By now, I believe many of you know that I have a deep passion and interest in presidential history. This has been a fascination throughout my life. I remember that as a 5-year old, I would readily read the entries on the various presidents in the encyclopedia. There may or may not be a small collection of presidential Pez dispensers in my office. And yes, I see Election Day almost like the Super Bowl, just without the food and halftime entertainment.
One of my favorite presidents is Abraham Lincoln. I have long admired his presidency and how he led the nation during the Civil War. As I have progressed in ministry, my admiration of Lincoln has only grown. I believe his administration is a case study for pastors in leading churches through conflict and casting a vision that moves people into a new direction.
With my admiration of Lincoln, you can only imagine my excitement a few years ago when the movie “Lincoln” was released. Now, I was one of the ones who was waiting for years for this movie to come out through various cast changes and production issues. When it was released, I found myself moved and gripped by the story and its presentation of one of the key moments in Lincoln’s administration.
This morning, I showed you a clip from that inspiring movie. I did not show the clip in order to share with you my love of Lincoln, though that has its merits. I showed it because the question Daniel-Day Lews’ Lincoln asks is one that, I believe, we all ask. “Do we choose to be born or are we fitted into the the times for which we are born into?” As he is deliberating what to do about the 13th Amendment and how to end the Civil War, Lincoln asks if life is just a series of consequences or chances or was he placed on this planet and in that time for a specific purpose.
All of us have asked something similar to these words from Lincoln. Does our life have a purpose to it? Did God place us on this earth and in this time to fulfill some grand purpose or mission, or are we just here by chance waiting for the day until we can see God in person? These are questions of identity that we have all asked. They seek to define who we are and why are we here.
They are questions that we do not just see Lincoln asking in this clip. They are not just questions that we ask. Indeed, I believe they are questions that we can assume Moses asked of himself. Our passage from Exodus 3:1-15 catches up with Moses after a time of major life transitions. He has been pulled out of the Nile River and made a part of the Egyptian court, yet exiled after he killed an Egyptian who was being abusive to a Hebrew. Now, some years past, Moses walks the wilderness around Midian, caring for the sheep that belong to his father-in-law, Jethro. Maybe Moses has asked the questions we ask. Why did all of this happen? How do I make sense of my life? Is there anything for me to do? What Moses, and we, find out through this passage is that in fact there is a purpose for our lives. God has a deep desire for each and everyone of us. A desire for us to join with the Lord in sharing hope in our communities and “making disciples of Jesus Christ” through the use of our gifts and talents.
The story that comes to us this morning is one of the most familiar of all Scripture. Moses is out with the sheep and comes upon a bush on Mount Horeb, which is also called Mount Sinai and is the same mountain Moses would receive the Ten Commandments on, which is on fire, yet is not consumed by the fire’s flames. It is an unusual sight, and it has intrigued Moses. He turns to move toward the sight and see what is taking place.
It is here, at this moment, that the story begins. God begins to engage Moses’ fascination by speaking to him through the bush. What God says is that he has heard the cries of his people. They are hurting. They are in physical and emotional pain through their enslavement in Egypt and are in need of help. God has heard their cries. In the midst of their pain and in the midst of their hurting, God speaks a word of his presence and action. God is about to redeem the people and he wants Moses to join him in this effort.
God is calling Moses. God tells Moses that his purpose is to help bring hope and redemption to the people of Israel. All of us have a calling or purpose for our lives. In fact, we have two of them. Our first purpose is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is our primary purpose – to have faith and to be in a relationship with the Lord. Our second purpose is how we response to our love of God to share our hope in the Lord. All of us have gifts and talents that God has endowed us with in order to serve the church and to bring hope into our communities. What God has given us, talents and abilities that make us special and unique, God desires for us to use them to grow the kingdom of God and to share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ through our words and actions.
Moses’ purpose was to respond to his faith to rescue his people from slavery. God wants Moses to go back to this familiar land and to get the new Pharaoh to release the Hebrews, the people of Israel, so they may leave to worship the Lord. All of Moses’ talents and gifts were give to him for this purpose – to lead the people out of slavery and into a new hope centered on God’s everlasting love and presence.
Yet, Moses has some doubts. Just like we do when we think about whether God has a purpose for our lives. We start to question and wonder if we are really up to the task. We may even say that there is no way that God has called us, because we just cannot do that which God has asked us to do.
That is much like Moses. Moses, the one who first responded to God by saying “Here I Am,” is now saying “Who Am I?” Moses questions his ability to lead the people out of slavery. He questions whether Pharaoh would listen to him. He wonders if God should have asked someone else, maybe his brother Aaron, to do this task.
Throughout this interaction on Mount Horeb, Moses levels a series of objections at God as to why he cannot perform his work. How does God respond to his objections and to our own? We see God enter into a dialogue with Moses. A dialogue where God shows that Moses is fitted, equipped, and able to do this work. He is fitted and able to live out his promise because God will never abandon him. God promises Moses that he would never be alone with Pharaoh. Just as God was with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so would God be with Moses as he went about this work.
That promise is the same for us. We are fitted and able to live out our purposes because God is with us. God does not give us some task such as, for instance, “bring in new people to the church,” and leave us to figure out the work. He walks with us and gives us the tools, abilities, and connections to live out our purposes in relationships with others.
At the same time, we see that Moses is fitted and able to do this work because not only is God with him, but also God is partnering with him to redeem Israel. It is not just on Moses’ shoulders to do this work. God uses Moses to bring redemption and a new life to the people. Through Moses’ life, God will do the work of leading the people into a new way of life and getting justice for the injustice done towards them.
God seeks to work in and through us to do some amazing things. Each of us have different gifts and talents. Some of us have great financial abilities. Some of us are great with our hands and labor skills. Some of us have gifts of teaching. Some of us are empathetic. We could continue. Whatever gifts that we have, God seeks to use those gifts and us to bring forth a new reality of hope into our communities. The talents that we have enable us to live out the purposes God has for us to serve the church and our communities. They are tools for which God seeks to partner with us to make the name of Jesus known to all people.
The way Moses would live out his purpose will be seen as we continue our journey through the book of Exodus. The way we will live out our purpose will be seen in how we answer the question asked of us in the clip this morning. “Do we chose to be born or are we fitted for the times for which we are born into?”
I hope that you will see that God has a purpose for you. A purpose to be about the work, in big and small ways, to helping us “make disciples of Jesus Christ” here in our community. No matter how old or young we are, no matter how rich or poor we are, no matter how busy or relaxed we are, God has a purpose for our lives to share hope into our world.
This week, I want to invite all of us to ask God what purpose he has for your life right now. Ask God to show you his desires and how he seeks to use you here in our church or in our community. As you do so and if you have any questions about how God might be leading you, give me a call and let’s talk.
All of us are fitted for a purpose to love God and to serve the Lord. All of us have gifts and talents to be used in that work. What is God calling you to do for the church and our community?