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God is Still Speaking
Progressive Christianity
United Church of Christ
Northern California Nevada   Conference of the UCC

 

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Recent Sermons

What's Your Burning Bush?

 

Rev. Kristi Denham
Congregational Church of Belmont
September 3, 2017

Last week we remembered the story of Moses birth, and from that ancient story we gleaned "A Hundred Million   Miracles." We sang together and encouraged one another to "Be not afraid" for God (by whatever name) is always with us.

Usually I tend to stay pretty close to the literal story that unfolds in our scripture lessons but these ancient tales were meant to be told as parables or allegories that are given new meaning in every generation. We take our scriptures seriously because we don't take them literally. And for the first 3000 years of the telling of these tales, that was how they were understood. Only since the Enlightenment and the discovery of    scientific inquiry has the church in some quarters over-reacted to the vast influx of new knowledge about our world by clinging to simplistic and literal interpretations of these ancient texts. We don't have to believe that a fire could burn a bush without burning it up (but we can imagine it seeming so bright as Moses finds himself encountering the Holy in a vision of power). We don't have to believe that God spoke in that deep male voice so common in our movie depictions of the divine. ("Moses! Moses!"..."What?")

This is a story of conversion, of an encounter within that transforms ones outer life forever. Paul had one of those dramatic conversions on the road to Damascus ~ a blinding light, the voice of Jesus calling him, an inner transformation that blinded him and turned him from persecutor into preacher. Most of us have had much subtler encounters with the sacred, but for all of us there have been times when we needed to turn around and go a new direction. It is what the Bible calls "repentance" ~ a 180 degree turn. Moses had that experience with the burning bush. He tried to argue his way out of what he was called to do. "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?"
But God assures him that with God's help, he can do all that he is called to do!

And who is this God who makes demands on Moses? "I Am that I Am!"
God is a verb, litterally a helping verb, as we learned them in gdrade school, and I so seldom get to show them off: "Is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been, has, have, had, do, does, did, shall, will, should, would, may, might, must, can, could!" This is the God who is mystery, who was with our ancestors from the beginning of time. who lives within our souls. who guides us when we dare to listen, because this God is our true selves.

So what I have been asking myself all week and now ask you is: What's your burning bush? What has caused you to turn around, not once but again and again, to find your way back to your true self,  your authentic calling in life?

This week I have found myself looking back over my life to those moments of decision when I could no longer look away from what I felt I must do so as not to betray my very deepest nature as a human being. As a child reaching adolescence I realized I had hard choices to make if I wanted to grow up as a decent human being. With hormones raging and pulling me in many directions I had to decide whether to completely give in to them
or navigate a more balanced path. I felt I literally heard a voice call me to care. Maybe it was my hormones talking but it turned me around at a critical moment and I will always be grateful. As a young adult I had a "born again" experience that led me to study scripture and become involved in Christian community. I actually got thrown out of Campus Crusade for Christ
because of a rumor but that's a story for another day!I now see my choice to have children and their subsequent births as two powerful burning bushes in my life! I realized I needed more than ever to learn to walk my talk if I wanted to be the parent to these two magnificent begins that they truly deserved. Now these young men are raised and strong and my proudest work, but I continue to look to the "I Am that I Am", to turn aside to see and to listen, to dare to say "Here I am, Lord," what is it you call for me to do?

What is your burning bush? What, even now, is burning in your inner being that will not leave you comfortable unless you respond? Other churches would give an altar call right now, asking you to rededicate your life to Jesus, but each of us is already living out our dedication to the Sacred as best we are able. We are here because we believe that in community we can be reminded of our best selves, our truest nature, by the example of others. And God does not call but once and forever. God calls us over and over again in subtle and not so subtle ways, to respond with our whole selves to the needs of our times.

When Moses asked the name of God he was declaring the importance of knowing who or what we are following. There are plenty of loud voices in the world calling us to follow. It is easy to be distracted by calls to buy