost art, I will sing thee; and the cream of all my heart, I will bring thee. Though my sins against me cried, thou didst clear me; and alone, when they replied, thou didst hear me. Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee; in my heart though not in heaven, I can raise thee. Small it is in this poor sort to enroll thee; even eternity’s too short to extol thee.