25 Mar Third Sunday in Lent
March 24, 2019
Deacon Blaine Barclay
There is a song by the singer songwriter Steve Earle called ‘God Is God’ The first verse says.
I believe in prophecy.
Some folks see things not everybody can see.
And, once in a while, they pass the secret along to you and me.
And I believe in miracles.
Something sacred burning in every bush and tree.
We can all learn to sing the songs the angels sing.
Yeah, I believe in God, and God ain’t me.
Someven Steve Earle can sing about bushes that are still
The story of the call of Moses, and the Burning Bush is
called an Hierophany. An unveiling, disclosure, an experience
of the holy, the sacred, G_d. Revelatory stories like this are
found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, and the New
Testament as well. The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus
last week is this kind of story.
People have experiences, where for one brief moment the
veil is torn aside, the mist is dissipated, we touch or are
grasped by a presence not of this world, the uncanny, the
These experiences are perhaps rare, or maybe it is just
that we have been seduced by the torrent of public opinion and
detoured into trivialities. Or, we don’t have the ears to hear, or
the eyes to see, or the words to describe it. Ordinary language
fails, seems flat, domesticates what cannot, what must not be
tamed. Wonder, awe, astonishment, the poetic word, a story
like Moses and the burning bush captures these breakthrough,
limit experiences best.
This mystery that makes us tremble, may come to us in the
experience of a great storm, a rushing wind, the luminosity of a
rainbow, a sky filled with stars on a cloudless, moonless night
away from the city. It may come to us in the experience of
illness, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the beauty
of a sacred text heard as if for the first time, the stillness of the
real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the smell of incense,
sunrise, sunset, a song, a novel, the beauty of a work of art, a
burning bush or a still small voice.
Whatever way the sacred comes to us it changes
everything. We take off the shoes of our everyday life, to walk
forever on a different path. The path of burning bushes that
calls us to act with Justice, to love with tenderness, to walk
humbly with God.
We are invited into the experience of Moses today. This
text is a key text in the tradition. Decisive for subsequent
generations. Holding out for us the grammar of the encounter
with God. A sacred word that explodes all categories of
thought. Listen to an expanded translation of Exodus 3:14.
Moses said to God, if the Israelites ask me, ‘What is God’s
name?’ what am I to tell them? God replied,
“I was what I was, I am what I am, and I will be who I will be.”
“You will say to the people of Israel, ‘I Am/He Who Is/ the one
who Exists’ has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)
First, God calls Moses by name. ‘Moses, Moses’. Listen to
God saying your name right now. God knows your name and
calls out to you. Second. How does Moses respond? “Here I
am”, says Moses. Let us answer with the same readiness to
respond. ‘Here I am’.
Like Moses, let us also be ready to take off our shoes when we
stand on holy ground.
Third. Moses wants to name this sacred Presence, this
Burning Bush not consumed. It is still burning. Moses wants to
make sense of the Holy with language. Moses is given only a
name. But a name unlike every other name. The Sacred Name
is a verb, all other names are nouns. Naming G_d is not like
naming other things. The Sacred Name, the Sacred
Tetragrammaton, cannot be pronounced, it can only be
interpreted, like a protective hedge that shelters this name from
us thinking that we have tamed it, have tamed G_d. ‘I Am Who
I Am’, but with more dynamite, more act, more verb. ‘I Will Be
Who I Will Be’. The one who hears your cry, the one who will
set you free from slavery. The God who saves.
St. Paul makes the connection for us in today’s second
reading when he says. “our ancestors were all under the cloud
and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized
into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. All ate the same
spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they
drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was
the Christ….These things happened as examples for us.’
Jesus tells us today that there is still time for him to dig
around the roots of our lives, and to fertilize our capacity to
bear fruit. Back then, the Exodus, Moses, the Red Sea, Manna
in the desert. An example for us. But also in the here and now,
gathered around the Word, Jesus, Baptism, the Eucharist. All
woven from the same cloth. The Sacred Name unveiled for you
and me, sending us on the same mission. ‘Go tell Pharaoh, ‘Let
my People Go’. ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’.