Exodus 3:1-15 - link to the NRSV text
NOTE: Sorry about the delay to Thursday afternoon, it's been a weird week. A little shorter, more reflective post this week. Blessings and peace!
“Here I am.”
Oh, how dangerous those words are! I’ve been thinking about these words, about what it means to respond. There are a lot of preachers here in the south of the United States that love altar calls, and there is often an assumption that if someone has experienced God then, well, of course they’re going to respond!
And for those of us in the church, for those of us who are clergy or lay leaders, boy do we wish more people would respond in faith. We watch time after time, opportunity after opportunity to growth in faith or step out in service or to turn from destructive and hurtful behavior and attitudes and watch as people just keep on going as if everything is fine. And so we get frustrated, we get desperate, and even sometimes we get discouraged.
But in the church, we must also remember this: responding to God’s call is not something to be taken lightly. Here I am. Dangerous, frightening words; words that lead us forward in new, uncertain directions. Words that may even send us back into the clutches of Pharaoh, into the places that we most fear. Responding to God’s call leads us into fearful places where we do not necessarily know what might happen.
That day, when Moses sees the bush and hears God’s call, the phrase slips from his lips almost as if it was second nature, a single word in Hebrew: hinneni. Here I am. And Moses didn’t know the world he was about to step into. And I wonder if Moses didn’t stop and think maybe he should watch what he says just a little bit more.
The danger is heightened later in the story when Moses begins trying to weasel his way out of God’s command for him to go down to Egypt: “Well, what if I get down there and they ask me, ‘What god sent you again?’ what do I tell them? What’s your name?” In the ancient Near East, to know and use a god’s name was to invoke its power. Thus Moses is asking, “What do I call you so that I can use you to help?”
God’s answer, however, is one that may very well have been frightening when uttered. “I am that I am.” Or maybe better translated, “I will be what I will be.” In other words, this God is not a god to be controlled, contained, invoked on a whim but a boundless God, one who will be whatever and will do whatever that God desires. I will be what I will be.
And yet, this is the call that people over the centuries have heard call and have given the answer, “Here I am,” and gone to places and done things that they and the world probably never could have imagined on their own. It is this God, untamable, uncontrollable, sending us places that we never would walk if it was strictly up to us, that is calling and commanding.
Moses, weak, stuttering, uncertain Moses that wouldn’t go down to Egypt without someone to hold his hand…Moses goes. And in going, Moses is transformed. For the promise that Moses heard that day from the bush was one that would sustain him. It was a promise that this dangerous, uncertain God who calls us to dangerous, uncertain things does not abandon us to them. The same promise that was in the covenant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whom God recalls to Moses is the God that again promises, “I will be with you” (Exo 3:12).
Here I am. Dangerous, frightening words yet words that offer hope. For if weak, stuttering Moses, who had been fleeing from a murder rap, well if he could be God’s instrument of redemption and deliverance, then maybe, just maybe I can be as well. Thanks be to God.