Change: Moses, Part I

Finding God in the Wilderness (Yes, even at church camp)
A Message on Exodus 3:1-12
By Rev. Sarah Odom, Associate Pastor
Jacksonville First United Methodist Church

Exodus 1:1-12 (NRSV)

1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 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.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 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.

7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

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Prayer: Giver of Life, allow our time and this message to be pleasing and accepting to you. Amen.

As I prepared for this Sunday… I have found it to be exciting and nerve-wracking. Matthew and I are excited to begin ministry at Jacksonville First. We have been very grateful to receive many blessings from members at our church. Thank you all for making this transition exceptionally smooth for us.

Today, I want to talk a little bit about myself and where I have met Christ at the cross. Next, I want to talk about the awesome week that we had at church camp. Lastly, I want to respect our sermon series on Change and discuss Moses as he encountered God in Exodus 3:1-12. At the end of the message, I hope that all of these topics tie in together and we aren’t here for too long.

I want to start off by giving y’all a brief introduction about myself. I grew up outside of Gilmer, TX in a small community named Bettie. I attended Soules Chapel UMC before heading off to college at Texas A&M University-Commerce. After two years at Commerce, I had an internship called the College Pastoral Intern Program. You might be familiar with this internship because our brother in Christ, Alex, is also a part of this intern program. Soon after my internship, I was offered a job at Center First UMC as their Youth Director.

I continued my undergraduate studies at Stephen F. Austin State University. In the Spring of 2018, I graduated with a degree in Political Science and History. I know, I know…. extremely exciting topics, right? Throughout my degree, I focused solely on international politics and history in South America. I am currently a student at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, TX. In the next couple of years, I hope to graduate with my Masters of Divinity.

I have been a practicing United Methodist for as long as I have been a Christian. I have served on many committees from Pumpkin Patch Committees to Building Committee. I have also held several hired positions in the church. Altogether, I have spent 13 years serving in the United Methodist Church. As I discern my call into ministry, I have been able to realize that God has called me to focus on youth ministry, hospital visits, nursing home and assisted living ministry, and death and dying ministries. These areas are often forgotten and I think that we ought to serve God’s people through every season of their lives. I think that’s all I want to mention about my resume for now.

Throughout my Christian journey, I have found that there has been a time that I refer to as the before and after. As Christians, when we choose to follow Christ, we choose to be changed. As Christians, we are supposed to change and grow. We are not called to remain complacent or stagnant. God will take us to wonderful places and to the unknown. If God is going to take you where He wants you to go, you can’t be bound to where you have been. We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. We might even find ourselves outside of our comfort zone as we discern God’s call in our lives.

Every once in a while, we might find ourselves shrouded by the mystery of faith. We don’t always understand God’s entire plan for our life, but we know that God is always present. I don’t fully understand the mystery of grace, but I do know that it does not leave us where it found us. We must be reminded that it is God’s timing, God’s will, God’s plan, and God’s glory…not our own…

This morning, we are going to look at Moses’ encounter with God. Moses was doing his own thing and living life as best he could. All of a sudden, God shows up and it becomes a God thing. I wonder…. Did anyone of y’all come to church expecting a God thing? Or maybe, we came to church wanting to experience God in a new and fresh way
Most people are in a rut, and what I mean by that is they live day to day fighting to get out of life trials. Few live in the moment of experiencing God and the ones that do are accused of being holy rollers, fanatics, out of touch, or even hypocrites because when they see things displeasing to God, they actually bring them into the light of God and want to make a change.

Moses’ life was not easy. He was born a Hebrew child and raised as an Egyptian prince. He floated down a river at birth by his mother and didn’t even realize the sacrifice made for his life until he was older. As a young adult he fought for the life of a Hebrew, and became on the run of the Egyptians and not trusted by the Hebrews.

That’s the quick version- most of us have a story to tell and a story to share with those we encounter every day. We pick up with Moses’ life in Exodus 3:1-12 as Moses works as sheep herder for his father-in-law Jethro. We know from scripture that God’s plan was to punish Egypt, deliver the Israelites, and bring His people to the promised land. God tells Moses that he knows about Israel’s afflictions. He calls the Hebrews his Children and he acknowledges that they belong to the group to whom he has made covenant promises.

So, God initiates the special relationship with Moses. Moses’ call at the burning bush marks the beginning of his role as mediator between the Lord and His people. Moses was commissioned to lead God’s people from the wilderness of sin to the mountain of God. He is minding his business and the angel of the Lord gets his attention through the burning of the bush. Moses goes to investigate- (see why it does not burn up) God gets his attention. God speaks to him from the bush (Initiates the relationship) God calls him by name- Moses, Moses- twice to get his attention (Urgency) Here I am- (Response) readiness to answer the person that called.

God sends Moses to Pharaoh to bring his people the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses responds, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you…” Although Moses story doesn’t always end up following God’s plan, I admire this conversation between God and Moses.

In times of trial and tribulation, we know that God is present. Comfort and reassurance from God is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. In Jeremiah 1:6, Jeremiah responds to the call of God by saying, “I don’t know how to speak; I am only a youth.” But the Lord responded, “Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.”

Another scripture that focuses on our trials is from Isaiah 43:2. It reads, “When you pass through the water, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

When the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6, “do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight,” the Bible is being serious. Your heart is deceitful, your emotions fluctuate, your understanding does not see the overall, big picture. God never lies, God never changes, God knows all. Trust Him.

We all want that Aha moment when it comes to God- Am I right? We want to experience God and we want to know that what we experience is truly him. Sometimes I think about how easy it would have been a Christian during the time of Jesus’ life on earth. These folks in the Bible lived and served and saw Jesus and experienced God in a way that is overwhelming. God sent Moses an Aha moment through a burning bush
It may not be as dramatic as a literal burning bush but we have these encounters with God where we cannot deny that God has spoken a word to us and we need to respond. When we are going through hard times is not the time to start looking for the Lord. It is before so that He can help us through the tough times and walk us through with His Presence.

At some point, it’s got to go from being highlighted in our Bible to being written on our heart.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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