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Third Sunday in Lent, Year C

This Is My Name Forever

God had a special purpose for Moses. He had watched over Moses and protected him, preparing him for an encounter that we read about today. From the Book of Exodus:

Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.   (Exodus 3:3-6)

God called out to Moses. When Moses discovered that God was the one who was calling him, he hid his face. We are made in the image of God, but we are not God. God’s presence can be overwhelming.

We remember God’s call to Isaiah when the prophet exclaimed:

“Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”   (Isaiah 6:5)

God has been calling many of us. He has been calling us all our lives. Are we ready for our encounter with him? We may think that we already know God. That was true of Job. But Job had his encountered God, he discovered another whole dimension of God. God has a question for Job:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?   (Job 38:4-5)

We do not have encounters with God without a reason. God had a specific plan and purpose for Moses. Moses was called to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and lead them to a new land which God had promised to give to the descendants of Abraham.

Moses protested against his call with several excuses. His first excuse was –  “Who am I?” God has to tell Moses that it is not about who he is but who God i. Again, from Exodus:

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.”   (Exodus 3:13-15)

Do we understand who the one is who calls us? His name is “Yahweh.” He is the great “I AM.”

He never had a beginning. Nobody made God. God simply is. He did not come into being because he is being. God is absolute reality. There is no reality before him. God will always be.

God is utterly independent. He depends on nothing to bring him into being or support him or counsel him or make him what he is. Everything that is not God depends totally on God. We live only by his breath.

God is constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He cannot be improved. He is not becoming anything. He is who he is.

God brings us into being and sustains our lives. He calls us and gives us a ministry. It may seem too much for us, and it is. But with God all things are possible. He stands behind and supports us in all that he asks us to do.

How do we respond to him. We might say that we have not had an encounter with God. God is always at the ready. Are we now ready to listen. This Lenten Season offers us an opportunity to focus on God. He wants us to know who he is. He wants us to understand how great he is. He wants us to experience the power of his name.

From the Book of Proverbs:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    the righteous run into it and are safe.   (Proverbs 18:10)

God wants us to run to him. He has heard all the excuses before. Why would we waste his time with our excuses? The psalmist wrote:

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,
that I might behold your power and your glory.   (Psalm 63:1-2)

Are we still hesitant to approach God? Do we not know who he is and what he can do? He is without limit. God is calling us. God is ready to empower us. He is ready to bless us. He has called us to produce good fruit for his kingdom.

Jesus told the parable of the barren fig tree:

“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”   (Luke 13:5-9)

Moses tried to resist God at first, but, ultimately became the law giver. He was, perhaps, the greatest figure in the Old Testament. He was great because God was with him. He learned to trust God and walk daily with him.

God has been patient with us. But now is the time to fulfill our destiny. Now is the time to bear fruit. Now is the time to allow God to glorify himself through us. Amen.

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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

Do Not Fret Yourself

We live in an evil world. Sometimes we get overwhelmed. We get frustrated with all the evildoers who seemed to be getting away with their crimes and lies. Perhaps the appointed psalm has a word for us from God:

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.

For they shall soon wither like the grass,
and like the green grass fade away.

Put your trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the Lord,
and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him,
and he will bring it to pass.   (Psalm 37:1-5)

Joseph lived in an evil world. His brothers tried to kill him. They ended up selling him into slavery. Joseph was carried to Egypt and there he experienced many hardships, eventually being cast into prison.

Today, as we pick up the story of Joseph from the Old Testament, we see Joseph in a whole new place. He is now a ruler under Pharaoh of all of Egypt. His brothers who tried to kill him are now standing before him. They are terrified when they discover who Joseph is. But Joseph responds to them in love:

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.   (Genesis 45:7-11)

How could Joseph forgive his brothers for what they did? It was a matter of seeing things from God’s perspective and not his own. God’s perspective is greater than ours. We read from the Prophet Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

If we fail to understand what God is doing we will always be frustrated and disappointed. This will lead us into judging others. We will become bitter. The Book of Hebrews offers this advice:

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal.   (Hebrews 12:14-16)

From today’s Gospel reading, Jesus taught:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”   (Luke 6:37-38)

God is not calling us to be Esau’s. He is calling us to be Joseph’s. Continuing with today’s psalm:

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him.

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

For evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait upon the Lord shall possess the land.

In a little while the wicked shall be no more;
you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

But the lowly shall possess the land;
they will delight in abundance of peace.   (Psalm 37:7-12)

Let us climb down off our high horses and be a part of the lowly who possess the land. God has given us the victory just as he did for Joseph. Our task is to wait patiently on him and place our full trust in his plan for our lives. He speaks to us, from Jeremiah:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.   (Jeremiah 29:11)

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