October 3, 2021
World Wide Communion
Acknowledging the Territory
As we gather here today, let us remember that the land upon which we gather is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our gratitude for this land and for all those who have helped to care for and nurture it, and we ask the Creator to help us use and share this land wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ candle this morning, we open our hearts and our lives to the light of Christ. And we commit ourselves to allow that light shine through us in all that we do.
Call to Worship
Come, enter into this sacred space,
For we are standing on Holy Ground.
Listen, for the voice of the One who calls us here,
For we are standing on Holy Ground.
As we celebrate World Wide Communion today, we remember all those who gather with us here and around the world,
For we are ALL standing on Holy Ground.
And so, as we gather here today, we remember that now matter who we are or where we are,
We are ALWAYS standing on Holy Ground.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
God, you called to Moses long ago through a burning bush and we know that you still call to us today. Moses took noticed and went closer, yet too often, we are too busy with our own lives to notice or if we do notice we do not take the time to draw closer. Moses made excuses as to why he couldn’t answer God’s call. We are very good at making excuses. And yet in the end, Moses answered. We are gathered here today, Great One, seeking the courage and wisdom to answer your call to us no matter where it leads. Amen
Gift of Music God Is Here VU#389
Scripture Readings Exodus 2:23-25 Exodus 3:1-15 Exodus 4:10-17
Once again, we take a giant leap forward in the stories of our faith. Last week we talked about Jacob and the covenant promise that God had made with Abraham and which God reaffirmed through first Isaac and then Jacob. But now we skip ahead many generations to a time when the ancestors of Jacob’s son Joseph have become slaves in the land of Egypt. Today we hear the story of the call of Moses, the one chosen by God to lead the people out of slavery.
The Israelites were still groaning under their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry went up to God, who heard their groaning and remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He saw the slavery of the Israelites and was concerned for them.
One day while Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock across the desert and came to Sinai, the holy mountain. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a flame coming from the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire but that it was not burning up. “This is strange,” he thought. “Why isn’t the bush burning up? I will go closer and see.”
When the Lord saw that Moses was coming closer, he called to him from the middle of the bush and said, “Moses! Moses!”
He answered, “Yes, here I am.”
God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” So, Moses covered his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated in Egypt; I have heard them cry out to be rescued from their slave drivers. I know all about their sufferings, and so I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of Egypt to a spacious land, one which is rich and fertile and in which the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites now live. I have indeed heard the cry of my people, and I see how the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.”
But Moses said to God, “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
God answered, “I will be with you, and when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship me on this mountain. That will be the proof that I have sent you.”
But Moses replied, “When I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ So what can I tell them?”
God said, “I am who I am. You must tell them: ‘The one who is called I Am has sent me to you.’ Tell the Israelites that I, the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have sent you to them. This is my name forever; this is what all future generations are to call me.
But Moses said, “No, Lord, don’t send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven’t become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.”
The Lord said to him, “Who gives man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? It is I, the Lord. Now, go! I will help you to speak, and I will tell you what to say.”
But Moses answered, “No, Lord, please send someone else.”
At this the Lord became angry with Moses and said, “What about your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. In fact, he is now coming to meet you and will be glad to see you. You can speak to him and tell him what to say. I will help both of you to speak, and I will tell you both what to do. He will be your spokesman and speak to the people for you. Then you will be like God, telling him what to say. Take this walking stick with you; for with it you will perform miracles.”
Reflection – I Am
Our reading today begins one day while Moses is out tending his flock. He sees an amazing sight, a bush that appears to be on fire, but which is not consumed by the flames. The image of the burning bush, is a powerful symbol to many people. It also has a strong connection with The United Church of Canada through our Presbyterian roots. It is the burning bush that is pictured in the righthand quadrant of our United Church Crest. But sometime I think we get caught up in the image of a bush that burns yet is never consumed and we forget that what really matters in this story is not the bush itself, but the voice of God speaking to Moses from that bush.
It is very unlikely that Moses ever expected God to speak directly to him. Although he was an Israelite, one of God’s chosen people, he had been raised as a privileged son of Egyptian Royalty. He would have grown up surrounded by Egyptian gods, Egyptian laws and an Egyptian understanding of the Israelites as a slave people. Even when he eventually rebelled, striking and killing an Egyptian overseer for beating a slave, it does not appear that this was an act of standing up for his people. Rather, it seems to have been an impulsive act of frustration and anger, followed immediately, by his fleeing from what he had done.
Eventually he found a new home in Midian where once again he was surrounded by a different culture, different laws and different gods. While in Midian he married and settle down. Given all this, chances are, the last thing he expected as he tended his flock in the hills around his adopted home was to hear the voice of the Israelite God, whom he had left behind so long ago.
