Pentecost: Found by God’s Grace
From the sermon:
Today we’re kicking off a new, brief series called Found: Following God into an Unknown Future. We’ll look at a few excerpts from the life and story of Moses as we move into the summer and into our pastoral transition. As I’ve been preparing for this series, I kept coming back to some fundamental truths that we see in Moses’ life that will help guide us through celebration, grief, uncertainty, and into the future.
We begin this week with the story of God calling out to Moses in the burning bush. This is one of the most mysterious and yet most well-known images in all of scripture.
We’re talking a lot about Midian. I think this “wilderness of unknowing” (I’ve long used this phrase, but can’t tell you who I originally heard it from) is a good metaphor for us in many seasons of life, but also especially for us as a community of faith preparing to go into an unknown future.
One of the invitations of Exodus 3 and 4 is to think about reasons that we tell God “no” in our lives, either explicitly or implicitly. It may not be so vivid a call as Moses, but we have a tendency to make excuses and provide ‘really good reasons’ why we don’t do the things that we know we ought to. You might want to consider Moses’ four reasons/excuses and one pleading and see how they relate to your life.
Acts 2 is the traditional Pentecost reading. Pentecost comes about 50 days after Easter, and is when we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming to the early disciples. Jesus has promised this gift intermittently in each of the Gospels. We celebrate this as the birthday of the church because this is when they begin to do the work and ministry that Jesus has been preparing them for. Each of them uses their various gifts of the Spirit to spread and share the good news and bring people into right relationship with God, themselves, each other, and the world.
The shared direction of both texts – that moves the recipients of God’s grace and presence out beyond themselves and into the world – cannot be overstated. I hope that one of our key takeaways today is that when we encounter God – in a big awe-inspiring moment, or a simple quite one, or slowly over a long period of time – we will also be invited to go into the world, to share and serve, and to partner with God in holy work in the world.
Finally, a lovely poem by R. S. Thomas that connects with our Exodus text, supplied for your reflection:
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
bonus: Hear R. S. Thomas read it here.
Questions for Reflection and Conversation:
- What scripture, phrase, or idea is capturing your attention?
- When have you experienced something you might call Midian?
- When have you recently encountered God’s Spirit at work in your life?