Resources: Jason Gray, “More Like Falling In Love”
Meditation: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable to Us, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
There Moses was, minding his own business. Actually, minding his father-in-law’s sheep business. Just another day at the office, out in the middle of nowhere, watching the sheep eat. And then, off to the side there… there’s something odd. A bush on fire that doesn’t seem to get burned up. And then this Voice: Take your shoes off, because you’re standing on holy ground.
What? He’s out in the middle of the field on a business day. Same field he was on yesterday. Same dirt. Same dry little clumps of brush. But today it has suddenly become holy. What’s the deal? Yesterday it was just business; today it is holy. Set apart. Different.
“Take your shoes off!” The Voice calls out from that strange bush. “Where do think you are? Who do you think is talking to us? You’re in the presence of the divine. You’re in the presence of the Holy. You’re in the presence of your God.”
Who would have known; it just looks like dirt to me. Dear friends, “Holy” isn’t a place or a thing. “Holy” is wherever God is. The Bark River might be holy, if we experience God there- or it might just be a kind of dirty little stream. Emmanuel’s altar might be holy, if we experience God there- or it might be just be a lovely way to center our attention in the hopes that God might show up!
The author Isabel Anders once said, “If God is here for us and not elsewhere, then in fact this place is holy and this moment is sacred.”
When have us experienced the presence of God? When have us known us were standing on holy ground? In the Commissioning of our teachers earlier in the service, I say, “Teachers, us are treading on holy ground, for us walk the path between your student’s hearts and the heart of God.”
I think that is true. I also think we don’t necessarily experience it that way. The kids start stomping on our last nerve, and holiness is the last thing that’s on our minds. Is it because God isn’t there?
I was puzzling this through awhile back ago. I mean, theologically, where isn’t God? God is everywhere, right? If God’s breath were removed, all creation would be gone. In Acts 17:28, Paul says that in God we live and move and have our being. Outside of God, we are not. We don’t exist. So to say that God is not present is just… ridiculous. Right?
And yet, scripture speaks of God’s absence, of God hiding God’s face from us. Okay, that’s a metaphor! Let’s get that really clear: God does not have a face, God does not play peekaboo. God just IS. God’s name is a verb. In the selection from Exodus we just heard, God says that God’s name is I AM. Yesterday, today and tomorrow, in time and beyond time: I AM. If God’s not there, existence itself ceases.
And yet… mystics speak of the dark night of the soul, where God is absent. And in our own experience, when God feels absent, what we feel is despair. And when God feels present, what we feel is abundant life and joy.
So what is it that makes God present to us? What is it that makes this time and this place holy? I was messing up my brain this week trying to get a handle on that. I mean, there’s that cliche that says, “If God’s not with us, who left?” I’m not sure if that’s exactly how it goes, but it puts all the burden for being in a relationship with God on us. If we really tried hard enough, if we were faithful enough and good enough, then we would always feel God’s presence with us, right? Well, not so much.
I mean, we DO have a responsibility in our relationship with God, because it really IS a relationship. If we could care less if God is around, chances are we’re not going to be looking if God shows up.
But then sometimes God DOES show up. There at the burning bush, Moses isn’t praying. He’s not seeking after God. He’s just standing there watching his sheep chew, and all of a sudden a bush spontaneously combusts and a Voice comes out of nowhere.
Have something like that ever happened to us? That we’re not actively seeking God, we’re not praying, we’re not reading scripture or going to church- and all of a sudden: boom. We’re in awe. We feel life profoundly, deeply. Sunrise. Your first child. Boom! There’s God.
Because it seems like sometimes God does just show up, without us doing anything special to cause it. And that moment becomes holy. We’re talking deeply about things that really matter… and we start to feel that there is something more in the room than just two people. There is something true and alive. And that moment between us becomes holy- separate, other. That moment becomes a bush on fire that doesn’t get consumed. And in later years we come back to that moment between us, and we remember it as a time that marked our deepest selves, our souls.
That experience was not entirely in our control, but if we didn’t say Yes and make ourselves vulnerable to the experience, it wouldn’t have happened. And if we want the relationship to mature, we have to work at it to keep it deep, honest and life-giving.
Within our grasp, but not in our control. You know what ‘holy’ feels like to me? It feels more like falling in love:
MORE LIKE FALLING IN LOVE, Jason Gray
Give me rules, I will break them
Show me lines, I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet
It’s gotta be More like falling in love Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out Come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling, Ohhhh Its like I’m falling in love
Give me words, I’ll misuse them
Obligations, I’ll misplace them
Cuz all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet
It never set me free …Chorus
Love, Love Deeper and deeper
It was love that made Me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me …Chorus
Holy: not rules, not duty; but being swept off our feet by the very presence of Life Itself, Love Itself, God’s own Self. More like falling in love, and, like Moses, never being the same again.
In the Name of the One who sweeps us off our feet, and will never let us go: even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Scripture for Sept. 10, 2017 EXODUS 3:1-12
Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, who was the priest of
Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb (which was later called Mt. Sinai.) The angel of God appeared to him in flame of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up. Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?” God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush: “Moses! Moses!” Moses said, “Yes? I’m right here!” God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground. Then God said, “I am the God of usr ancestors: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God. God said,” I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of My people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain. And now I have come down to help them, pry them loose from the grip of Egypt, get them out of that country and bring them to a good land with wide-open spaces, a land lush with milk and honey, the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite The Hebrew cry for help has come to Me, and I’ve seen for Myself how cruelly they’re being treated by the Egyptians. It’s time for us to go back: I’m sending us to Pharaoh to bring My people out of Egypt. Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes Us think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?” “I’ll be with us,” God said. “And this will be the proof that I am the one who sent us: When us have brought My people out of Egypt, us will worship Me right here at this very mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Hebrews and I tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me to us’; and they ask me, ‘What is God’s name?’ What do I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell My people: ‘I AM sent me to us.” God continued with Moses: “This is what you’re to say to the Hebrews: ‘God, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sent me to us.’ This has always been My name, and this is how I always will be known.
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.