20th March 2022
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and 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.”
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:
This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.”
1 O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
2 Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, *
that I might behold your power and your glory.
3 For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; *
my lips shall give you praise.
4 So will I bless you as long as I live *
and lift up my hands in your Name.
5 My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness, *
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
6 When I remember you upon my bed, *
and meditate on you in the night watches.
7 For you have been my helper, *
and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul clings to you; *
your right hand holds me fast.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”
Moses, is shepherding his Father-in-law’s flock on the far side of the wilderness, when he sees a burning bush. When we are out in the natural world, away from habitation, we can become much more observant of the present moment and of the world around us. Like Moses, these can be times when we are more acutely aware of God’s presence. God has certainly piqued Moses curiosity and got his attention. For God sees, senses, knows what is happening in the world. God knew the suffering of the Israelites captive in Egypt; God knows the suffering of the Ukrainians, of the Ethiopians caught up in civil war, of asylum seekers, of people forced to use food-banks, of people thrown out of work. God is the God of past, present and future generations. When Moses asks God’s name, he is given a wonderfully poetic reply: I am …. because I am!
Today’s Psalm explores what it is to know God – the seeking and the gazing, the finding and the experiencing. To know God is to know joy and contentment, to experience loving kindness and shelter. To know God is to seek God, to spend time in meditation, to lift up our hands, to act and to praise. The psalmist also calls on us to ‘cling fast’ to God: the Hebrew also translates as ‘adhere’ or ‘catch by pursuit’. Perhaps this is a call to stay close to God, to stick by God, to adhere to/ follow God’s ways, to move alongside God. Maybe it is to be like ducklings that swim close to their mother to avoid getting lost, or like lambs that learn the pathways up and down the fells by sticking close to their mums.
Just as lambs can go astray and get lost, so too do we humans. We can be wayward, foolish, negligent, even wilfully disobedient. We fail to follow in God’s ways, to live according to God’s desires. As a consequence we often end up being hurt, becoming angry, feeling disorientated. Paul, in his letter, warns the community at Corinth of the dangers of going against God’s will, of being disobedient, of doing what is wrong.
When we do things wrong, we may get hurt, but it is equally possible that other people will also get hurt. Our wrongful actions may cause others – who may well be quite blameless – to suffer. This is seems to the case of those killed by the collapse of the tower of Siloam. It is the case of the many victims of the invasion of Ukraine. It is the case of the 186 people who lost their lives in Petropolis, Brazil in flash floods and mudslides caused by the climate crisis.
Jesus calls on us all to repent. However good or bad we think we may be, we are all sinners and all need to repent. Jesus follows this reprove with a parable about a fig tree. The fig tree then represented Israel, but now it might represent all our communities. The fig refuses to produce any fruit. It produces nothing good. The owner determines therefore to get rid of it – and why not? And yet the gardener, asks for one last chance. The gardener, who clearly loves the fig tree undertakes to tends and nurture it, to give it everything that might help it ‘repent’ and be transformed into a flourishing fruitful tree. God is always willing to give us a second chance. God is willing to do all that is possible to enable us to repent and be reformed.
Let us repent, set behind us all that takes us in the wrong direction, that makes our lives fruitless. Instead let us come along side God, let us stick close to God, following the way of Christ.