The Ground on Which You Stand

Sunday, September 29, 2019
Pastor Mark Aune

Exodus 3:1-11

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

I was visiting with the parent of one of our confirmation student’s yesterday morning after the rehearsal and it was an encouraging conversation for me to hear.

I am a bit more removed from the confirmation process than I used to be. I teach one or two classes each year but most of the heavy lifting is done by Abby Norlin-Weaver our youth minister and Pastor Torgerson along with all of the small group leaders and the Lenten mentors.

When you add it all up there are a lot of adults, caring adults who are part of this faith formation called confirmation.

What was encouraging for me to hear yesterday was this parent saying how much confirmation meant to their child. He liked coming on Wednesday night. He learned important stuff about God and what it means to be a Jesus follower. The relationship he had with his Lenten mentor was important and impactful.

It is true that in spite of how 7th, 8th and 9th graders can sometime act, you know, like you don’t even want to be in the same room with them, deep down they like it when adults work at connecting with them and it matters to them. This is why we do what we do around here. It is like confirmation is actually holy ground.

Here at Augustana we still make a big deal out of confirmation Sunday. We think it is important to make a big deal out of this day. The confirmands wear white robes with red carnations. The red is intentional. Notice the altar cloths and the stoles we are wearing. Red is the color the church uses to represent the Holy Spirit. Today is a big deal because the Holy Spirit is present.

We could even say there is a burning bush in the sanctuary this morning and I’m wondering if you can see it. Can you picture that burning bush, one like Moses turned aside to look at as he was tending the sheep and goats of his father in law Jethro.

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.”

I love the willingness of Moses to turn aside and check this strange sight out not knowing what he would find. He makes a choice to investigate. God doesn’t speak to Moses until he turns aside and looks and then Moses has an encounter with God and God calls him by name.

Moses is off the map in this place. It is a reminder to us that God will show up in our lives when we least expect it, when we need it the most, when we are off the map.

And it’s like Moses is ready for it. He listens when God calls his name and his reply might be the very best thing we can ever say to God. Here I am.

Here I am God.

This might be the most faith filled thing we can ever say to God. When the confirmands say, I do and I ask God to help and guide me they are in effect saying, here I am.

I’m ready to follow. I have no idea what that means and I am not even sure if I can but I do and I ask God to help and guide me. Here I am.

Are we willing to have a personal relationship with God?

Are we ready for what God wants us to do?

Are we able to go where God wants us to go?

The questions are for all of us not just the 27 young men and women who are in white robes with red carnations pinned on them.

This affirmation of baptism is for all of us. Whether you were baptized as an infant, a child or an adult it doesn’t matter.

Each day we have the choice of saying to God, here I am.

Each day we have the choice of responding to God by saying I do and I ask you God to help and guide me.

And the best part of this, maybe the most important part of this is to understand that when we respond this way, when we hear God’s voice calling us by name is that we recognize the amazing place we stand is actually holy ground.

Take off your sandals Moses. You are standing on holy ground.

“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

I am your God.

Holy ground is the anchor point. It is the place where we can remove all that hinders our relationship with God. To take off our sandals as it were.

It is our anchor point, the place where we are grounded in a relationship with a God who not only knows our name but a God who calls us by name.

A God who desires in a way we can’t even begin to imagine or understand to be in a personal relationship with us and for us to know how much we are loved.

When we say I do and I ask God to help and guide me it is a recognition on our part that we are standing on holy ground. The bush is burning. God is speaking, calling us by name.

We have to begin here because when God tells Moses what God wants him to do – “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. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 

Moses says, not so fast God. Can’t I just stay right here on this holy ground? What you are asking me to do is too hard. There is too much uncertainty involved and too much change. I don’t like change. I don’t like uncertainty.

But Moses, Moses, remember where you are standing. Remember the burning bush.

When we are faced with change, when are faced with uncertainty, we remember that we stand in a place where God sees us, calls us by name and says I will be with you.

What do you suppose these 10th graders are uncertain about? Their list may not be too different than yours.

How does change affect their lives? The same as yours perhaps.

Which is why today is so important, so real.

For it is only when we stand in the presence of God,

  • with the sandals removed from our feet,
  • hearing God call us by name in a voice that reaches into the depths of our hearts,
  • that we can do the things God wants and needs us to do,
  • that we can make the kind of choices that God wants us to make,
  • that we can be in a personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The God who sent us Jesus, the one to whom we confess and say, here I am, here I am.

Thank you for making it possible for me to stand on holy ground.

Thanks be to God. Amen

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