A Season of Mindfulness: Who am I?

 

given on Sunday, March 21, 2017–2nd Sunday in Lent

Scripture connections:

Opening scripture: Exodus 3:1-4, NLT

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro,[a] the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai,[b] the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

Scripture connection:

  • Exodus 3:9-14, NLT

Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

14 God replied to Moses, “I am who I am.[d] Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.”

  • I Thessalonians 5:14-22, NLT

14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.

16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, 21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil.

Closing scripture: I Thessalonians 5:23-24, NLT

23 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 24 God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

 

Week’s memory verse: Exodus 3:11 (NLT)

But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people.

Week’s challenge: Create a plan for a ministry you feel called to lead.

Check yourself: Why are you afraid? What will it cost? What abilities do you have to use?

 

Reflection: Who am I?

I was on my knees scrubbing the kitchen floor this week. Now I have to be honest, this is not typical for me, but I gave up and got down and close to the floor this time; and I found myself reflecting on something Bertha, who had cleaned my floors for years, told me.

As much as I tried to make sure she did not have to be on her knees, getting mops, cleaning fluids, or whatever cleaning tools I could, she refused to use them. She preferred to be on her knees, despite the physical problems she had with her spine due to a car wreck when she was 12 years old and the osteoporosis that developed in her later years.

Bertha and I met at church where I learned how she lived her life despite all the human hardships she had endured. Bertha was a Christian disciple. She never said, “Why me, Lord?” She lived her faith in service, even on her knees. From my perspective, she lived her life as though her answer was really, “Why not me, Lord?”

Bertha was a modern-day Moses in my perspective. Reading a biography on Moses reveals some interesting twists and turns. Born under the Egyptian Pharaoh’s decree that all male Hebrew babies were to be killed, Moses was saved when his mother placed him in a basket along the Nile River, was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as an Egyptian prince.

Moses’s story took a twist when he intervened in an Egyptian slave master beating a Hebrew slave. To summarize the story, when confronted by other Hebrews who knew that he had killed the Egyptian slave master, Moses fled to Midian fearing that the Pharaoh would learn what he did.

Even though Moses had been raised as an Egyptian prince, returning to the Hebrew enslaved community had to have been challenging. The Moses we meet in today’s scripture certainly does not sound like an Egyptian prince accustomed to all the best food, education, even jobs. Instead, the Moses in today’s scripture is a shepherd with little evidence of his former life. Moses rejoined the Hebrew community living as God’s faithful servant.

Can we relate to Moses? Absolutely. We understand the challenges life hands us as we raise our families, manage our monthly budgets, and daily go to work to do whatever we must to make our lives as comfortable as possible. We make decisions that put others as a priority rather than pleasing our personal wishes. We turn to help our family and/or friends manage the ups and downs in their lives. We are just like Moses.

The question “Who am I?” that Moses asked God is also familiar to us. In our life experiences we may not witness a burning bush, yet there are times when we are asked to do something that we feel totally unprepared or unworthy to do. The request might be from a thought that pops up in our mind or it might be a request to take an active role in a committee or to accept a job offer that you had no idea you could do. We ask the same question, “Who am I that can do that?”

Moses argued with God. He said he could not possibly go back into Egypt and lead his people out from under the Pharaoh’s control. He used the fact that he had poor speech (supposedly he stuttered) and could not eloquently make an appeal to the Pharaoh to free the Hebrews.

How many times do we do the same thing? How many times do we turn away from a thought, an idea, or a request to do something because we do not think there is any possible way to do it? Way too many times we say no. Why?

Three different answers come to mind: fear, money, and ability.

These are the same three concerns that Moses had. Imagine the fear of going back to the Pharaoh and saying let me take the Hebrews away from your control—slaves, a work force, an economic factor. Moses probably even feared that he would be imprisoned or worse for killing the slave master years ago.

Money was a concern, too, and going further into the scripture we learn that God tells how to manage that, too. He tells Moses to simply ask the Egyptian women for gold and silver as they leave. And they do it. This funded the new life and the building of temples.

Finally, God answers Moses’ concern about the ability to lead. Speech was a concern, so God tells him not to worry, his brother Aaron can speak for him. Moses was afraid that the Israelites would not follow him, either:

13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

14 God replied to Moses, “I am who I am.[d] Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.”

With Moses’ fears and the two major issues answered by God, Moses did lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The job was not easy and Moses certainly had his reasons for asking “Who am I?”

The ancient story is no different than so many stories of God’s servants accepting his call to action. This week we witnessed local communities handle disaster with grace. The videos of the Oak Grove homes destroyed by the tornado reminds us of how vulnerable each of us really is in this world, but the videos of the families, the friends, and the strangers pitching in to clean up the mess is awe-inspiring. The Oak Grove students heard the call to serve with gloves and a garbage sack and they joined in, too.

I can look around me, right here, and see those who God has called and they answered. Certainly when they heard God’s call, they probably said, “Who am I?” Yet, they answered. Look around you and think about how many times something in the community called for an action and someone right here stepped up and did all that they could to meet that challenge.

God is with you, with us. He does not ask us to do something without knowing that we have the ability to do it:

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31, NLT)

 

We must learn that when God asks us to do something, he already knows we can.   Our responsibility is to work together to fulfill God’s call. We can do it.

In Paul’s final words to the Thessalonians we can find the ways we can serve:

14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.

16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, 21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil.

 

The list grows. God will never give us an idea or call us to do something unless he knows we can do it. We are equipped with the Holy Spirit to do all that we can for all we can in any way that we can.

Bertha served, even on her knees ,when scrubbing her clients floors. I found myself on my knees with her guiding me by her example this week. She had absolutely no reason to be on her knees, but that was the way she prayed. She told me that the time she spent on her knees was her time to pray. I am humbled by her presence as I cleaned my own floor on my knees, and I prayed.

God reaches out to others through our actions. Last week we looked at the question from Genesis: Did God really say that? We can test the ideas that come up in our minds and in our work with the same five Ds: doubt, discouragement, division, defeat, and delay.

Any idea that develops in our ministry can be tested through these five Ds, and today’s verse, “Who am I?”, also can be tested:

  1. Why am I afraid?
  2. What is the cost?
  3. What abilities do I have?

 

The answers will confirm the call to action when God is leading. God is present within each of us. We accepted our call when we were baptized.   God will make sure that each of us will be equipped to serve.

During the coming week, test yourself. Think about a time when you felt called to lead or to participate in a ministry of the church or in a civic effort that you did not think you could do. Why were you afraid? What would it have cost? Why did you think you could not do it?

The challenge, now, is to identify some task or idea or ministry that you would like to see done, then ask the same questions knowing that God will give you what you need to do it.   Make a plan, figure out who will help you, identify the costs, and then share the plan—with your small group or with the Church Council. What you may think is impossible may be exactly the ministry God is calling you to lead.

Closing prayer:

Dear Lord,

Open our ears to hear your call.

Open our hearts to the ministries around us.

Open our minds to the work we must do.

 

Keep us from being afraid to lead.

Help us know the cost of serving versus not.

Give us confidence to use the gifts you give us.

 

May we become the servants your ask us to be.

May we trust the Holy Spirit will guide us.

May we be all that we can be in your name. –Amen

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