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SeaBreeze United Church

                                                                  8/30/2020

13 Sunday  of Pentecost                 

Standing on Holy Ground

Exodus 3:1-15                  Moses at the Burning Bush

Matthew 16:21-28            Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection,

                                         Expectations of Discipleship

 
Gathering for Prayer

We who dwell in the shelter of the Most High

seek God’s Presence here, where we are.

We who come to be inspired and changed

seek God’s Spirit here, where we are.

We who know how little we understand

seek God’s Word here, where we are.

 

Opening Prayer

           O God, you are made known to us

                      in the rustling wind that blows,

                      in the blazing fire that does not consume,

                      in the face of the good,

                      in the deep of the unknown. 

           We meet you again, now. 

           We accept your greeting. 

           We welcome your inspiration. 

           We await the change you have in store for us. 

           Draw us in to you. 

           Inhabit our spirits. 

           Focus our attention. 

           Bring us to you – you who are already with us. 

           Help us to be as you would have us be. 

 

           Through Jesus Christ,

                      who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

                      here and everywhere,

                      now and always. 

           Amen.

 

Assurance of Grace

 

           God’s mercy extends beyond the bounds of our collective imagination.

           God’s love seeps around and through any wall we could ever hide behind. 

           God’s goodness holds more power than the sum of all world’s wrongs. 

 

           It is because of that infinite, extensive, seeping, powerful, bold love

                      that God’s Grace blesses us all.

          In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, 

                      may you receive the surety of knowing that you are Loved,

                      always and forever.

 

           Thanks be to God.

 

 

HEBREW SCRIPTURE         EXODUS 3:1-15

 

Moses at the Burning Bush

 

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.  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.  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.

 

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 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.  The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.  So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”  But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 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.”

 

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.

 

 

GOSPEL READING      MATTHEW 16:21-28

 

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

 

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”  But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

 

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

 

 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.  Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 

 

Closing Prayer & Benediction

 

           In your Creation, O God, we stand on the holiest of ground. 

           May the Grace of your Love be as gifts, blessings,

                      to share with all that you have made. 

           May we, the church, who have received your Grace,

                      act as your presence, your hands and heart. 

           May we take up our cross and act upon the needs to be met,

                      and may our giving in effort and energy, in hope and support,

                      fit the needs we address. 

           Through Christ, who models infinite giving.

           Amen.

 

 

Benediction

            The blessing of Almighty God: 

                      Source, Word, and Spirit, One,

                      be with us now and always. 

            Amen.

 

                                                                                        Alleluia!

                                                                                        Alleluia!!

                                                                                        Alleluia!!!

 

13 Pentecost Reflection  “Spirit-Led Living”                

                                         Moses at the Burning Bush; God’s Name Revealed

                                                 Jesus Foretells His Death & Resurrection;

                                                                 The Cross and Self-Denial

 

Dear Seabreeze Family and Friends,

 

          The Joseph Saga is now only a memory in Biblical time.  Hundreds of years have passed. Moses is the central character in the story of the Hebrew People as God continues to bring them to the fruition of His Promise.  What you have not heard in this year’s cycle of readings is the story of how Moses departs from his elite position in Egypt, flees into the countryside east of the Nile Delta, and is shepherding a flock of sheep in the Sinai Peninsula.  His wife, Zipporah, is the daughter of Jethro. the priest of Midian. The time is approximately 1,500 years BCE (Before the Common Era).  Moses has led his flock beyond the wilderness and has come to Horeb (“waste”), generally known as The Mountain of God.

          Those who would have heard this story – all told verbally and memorized by repetition – could identify with the timing and landmarks mentioned in this snippet of scripture.  The ‘wilderness’ was a barren place, though lush with grasses for grazing sheep.  Huge rock outcroppings dotted the landscape making tending sheep very difficult keeping them together.

          And more would be understood about who Jethro was and what Midian refers to in ancient days.  Midian, mentioned in both the Torah and the Quran, was located on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba in the northwest Arabian Peninsula, on the eastern shore of the Red Sea.  Midianites were descendants of Abraham and his wife, Keturah.  By the time Moses is on the scene in this story the Midianites were worshipping a single deity, who was supreme above all others.  Many of the people around this area had been polytheistic at one time, with local ‘gods’ being venerated.  That has long passed, and now, Jethro is a priest of worship.  The name they called their god was Yahweh.  It is here that Moses’ vow in marriage and his pledge to his lifestyle was consecrated.  Moses, who ruled Egypt until he learned of his Hebrew heritage, and truly saw the conditions of slavery and degradation with which Pharaoh treated ‘his’ people, is now a new person, transformed, and faithful to Yahweh.  It is here on Mt. Horeb that Moses personally meets The Lord.

