Sunday, March 28, 2010

eucharistic courage

When the hour for the Passover meal came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Then he took the cup and said, “This cup is poured out for you. This is the new covenant in my blood.”

Let me begin by saying thank you. Thanks for being here tonight. Thanks for being ready to come up and take Communion. Thank you for your courage. I’m not joking – what you’re about to do is incredibly brave. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” And that’s exactly what we’re here for tonight. Now before you freak out, I’m not going to pull a Jim Jones and pass out Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. But – what you’ve come to do tonight require you to be courageous. The Eucharist takes courage.

Now, to understand what I’m talking about, to understand what Jesus was doing in tonight’s Gospel when he instituted the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we need to understand something central to Jesus’ 1st century Palestinian Jewish world – and that’s symbolism. Jesus’ world was steeped in symbols.

A symbol, by definition, takes one thing and uses it to say something else. Let’s look at a few examples from Jesus’ Bible, or as we call it, the Old Testament. The prophet Hosea married a prostitute to symbolize Israel’s infidelity. Jeremiah preached while holding a pair of dirty underwear – a symbol of Israel’s filth. Ezekiel cooked a meal over his own poop. I have to say this is a symbol I have yet to see the big stink about. My point is this – symbols were central to Jesus’ world. Jesus’ world was steeped in symbols.

And so it shouldn’t surprise us to discover that symbols were central to Jesus’ ministry. After all, there is a reason he chose 12 disciples – it was a symbol for the 12 tribes of Israel being restored through his ministry. There’s a reason that he chose to be baptized, even though he was sinless. It was a symbol for his mission to be numbered among the transgressors on the cross. There’s a reason Jesus prayed in a garden the night before he died – the Garden of Gethsemane was a symbol for Eden, for that which was lost when Adam and Eve rebelled. Jesus’ ministry was steeped in symbols.

And so it also shouldn’t surprise us that when Jesus gathered his disciples around a table at the Passover, took a piece of bread, broke that bread, and then gave it to his disciples, this too was a symbol. In fact, this was Jesus’ last great symbol before he died. Jesus took bread. Jesus broke bread. Jesus gave bread. And so here’s my question. Assuming he wasn’t just loading up on carbs – that this meal was Jesus’ last great symbol – what was Jesus trying to say? When Jesus took the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread – what did this taking, this breaking, this giving symbolize? Why does it take courage to eat this meal in particular, week after week, like he told us to do?

The Last Supper happens during Passover – a Jewish festival that celebrates the exodus. And so to unlock the meaning of Jesus’ greatest symbol there’s something we need to recall about the first Passover night. God told the people of Israel to slaughter a lamb, take its blood, and place it on the doorposts of their home. This blood, God promised, would protect them and save them. Yes – judgment would be passed on the first-born of Egypt. But – those protected by the blood of a lamb would be “passed over.” The blood would protect them and save them.

And so this meal, the Passover meal, was a symbol – a symbol of what God had done, a symbolic meal Jews shared year after year. And this symbol was so important that to not celebrate the Passover was to reject the covenant. It’d be like burning the American flag. But even more, to not celebrate the Passover was basically saying that you had lost hope in God. Why? Because Jews in Jesus’ day were praying for a second exodus, and for God to bring about a new covenant. In other words, looking back to what God had done – set them free – they prayed for what God would do – set the entire creation free.

Now with that in mind, let’s go back to that Upper Room – to the “last supper” that takes place at the Passover. Rather than looking back to the first exodus, to the first covenant, Jesus looks forward to a new exodus, to the new covenant He’s going to bring about. And like in the first Passover, blood will be shed – but it won’t be the blood of a lamb. It will be the blood of the Lamb. Like in the first Passover, judgment will take place. But it won’t be on the firstborn of Egypt. It will be on the firstborn of God. As Jesus gathers his disciples in that Upper Room, he tells them once again that blood will be shed – blood that will protect them and save them. “This is my blood,” he says, “given for you.” But to emphasize, to hammer home whose blood that must be, how the new covenant will come about, Jesus makes use of his last great symbol. And so taking a piece of bread he says, “This is my body, given for you.” “This bread – this is my body. What happens to this bread will happen to me.” And then he broke it. And he gave it to them as food.

