The Burning Bush

EXODUS 3:1-5

New International Version (NIV)

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 wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 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. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

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.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

 

Last year advertisers spent $6.8 billion to get your attention via the television!

That’s roughly $225 per person (ages 2 and up), and $144 per person to reach each online user.

This year advertisers are projected to spend 3.5% more to reach you.

For a total of $503 billion spent globally on advertising.

I told you at the beginning that I am a small business owner….and in one of my businesses, marketing that’s what I do. I work with small businesses to help them to maximize their advertising dollar via social media.

If you’ve picked up a newspaper or watched the news in the last few years no doubt you are familiar with the term social media.

Social media encompasses all the social ways we share and communicate with each other in our modern world. Things like Facebook, twitter, Google+, Pinterest, instagram, email marketing and a whole host of other applications.

These applications are fun. Which is what make them appealing. It allows us to reconnect with high school or college friends. To communicate with our kids or grandkids. Or maybe even our parents and extended family. It connects us over the miles or across the generational gap.

These applications are also a golden opportunity for businesses to market directly to a customer (often through their friends).

Think back to the last movie you saw. What influenced you to see that movie? Was the trailer you saw on TV?

What about the last book you read? I know I have purchased many book recently because of recommendations from friends over Facebook or twitter.

Then there is the concept of product placement. This is where hit movies and TV shows have defrayed the cost of their productions by selling ad space.  Companies spend an outrageous amount of money – almost 5 billion last year to make you think your favorite actor (or character) drinks a certain beverage or eats a certain food or maybe even drives a certain car.

This is nothing new – The James Bond films are well known for their product placements to the point that, in 1996, there was so much in one a particular movie that everybody made fun of it.

In response, the James Bond franchise now limits product placement to only six per film, and because of that exclusivity they ask more per product placement.

There is a whole segment of society that follows very closely who is the vodka dealer, watchmaker or automobile manufacturer in the newest Bond hit.

Tell me, at your last super bowl party – which was more popular – the football game or the commercials?

WE ARE BOMBARDED!

We are bombarded every day with messages, with calls to action, with things we need or want or things that would make our lives easier.

After all why use a mop with you can get a swiffer (and buy the replacement cartridges on a monthly basis) and don’t get me started on the TMI –  too much information – given on bathroom tissue or pharmaceuticals!

In our society we are so accustomed to this information we hardly notice it.

We’re not only bombarded with advertising. We have the 24 hour news reel. I remember when I was a kid – supper needed to be finished by 6 so my dad could watch the news. Today we have news any time we want it!

Or sports – if you want it, and you’re willing to pay for it – you can truly never miss an event. I’m an avid baseball fan and I have an app on my phone that will let me watch any game, anywhere any time.

And speaking of phones…how many people here do not have a phone in their pocket, purse or someplace tucked away?

A few days ago, I was selling a car, I’d met the buyer at the bank to notarize the title and as we sat there waiting for the next available person to help – I pulled my dead phone from my pocket no less that 10 times in 10 minutes……it’s a habit. Experts now say it has reached the level of addiction.

In all this bombardment of information – We are so overwhelmed with all the various means of connection that we have lost much of our ability to hear.

We miss a lot of messages, with each other, with our kids or spouses – with our parents or siblings or with our neighbors or fellow Church members.

BUT THE WORST CASE OF MISSED MESSAGES WE HAVE – MISSED MESSAGES FROM GOD.

Our hero in today’s scripture is Moses.

Moses was not an uneducated man. Moses had lived among the pharoses. In case you have forgotten Moses was a baby the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed. His mother hid him in a basket among the bulrushes and he was found and adopted by the Egyptian royal family.

As their adopted son he had all the rights and privileges of being a part of the ruling family! However, he never lost his true self (thanks to his birth mother, who came to be is nursemaid or nanny).

Perhaps you remember that as a young adult he killed an Egyptian slave master, for mistreating a Hebrew slave. Fearing for his life – Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian.

When we encounter Moses in our scripture today he was a man living a simple life. He was, by the accounts that I’ve read, about 80 years old and he was tending his father-in-laws sheep.