It is amazing therefore, that in spite everything that had happened to him, when God spoke to Moses, Moses stopped and listened. Now you might argue that a bush that appeared to be engulfed in flame but did not appear to burn up, would be rather hard to ignore, but we are told that when Moses saw it, he chose to leave his flock behind in order to go and investigate this amazing sight. It was not something that was directly in his path, demanding his attention. He had to be looking to see it at all, and then he had to go out of his way in order to find out what it was. And it was only when Moses left behind what he was doing and focused on this burning bush, that God actually spoke to Moses.
This God of the burning bush is identified first as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Moses ancestors. But it is not enough for God to be a god of the past. When Moses asks who this God is, the answer he receives is, “I Am”. This Divine Mystery that simply is, that cannot be named or defined, is much more than the God of long ago. This is a God who is very present in an intimate personal way, not only with Moses, but right here, right now; not I Was, but I Am.
So why then, do we so often seem to think, or at least act, as if we believe that God spoke to our ancestors in faith long ago, but we question whether God actually speaks to people today?
If we believe that God spoke to Moses from a burning bush, do we believe this is something that simply couldn’t happen today? Do we believe that God once spoke, but is now silent? Is it, as some people will insist, that God no longer speaks, or is it just that we don’t tend to be very good at listening?
Even when Moses did acknowledge God’s voice he argued with God and tried everything he could think of to get out of doing what God was asking him to do. “I can’t go and talk to the king. I’m nobody. You need someone of influence … If I do go, no one will believe me, they’ll what to know who gives me the right to speak … I can’t go because I’m not a good speaker. You need someone who is eloquent and persuasive.” Each argument Moses made, God countered, until finally Moses cried out in desperation, “please send someone else.”
Is it possible that at least sometime, we don’t hear God speaking to us because we are afraid of what that voice might say? Is it possible that, like Moses, we want to shout out, “please send someone else.”
But Moses did go. And the reason that Moses was able to do that, was that the God who called him, was not some distant and demanding God who expected absolute obedience no matter what. The God that called to Moses was the God who self identified as I Am. I am with you. I am showing the way. I am providing everything you need in order to fulfill the purpose to which I call you.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses is not a distant God of long ago. I Am is a God of the past, the present and the future, a God that was, is and continues to be. And I Am still with us.
I mentioned when we first began using Narrative Lectionary in September, that this year we will be focusing on the Gospel According to John. I also mentioned that John’s gospel is the one gospel that connects most profoundly with the Hebrew Scriptures.
Today as we celebrate communion, we are reminded of the words found in John 6, “I am the bread of life” and in John 15, “I am the vine”. It is only John who uses these “I am” statement to describe Jesus. Yet these images of Jesus as the bread and the vine, are often used when we share communion. They are a reminded that we follow one who is not dead, but is with us.
I am the bread of life. I am the vine. I am the light of the world. I am the gate. I am the good shepherd. I am the way the truth and the life. I am the resurrection and the life. I am who I am.
The “Great I Am” who spoke to Moses through a burning bush is the same “I Am” who spoke through Jesus and the same “I Am” who speaks to us today. This is why we gather in worship. This is why we share communion. This is why we seek to listen for that same voice calling to us today. It is because we believe that the Divine Mystery, we seek to follow continues to speak to us and to be with us today. I Am with you always. I Am. Amen
Gift of Music Bring Many Names VU#268
We Offer Our Gifts
The gift of bread, the gift of wine, the gift of presence. All are precious gifts from God. And so, we now take a moment to consider the gifts that we offer in return.
Let us pray;
Divine Presence who is with us at all times and in all things, we gratefully acknowledge all your gifts to us. And so we ask you to bless the gifts we offer you today, gifts of our time, gifts of our talents and gifts of our treasures. Bless them and use them we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
As we prepare to share Communion this morning, let us first take a moment to offer our prayers of all those around the world who share this sacrament with us. Let us also offer our prayers for those in our own circle of acquaintances who cannot share with us because of health or situations which do not permit them to be with us, as well as for those who, for whatever reason, do not choose to be here. Let us also offer our prayers for the people and situations around the world that are heavy on our minds this day …… Amen
Communion Hymn When at This Table MV#199
Sharing of Communion
Closing Hymn When Pain of the World VU#598
Filled to the brim with the goodness of God and nourished through Christ Jesus, the Bread of Life, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we go out from here to serve God in all that we think, do and speak. And the one who is the Great I Am goes with us, now and always. Amen