Exodus 3:1-6; John 12:27-36a
2nd before Lent; Choral Evensong
St Barbara’s 04.02.18
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Have you ever stood dumbstruck, trembling, almost overwhelmed by what you are experiencing?
It may be that you have just ascended a ridge of a mountain and you look down the other side, and your breath is taken away by the beauty of the scene that comes into view, of the glittering river, the verdant valley, the towering peaks. Or maybe its a piece of music that you hear played with such exquisite beauty and touch, that you are moved to tears. Or a ballet performed with the utmost grace and balance.
There is something about the experience that transcends the everyday – something of beauty, of wonder, of awe, that moves us in the deepest of ways.
People down the centuries have written in such terms about encountering God. The apostle Paul experienced God’s presence in a blinding light; the church leader Augustine experienced it whilst listening to a child sing over his garden wall; the soldier Ignatius of Loyola experienced God whilst lying on his sickbed recovering from a war-wound; John Wesley, whilst listening to a preacher in a church in London.
You too may be able to think of times when you have experienced the presence of God in a remarkably close and powerful way, a time when you have felt like you are standing on holy ground.
I remember as a teenager standing on a Suffolk beach just after dawn watching the sun-rise and experiencing the most extraordinary sense of joy and release. I experienced the presence of God in that place, that set the direction for the rest of my life. Three decades on, reflecting on that experience, still causes me to tingle.
As Moses found, and as millions of Christians have found ever since, God wants to make himself known, he wants to reveal himself to us. He wants to open our eyes to his presence and show us that we stand on holy ground.
For any place, no matter how ordinary it may seem, can become holy ground. Moses couldn’t have been in a place where he felt further away from the possibility of encountering God. He was in a distant land, far removed from God’s people, currently in slavery in Egypt. He was in inhospitable and challenging terrain. He was busy just trying to keep his sheep alive as he scoured the wilderness for grazing land, always on the look out for wolves and other predatory creatures. And yet, in this bleak environment, God meets with him, he opens his eyes to his presence.
We too may feel in the wrong place. We may look around at the landscape of our lives and feel we too are in a dry and barren place. We may feel we are not in a place where God can meet with us.
And yet he reaches out to us as he reaches out to Moses. God comes to us, often in the most unpromising of surroundings.
With Moses, it was a burning bush. With us, it may be the word of a friend, the glimpse of a beautiful sunset, a smell evoking a powerful memory, a moment of stillness and calm, a word sung or read. But in the seemingly ordinary, God may be seeking to reveal something extra-ordinary, his presence among us.
And when he does, how do we respond? We could do worse than to borrow Moses’ own three words: “Here I am”. When God reveals his presence to us we don’t need to pretend to be something other than we are. We don’t need to pretend to be perfect, or more holy, or fully formed, or with lots of gifts and things to offer. We just need to be open, available, willing. To be able to say: “Here I am”.
For the most wonderful part of this whole story of Moses is that God knows exactly who Moses is – he knows his strengths and abilities, but he also knows his failings and his past – and for all that, he calls him unconditionally and with great love. In response to the same love he shows us, all we need say is “Here I am” too. Standing on holy ground, in the presence of our loving God, no more words are needed. “Here I am.”