Send Who?

Exodus 3:1-15     Romans 12:9-21     Matthew 16:21-28
What an amazingly terrible week it has been as we continue to hear stories about the devastation in Texas. And yet, is it amazingly wonderful to hear story after story of the resilience of those in Texas. It is with no small amount of pride that we post stories and tell tales of the “Cajun Navy” and the new development of the all volunteer “Texas Navy.”

Still, I will admit feeling slightly overwhelmed by all the information about the needs resulting from this storm. It leaves me a little punch drunk, and my temptation is to focus on the tasks that already felt overwhelming before the storm. Of course, I want to jump in and help however I can, but as soon as I do I am confronted by my own limitations.

I’m guessing that we’ve all felt that way from time to time, and I’ve asked a few friends to help me reflect on these types of experiences with you. They are going to share with you now a Reader’s Theater piece from the book, The Next Voice You Hear: Sermons We Preach Together. This story is called, Here I Am, Send Claude.

Reader 1:      The thing about burning bushes is –
                        they get our attention!
                       It’s not that Yahweh God
                       Loves showing off,
                       Or anything like that.

Reader 2:      “For my next trick, I present – a burning bush!”

Reader 1:      Burning bushes come in many forms,
                       In all sizes and shapes.
                      We are going about our own business,
                      Like Moses there at Horeb,
                      And suddenly our attention is captured…

Reader 2:      By the number of homeless ones in town,
                      Or the treatment of the misfit at work,
                      Or the weeds in the church garden,
                      Or the suffering of a good friend,
                      Or whatever…

Reader 1:      We see a need,
                      By George, someone ought to do something!
                      Golly, someone has got to start caring!
                      We can stand it no longer;
                      The problem cannot be ignored.
                      It will not go away by itself.
                      Something must be done.

                      And lo and behold, we are there,
                      Standing at our burning bush.
                      God has captured our attention,
                      Pinpointed a particular need,
                      At work… in the neighborhood… at church
                      In the family... in the world…
                      Someone has to start doing something!
                      That is clear at burning bushes.
                        But who is going to do it?
                      That is not so clear.
                      Who will tackle the job?
                      This is the part of the message
                      We have trouble understanding.
                      The need is clear,
                        But the name we keep hearing
                      As we stand by that bush,
                      The name of the doer God has in mind,
                      Must be a mistake.
                      It is our own name.

Reader 2:        Moses! Moses!

Reader 1:        Here I am.

Reader 2:      Moses, go down to Egypt Land;
                      Tell old Pharaoh,
                      To let my people, go.

Reader 1:      Right, Lord, something must be done in Egypt;
                      Someone must help your people there.
                      Thank goodness you see the need.
                      It is about time you got around to acting.
                      Congratulations, Lord. I am all for the project.
                      Here I am, Lord,
                      But send Dottie.

Dottie:           Here I am, Lord,
                       But I am already serving on three important committees;
                       Send Gladene.

Gladene:       Here I am, Lord,
                       But I have a house full of reweaving to finish;
                       Send Carol.

Carol:            Here I am, Lord,
                       But working full time, and running a hotel for relatives,
                       Is all I can do;
                       Send Dave.

Dave:             Here I am, Lord,
                       But I’m completely tied up in the World Wide Web;
                       Send Leigh.

Leigh:             Here I am, Lord,
                       But I’ve got to find a job;
                       Send Bill.

Bill:               Here I am, Lord,
                     But it is not in my job description;
                     Send Claude.

All:                Who’s Claude?

Reader 2:      Here I am…Send Claude!
                       It is natural, one supposes, to feel somewhat inadequate
                       When confronting burning bushes.
                       It is natural, one supposes,
                       When we really have our attention
                       Directed to a crucial need in human life,
                       To feel our own resources are not sufficient.

Reader 1:      At burning bushes, we empathize with Moses,
                       As he shouts out…

Reader 2:      I am not religious enough for this job, Lord.
                       I can’t go to Egypt; I am a wanted man there.
                       I am not a public speaker.
                       Here I am, but
                       Dottie is friendlier;
                       Send her.

