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2023-06-11 Pentecost 2

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Communication. Without doubt, this is the building blocks of all societies of all times and places. When the tower of Babel building project failed it was due to confused communication! As time went on and people invented radio, communication took a giant leap forward. Long distance communication was now a reality! Then the land-line telephone made such long distance easy for everyone. Then the internet and smartphones upped the communication game again! And now when the phone rings, we know exactly who it is even without speaking to the person! The picture comes up and lets us know it our daughter or our neighbour or our friend. But then there’s those calls you get where there is no picture. In fact, it might even be a number that you don’t recognize. Weird area code. Do you answer the the call, or not?! It’s most likely a dreaded telemarketer! I used to get worked up about those kinds of annoying calls. But then I found the ultimate solution: I answered the call and promptly gave the phone to my 4 year old and told her it was Santa Claus!

‘Answering the call’ is the name of the game today. Moses and the burning bush in our Old Testament reading. Matthew at his tax collector booth in our Gospel reading. But you can go on and on about this through the Bible. Abram hears the Lord’s call to rise up and go to a foreign land. The prophet Ezekiel had a wild and crazy vision as the Lord called him into service. Likewise the prophet Isaiah had the burning coal from the altar touch his lips as he responded to the Lord’s call. Mary, the Mother of our Lord, responding ‘affirmative’ to the Angel’s words about becoming the Mother of the Savior. Or who could forget about the was-blind-but-now-I-see Apostle Paul on the Damascus road!? And there’s a zillion other examples of this in the Scriptures. The Lord calls His people for a special task. But will the people answer the call or will they ignore it?

When we look at Moses, it was certainly a spectacular call to say the least. Just another mundane day at the shepherding office when all of a sudden, “the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed” (Ex 3:2). That’s something you don’t see everyday! Take off your sandals Moses! The Lord has seen the plight of the people of Israel. He has heard their cries for help and divine deliverance. He knows their suffering and oppression under the Egyptian taskmasters! He is going to do something about it! He will deliver His people and take them to a good land, “flowing with milk and honey!” This sounds awesome, Lord!

For 400 years the people have been suffering and now the Lord will act! “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt”“ (Ex 3:10). Huh?! Ya, see, about that, uh, um, look at the time! I’ve got hockey practice, homework, chores, gotta slop the hog … The excuses start rolling from Moses. He’s like 80 years old at this point. He had lived in exile for 40ish years due to being a murderer, zealously killing one of the Egyptian overlords who was abusing a fellow Hebrew. And now at this late stage in the game, God calls him? Go to Pharaoh?! I dunno about this. “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Ex 4:10). But God assures him He will be with him and give him the right words even: “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (4:12). But then there is the absolute crown jewel come back from Moses: “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else!” (4:13).

Can we relate to Moses?? I’m sure we all can. It’s like a kid that doesn’t want to eat her veggies at supper time. There is every excuse and reason under the sun about why she can’t eat those veggies. But come hades or high water, she will eat ’em! Same thing with Moses. The Lord tries to assure him in the face of his excuses. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Moses says. But God answers “I will be with you” (Ex 3:11-12). The power to do this task doesn’t rest on your shoulders. It’s not all up to you! Instead the One true God, the Great I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it is His power that you will lean on. It is His word that you will speak. It is His works that you will do. What’s it going to be Moses?! Will it be yay or nay?!

God Almighty the maker of heaven and earth of all that is seen and unseen has promised to be with Moses. And in the promise of the Holy Spirit, He promises to be with us too. What more can we want or need?! What do we have to fear? What task is impossible?! But naturally, we are sinners. We doubt the power of God. We doubt His word to us, just as Moses did. We doubt that God will follow through with His promises. Instead, we find ourselves making excuses, just as Moses did. But we ought to repent of this. We need to remember that when it comes to God and His will for our lives, He never calls the qualified. Rather, He qualifies the called.

This is really, really good news for us. Because there are tons of times in life where we don’t want to do stuff. There’s things we have to endure against our wishes. Whether it be surgery and struggling with our health. Or watching our kids make bad choices. Or planning our spouses’ funeral. Whatever the difficulty may be, God’s promise remains the same. “I will be with you.” Whatever excuse we can come up with, God’s answer is always the same. He is Emmanuel. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut 31:8).

God’s enduring presence with and in us by His grace us assures us that we are never alone. That we never face life’s difficulties by ourselves or rely on our own power. Our same Heavenly Father who forgives our sins in the cross of Christ is the same one who dwells with us in our Baptism. He is the same one who comes to us in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Table. He is the same one who assures us in the pages of Holy Scripture that we are His and He is ours. We rely on God and His power and strength, not ours. Remember this always. Remember Moses and the burning bush. For what is impossible with man is more than possible with God.

Now conversely, when it comes to Matthew’s call we have this: “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” (MT 9:9). Easy peasy! The Lord calls, you answer! Let’s move on. But if you have watched The Chosen, they’ve done an excellent job of giving the backstory on Matthew. In the series they made him autistic - good with numbers and math but socially awkward. That part was fine artistic license. But the fact that Matthew was a tax collector and suffered much socially for that was true. Jews who served Rome as tax collectors were looked down on as the biggest lowlifes of society! They were the ultimate turncoats and Benedict Arnolds. They were helping the unclean, pig-eating Romans gouge and rip off their own people! They were getting rich off the oppression of their fellow Hebrews, often up-charging the taxes and pocketing the difference! Total scoundrels. Totally hated by the populace.

And yet, who does Jesus call? Matthew. The scum of society was hand picked by the Lord of life. Remember, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. And now Matthew’s life is forever changed. He abandons his life of sin and iniquity. He follows Jesus. He becomes one of the most influential people of all time on planet earth, right alongside Jesus Himself and possibly Colonel Sanders! Matthew’s preaching and Gospel writing have changed the hearts of billions of people, bringing the promise of Salvation to all who hear and believe the Good News of Jesus who eats with tax-collectors and sinners, the great physician Who comes to visit the sick.

So the question for us is how will we answer God’s call? Will it be buckets of excuses like Moses or will it be eager enthusiasm like Matthew? The Lord is no doubt calling you to follow Him, to delight in His works and walk in His ways, to share the good news with those around you. He is calling you to complete the tasks He has given you in service to Him and His church. How will you answer that call? For only you know the answer. Thanks and praise be to Him now and forever more. Amen.

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