God Calls Moses - Exodus 1-3
This week’s sacred story comes from the book of Exodus where the story of God’s people continues in the land of Egypt. Under a horribly oppressive ruler, God calls Moses to lead the Israelite people out of slavery and into the promised land.
Grace and peace to you from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - the God who draws us out of the water and claims us as their own. Amen.
The story of Moses and the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt is perhaps one of the most well-known stories of the Hebrew Bible. One of the remarkable things about this story is that it is known by biblical scholars and the unchurched alike. And maybe people don’t know this exact story with these exact people, but they KNOW this story in a way that goes deeper than simple knowledge of characters.
So many people know this story because it’s not just a story from the bible - It’s a story found throughout all of humankind - manifested within every generation.
Today’s sacred story is the story of an oppressed people under the ruthless leadership of a new king who doesn’t know them or their history but has a very clear idea of what their future will look like in service to his own agenda.
And of course, some people know this story better than others because they carry it with them in the form of generational trauma. Trauma passed down from their family members who were forced into slavery and brought to the colonized areas of North America. Generation after generation re-lived this old ancient story as a people whose history was disregarded and future re-written, not of their own accord, but out of the greed of colonialism and white supremacy.
People KNOW this story.
And yet here we are today, engaging with this story again. We lean into this familiar story and we wonder together where God is at work and how our lives today intersect with this old old story.
A lot has happened in the story of God’s people since last week when we encountered the story of Jacob who wrestled with God. Jacob went on to have a rich life with 12 sons, one of who was named Joseph. There was some drama among the brothers - it must run in the family, I guess... - and Joseph was eventually sold into slavery. God went with Joseph though, and eventually Joseph found favor with Pharoah, and when an extreme drought came over the land of Egypt, it was Joseph who had the wisdom and knowledge to not only save his brothers and father but all of Egypt. Joseph became extremely well regarded in Egypt and had much influence with the kings.
The beginning of our sacred story todays lets us know that the new king and ruler of Egypt did not know Joseph. He did not know the work of Joseph in that land for the people of Egypt, and did not understand the history of famine and struggle that the Hebrew people - the descendents of Jacob, now named Israel - had endured. This new ruler came to power with no knowledge of the Israelites. Only fear that they were bigger and stronger than he. This new king feared that the Israelites might one day come to know their strength and power and remove him from the throne. And so he acted mercilessly and ruthlessly to try and rid the Israelites of their strength and spirit. He worked them to death. He denied them access to reproductive healthcare services in hopes that their reproducing would slow down or that their unborn babies wouldn’t survive the messy trauma of childbirth. At one point he even instructed trained midwives to kill all male children born to a Hebrew family.
And yet...the Hebrew people remained.
It’s in the midst of all these attempts to squash out life that Moses is born. Thanks to the work of disobedient midwives who remained faithful to their true authority - the LORD - Moses survived his own birth, and then his mother, in act of desperate courage set him on the banks of the Nile River where he was sure to be found, by the right people.
Moses’ sister kept watch over her infant brother and when she saw Pharoh’s daughter pick the baby up she was there to ever so casually say: “oh...that looks like one the Hebrew’s baby’s...let ME go get a nurse for it, but then you can take him in as your own. You know...add to the royal family and such!”
Thanks be to God for the clever women in this story and throughout history who have worked to ensure the safety and prosperity of others.
And so Moses is raised in the house of Pharoh as a member of the royal Egyptian family. Moses never forgets his Hebrew identity though. At the peak of the Israelites oppression, Moses kills an Egyptian who was beating one of the enslaved Hebrew people, and fearing retaliation from Pharoh, Moses fled from Egypt and found a nice quiet life as a shepherd in a place called Midian.
Now I think we can all relate to this part of the story too. Isn’t it part of the quintessential American Dream to retire out in the country with a few sheep or dogs or horses and rest from years of work and sacrifice at a relentlessly stressful job?
I think Moses did an alright thing taking time to rest and hide out from people who more than likely wanted him dead. Seems fair.
But God wasn’t done with Moses yet.
A burning bush, of all things, appears near Mount Horeb where Moses had led his flock, and Moses is visited by an angel of the Lord in one of the flames. It's about that time that Moses realizes something pretty significant is happening and he turns to come closer to the bush. God calls to Moses from the bush and says: Come no closer! Remove your sandals! You’re on Holy Ground. What happens next is arguably one of the most significant exchanges in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. God says: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. This is not just God identifying Godself in a six degrees of separation demonstration. This is God establishing for Moses the history of trust and relationship between God and God’s people from the beginning of time, and assuring Moses of the faithfulness still to come between God and God’s people.
God names the pain and suffering of the Israelites and then says: Moses, you are going to go back to the land of Egypt and liberate your people from under the hand of Pharoh. You will bring them out of oppression and into a land flowing with milk and honey where they will continue to prosper for the rest of their days.
And Moses: Oh, OKAY. Yeah, let me just go back to this place where people are actively looking to kill me, and tell all these other people who probably resent me for living as a member of the royal family when they knew I was born of their same bloodline, that I’ve come back to RESCUE THEM. Sure. That’ll go over great.
And God says: I know. It’s a lot. But I will be with you. And when they ask who has sent you to rescue them, you tell them that “I AM” has sent you, the God of their ancestors. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has sent you, Moses, to liberate the oppressed peoples.
And y’all that really is how it be sometimes!
The God of our ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob calls us out into the world to do things that sometimes we can’t even imagine. And over and over again God has called God’s people to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, to feed the hungry, help the poor, and love our neighbor. This is the story of our people and the story of our God who draws us out of the waters of our Baptism and calls US beloved and equips us for the work of liberating ourselves and one another from the oppressors of the world who tell us we aren’t enough or try to keep us down for fear of disrupting their status quo.
And here at +KINDRED we’re in the process of discernment through community meetings to help us create a rule of life for our ministry together. We’re discerning our shared vision and understanding of the identity of +KINDRED and +KINDRED’s ministry. In that work too is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, calling us to faithfulness in our work with each other and in the city of Houston, calling us to be in solidarity with the oppressed and the marginalized because the table isn’t complete until we’re ALL there.
God calls us, and we answer knowing that “I AM” goes with us through it all.