          It is here, in the Bush-which-is-burning-but-not-consumed, that Moses encounters the Holy One.  He knows better than to stare into the blazing fire (which usually is a divine visage of impending death), and in fear he attempts to turn aside.  He cannot.  Though his body appears to be aimed at another direction his eyes glance at the Bush.  How often in our own lives have we been drawn to an event or activity - in curiosity, in awe, in fear – not wanting to actually ‘see’ it, but unable to turn away.  And we are ‘caught’ by what is going on!  Remember the events of ‘911’, Princess Dianna’s death, the assassination of JFK, etc.! 

          Moses was captured; and God called to him by name: Moses!  This ‘theophany-of-the Bush’ becomes the pivotal point in his life, and Moses responds, “Here I am.”  He is standing on holy ground, and God, who called him by name, who knows him in all that he has been and has done, asks (not demands) him to remove his sandals.  Then God identifies himself, connecting the heritage of the Promise, with the family of Midian, and the linage of Jacob (Israel) – everything that has brought Moses to this specific point in time and place.  It is a moment of convergence, an epiphany, a realization, in the truest sense of an “OMG!”  Moses must have been both terrified and awe-struck at the same time.  And God continues to speak, identifying all that has happened in Egypt to the Chosen People – the torture, the suffering, the cries of the anguish.  Yahweh commits to rescuing ‘his people’.  Again, God has claimed ‘his own’, and is about to act to end their torture in Egypt. 

On a daily basis, we often call upon the Lord to rescue and restore us – to bring us out of misery and torment.  Yet here Moses is not calling on God; it is the Lord speaking to Moses.  Moses was hiding as a shepherd, trying not to be noticed because he was hunted as a criminal for killing an Egyptian, who was beating a Hebrew slave.  Moses wanted nothing to do with being ‘called out’ into the open, let alone being told what Yahweh was asking of him.

          The Almighty again promises to bring his people into the land flowing with milk and honey and identifies the specific area about which he is talking.  This is another side reference to ancient understanding.  The original hearers of the story would identify the ‘tribes’ God mentions, not just as geographical areas of land/territories, but also as distant ‘family’ constellations related to the Tribes of Abraham - those who intermarried with local inhabitants (thus committing idolatry and turning away from God).  Yahweh’s purpose here is two-fold: to unite the land for the future; and more importantly, to unite the “Family”, descendants of Abraham.  Our ancient ancestors understood the unity of family as being called by Yahweh to be His People, apart from all the others who currently inhabited the land.  God’s Promise entitled them … but this portion of the story is still to come.

          Moses somehow regains his composure and snaps back at the directive he’s just heard:  “Who am I that I should go!  Not me, Lord!”  Perhaps we do not have that same ‘chutzpah’ these days.  Most of us, when asked (or told) to do something, politely decline and turn our heads aside, as if it wasn’t us that God is speaking to, and bow our heads submissively, with a “who me?” expression on our face.  God promises to “be with you”, Moses.  These words carry a meaning that is not simply ‘accompany-you’, but more intimately, ‘be-one-with-you’.  And God also assures Moses that this was a sign that Moses was ‘sent’ – commissioned on this Holy Mountain of God – to do the task to which he has been called.

          Moses, still unsure, and perhaps timidly, stands his ground and asks for an authorization, a name-authority to present, for which he is to become an emissary: “What is Your name?”

Here, for the first time in scripture, is God’s identity specifically articulated: “I am who I am.”  In Hebrew, God’s Name is never spoken.  It’s presumptive, irreverent, audacious, and considered ludicrous, to actually speak the Holy Name of The Divine Almighty.  It is too personal.  It’s forbidden.  From the four principle biblical sources, God was known in various references: Holy One, the Almighty, El’ Shaddai, Elohim. Etc. The Israelites spoke of God as ‘the Lord’, using only the four words ‘YHWH’, but never pronouncing the word.  YHWH does indicate God’s eternal being, though more importantly God’s action and presence in historical affairs.  It is the unity of the past, made present, the future fulfilled – instantaneously.

