(Exodus 3: 1-6; Matthew 16: 24-25)
I have some friends, a couple who met and married while they were students at the seminary with me. Even though she’s from Pennsylvania and He’s from California, they moved almost as soon as we graduated into the great unknown: and have spent the last decade in Iowa: Dodge City, to be exact. I’ve never been to Iowa.
She and I chat online occasionally, and we saw each other in person for the first time in years last summer, which was so great! But somehow every conversation I have with Sara, my friend, circles and circles until we get back to the same topic: she’s always talking about how underrated Iowa is- as a state, as a place to work, as a vacation destination. And because people tend to laugh when she says it, I think she says it all the more.
She tells everyone that if we’d just make a family road trip out to see them, we could see them and- at the very least- see the field from the Field of Dreams– the real field from that great- 1989 – movie still exists. Even today, according to them, lots of people still drive out to Iowa, to a farm, that until a couple years ago belonged to an ordinary family, and visit the baseball diamond where the movie was filmed.
Do you know that movie? Field of Dreams? A lot of people think it is the greatest sports movie ever made. It’s about a guy, Ray Kinsella, who’s a farmer- out in Iowa- with his wife and daughter. He Seems ordinary enough.
But one day, one regular day, as he walks through his cornfield he hears a whisper of a voice: “If you build it, he will come.” Suddenly, Ray is pulled away from the mundane world that he’s living in. Everything is turned around, upside down, inside out.
The cornfield that is the source of his family’s income is plowed over to build a baseball diamond. Ray’s purpose goes from cultivating a crop to cultivating new relationships as he follows the lead of this mysterious voice which eventually takes him from Iowa to Boston to Minnesota and back. A simple farm life becomes a life of surprising adventure.
So it is with Moses, too, In our scripture lesson today.
This summer while I’m preaching at Trinity, we’re going to talk about God’s call, God’s claiming of regular folks. Calling them up and calling them into the world- invited to live differently because of their knowledge of God. In a time of transition- which is certainly where Trinity finds itself, I think it is so important to look back. To remember that God’s people have been here before- standing on the edge of something new and figuring out-once again- who they are and where they are headed.
I know that today’s is a particularly familiar story to many of you. Moses was a man who was raised in Pharaoh’s own home. Yet one day he finds himself cast out, a fugitive, he’s a murderer. He escapes to Midian, and becomes a shepherd for his father-in-law. He thinks the adventure is over. He thinks he will live out his days watching sheep.
Then one day at work he comes across…a bush-burning but not consumed- and a strange voice, “Moses, Moses!” The voice echoes around him. It speaks to him, calls to him. “Moses, Moses.” Just some guy- out in a field- hears, encounters, the living God.
And in that moments, Moses is pulled from the mundane world that he’s living in. His life will be turned around, upside down, inside out. In the middle of a perfectly ordinary day. Moses’ purpose is about to go from shepherding sheep to shepherding God’s people out of bondage.With this call, the great redemptive story of God- our own family history takes a new turn.
It is a turn that comes because of a promise. A promise by the God of Moses’ ancestors: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God made a covenant with them to give their descendants a land of their own.
And just a few chapters later, in Exodus 6, God says these words to Moses:
I am the Lord. 3I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty….4I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they resided as aliens. 5I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6Say therefore to the Israelites, “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them….7I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. 8I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.
And with this Moses is caught up in a story that goes back beyond what anyone can remember, and will go forward to a time that nobody could imagine. All from a burning bush. All from a voice. -In the middle of a perfectly ordinary day. Moses’ complacency was challenged. No longer was his life to be just an ordinary one, at least what he considered ordinary; it was to become one of risk and peril- a life that would, in a way, no longer belong to Moses, but call him up, call him out call him to be something greater than he was or could have been on his own. With this burning bush God has Moses’ attention. “Come no closer” he hears. “Remove your sandals. You are standing on holy ground!”
In that moment where we feel God calling out to us, in the place where our normal life is challenged by the moving, living Holy Spirit we encounter the God who created us, redeems us, sustains us and calls us: …and it is an incredible thing, a frightening thing, a sacred thing…Just standing around, and suddenly he hears “you stand on holy ground.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and martyr, wrote a terrifying truth: that when Christ calls someone, he bids them come and die. The old life is gone, and a new one has begun: This is the truth for the people of God, and examples of it are scattered throughout scripture: Once God calls to you- things are never going to be the same again.
We see this all over the Bible: God called Abram to leave his family’s land, and become the father of many nations. God called Mary, a peasant teenager to become the mother of the messiah. Jesus called the disciples to leave their nets, leave their trade, their source of income and all they’d ever know to come and fish for people. Jesus called Saul to go and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, and to suffer for it. Moses was called to return to the land where he was a fugitive. To face a government that considered his people the enemy. To rescue those who had all but given up on God.
Do you see the pattern here? God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things- God breaks into our ordinary days, partnering with us- even people like us(!) We see this all over the Bible, but the story of God’s people didn’t end thousands of years ago with the last page of Revelation.
God has called this congregation together: On a regular old Sunday in June, to sing and worship, to enjoy fellowship together, to dream of where we are going and what we can be doing for the Kingdom. To be reminded that we belong to one another, and to One who is greater, to One who has freed us from sin and death and opened us up to new life, new hope, new possibilities in Jesus Christ.
Who knows what God calls you individually to be or do?
Ray Kinsella hears a voice calling him out of his regular old life in a cornfield. A baseball diamond is built, corn is destroyed, a season’s worth of crops fall far short of what is needed. The bank wants to foreclose on his house because he can’t pay the bills. But the voice… the voice speaks to him, calls him to the hard places, to search within himself, step outside the mundane, and come alive.
Moses sees a burning bush and hears the voice of God. He wants to tend a flock of sheep but God wants him to tend to the lost people of Israel.
Friends, our God call to us too- and it is usually right in the middle of our regular life—to step outside the mundane, and join God’s story in unimaginable ways.
May we keep our ears open and our eyes peeled.