Dottie:           Gladene is more conscientious;
                       Send her.
Gladene:       Carol has been a member longer;
                       Send her.
Carol:            Dave is taller;
                       Send him.
Dave:             Leigh has seminary training;
                       Send her.
Leigh:            Bill has more experience;
                       Send him.
Bill:               Here I am, Lord;
                       Send Claude.
All:                Who’s Claude?

Reader 1:      The trouble with burning bushes is
                       They don’t go away.
                       At burning bushes, we see a need.
                       We may feel inadequate.
                       We may be sure someone else could do it better.
                       We may not want to be bothered.
                       We wish the bush would go away.
                       But burning bushes are very personal;
                       That burning bush is for me.

Reader 2:      Not Dottie, Not Gladene, Not Carol, Not Dave,
                      Not Leigh, Not Bill, Not Claude…

Reader 1:      The burning bush I meet is my own.
                      It is my name I hear called.
                      There God calls me
                      To meet the particular human need I see.
                      No matter how I try to escape,
                      The name that is called remains the same.

Reader 2:      Moses! Moses!
Reader 1:      It is my name.
Reader 2:      Moses! Moses!
Reader 1:      Here I am; send Dottie.
Dottie:           Send Gladene.
Gladene:       Send Carol.
Carol:             Send Dave.
Dave:             Send Leigh.
Leigh:            Send Bill.
Bill:                Send Claude.
All:                 Who’s Claude?

Reader 1:      But the burning bush is not for Claude;
                       It is for me.
                       Claude has his own bush.
                       The bush I see,
                       The need God puts before my eyes,
                       In my mind, on my heart,
                       Has my name written on it,
                       And my name alone.

Reader 2:      “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
                       ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’
                       Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me!’”

Yes, Lord! Send me! How good and righteous it feels to say those words, yet how hard they can be to follow up. Maybe not amid a crisis when needs are so evident, but yeah – sometimes even then. Even so, I do love the way our little drama has taken away the blinders that keep us from seeing God’s constant invitation to the dance floor.

This faith that we live and love is much like a dance at times. It brings us off balance by claims of love that extend far beyond our Christian community and even to our enemies. We are even told to pick up our crosses, to place our hope and trust in heavenly things, and to leave both vengeance and redemption up to God.

And as our heads spin and follow our hearts and our hands, we find that we have come back around to the center; to the reality of loving and being loved.

Our particular witness in this community must always be grounded in this crazy, unnaturally familiar love that we share as followers of Jesus. Paul even made up a word to describe it (philostorgoi), because people that are not related do not naturally love one another as a family member. People, as a rule, do not naturally concern themselves with problems that do not directly affect them.
Yet the burning bush with my name on it commands me to be concerned. The cross that Jesus offers me commands me to be concerned. The love of this community that flows from that cross commands me to love even those that would harm me and my family.

And as hard as that is to swallow, I think it comes down to our old friend, Fred Rogers, who once said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say, "It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem." Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

The good news is that there are heroes all around, and many are sitting next to you. Our congregation has been actively supporting ongoing flood recovery efforts when many have disengaged. We continue to collect peanut butter for the UCO, and on top of that we collected 221 pounds of food for FoodNet. Obviously, this is a drop in the bucket of the needs all around, but for us, and for God’s glory, it’s kind of a big deal. But, as Paul counsels us, let’s not get a big head about it. Besides, there’s a lot more that needs doin’.

Our town is already seeing its hotels and homes and other places of refuge begin to fill. I imagine that, if we keep our eyes open, we’ll be seeing a burning bush or two in the days ahead. So, let us be grounded in love. Let us be willing to overcome evil with good, and let us keep our focus on the Kingdom of God – which Jesus came to show us; which we see more and more of through the opportunity to love. 

God’s Kingdom offers us no stability or security in this life, but it places us firmly in the eternal embrace of the one who is, was, and always shall be. It is this God who holds us through the storm. It is this God who suffers with us. It is this God that tells us that we were made for more than all of our silly schemes and social standings. It is this God that creates and redeems and provides again and again and again, and it is this God who hears the cry of those who suffer and calls my name and your name and sends us to proclaim salvation.

We’ll do that today at the Lord’s table, and we’ll do it tomorrow at someone else’s table. We’ll do it where we're called, and we’ll do it wherever where we can. And let the Lord break hearts of stone and give hearts for love alone wherever we go – even if it’s mine; even if it’s yours. And to God be the glory, now and always. Amen.

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