top of page

And When It's All Over

By Rev. Rita Harrison

Exodus 3: 1-15

I want to follow some strands, some threads from the story of Moses and the Burning Bush, and do some connecting of them.

Strand 1: The Moses strand

The encounter Moses has in the back end of the wilderness with God. The story with all its peculiar particularity. The God who appears as flame in a shrub that doesn’t burn. Who talks with Moses, who gives Moses a task and a strange sign, and who promises to be present.

Strand 2: The transfiguration strand

Last time I was with you, I spoke about transfiguration. Quick reminder: Jesus takes three of his disciples up a mountain. While there, Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white, and Moses - yes, the Moses we heard about this morning, and Elijah - another powerful prophet in Israelite history - appear with Jesus. The disciples are stunned, and they hear a voice say, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him.” Some of you might remember that story.

As I mentioned last time, in the Western Church, this is often referred to as the Transfiguration of Christ. In the Eastern Orthodox traditions, though, it is seen differently. The Eastern Church understands that it is not Jesus who is transfigured, but the DISCIPLES! In that moment, they are changed, a veil is lifted, and they see what is always right there in front of them. The world is not changed; Jesus is not changed; the disciples are simply able to SEE.

Strand 3: The contemplation strand

One of my teachers, James Finley says:

“Most of the things that we notice, we notice in passing, on our way to something else; then, every so often, something gives us reason to pause. Something catches our eye or draws our attention, and we’re drawn for a moment to ponder or to reflect on that which awakened us in this way.”

The Moses strand

There is the famous story about his rescue from water. Pharaoh’s daughter brought him into Pharaoh’s household. Moses was always aware that he was a Hebrew and not an Egyptian. From time to time, that epithet, Hebrew, might well have been sneered at him when someone in the Pharaoh’s court wanted to be sure that Moses didn’t get too above himself.

One day, Moses goes out and sees a Hebrew slave being beaten by an Egyptian, and, in a rage - after first making sure that no one’s watching - he kills the Egyptian and quickly buries him. He’s confident that he’s gotten away with his rage-killing.

However, the very next day, sees two Hebrews fighting. He urges the one in the wrong to stop, “Don’t we have enough enemies already? Don’t do this!” The man responds essentially with “Who made you the boss of us? Are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?” Moses realizes his murderous act is not a secret, and he flees Egypt as a fugitive, because Pharaoh would certainly be out to kill him if he stuck around.

Now we are brought to to today’s story…Moses is living a quiet existence outside of Egypt, working for a priest of a non-Hebrew and non-Egyptian religion in a place called Midian. He has married the priest’s daughter and works as a shepherd for his father-in-law. Surely, he has now found the peace he was looking for. He is no longer trying to live the confused life of a Hebrew in an Egyptian court, with the divided heart that role demands. He seems to have escaped the Pharaoh’s judgement - out of sight, out of mind. And then, one day…

The Transfiguration strand

It’s a calm and beautiful day at the back end of the wilderness. Sheep are grazing, when Moses calls, they come. When they arrive at another place with grasses, they stop. Moses is always watching, even as he seems calm - you never know when a predator might come by. Out of the corner of his eye, just a glimmer, he notices something. A shrub, on fire. He goes closer to check it out, because, as we all know, fire is dangerous stuff. Weird, though, there are flames, but the bush is not burning up. All his attention is taken now by the burning flames that seem to call him closer and closer until…

The contemplation strand

“Moses!” calls a voice, “Here I am!”. “That’s close enough! Remove your shoes, you are on holy ground.” And so begins the encounter between Moses and the Holy One - a weaving together of the transfiguration and contemplation strands

The Holy One in the shrub says, “I am the God of your fathers (not a God of Egypt, not the God of your priestly father-in-law, no I am YOUR God and the God of your people) I have heard your people’s cry and I am going to deliver them - free them from Egypt and bring them into a land that will be rich and provide them with great nurture. Come on, Moses, I’m sending you to tell Pharaoh to release my people who are also your people.”

