Our lead pastor had to go on medical leave in March of 2018. Three months later she had to resign. She is still on disability. I miss her.
The congregation has been on an arduous journey since then. An interim lead has come to guide us through the healing process and the call process.
Many people felt it was time for me to “step up” and take the lead job. I wrestled with that question for ten months.
This weekend two things converged that formed the following sermon. First, we found news that the call committee offered the lead pastor position to a candidate and the candidate turned down the offer. The call committee chair made the announcement at the beginning of worship on Sunday and you could feel the air leave the room.
Second, the Narrative Lectionary brings us to the story of Moses’ Call in Exodus 3:1-15. I found out the disappointing news about the candidate on Wednesday morning, so it fused with my study of this text.
Here is the sermon that resulted from this journey. Scroll to the bottom to listen to the audio.
I never cease to be amazed at God’s timing and our preaching schedule. Today’s text about the Calling of Moses has been planned for months, and it is perfect for today for two reasons.
First, this afternoon I will be meeting with our Ninth Grade Confirmation students to talk about God’s Calling in our lives, aka Vocation. Weird, right?
Second, we are in a call process as we look for a new lead pastor. Who knew, way back when we planned this lesson, that today we would receive such discouraging news. We had a final candidate, and when the job was offered, the candidate turned us down.
Just for the record, I have no idea who the candidate was. I don’t even know if it was male or female, so don’t ask.
I’m sure you are experiencing a lot of emotions right now. I know I have been.
This has been a difficult journey for me.
I was invited by Pastor Kris to consider the call to Easter as the Pastor of Family Faith. I came here, expecting to work with Pastor Kris for a decade or so, until I was in my sixties. I never expected her to get sick and leave in less than a year of my arrival.
When she officially resigned last June, Pastor Brandon and I were faced with a difficult decision. Each of us had to discern whether either of us felt called to step in to the lead pastor. I heard lots of opinions, and lots of voices in my head.
“Aren’t you tired of being the leutenant? Don’t you want to step up to be the captain?”
“You have a PhD in Missional Leadership, aren’t you the perfect person for a lead pastor?”
“You’re 50 now, isn’t it time?”
All of those messages make sense. They feed my ego and sense of self. A younger version of me would have probably jumped at the opportunity.
I wrestled with God for 10 months over this decision. It is like our story from last week, in Genesis 32, when Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord. It was a struggle.
I have to tell you, I thought long and hard about the kind of tasks and decision making processes the new lead pastor will have to take us through, and I lined those up with my particular set of gifts and passions, and I realized that I am not a good fit for that. I am called to teach and lead people deeper in Spiritual Formation. I am called to use my art to create content to help people learn and grow. That is who God created me to be, and I would be limited in how I could pursue God’s calling in my life if I tried to fit myself into something that is not who God has created me to be.
I think this is the journey that each of us is on, and that we are on as a congregation.
The question we bring to this text today is this:
How do we discern what God is calling us to be and do, and how should we feel in the wake of this disappointment?
As I soaked in the text this week, four attitudes emerged that I think will help us.
The first attitude is AWARENESS.
Notice what is going on in Moses’ life. He was a Prince of Egypt for 40 years, before he noticed the injustices being inflicted on his people. He lashed out in anger and murdered the slave-driver, so he fled.
Then he spent 40 years as a shepherd. He’s taken this flock out into the wilderness hundreds of times.
Today was different. Today he noticed something.
I invite you to try something with me. Turn your head and look around this room. Do you notice anything different?
How many of you knew that we had a monitor hanging on the back wall? How many of you knew that we used to have four beautiful paintings hanging there, and now they’re gone?
It is easy not to notice.
Brain researchers tell us that we see what we are looking for.
Do you know why many people don’t see God in the world, or hear God speaking to them?
Because, deep down, they don’t believe God is there.
There have been a few studies done about American Christianity, and the research shows us that most mainline protestant Christians are essentially moralistic atheists. We believe in the ethics of Jesus, but we don’t actually believe that God is active in the world.
Isnt’ that fascinating?
Do you believe that you can hear the voice of God? Do you believe that God is at work in your life and in our call process?
Moses noticed the burning bush.
That leads us to the second attitude.
Noticing God’s presence brings a sense of AWE.
God told Moses to take off his sandals.
I invite you to do this. I know it seems strange, but give it a try. Kick off your shoes.
Notice how different it feels on the bottom of your feet. Shoes are good and important because they protect our feet from harm as we walk around. Yet, they also create and artificial barrier between our bodies and the earth.
Moses was standing in the wilderness, looking at a bush. He was wearing sandals. So, when he took off his shoes, his bare skin came in contact with the soil.
Do you remember at the beginning of the story? God formed the Adam out of the Adamah. God formed the human out of the humus, the dirt.
Moses stared into the flame, he heard the voice, he felt the soil under his feet, he took in the vastness of the wilderness, he heard the bleating of his sheep, felt the wind sweep across his face.
When we allow ourselves to be caught up in the vastness of God’s presence in the universe and our place in it, all it can do is overwhelm us with a sense of Awe.
The third attitude I see in this story is a sense of SELF-WORTH.
When we allow ourselves to get caught up in the AWE of God’s presence, it can often make us feel very small in relation to the infinite God and the vastness of the universe.
Then God tells Moses to go to Egypt to confront the Pharaoh and deliver the Israelites from slavery.
“Whoa, God! That’s too big. I can’t do that! I’m not strong enough. I’m not a good speaker. Who am I?”
Do you ever feel that way?
Some of us struggle with an over-inflated ego, that’s true. But, in my experience, most of us struggle more deeply with self-doubt and a lack of self-worth.
Notice how God responds to Moses’ self-doubt.
“Moses, I am with you.”
Do something with me. Put both thumbs up.
Who’s got two thumbs up and is loved by God?
Put your thumbs into your chest.
Say with me, “This one is.”
You are loved by God. You are worthy of God’s calling in your life. You have been wonderfully created with a special set of gifts, passions, and experiences that make you a unique contribution to this world.
God is with you and God is with Easter as we continue in this call process.
The final attitude is SURRENDER.
Moses asks God, “Who should I tell the people sent me? What’s your name, LORD?”
Notice that God does not respond with a name. God identifies Godself like this. “I AM WHAT I AM.” This Hebrew phrase can also be translated, “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.” OR “I WILL BE BECAUSE I AM.”
We could spend hours unpacking the theology here.
There is one thing that I take from this for our conversation.
God says to Moses, “I got this. Just trust me.”
Easter Lutheran Church, we are on a journey together.
God is calling Easter to be a beacon of hope to a new generation. God is calling Easter to be a witness to the Gospel in our neighborhoods and work places.
God is calling someone out there to be our next lead pastor.
It will happen.
We need to have our attenaes up and expect to encounter the awesome presence of God in our everyday lives.
We need to believe that God loves us, that God is with us, and the God’s got this.