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

Wholly Other.

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’.