These symbols that Jesus gives us – when he took the bread, when he broke the bread, and when he gave the bread – mean at least these three things.

First, this meal symbolizes what Jesus did for us. Like the bread Jesus is taken. The Roman authorities take him and nail him to a cross. He’s taken by the will of His Father, He’s taken by the leading of the Spirit, He’s taken by a vision of the Kingdom of God and set apart to establish that Kingdom here on earth. In his own words, “I came not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Jesus is taken.

Second, like the bread Jesus is broken. His heart is broken by the sin and faithlessness that surround him. His body is broken and bruised as he’s nailed to a cross. His Spirit is broken as He cries out to His Father only to hear silence. Jesus is broken.

Third, Jesus is given to the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to the end that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God gave his only Son. To us. To bring about the new covenant. To set creation free. Jesus is taken, broken, and given to the world for this very purpose.

But that’s only half the story. Jesus then gives his disciples the bread and says, “Eat it,” which in Jesus’ symbol steeped world means, “may what happens to this bread, may what happens to me, happen to you too. If you eat this bread my story will become your story. My life will become your life. Take this bread – my broken body given for the world – and eat it.”

Do you see now why Eucharistic worship takes courage? Eucharistic worship takes courage because, whether we realize it or not, every time we approach God’s altar and hold out our hands we accept our mission as the people of God – we pray that what happened to Jesus will happen to us. Eucharistic worship takes courage because God answers that prayer.

First, God will take us. Right where we are. It doesn’t matter how sinful we are, how many shameful secrets we have, or how unworthy we feel. God will take us.

Second, God will break us. He will break us of our pride. He will break us of our self-sufficiency. He will break us of our idols – of whatever it is in our life other than Him that we think will give meaning to our life. The living Lord that says, “take up your cross and follow me” will lay a cross upon our back. And that cross will break us.

Finally, God will give us to the world as food. The Lord who laid down his life for us will teach us to lay down our life for the world. We’ll become what Paul calls a “living sacrifice.” And by laying down our life for the world we’ll take our part in God’s work to set the creation free.

Someone once told me that they love how the Episcopal Church doesn’t do altar calls. They were obviously grossly misinformed. Because we do one every single week. And it takes courage to come forward. Because we’re not asking you to accept Christ. We are bidding you to come and die – to be taken, broken, and given to the world as ministers of Christ’s new covenant. We’re asking for Jesus’ story to become your story. For Jesus’ life to become your life. For Jesus’ death to become your death. And so once again, thank you for your courage. Because what you’re about to do is incredibly brave.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

chosen (Isaiah) -- OMEGA

chosen (Isaiah)

At least once a month someone asks me the question, “how’d you decide to become a priest?” And that’s a hard question to answer because I don’t believe I did. Honestly, I don’t. I really believe that God chose me for this work. I’m not so sure that I decided to become a priest. I’m not saying that I’m a puppet or that God is just pulling the strings. But I don’t think I’m here right now because of a decision that I made. I think I’m here right now because of a decision that God made. I think I’m chosen for this work. And you know what’s weird? I don’t think I’m special. I believe that God is invested in your life, too – just like He is in mine. I honestly believe that tonight I am speaking to a group of people who are also chosen for God’s work. I honestly believe that you are called.

And so tonight, I’d like to do something a little bit different, and that’s start with our bible reading to talk about being called or being chosen. Our reading comes from Isaiah.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’ 
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! ‘Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

In order to talk about being chosen, I’m going to give us four C’s to help guide our minds – context, confrontation, conversion and call.


Hearing God’s call doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We all have a context, a history, and a background. The call of Isaiah does not begin with a vision. It begins with a context. What is that context? “In the year that King Uzziah died.” Uzziah’s death – that is the context for Isaiah’s call.

