CALLED TO LOVE
10 But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” 13 But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. 16 He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. 17 Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”
Last week, God saw the plight of his people, he heard their cry. This week, God needs someone to take action—-to use New Testament language, someone who would make the word flesh. Sympathy, thoughts, prayers and good intentions are important but are not sufficient. Loving requires more than a good heart. It requires decision and action.
Moses certainly had compassion. He even took action—”He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (Exodus 2:12). But when called to take a public stand, Moses was not so eager. It is one thing to stand against something — to mobilize indignation around injustice—- and quite another to stand for something. A great deal of our current political polarization is fed by indignation. People, and perhaps particularly Christians, have trouble articulating what we stand for. The forces of evil—-disregard, disrespect and oppression must be stopped but that requires more than partisan self righteousness. We must stand for mindfulness, regard and justice. It is hard work and it always includes both vulnerability and risks. Moses knew those risks as well as anyone.
Biblically, God’s call is to a specific vocation or task in service to God—leave your homeland (Abraham), Go to Pharaoh (Moses), Go to Nineveh (Jonah), Go to Jerusalem (Jesus)….In present day, God’s call is usually thought of in terms of ministry—the leaders and pastors who devote their lives to the church. But, though that understanding applies, it is too narrow. God’s call belongs to every Christian. God’s call is the call to trust that we are loved and to live that love in the world. Figuring out what it means for each of us to be loving and how we will live that love is difficult but it is the task of every Christian.
Moses’, response, much like ours was to resist. He was afraid. He did not feel safe trusting God, he did not feel adequate to the task and part of him simply did not want the inconvenience of changing the direction of his life to accommodate God.
Moses had survived the Egyptian edict to kill the infant sons of the Israelites. He had survived being abandoned on a river and separated from his family. Though raised as Egyptian, he lived with a divided identity —he had the rights and privileges of a prince but also had a history of a slave. Matters got worse when he killed an Egyptian taskmaster. He became a fugitive in Midian where he finally settled and started a family. At the birth of his son, he said: “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.” (Exodus 2:22) That is a hard way to live.
After all of that travail, he must have been sighing with relief to feel relatively safe. But just when Moses could focus and build a life—albeit in an alien land, God called Moses to return to the jaws of Pharaoh. Such a request was preposterous and dangerous. There was no reason to believe such a mission could end well.
Moses resists God and God respects these human anxieties. God challenges Moses’ human understanding of the possible with demonstrations of signs and wonders. God shows him there are possibilities that cannot be imagined—a staff turning into a snake, his hand became leprous and then whole, and water changing into blood. It would seem that such demonstrations of God’s sovereignty would assure Moses. But they did not.
Moses complains he is not the man for the job—”I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Again, God counters. God reminds him who gave him speech in the first place. God is in charge, not Moses.
Moses still did not want to go. “O my Lord, please send someone else.” We are no different. God showed Moses his own view of the possible was too limited. God promised Moses would be sufficient—though by human standards his speech was poor. And finally God provided an ally to help Moses. God is portrayed as patient and encouraging but in the end, God is impatient with Moses ‘reasons’. God says enough!, JUST DO IT’.
Sometimes we need new ways of thinking, sometimes we need tools and allies for the task but finally we have to take the risks of love. Edmund Burke’s quote applies, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And it is equally true that the only way love can be alive in the world is for individual people to live it.
Even when we know we are promised God’s care, even when we know it is a good idea, and the right thing to do, just as often, we, like Moses, resist. We resist trusting God’s sufficiency, we fear our own inadequacies and we resist the considerable personal inconvenience required to live a life of love. Moses is every man and woman. Receiving God’s call requires facing ourselves with all of our limitations, inadequacies and outright sinfulness and trusting that jumbled mess to God. And finally answering God’s call means becoming God’s agent in the world.
Give us the faith and courage to answer. Let it be so.