Turn Aside

Sunday, October 3, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier

Exodus 2:23-25; Exodus 3:1-15; Exodus 4:10-17

One of the deep joys of ministry is hearing people share their faith journeys.

They often tell about life changing holy moments when they sensed God’s presence and met the living God.

The deep conviction that God is real came to some while gazing at the milky way spread out upon a clear night sky. Or as they watched a setting sun sweep the horizon with radiant color. Or in the miracle of the birth of a living breathing newborn child, knit together by the hands of God.

Those are dramatic mountain top experiences, but God also meets us in more subtle ways. Often speaking to us through Scripture or prayer when we quiet ourselves to listen. Or in the soaring music of a worship service or symphony.

And perhaps most poignantly –in the difficult of times of our lives – when God meets us in our sorrow –often by sending others to comfort us, assure us of God’s forgiveness and remind us of God’s promises.

Yes, God is real.  Greater and more beautiful than our wildest imaginations- And yet, right here. With you and me.  Present.  Alive.  Waiting for you to turn aside and notice. The God of creation waits, wanting to be in an intimate relationship with you. It is all rather mind-blowing when you stop to think about it.

Speaking of Holy Moments.

Last week, we left Jacob at Bethel – where God showed up in a dream big time – and Jacob knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God was there.  God renewed the promises made to his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac.  His descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky – and through his seed, the world would be blessed.

Jacob had a big family with twelve sons, one of whom was Joseph. You know, the one with the technicolor dream coat.  God used Joseph to save his family from famine, by bringing them all to Egypt.  The family grew and grew over four centuries there, until the Egyptians were threatened by their sheer numbers.

By the time Moses was born, Pharoah tried to limit their growth by drowning the baby boys in the Nile.  Can you even imagine?

Well, the mothers and midwives weren’t having any of THAT!

Baby Moses was sent floating down in the Nile in a basket to be rescued and then raised by the pharaoh’s daughter.  As a young prince, Moses killed an abusive Egyptian and then fled to hide out the wilderness of Midian.  That is where we find him today, tending to his father-in-law’s flocks of sheep.

He led the flocks to the edge of the wilderness, to the mountain of God, where he saw a burning bush.  It must have been off to the side somewhere, because Moses said, “I must turn aside and see why the bush is not burned up.” So he parked the sheep, deciding they could wait for a few minutes – to take a closer look.

Talk about holy moments.  This was a life changing one.  And a history changing one.  A holy encounter with the living God that Moses could have missed if he had not taken the time to turn aside and pay attention.

But he does turn aside, and hears God calling from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am,” Moses says.

“Come no closer, Moses.  Take off your shoes off because you’re standing holy ground… “

God tells him, “I have seen the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cries. I know their sufferings, and I have come to deliver them from the Egyptians.  Now that is some great news!

But then God says, “So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

Moses was incredulous.  Are you kidding me?  “But, I’m a nobody,” he protested. Send someone else – please.

Moses may have felt inadequate and unprepared – but with God – he really had nothing to fear.  Faithful to the promise, God showed up and was with him every step of the way.

And if Moses looked back over his life – he would have seen God’s fingerprints all it.  He was born a Hebrew slave but raised as an Egyptian prince, and now he knew the desert wilderness like the back of his hand – God had been preparing Moses to free the Israelites all along.

The Hebrew slaves probably thought for decades that God didn’t notice their suffering or hear their prayers.  After all, all they heard was silence.  And nothing seemed to change.  Was God even there?

Have you ever felt that way?  Like God did not see or hear or care?

But God did see their suffering, God heard their prayers and cries, and God cared.  Deeply.  Although it seemed God was absent, God was there and at work all along.

God was there… but Moses could have just kept his nose to the grindstone, his eyes on his cell phone with his earbuds in — and wandered right past God’s burning bush.  He could have missed the adventure of a lifetime.  And he may never have come to know our promise keeping God.

Yikes, it makes me wonder how often we are so busy and distracted that we wander right by the God who waits for us.  And what is it going to take for God to get our attention?

Turning aside and noticing is probably not written down on your calendar or to-do list… But God is trying to get your attention. God is waiting for you.  Wanting to spend time with you in an intimate relationship of love.   And God is calling you to the adventure of a lifetime. But don’t worry – God promises to be with you every step of the way.

So. Today… And tomorrow. this week.

Will you pause—from whatever important things you are doing – and turn aside to notice God?

Will you take off your shoes and step onto holy ground – to encounter the living God who loves you and knows your name?

And then, will you say yes?  Yes, to God and yes to God’s call?

Because, if you do – you will never walk alone.

And your life will never be the same.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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