If you haven’t heard of Uzziah, he was a remarkable king and he did a lot to bless his people. He was a military genius, building an army of over 300,000 soldiers. He also fortified Jerusalem, which meant that under Uzziah’s rule, the people of Israel were finally safe. Uzziah was an economic guru, a spiritual leader, and a pillar of the people. With the exception of David and Solomon, Uzziah was remembered as the most stable, wise, faithful and powerful King that Israel ever had. But more than that, his reign lasted 52 years – that’s more than Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush’s combined. Imagine having a president for fifty-two years with a 100% approval rating. In the land of Israel, Uzziah is all that they knew and they depended on their king. Their king was their refuge. But then one day – their refuge dies.

Question – what do you do when Uzziah dies? For their whole life, Uzziah had been on the throne. He was their anchor, their source of strength, their refuge, their king. But now he’s dead.

Here’s what I’d like to suggest. The death of our anchor, the death of our king, is the context for hearing the call of God. Our Uzziah dies. We come to see that our anchor can’t hold us and that we need a new one. We come to see that the source of our strength is either gone or inadequate. We come to see that our king – whatever that is or whoever that is – is mortal and subject to death and that we desperately need a king that is immortal, a king that can never die.

Now, the death of Uzziah is different for each of us. It could be an earth-shattering event – the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the end of a relationship that we were fully invested in. Or, our lives can just unravel. And that unraveling can be dramatic – a panic attack or a meltdown. Or, that unraveling could just be a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo – a realization that the source of our strength, whatever that is, is fleeting. But death – that’s the context for hearing the call of God. Uzziah dies. We come to see that what we were relying on or who we were relying on cannot save us and that we need a new anchor.


Our second “C” is confrontation. Isaiah is confronted with the presence of God. And notice the irony. King Uzziah is dead, which means that the throne is now empty. But then Isaiah looks up and where does he see God? Sitting on a throne. Isaiah turns his eyes from the throne of man and beholds the throne of God. Knowing Uzziah to be dead, Isaiah comes to know that God is alive. Isaiah is confronted with a vision of the Living God.

And the reason I say confronted is because Isaiah comes to see that the Living God is holy. According to Isaiah, even the angels cover their faces. The angels can’t even look as they cry holy, holy, holy, over and over again. And as a side note, repetition is the bible’s only way to emphasize something. There aren’t any capital letters or exclamation points in the Hebrew language and so the only tool for emphasis is repetition. Now, a lot of words in the bible are repeated twice but only once does an attribute of God get repeated three times. And what is that attribute? It’s not “loving, loving, loving” or “compassionate, compassionate, compassionate.” Of course, God is most definitely loving and most certainly compassionate. But only holiness is repeated three times. This is significant. Holiness gets to the core of who God is.

Now, most people hear the word holiness and think about moral purity. But holiness is much more complicated than that. The Hebrew word qadosh means set apart and refers to someone or something that is totally different. To say that God is holy is to say that God is totally different. It’s to say that God is different in a way that is wonderful and mysterious and terrifying and exciting. And that “total difference,” that holiness, leads Isaiah to our third “C.”


“And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

After seeing the truth about God, Isaiah saw the truth about himself, and he spoke the truth about himself – I am lost! Seeing the truth about ourselves is rare. We tend to downplay our sin and our weaknesses. We minimize the reality of our sin, the cost of our wrong choices, and the damage we’ve done to ourselves and to each other. It’s like we’re born wearing special sunglasses that darken our perspective and keep us from seeing the truth. But then we’re confronted with the great and terrifying holiness of God and that confrontation makes us ripe for conversion. It rips off our sunglasses, or perhaps I should say our sin-glasses. After seeing God for who He truly is – holy – we see ourselves for who we truly are – people of unclean lips.

