Go Speak

Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17

Toy Story 2 tells us the story of Woody, a 1950s cowboy doll, who gets stolen by a toy collector and yanked out of his perfect life of being Andy’s toy. Woody doesn’t know who he is to the world as a collectible, as a cultural icon, as a figure on cereal boxes, posters and commercials. He only knows himself as Andy’s toy.

Woody is confused that they know him. How is that even possible? It’s the grumpy old Prospector that names what’s going on. He says, “Why, you don’t know who you are!”

So then picture our hero, Moses, standing in the fire-y glow of the burning bush, slowly backing away as he realizes he’s talking to God with that sinking feeling that this burning bush moment will change everything for him. Moses’ question of “who am I” leads to learning who God is and, of course, to who Moses is. Today’s story hinges on identity. The identity of Moses and God and just how intertwined they are.

This encounter with God begins because Moses was curious about this fire that didn’t seem to be acting like fire should, and he turned aside to check it out.  He left his normal routine, he took a different route to work. And, did you notice, God calls him by name. Not “hey you, shepherd boy” but Moses. Moses.

Little did Moses know that his reply of “here” would get him hooked into something much bigger. That this wasn’t a special spiritual experience that Moses had just for himself. God uses this encounter to change everything. This encounter is personal – “Moses” says God. And this encounter is political. “Pharaoh” says God.

God tells Moses that God has seen the misery of his people. The immigrants, the people of Israel,  are being oppressed by the Egyptians. They’ve been forced into slavery and now God wants Moses to be a change agent. God wants Moses to face the Pharaoh, the most powerful man, and speak: “let my people go.”

But this isn’t one of those stories where the servant dutifully kneels down and says, “here I am, send me.” Moses tries to get out of what God is asking him to do 4 times.

His first excuse? Well, but who am I that I should go and speak to Pharaoh?

Moses, you don’t know who you are, do you? Moses, you don’t know who God is, do you? Do you hear God’s answer to him? Who am I? God says, “I will be with you”

Moses’ 2nd excuse: Well, the people will ask me to tell about you, by what authority do I speak. What do I tell them? Essentially, Moses goes from asking who am I? to who are you?

And God says, “tell them I Am” sent you. Which is essentially another way of saying “I will be with you.” Which God has already said. 

Moses’ 3rd excuse: I don’t talk good. “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Pretty smooth talking, don’t you think?

and God says, “I will teach you what to say.”

And finally, seeing that God has come up with an answer to each of his excuses, Moses gets real: “O my Lord, please send someone else.”

and God says, “I will send your brother to help you.” God is not taking no for an answer.

Moses, you don’t know who you are, do you.  Moses, you don’t know who God is, do you.

Is this familiar to you at all? Have you ever been called into doing something – the very thing you swear you’re not good at –  where you’ve come up with every reason it’s not possible, that you’re not qualified to do it? And, much to your surprise and frustration, doors keep opening, things keep happening, and there you are, doing the thing you don’t think you’re qualified to do? Trembling and shaking all the way?

This is how God works. This is exactly how God works.

God takes in Moses’ full story – God knows Moses started out abandoned in the river in a desperate attempt to have his life spared. God knows Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh. God knows Moses killed an Egyptian out of anger when he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite. God knows Moses ran away, fled Egypt, his home. And now God is asking him to go back.

Moses is sent by God directly to the seat of power in the political world. He is sent to face the man who could kill him.

And in some way or another, God calls each one of us to leave our daily routine, to check out the burning bush, to be called into uncomfortable living. It is different in every time and place, but what we can be assured of is God calls to the places where God’s people are suffering. God calls us to the places where God’s people are crying out. God calls us to deliver them from oppression and lead them to the land of milk and honey.

Maybe it is done in writing letters or calling your representatives, maybe you show up at their offices and speak. Maybe it is about marching. Maybe it is about reaching out and standing beside the unpopular. Maybe it is taking a knee. Whatever it is, we know that God is one who listens, who is present, who calls upon leaders and who sends them.

Because we only know ourselves in relationship to God. And God’s very name is imbedded in our identity. God calls, and says, Go, Speak. I will be with you.

And in our going, and in our speaking, we find out that our identity is found in the one who goes with us.

Thanks be God. Amen.