Now recently we’ve all heard many accounts of 50 being he new 30 or 70 being the new 50….but really, EIGHTY and tending sheep for his FATHER-IN-LAW?

It’s easy to think of tending sheep as a young mans job. Chasing wayward lambs, walking miles, being out in the weather – I dare say not one of us here has this as our dream for what we will be doing at 80.

Moses wasn’t a young man. But Moses was God’s man. He was who God came to. He was who God chose.

What does this mean for us?

For me it means that as I near the end of my 50th year and God said – Go to Carver’s Creek on Sunday! I was compelled to say yes.

While this is as terrifying as anything I have ever done (and I jumped from an airplane at 10,000 feet), it means that God isn’t through with me just yet.

And you know what? God isn’t through with you either!

Next we find that Moses had gone to ‘to the far side of the wilderness’. Now I grew up in the country – up near Winston-Salem. Surrounded by tobacco farms. We couldn’t really see our neighbors.

I live now in a neighborhood in Wilmington. I can hear my neighbors talking, hear and see their comings and goings. I know they can hear me too!

I often long for a quite place to live and I think Moses may have been a man who enjoyed solitude which is why he took the sheep to the far side; or perhaps he went to the far side of the wilderness so his sheep could find the best grass. What we do know for certain is that Moses was a man going about his business on the day he encountered the burning bush.

George Whitfield one of the founders of Methodism as a part of the ‘Holy Club’ at Oxford University with the Wesley bothers John and Charles.

In his sermon, “The Burning Bush” says of Moses “he shows how persons ought to methodize their time; the devotion and business of Methodist go hand in hand; I will assure you, Moses was a Methodist, a very fine one, a very strong one too.”

What does this mean for us? It means that we do not need to sit and wait for God. It means that as we go about our daily tasks God will find us and use us. Moses wasn’t idle waiting to hear his calling. He was busy with his work tending sheep.

Now, the burning bush represents the specific, personal instruction from God to his servant, Moses. There is no doubt in this story that God is speaking to Moses.

burning-bush

I can only speak for myself but I have yet to encounter a real burning bush! I have waited for God to burn a bush or reach down with the Gibb’s slap (of NCIS fame) from heaven and tell me what to do. I’ve even listened for the booming voice from heaven in Redd Foxx form saying “do this you big dummy”. But none of this things have I experienced.

And yet, here I am standing before you. Believing God called me to be here.

God called but it wasn’t a burning bush. It wasn’t a lightening bolt. It was a simple call on my cell phone.

Sure, there were events that lead to that call.

The biggest was the approximately 10 minutes I spent hover my pen over the check box at the end of a lay servant class that said something to the effect of Would you be willing to go if called YES or NO.

Eventually I decided that if I was having such a hard time saying no I really just should check yes.

However, I walked from that room having checked yes with the full assurance that THEY would never would they ever call ME! That God would never call me to do this.

When I compare my life to Moses, I see many similarities. Moses grew up in the Egyptian courts and was trained to be a leader.  He had the skills and ability to be a great man in Egyptian politics. But here he was on the backside of the desert, not fulfilling his potential as a man or as a servant of God.

Perhaps you, like me, look back over your life and see all the potential. All the wrong turns you’ve made. All the ways God tried to use you but you turned away. Just as I suspect Moses may have looked at his life.

I imagine Moses walking with is sheep in the far side of the wilderness thinking how did I end up here? I was raised among kings – my mother taught me of my people.

HOW DID I END UP HERE!

But God was working in the life of Moses. God was still with Moses even while Moses was off in the wilderness. Even as Moses was questioning where his life path….God was there, with Moses! And the best news God is still with us. He’s still working in our lives.

It had been 40 years since Moses had left the pharoses court. It seems as if Moses had just been wasting his life. He wasn’t heeding the call. It would seem as if Moses could have been doing something in those 40 years. But it wasn’t time for God to enact his plan.

It may seem as if you or I are far away from God. It may even seem as if God isn’t working in our lives. But God never ceases to work out His will in His people no matter where they find themselves. And you have to be open to God….even in those things where you are sure God will NEVER use you.

And that leads us to the part of this story that I find most fascinating. This was an experience that Moses consciously CHOSE.