And notice, Isaiah says something incredibly profound. “I’m lost.” Another translation of the Hebrew word is “ruined.” “Woe” is me he says. Woe is a word of judgment that the prophets typically spoke on other people. But the prophet Isaiah speaks woe on himself. Because in the light of God’s holiness, Isaiah is undone and he comes to see that unless God’s grace intervenes he will be utterly ruined. Fortunately, God’s grace does intervene, though perhaps not in the way we usually imagine. Here’s how it happens.

An angel takes a live coal and holds it to Isaiah’s lips. This is Isaiah’s image of grace. In fact, the coal is so hot that the angel of God has to use a pair of tongs. The angel can’t even use his hands, but Isaiah has to allow the coal to burn one of the most sensitive parts of his body. And this tells us something important about grace. There is real pain – a real sting – that comes with conversion. We often assume that grace means the absence of pain. But according to Isaiah that’s just not the case. Deep, deep grace – at least initially – can make us feel a deep, deep pain.

You see, the goal of God’s grace is to change us, which is what I mean when I say “conversion.” The goal of God’s grace isn’t to spare us from pain but to redeem our character, and I hate to say this, but pain can do wonders for our character. After all, it’s painful whenever our Uzziah dies. But it’s still grace. It’s painful when we’re confronted with the reality of our sin in the light of God’s holiness. But it’s still grace.

One of my favorite writers – Brannan Manning – is an alcoholic and he writes a lot about how God’s grace allowed him to hit rock bottom. He writes about how in order to change, he had to see the wasted years, the ruined relationships, the devastating lies, and the utter selfishness. It was God’s painful grace, he says, that allowed him to see the truth.

A lot of Christian mystics tell us to pray for the gift of tears. And if you’ve ever read their writings, you come to see that they all prayed, on a regular basis, for a broken heart – what they called the gift of tears. That was their prayer – for God’s light to penetrate their souls, to reveal the presence of sin, and to bring them to tears. When’s the last time you prayed for that? I’ll be honest – it’s been a while for me. But God’s painful grace is something we should be seeking. It is a good thing to feel lost because it opens us up to the power of being found, which moves us to “C” number four.


Our life is found in the call of God. God doesn’t heal Isaiah for his sake alone but so that he can live out his prophetic call. “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” That’s God’s question and for the first time Isaiah is ready to respond. “Here am I. Send me.”

If we asked Isaiah “how’d you decide to become a prophet” what do you think he’d say? Who knows, but I imagine it’d be along the lines of “I didn’t choose God, God chose me.” But you know what’s weird? I don’t think Isaiah is special. I believe that God is just as invested in the lives of the people in this room as He was in Isaiah’s. And I honestly believe that tonight I’m speaking to a group of people who are chosen for God’s work. I honestly believe that you are called. I guess the only question is – to what?

Well, I think that you and I are ultimately chosen for the same thing. And since not all of you are called to be priests, that mean’s my primary call is not to be a priest. My primary call, your primary call, is something else. Our primary call is to be holy, like God is holy. Our call is to be transformed so much in the depth of our souls that we become totally different in a way that is wonderful and mysterious and terrifying and exciting. In a world of hate, we are chosen to be set on fire with love. In a world that is selfish, we are chosen to be surprisingly selfless. In a world full of dull sameness, we are chosen to be different. Just like God.

Jesus put it like this in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Think again about our reading from Isaiah, where even the angels had to cover their eyes in the presence of God. But then along comes Jesus, who knew the Book of Isaiah backwards and forwards, and says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” I think that’s our common call. To have a pure heart. Just like God. So that one day, we can see Him. So that we don’t have to cover our faces.

Does anyone know what the Greek word ekklesia means, which is where we get the word church? It means to be “called out.” If we think that we’re not called to anything than we’ve misunderstood Christianity. We are all called out. Not one of us is special, and yet every single one of us is special.

I’m sure you’ve been told that you’re made in the image of God, which is true, but tonight I want to tell you what that means. In biblical times, kings would strategically place their image all over their land. For example, kings would put up statues of themselves and stamp their image on coins. Coins were made in the image of the king. Statues were made in the image of the king. This was the king’s way of reminding the people who was in control.