Moses is rather uncomfortable with this turn of events. “Who am I that I should bring the people out of Egypt? I am a fugitive from Pharaoh - you really want me to go back there? I’ll be taking my life in my hands. And, the last time I spoke with a fellow-Hebrew, he was pretty clear that I am not the boss of them! This is not going to go well, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Who am I to do this?”

God says, “I will be with you,” and then gives him a sign. Here’s what God says. “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.” Did you catch that sign????

It is not a sign or guarantee ahead of time. Listen again - Here is the sign. When it is all over, when you have done what I have asked and the people have followed, you will worship me here. When it’s all over, you will know that I brought you here. Are you serious, God? The sign comes AFTER the fact? I’m afraid that’s not very reassuring.

Moses doesn’t find that very reassuring either! So, he pushes a little more. “OK, OK, but if I go to the people and they ask me your name - which they could well do! What shall I tell them?”

“I am who I am. Tell them I AM has sent you. Tell them I AM, the God of their ancestors, has sent you and will be with you.”

“I am. Yahweh. BE. ARE. and not-containable in any of your categories or by any of your rituals. I AM. and I AM with you. And I will be with you.”

So… That’s the story.

An attentive fugitive shepherd is transfigured in a contemplative moment to see the bush that burns in his peripheral vision. He is drawn to explore, and in the process, he encounters the Holy One. And the Holy One has a job, a sign, and a promise for him.

The job - tell Pharaoh to let my people go. Moses doesn’t have to release them, God will do that. Moses just needs to go tell Pharaoh to let them go.

The sign - when it’s over, you will worship me back here.

The promise - I am with you.

I find this a fascinating story.

Here’s something about me: I believe, absolutely, that the world in which we live is completely shot through, completely charged, completely aflame with the presence of God, with the reality of the Holy One who is always and completely present to all things at all times. However, I know that for me, I can be so occupied with the next sermon I need to write, the next load of laundry that should hit the dryer, the anxiety of the people around me as they suffer, that I don’t see the glory that is present always and everywhere. I don’t see the movements of I AM, the God who invites me closer and closer.

Until, until, unexpectedly, I am caught up short. Perhaps while mulching potatoes, I deeply sense that I am tending the body of Christ. Perhaps while grieving the death of a friend, the tears carry me into a deeper reality that is, yes, painful, but also so tender and real. Perhaps while in the extreme pain of labour with my child, I am pulled out of my body and sense a dimension that is more than I have known before. Perhaps while watching the sunset, I have a momentary flash of tender awareness that I can’t quite articulate. These moments of aliveness or of heightened perception are invitations to pay attention. They are the voice of God calling out of the fiery shrub. The shrub that is always aflame with the presence of God.

I have had those moments when I have seen the burning bush. Perhaps you have, too? Perhaps you have sensed something, someone, out of the corner of your eye, or on the breath of a wind and have an inkling that this is the Holy One.

This community is in a time of transition, a time of discerning who you are as you seek a new pastor. During this time, I have a desire for you.

My longing is that you will seek the God who transfigures you. The Holy One who unveils our faces so that we can see the glory that shines from the most ordinary of things - the chopping of vegetables, the decorating of a space, the pain of a broken bone, the tenderness of a loving word. I pray that this community will see this presence together.

In that process, I trust that God is with you, no matter how this journey unfolds. God’s promise to Moses, “I AM will be with you. I AM will go with you,” is also the promise for us. Since all time, and all space are shot through with God, there is no place where God is not. God is with us, as God is with all.

I am also aware that there are no signs ahead of time that serve as a guarantee of the completion of whatever God has in mind for you, for this community. “When it is all over, you will be back here, and worship me on this mountain.” God is going to fulfill God’s desire, and from time to time, we will be able to look on our journeys and say, “Ah, this is how it came to pass that we were a community who, at God’s summons, ended up in this new place.”

4 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page