Moses Transformed by Grace
The Burning Bush
July 17, 2022
St. Stephen’s UMC, Burke, VA
Exodus 3:1–15 (NRSV)
Last week, we were reminded by Pastor Spencer that all of us are called to ministry through our baptism. Not just the pastors, not just the lay leaders, but all baptized Christians are ministers who are called to participate in God’s grand plan of caring for all God’s creations in many ways. This means we all have our own unique call stories. Like what the Apostle Paul said, we are baptized into one body with many diverse members, one spirit with many diverse gifts, and one mission with many diverse call stories.
If last week’s message was on a young boy, Samuel’s call story, today’s message is on an old man, Moses’s call story. In this famous burning bush story, Moses was around 80 years old. After living almost two-thirds of his lifespan, Moses was called by God to venture out on a new mission. This morning, we are reminded again that God’s call does not discriminate — God calls us to be part of God’s mission regardless of age or background.
This burning bush story is a very well-known story for churchgoers. One of the reasons why this story is so popular is, I think, because it is relatable. We can easily relate to Moses’s skepticism and reluctance to God’s call.
When God called Moses to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, he did not say yes right away with much enthusiasm. Instead, Moses replied, “But why me? Who do you think I am to manage this difficult task?” This was the first of the five excuses Moses gave in his attempt to avoid God’s call — he also stated he doesn’t know enough of who God is, that no one will take his words seriously, that he is not an eloquent speaker, and that there are better-qualified people out there for the task. All these excuses can be summed up as “But why me? I’m nobody.”
But were Moses’s excuses just an attempt to get away from taking on this enormous responsibility of delivering God’s people? Or were those his honest confession about why he could not do what God called him to do?
Let us look at what we know about Moses’s life up until he encountered the burning bush. He was born to a Hebrew family when Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, wanted all Hebrew baby boys to be killed. This was Pharoah’s way of keeping the Hebrews under Egypt’s oppression. So, Moses’s mother, in her attempt to save her baby’s life, hid a three-month-old in a basket and left him in the river. And it was the daughter of Pharaoh who found the baby Moses, drew him out, and took him under her wing.
So, Moses grew up not only as a member of an Egyptian household but also as a prince of Egypt. And at some point, he learned that he was a Hebrew, and “his sense of concern and curiosity impelled him to visit his people.” There, as a young prince, he witnessed a harsh reality of oppression — how ruthless the working condition was for the Israelites under slavery.
And when Moses saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating an Israelite, he could no longer contain his anger. Moses ended the life of that Egyptian motivated by a misdirected sense of justice — and he thought no one saw his vengeful, murderous act.
But the next day, when he thought he was helping or even “saving” his people, one of the Hebrews shot back at him, “Who do you think you are, telling us what to do? Are you going to end my life the way you ended that Egyptian’s life?” He was outright rejected by the very people whom he thought he was saving.
And the words eventually got out all the way to Pharaoh, who sought to end Moses’s life for his action. This forced Moses to run away to the land of Midian. And the place where Moses hid himself was where he eventually settled down, meeting his wife, having his children, and working for his father-in-law.
Midian was Moses’s hideout, hiding from the consequences of his action (guilt and shame), hiding from the fear and misgivings of having failed, and hiding from Pharoah’s wrath.
Moses was hiding as long as he possibly could, for well beyond forty years. But his sense of concern and curiosity impelled him to check out the burning bush. And there, God called him to confront the very things he was hiding from, “Now I am sending you to Pharoah to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
We find the story of the burning bush relatable because it speaks to our human tendency to hide. We hide from so many things. Author Seth Godin writes in his blog, “We hide by avoiding things that will change us. We hide by asking for reassurance. We hide by letting someone else speak up and lead… [And] We will rationalize in extraordinary ways to avoid coming out of hiding.”
How many of us have hidden from things or opportunities that might lead to disappointment, failure, rejection, fear, embarrassment, or judgment? How many of us have avoided leaving our comfort zones?
But see, it is God’s grace that draws us out from our hiding places. And as suggested in the title of our sermon series, it is God’s grace that initiates our transformation, and the word transformation means, “a thorough or dramatic change.” In other words, God’s grace draws us out of our hiding places to confront things that will change us. To be called by God is to be changed in Christ, and to be changed in Christ is to be transformed by grace.
You might ask yourself, why must I be changed and why must I be transformed? This transformation sounds redundant when you are already baptized, when you think you are already saved, and when you are already participating in the life of the church.
And this transformation sounds pointless when you have already lost faith in the church, when you are already doing great without it, and when you know this churchy “transformation” will only cause more drama in your life.
But you will hear this continued theme as we hear different call stories in the Bible: God does not call us out of our hiding places just so that we may be transformed as individuals. God calls us, you and I, because God hears the cries of the people. God explained to Moses why God is calling him, “I have observed the misery of my people, I have heard their cry, and I know their suffering. And I have come down to deliver them” (Ex 3:7).
And so, Moses was called: to confront his complicated Egyptian upbringing; to go and be with his impoverished and oppressed Israelite neighbors; and to journey with them humbly and faithfully out of Egypt to the land of milk and honey that was promised by God.
And, church, hear the good news! We continue to worship the same God who hears the people’s cries, who sees the people’s miseries, and who knows our sufferings. And because God so loved the world, God’s only begotten Son came down to deliver the world. And each of us is called to participate in God’s grand plan of caring for all God’s creations. Our personal transformation is just what comes with the plan.
I know change is hard. My previous appointment was a two-point charge — one was to serve St. Mark’s in Manassas and the other was to start a brand new church. When I was called to plant a new church in 2018, I was terrified. There was this vision to build a new church that reflects and embraces the diversity of Northern Virginia, yet I had no idea what I was supposed to do. But then we saw transformation happen as strangers came together to form unlikely friendships through the teaching and fellowship, and through the breaking of bread and the prayers.
And when we decided to close our new church early this year (2022), I was mortified. Long story short, we faced many obstacles — including the pandemic — which prevented us from hitting the institutional benchmarks. This closure was really hard. But this change has led me to St. Stephen’s where I’m given an opportunity to continue God’s mission with my unique gifts and do it in partnership with your gifts.
Again, change is hard. The changes St. Stephen’s is going through as a church are hard. The changes you are all experiencing individually are hard. The changes our world is currently going through are hard.
To Moses who knew how difficult the change was going to be, God responded, “Just as I have been with your ancestors, I am with you right now, and I will continue to be with you and I will go with you.” And I pray that we find reassurance in Jesus Christ, who is God-with-us, reminding his disciples, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).
In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Minoo Kim is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, currently serving in the Virginia Annual Conference. He will very much appreciate it if you like and follow his Medium profile. Peace!
 Britannica, Years and deeds of Moses, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Moses-Hebrew-prophet/Years-and-deeds
 Seth Godin, Hiding, Seth’s Blog (January 10, 2016) https://seths.blog/2016/01/hiding/