The scripture doesn’t say God called Moses over. It doesn’t say God demanded Moses attention. Just that God put the bush in Moses path. It was Moses choice to approach the bush.

Now by nature, I am pretty curious and adventuresome. I think that if I saw a burning bush, I think I’d grab a stick and head over to poke the fire.

But when the bush started talking…I’m not so sure I’d have hung around! But not Moses, he kicked off his shoes and stayed.

I believe that we can fail to recognize when God is speaking to us.  We should never think lightly of handling the Word of God, whether in hearing, delivering it, or the study of it.

From time to time, God will speak in a definite and real way to his people through the preaching, teaching, or study of the scripture.  He will gently guide us when we get off track, or he may sternly warn us if we walk unworthy of His calling.

If we aren’t hearing God, I offer to you that God isn’t the problem!

My dad was a railroad man. He spent 30 years working for the Norfolk and Western now Norfolk Southern Railway. It was before the time that the railroad required ear protection and by the time he retired hearing was not daddy’s strong suit. It was not uncommon to get a strange answer to questions put to him….because he simply could not hear what we said.

Unfortunately, we as Christian often suffer from the same syndrome. We can’t hear God. We can’t hear him over the television. We can’t hear him over our twitter account. We can’t hear him because our minds are occupied with Facebook games or grocery lists.

We can’t hear God not because God isn’t talking but because we are not listening!

And God doesn’t seem to be burning any bushes these days! So, How do we listen for God?

I start my day; perhaps you do as well with the Upper Room devotions. I have it emailed to me and each morning with my first cup of coffee I read the devotion for the day. It’s a great way to start your day – And if you choose not to use the Upper Room I encourage you to start your day with a few words of scripture and prayer. (Not that I’d advocating that this be the only time you spend with God – but it’s a start). It WILL change your life!

A few weeks ago, God spoke to me via one such devotion.

In this devotion the writer was sharing her concern that she might miss a message from God. She wanted to do God’s will in her life but she was concerned she wouldn’t hear what God wanted her to do. Then she remembered Moses and the burning bush. Her conclusion was that if God wanted to reach her he had many options – up to and including burning a bush.

This devotional made me start to consider the messages from God I might be missing.

At first it gave me great comfort – if God wants me – He can always burn a bush ;)

Then the calculation of probability of having burning bush brought me back to reality. I began to wonder “What would a burning bush look like to me?”

I have been pondering this for weeks.

I began to look for my burning bush. I began to be more open to what, when and how God might be calling me. For me, it has caused me to get out of my comfort zone. It has caused me to stretch, to listen and to grow. And it caused me to say yes to being with you here today.

I realized that sometimes our burning bush appears to us in the form of other believers. It comes in the encouragement. It comes in the phone calls. It comes in the emails. Or even via Facebook, twitter, or other avenues. But more often our burning bush appears as we read and study – as we pray and meditate – As we shut out others and the world and spend quality time with God.

For me this burning bush was indeed burning.

It inhabited my mind. It consumed my thoughts.

It burned!

I believed that once I said yes to be here that I was answering God and that the idea of the burning bush would be extinguished for me. God called I answered – and said yes.

I tried to develop other topics for today. But God wouldn’t let me leave the burning bush.

It was then that I knew that this burning bush wasn’t just for me. It is for you.

Only you and God know what you are being called to do.

I pray that when you encounter your burning bush no matter where or via whom it may come to you, like Moses, will be willing to kick off your shoes and accept what is God plan for you and your life.

As Christians, our only real satisfaction comes from an intimate relationship with our God.  Some of the most exhilarating experiences of life come from the knowledge that God has spoken to you personally through His word, or through his people.

God is speaking to you today.

God has a use for you!

As you leave here today – I pray that each of you will encounter God’s burning bush in your life.

I pray that when you do you will kick off your shoes and answer YES! to the call.

sermon presented November 10, 2013 at Carvers Creek UMC

About Gayle

Gayle is a Social Media Enthusiast and Consultant with Biz Buzz Social Media Marketing; co-owner of Glynne's Soaps; a dalmatian rescuer; genealogist and member of the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR) and of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC); a Cubs Fanatic; hopeful bagpiper; purveyor of positive; and a curious seeker of life.
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