Stop. Stop. Stop. Let us ‘See’ the Burning Bush

 

Text: Exodus 3: 1-6

 

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

 

Message

 

Rev Abraham Varghese in his Documentary “Kick Kill Kinder” shows the impact of video games on youths and children. Apart from the violence it simulates and celebrates, the greatest impact of it is that children and youths have no excitement and wonder that makes life meaningful. The world of Virtual Reality is so spectacular and splendid that the world we live in fails to stimulate or excite. Everything is boring. In a recent survey done in Tokyo, Japan, Psychologist expressed shock that children under 12 have lost awe and wonder for everything. Even the prospect of travelling to the moon does not excite them. Similarly in a world of 24/7 News and Reality TV we have become numb to life. Nothing shocks us. Nothing excites us. Everything is normal. Nothing shakes us up. We have got used to people dying in bomb blasts. We are bored of the statistics of children dying of hunger. To shock us we need something more catastrophic.

 

In such a context we understand that Moses was out on a very mundane task of tending the flock. Burning bushes were a common feature then. It was everywhere. Moses could have easily missed it. But Moses slows down and says “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” This strange sight excited him. He was filled with wonder. This awe and wonder is the initiating point into his great ministry of liberating Israelites from slavery. Just for a moment imagine if Moses had missed the Burning Bush? Moses saw the Burning Bush. God spoke to him through this burning bush. God commissioned Moses to liberate Israelites at the Burning Bush. Seeing the Burning Bush was important.

 

Let us look at the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus is talking about Judgment. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25: 41-45)

 

In this passage the problem with people was that they did not see the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick and the prisoner. Funny part the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick and the prisoner were all  over the place. It was a routine sight. Nothing new or exciting. They got used to it. The pain and need of the people did not challenge them into action. The Judgment was on the excuse that they had eyes and they did not ‘See’.

Today we live in a world of spectacles. We are saturated with information and visuals. Nothing excites us. We have become apathetic to our neighbourhood. There are many burning bushes around us. But we do not bother to stop. We do not wait to see. We have become blind. Jesus commands us to slow down. He says “Take a break you who are in a mad rush. Slow down you who are determined by deadlines. Look around you who have eyes but do not see. Listen up, you who have ears but do not hear.” Let us stop for a while and ask ourselves, are we missing our Burning Bush. I will leave you with a parable that has helped me a lot. I have used it in many of my sermons as I feel it talks to all of us.

 

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. With music on and the glasses rolled up he was enjoying the bliss of speed. But suddenly  a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?” The young boy was apologetic. “Please, mister…please! I’m sorry but I didn’t know what else to do,” he pleaded. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop. I have been asking for help for the past two hours!” With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the child pointed to a spot just around a parked car. “It’s my brother,” he said. “He rolled off and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.” Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and nursed the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. “Thank you and May God bless you,” the grateful child told the stranger. Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent When the friends at office asked him why he was not repairing the dent, He answered.  “I need that dent to remind me not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!”

 

John Ortberg, the author of ‘The Life You’ve Always Wanted’ says that when he went to his spiritual mentor for an advice to have a more meaningful and spiritual life. His mentor gave him just one advice. “Learn the Art of Slowing Down. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Let us stop. Let us ‘See’ the Burning Bush.

 

 

 

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati

Advertisements

May I Have Your Attention Please

Text: Numbers 6: 22-26

 

The Lord said to Moses,  “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:“ ‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you  and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’

Message

Everything is now at the tip of our fingers. We can make calls, we can chat through Whatsapp, we can access facebook, we can Tweet, we can mail and blog. We live in the age of Smarphones. Without sounding preachy let me admit that my wife gets really irritated seeing how hooked on I am to the phone. Whenever she has something to say, I am engrossed in the phone. I argue that “I am listening. I can tell everything that you just told me.” Even if it is true is that enough? Wherever we go the technology has become so intrusive that even if we are physically present among our friends and relatives, we have become absent. We exist in a parallel world. We can’t hold a proper conversation with people in front of us. We are caught up in checking who liked our photos and status updates.  It is the peril of advancement in communication that we have failed in the basic art of communication. That is to pay attention to the person or the people in front of us. The biggest evidence of love is when we give attention to people. Our attention is indirectly saying that “You are very important to me. What you are saying matters a lot.” What an affirmation. So not paying attention gives the contrary message even if we intend or not.

The passage we have in front of us is a Priestly Blessing taught by God himself. It reveals one of the greatest truths that I love. God pays attention to us. Look at it. “The Lord turn his face toward you.”(vs 26).  John Ortberg says that turning your face toward someone is to give your wholehearted, undivided attention. It is a statement where God is saying to us “I have nothing else to do. I am fully available for you. You are important to me.” What is more fascinating is “The Lord make his face shine upon you.”(vs 24) How wonderful. This blessing says God will not only turn his face towards us, he will make it “shine” on us. The shining face is an image of delight, a joy that we cannot describe. Now how do we understand a “shining face”?

Let me explain. My father by far is the best listener that I have come across. When people talk to him, he is all attention. My wife Soji is very animated in her conversations. I happened to witness a conversation between my dad and her. She was narrating an incident of great joy  and I could see my  father’s face shine. He owns the happiness of the person speaking to him. He makes his listeners feel very special. (No wonder Soji keeps asking me “How come you are like this!!!”) That is what the blessing says. God is so much involved in us that his face shines on us. We are very special to Him.

He listens to our prayers. It is important to Him. We matter to Him. When I was a teenager, I had a doubt. My question and confusion was when there are so many people around us, how is it possible for God to pay attention to each and every prayer. I asked my mother this question. She told me a story. “Once there was a man called Henry. His life was full of problems and he felt that God is not answering his prayers. He kept asking ‘When there are so many people in this world how is it possible for God to pay attention to every prayer?’ Disturbed, he walked out of his home to stroll on the beach. It was night and darkness had filled his heart. He saw no hope. The sound of the waves was symbolic of the struggles within him. But in the darkness there was a little light. The light was moon. He kept walking the length and breadth of the beach. And suddenly like a child he realized that wherever he was going the moon was right on top of his head. He started to run, the moon was following him. When he stopped the moon stopped. When he walked the moon was travelling above with him. Henry then danced and jumped. “If there are a million people standing on this beach tonight, everyone would say that the moon is on top of their head. I have found my answer. Similarly when millions and millions pray to God, they feel his presence and find God with them.” This story may be too simple but it helped me a lot. Let us be clear on one thing. We are important to God. He pays attention to us.

If the God of the universe has time for his creation, time to pay attention to them, to celebrate with them, what excuse do we have? Let us regulate the technology that we have to enhance relationships. Let the gadgets that we have help us build bonds and not weaken or break them. Let us vow not to fidget with our phones in presence of another human being. Nothing is more insulting. Let us set our priorities. Let us overcome our addiction of indulging in ourselves. Let us thank God for turning His face to us. Let us be people who have experienced that joy. After communicating with God, the face of Moses shone. When we meet our friends are they seeing our face shining? Mostly our faces are blank. We have no joy. Let us take time to take the Bible and pray, so that we see the face of God shining on us. Let us keep our gadgets away and look into the eyes of the people in front of us. Let us enjoy the beauty of conversations and relationships that God created us for. May God Bless Us.

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Guwahati