In the same way, each of us is called to be an image for our King. To a world that mourns the death of Uzziah, we are chosen to represent the King that cannot die, to remind people that there is One seated on the throne of heaven and that he reigns over us all. The king of heaven has strategically placed you all over His land. Our call is to be so loving and so selfless and so different that people are reminded who the true King is.

We may or may not hear it but God is asking each of us – whom shall I send, and who will go for us? In other words, who will represent us?

What a blessed thing it is to feel God’s painful grace, to stop mourning the death of Uzziah, to see a vision of the King eternal that cannot die, and then to respond with the words of Isaiah.

Here am I. Send me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

the perfect vessel

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 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." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the LORD said, "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, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" He said, "I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain." But Moses said to God, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM Who I AM." He said further, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.

One of the curses of ordained ministry is that people assume that I have it all together – that because God called me to be a priest that somehow I must be special. They obviously don’t know me well. The truth is I get lonely and anxious. I’m sinful and stubborn and scared and fumble through life trying to balance serving God and managing my problems. But the assumption is that I’ve got it all together, that I’m a spiritual giant, that somehow I must be special. And logically, this makes sense. We live in a world where the best and the brightest have a competitive edge. In the Kingdom of the world, the more impressive our resume, the more likely we’ll get picked. That’s just how the Kingdom of the world works – but what about the Kingdom of God? Does God delight in calling the strong? Does God pick people who have it all together to do His work? Do we have to be special to do something great for God?

Tonight I want to tell you a story. It’s a story about God and about God’s work here on earth and about the people God uses to do that work. It’s a story that begins with a guy named Abraham and with a promise that God makes to him. “Through you and your descendants I want to bless the entire world.” That’s the promise. Now, in the context of this biblical story, humanity has fallen from grace, the world is out of joint, people don’t know God, they don’t love him, they’re not happy and so God draws up a rescue plan and chooses Abraham to be play a pretty key role. “Through you and your descendants I’m going to fix this mess. I’m going to use your descendants, your children, to bless the entire world.”

Well, by the time the Book of Exodus begins Abraham’s descendants – the Israelites – have been slaves in Egypt for four hundred years. And maybe a few of these slaves have heard about God’s promise, but I doubt they believe it because all they’ve known is slavery. Imagine being born in a prison cell and then hearing a story about your great, great, great, great, great grandfather who was promised by God in 1509 that one day you’d live in a palace. Would that story give you hope as you sat rotting in your cell? I seriously doubt it. And so as the book of Exodus opens, the situation looks hopeless.

Well, just when it seems things can’t get any worse they do. The Egyptian Pharaoh starts worrying about the Israelites because when God commands them to be “fruitful and multiply,” they’re like “heck yea.” These people have a lot of babies and pharaoh doesn’t want to be outnumbered – after all, that would be bad for national security – and so he gets Congress to pass a law – newly born Israelite boys will be killed and thrown into the Nile.

Well, one day an Israelite boy is born by the name of Moses and his mother can’t stand the thought of losing him. And so she hides him for three months, and when she can’t hide him anymore, she makes a little basket and sets baby Moses down to float along the Nile hoping against hope for a miracle. Well, in an ironic twist, Pharaoh’s own daughter finds Moses and decides to keep him, which means, that Moses – the Israelite – is now the adopted grandson of Pharaoh himself – the one that originally wanted him dead.

Well, baby Moses grows up to discover that he’s living in two different worlds. On the one hand, he’s concerned for his own people – after all, he is an Israelite. But on the other hand, Moses is educated, trained, and raised – not only as an Egyptian – but as Egyptian royalty. Remember, he’s the adopted grandson of Pharaoh. We can assume he lives in a palace. He has nice food, nice clothes – I’m sure he has a few slaves of his own. But, he’s not an Egyptian. He’s an Israelite. Talk about a messed up situation – Moses’ own biological family are slaves in his own Kingdom. Today’s Old Testament reading comes from Exodus 3, but listen to what happens in Exodus 2.

When Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his people, the Israelites, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of the Israelite slaves. 12 After looking around to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.

Now, some preachers give Moses’ act a positive spin, but the Bible just doesn’t support this position. God doesn’t tell Moses to kill this dude. He murders him in cold blood. Well, the following morning Moses makes the front page of the Egyptian Post, and Pharaoh – his own grandfather – puts a price on his head. And so Moses – a convicted murderer – runs for his life and flees to the land of Midian.

And so fast-forward a couple years. Moses is now in the witness protection program. Moses gets a new wife – a cute little thing by the name of Zipporah. He’s gets a new career – deciding to enter the Midian shepherd training program. And finally, Moses has a son. And so Moses – the runaway killer – gets a “second chance at life.”

That’s enough background for tonight’s Old Testament reading from Exodus. Moses has been in Midian for forty years, he has a whole life behind him that no one even knows about, a life he’s ashamed of, but one day everything changes. God comes to Moses and says, “I’m choosing you – Moses I want you, of all people, to be the one to confront Pharaoh. I choose you Moses to set my people free.” Do you see why Moses’ response makes sense? Who am I? I’m not special. I’m not strong. I clearly don’t have my shniz together. Who am I to do this work?

And he’s right. I mean, could God have chosen a more dysfunctional person? Moses has never met his parents. He’s adopted. Ethnically he’s an Israelite but he’s raised an Egyptian. Moses has identity issues. He doesn’t know who he is. With one hand he enslaves the Israelites, with the other he avenges their abuse. Moses is impulsive. He kills a man in cold blood. He’s also a coward. Not wanting to be a man and own up to his mistake, Moses runs away to Midian and begins living a lie. And if all that weren’t enough, we later learn that Moses stutters – probably a nervous tick that developed from his dysfunctional life in the palace. Years of therapy couldn’t sort this stuff out. Moses doesn’t have it all together. He doesn’t feel very strong and God knows he isn’t special. And so when God calls him and says “I’m choosing you” Moses naturally objects. “You’ve made a mistake. You obviously don’t know about my past. Who am I?”

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes: “Consider your own call: not many of you were wise, not many powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” In other words, God doesn’t delight in calling the strong. He delights in calling the weak. Why? Because they are the perfect vessel to display His strength.

Now, I know we were raised to believe that the people in the Bible were heroes. But I’m going to give it to you straight. Abraham was a creepy old man. Jacob was insecure. Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused. Gideon was poor. Rahab was immoral. David was an adulterer. Elijah was suicidal. Jeremiah was depressed. Jonah was reluctant. John the Baptist was eccentric. Peter was impulsive. Martha was anxious. The Samaritan woman couldn’t hold together a marriage to save her life. Zacchaeus was unpopular. Thomas had doubts. Paul was a cripple. Timothy was timid. And I think you know where I stand with Moses. These are the people our God has chosen to work through. They’re not strong. They’re not special. They don’t have it all together. And that’s precisely why God chose them. They were the perfect vessel to display His strength.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there are two things about your life that I know are true. First, you don’t have it all together. If you’re anything like me, you get lonely and anxious; you’re sinful and stubborn and scared and you fumble through life trying to balance serving God and managing your problems. One way or another, I know the world’s taken its toll on you. You don’t have it all together.

Second, you are called to do great work for God. I don’t know what that looks like, but none of you are called to be a shepherd in Midian. You’re called to confront Pharaoh, to bring God’s people to freedom, to taste that freedom for yourself, to speak with God face to face like Moses did. I know there’s a burning bush out there for you too and the reason I’m preaching this sermon is because I don’t want you to miss it. I know what you’re thinking – who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? I’m not strong. I’m not special. I don’t have it all together. Who am I? You are the perfect vessel to display God’s strength.