This story is based on the old testament reading for this Sunday. Hopefully it speaks for itself....
I was a refugee really, and it was my own fault. Once upon a time I had had it all. I was adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter and lived in a palace, but my hot temper got me into trouble. I saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, and knowing that they were my own people, anger flared inside me, so I killed the bully, but of course you cannot hide crimes like that easily. They catch up with you, and so it was with me.
The Pharaoh tried to kill me, and suddenly I had to run for my life. I didn't really think or plan, I just ran off to the land of Midian. But, thankfully the people in Midian were kind to me, took me in, and let me live as one of their own. A priest there let me marry one of his daughters, and I made a new life for myself. I even forgot I'd ever lived as an Egyptian, and yet, that time I spent in that land, and the language of my youth, those years I thought were wasted, were to come in very useful later, but I didn't know that then.
So then I became a shepherd. I didn't have sheep of my own, I wasn't that rich, but I tended the flock of my father in Law Jethro the Midian Priest. He was a kind man, who looked after us well, but sometimes i did wonder if he only did this because of his daughter,. still, no matter, we were fed and housed and felt useful. Some people would say it was a bit of a come down, being reduced to overseeing sheep after being in the civil service, but I didn't care. The atmosphere was less opressive and I saw much less cruelty with only the occasional lion or bear to chase away.
But then came my big life changing event....The event which was so incredible that I know some people's eyebrows will shoot up when I tell it. For there I was, looking after the sheep, and frankly i was a little bored, because sheep don't really do much, apart from eat and walk around and go baa. I thought for a second I'd been daydreaming, so I pinched myself, but, no, that was not the case, I was really seeing what I was seeing.
It was a bush." So what" you may reply," there are plenty of bushes in the desert", maybe so, but this bush was on fire. Yes you might reply, well the hot sun can scorch bushes sometimes and they can combust if the atmosphere is dry.
OK, well in that case why are the leaves of this bush green and vibrant? In fact the bush seemed to be doing rather well even though it was on fire. I was truly very puzzled. It was a bizarre sort of phenomenon, but maybe if I went closer there would be a more obvious explanation as to why this was so.
So I walked closer, and then I heard the VOICE. It called me by name. The BUSH called me by name. Not just "Oy you, shepherd blokey" but "Moses" How could a bush possibly know my name? So I said , somewhat shakily "here I am" I didn't know what else to say really. I was here, I was scared but I hadn't run away...yet. And I was playing for time to see what the voice said next. And then the voice said "Come no closer. And take off your sandals, you are standing on holy ground."
So I did what the bush told me, and took off my sandals, and yes I could feel the holiness of that earth tingling beneath my feet as I stared at the bush, gently shaking and wondering who it was that was talking to me. It must be someone important. An angel perhaps.
And as the voice identified itself, I hid my head with shame and wonder, for it was GOD. THE God, the one TRUE God. THe God of our fathers Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob. Not any old wooden pretend God such as the ones the locals worshipped. Nope the real deal. And I was afraid to see his face for I might die of shock. Part of me felt like I should kneel or something, but I was rooted to the spot, so I just listened as the voice told me more.
"I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out becase of their slave drivers and I am concerned about their suffering."
And I felt moved. Because all that time when the Israelites had been saying. Where is God, doesn't He know we are suffering, doesn't he care? It turned out, that all that long lonely time, he had been listening, and He did care, and he was concerned, was hatching rescue plans, and now and he was going to put them into action, to do something about it! I was thrilled to see what He was going to come up with. What stunningly huge armies he was going to send to beat up the baddies and rescue the innocent.
The voice promised that he would take the people to a land flowing with milk and honey, a land populated by many other tribes. But then came the scariest bit of this conversation. The voice told me to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites back.
erm ME. not an army of angels, not a human army or even a super human giant. Nope. Just me. One person verses the ruler of an empire. And then I really felt shaky.
For who Am I? I'm just one sad skint refugee. And so I asked that question. Who am I that I should be given this enormous task? Nobody special that's sure.
But God replied. "I will be with you. And as a sign I promise you will come and worship me on this mountain when its all over."
So I was not alone, but at that moment I certainly felt a little alone, for the company of this great and mighty being, was so awesome and amazing. yet I tried to reassure myself. For God actually said that this huge task was something that HE was going to do,not something that I was going to do. And so maybe I should just try to do what He said and not get in the way, not keep my sandals on and ruin his plans, but take them off and listen to His guiding voice.
But even so, I couldn't resist asking this deity its name. Me, moses, asking the creator of the universe what I should call him. I was a bit scared even phrasing the question, so I sort of did it cunningly. I created a scenario where the Israelites asked me what they should call God and asked God in a second hand sort of way. I thought he might be less angry about the rudeness then, for if you know someone's name, you have power over them. You call it out, and they will turn round!
But God was not angry. But then nor did he give a direct answer. He gave more of a description than a real name. He said "I am who I am", but he said so in the Hebrew language, which has no tenses, so he also said, I will be who I will be, and I was who I was. He just is, he just was, he just will be. A kind of constant rock in an ever changing world. And a God who reaches into our future as well as our past, who knows what's coming, and has it all planned already, like a reassuring peek at the last page of a novel that is only half read.
And then he said that this is his name forever and his title for all generations. So there it was, I had the most daunting task I had ever been given, one that seemed impossible. For surely I would be arrested and hanged as soon as I set foot in Egypt. But, I also had this promise, from none other than the Creator of the Universe, that I would get out of Egypt alive a promise given by someone who had been with me in that future, who was going to be with me in that future, and who KNEW that it would be so.