          God continued to act in the affairs of the people of Israel, and in our lives today.  Thanks to the person of Jesus, God’s actual presence in Biblical time, his coming among ‘us’, the spectrum of ‘family’ has been broadened to include all believers.  You and I, by virtue of our Baptism, have received the Promise given to Abraham and his Family forever.  Handed down through Moses and the People of Israel throughout ages past, we receive the benefits and continue to stand on Holy Ground.

 

           In the Christian scripture this week, after Peter’s been given the ‘keys of the Kingdom’, he is entrusted with the establishment of the future of that which is to become the ‘Church’.  He has been given power to ‘bind and loose’ (technical, rabbinic terms regarding the settling of disputes and questions), that is to forbid and permit.  The Gospellier, Matthew, once again instructs followers to tell no one that Jesus is the Christ.  

           Jesus in this week’s excerpt from scripture is speaking to his disciples explaining his mission, destination, and the fulfillment of his ministry: to open to all who believe the Good News of Salvation: the fulfillment of prophesy/scripture.  Jesus explains that he must go to Jerusalem, be charged with sedition, undergo suffering and death (even from within his own Hebrew brethren), die, and on the third day be raised. 

           Peter’s had enough! He takes Jesus aside and chides him, rebukes him, for telling this ‘truth’.  No one wants to hear it.  You are the Christ!  This cannot happen!

           Jesus, sternly though lovingly, responds to Peter, explaining that he must fulfill the scripture to the end appointed, so that all which has been predicted may become completed in him.  The Coming One is now present; and this is what must be.

           Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that they too have a mission to fulfill.  If they are to be his disciples, his Apostles, they too must pick up their cross: actually, in the wake of Roman torture and crucifixion; and metaphorically, in bearing their own responsibility in that for which they stand.  This ‘life’, their mission, is the highest, spiritual attainment, not just the ultimate physical, essence of their existence.  Jesus continues to tell them, however, no matter who you are, or how you live your ministry, you each will “taste (“be one personally acquainted with”) death before they see the Son of Man coming is his kingdom”.

           Often not seen in this part of scripture is the change of pronouns and pronominal references.  The reader would normally expect that the sentence was targeted to the disciples’ understanding of their own roles, reading ‘before you see …’.  However, the pronoun changes to “’they’ would see the taste of death” …  ‘They’ refers to those outside of the immediate ‘believers’ - the unbelievers, sceptics, and cynics.  ‘They’ needed a sign (just like Moses needed God’s ‘name’ to legitimize his role).  ‘They’ still need a sign which fulfilled the role anticipated of the Son of God, foretold in prophecy, that symbolizes the initiation of The Kingdom.

           We too look for signs and symbols to direct our world.  Street signs at intersections give roads their ‘names’.  Other street signs announce places and locations of desired destinations, or billboards.  Even more street signs display directions and permissible turn lanes, or no-passing over double yellow lines.  We have grown used to recognizing and obeying ‘signs’ (generally), or we know there is a risk of getting a ticket if we get caught …

We look for signs and symbols everywhere; they help to orient and direct; they inform and warn of problems; they give clues about all sorts of indicators.  Manicured, landscaped grounds around a home may indicate a well-procured landscaper, or an owner obsessed with grounds care, or someone who is retired, lives ‘here’, and loves to garden.  Lack of appointments in a church might indicate sparsity to one observer, or a different focus on expenditures for ministry to another.  How we live speaks volumes about the signs and symbols we implore to direct and reflect our lives to the world.  Each of us has a ‘Burning Bush’ moment in our life: [and with an intentional verb change] that time when we realize God exists, and is talking directly to us – that time when we are standing on Holy Ground.  And we all have had too many times when we ourselves have blurted out, “God forbid it, Lord!”, not realizing what we have said, nor the reality of intention in our words.  It is our astonishment speaking, not our thoughtfulness.

           We are all called Children of God. 

           We all have received the Promise of God. 

           We have all been forgiven (time and again), and the Kingdom is our hope. 

           And the Cross which was Christ’s is ours in life today: 

           Thanks be to God!

Theophany of the Burning Bush: Moses’ Revelation            

“I am who I am”  God’s Name disclosed