I read some very interesting statistics recently about our choices concerning where we live as Americans. In the midst of all of the facts and figures, two numbers stood out to me. First, I was surprised to read that 37% of Americans say they have lived in the same town their entire lives. Second, I was equally intrigued to read that the average American changes addresses 11.7 times in their lives.
Now, you have to admit, both of these are fascinating figures. On the one hand, it is interesting that almost 40% of us feel loyal to our town, the people we live around and the place we call home and thus never feel an urge to go anywhere else. At the same time, it is equally fascinating that we are also to some degree restless and want some change otherwise, we would not move 11.7 times in our lives. (Who Moves, Who Stays Put? Where’s Home?, D’vera Cohn and Rich Morin, pewsocialtrends.org, December 17, 2008; census.gov, July 8, 2020)
Now I have to admit that both of these statistics feel very Biblical to me. At times, we as believers are called to be faithful to a person, a task or place over the long haul. At other times, the call of God on our lives is a willingness to be uprooted and to follow God even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sometimes we need to embrace a stick-to-it attitude and at other times the call to change. It is this second aspect, this willingness to change, that I want to invite us to focus on today as it relates to Moses who is the central figure in the Exodus story.
Moses’ story begins with Exodus 1. As you know, he was born at a crucial time in Israelite history. Now living in Egypt, the Israelite population had exploded and the growing number of Israelites felt like a threat to the Egyptian government. The decision was made to curtail the number by having the male Hebrews who were born put to death. Moses was born into this situation and yet through the cunning of his family, he escaped certain death and actually ended up being raised as an adopted child of Pharaoh’s daughter with his own mother serving as his caregiver. If you aren’t familiar with Moses’ story, go home and read Exodus Chapters 1 & 2 this afternoon or as a part of your devotional reading this week. It is a fascinating story.
When Moses grew up, however, he still had a soft place in his heart for his own people the Israelites although he had spent his upbringing being raised as an Egyptian. One day, when he saw an Israelite being abused he came to the rescue killing the Egyptian who was hurting his fellow Hebrew. Unfortunately, Moses’ act became public knowledge and the Egyptian leaders were not pleased. This led Moses to flee for his life to Midian.
Our text for today, the famous burning bush passage of Exodus 3, finds Moses finally having gotten his life back. No longer on the run or fearful, he had evidently made a new beginning for himself in Midian. He had married into a great family and had a career as a shepherd of the flock of his father-in-law. As we might say, Moses was fat and happy. Based on Exodus 3, he was content. Yet, it was at this very moment that God appeared in the burning bush with an invitation that would turn Moses’ life upside down.
This morning, let me offer two thoughts to us from this pivotal time in Moses’ life about change. Both of these ideas drawn directly from Moses’ story are helpful to all of us as we seek to be open to and to navigate the times when God calls us and when that call involves our own need to change.
First, it is important to note that the change God calls Moses to make was unexpected. Simply put, Moses didn’t see God’s invitation coming. This call to go back to Egypt and play a role in liberating the Israelites was not on Moses’ radar screen. It came completely out of the blue.
This is a very, very significant point for it reminds us of one of the great truths of our faith. Please hear me when I say this. God’s invitation is sometimes an unexpected invitation. God often calls us to minister to people and to do things that are not in our plans nor are they our wishes. When this happens, it is easy for us to dismiss the invitation. In fact, in my mind, this may be the very reason God chose to come to Moses in the form of a burning bush so as to leave no doubt that it is God who was speaking.
The writer Anne Lamotte once said that when God hates all of the same people we hate, we can be sure we have created God in our own image. I would add to Lamotte’s statement that when God only calls us to do things we had already planned to do or challenges us to love people we already like, we need to ask ourselves if we are really hearing God clearly. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that God doesn’t sometimes allow our passions and his calling to parallel each other but I am saying that Biblically speaking this is certainly not what always happens.
Second, it is equally critical to see that the change God wanted Moses to make was one that Moses had been being prepared for throughout his life. Moses’ reaction to God’s call to go back to Egypt is not a positive one. This was mainly because Moses didn’t feel prepared. Yet, if we think about Moses’ story, God had in fact been preparing Moses for this moment in for a long time in ways he had not seen. After all, Moses had been brought up in the Pharaoh’s home thus he knew in intimate detail the ways of the Egyptians. Likewise, Moses had been tending sheep in Midian which was the very land through which he would lead the Israelites after they left captivity. Moses’ past had prepared him for his future.
I remember hearing the North Carolina minister Cleve Wilkie speak one time just a few years before his death. Wilkie was a prominent speaker who had lived a very challenging childhood. Raised in an orphanage, Wilkie recalled going to college not sure how he would make it financially due to not having parents and with only limited resources. As he looked for a place to live and work, he said he came up close with the provisions of God. Both the place that he found lodging and the place he found work were looking for someone with the exact skills he had developed growing up at the orphanage.
Now, life is not always that neat and tidy. But, I do believe that if God calls us to a task, even if it is out of left field, God has prepared us in some way for what is ahead and God will continue to prepare us as God did with Moses.
God calls. When God calls, it is not always a calling we see coming but it is always a calling for which God has and will continue to equip us. Is God speaking to us right now? Can we recognize how God has prepared us for this moment? And, do we have the courage to say yes? Amen.