Last Sunday I brought the story of Moses and the burning bush before our youth in our education hour (Exodus 3). We spent the first half of our time together reading the story. I commend you, that if you have never read it or have not read it in a while, to visit Exodus chapter three in the Old Testament. If it is your first reading then you may think something like, “This guy Moses, he must have been a lunatic. I mean surely he did not go and tell people that God started talking to him in a burning bush? Or did he?” If this is not your first reading of the story, then you likely know the course of events well. Moses, tending sheep in the desert, is simply minding his own business. Then all of a sudden he notices a bush and it is one fire, but oddly, it does not burn up. He goes to investigate and then, God with a capital G begins to talk to him through this bush! It is a fantastical story. For some of us who have grown up in the church it is a familiar Biblical account that we have heard many times.
Well, this was not the case for my youth last week. We had a great discussion, which somehow even included string theory! We talked about how we would react if someone told us they heard the voice of God in a burning bush outside our church. You can imagine the responses. And then our conversation took an interesting turn. I asked the students if they thought that God still spoke to people like he did with Moses or in any way at all, in our present time. I confess that their nearly unanimous answer in the negative made me seriously pause and take a breath. In a brief instant I saw a deep chasm between my experience of God and their experiences of God. And in that moment I wondered to myself, if I were to tell them about my “burning bush” moments would they see me as a lunatic?
Now, I want to say this about the amazing youth at my church. They are some of the most kind, most loving and most awesome students I have ever met. They have absorbed some of the deepest principles of Christianity into the core of who they are and it is beautiful to watch them live out their faith. What I realized in that moment, though, was that they and I have experienced God in profoundly different ways. Later that day, I listened to a sermon from someone who desperately wanted everyone to experience God the same way that he does in life. These combined experiences made me ask myself, how do I share my faith experiences without prescribing someone else’s encounter with God? Oddly, however this is exactly opposite to what Moses does later in the Exodus account. He climbed the mountain, had an experience with God, wrote down the commandments, and then told everyone what they should do to be in relationship with God.
So I wonder are we called to be like Moses? Or was he a special kind of prophet? Do we need to prepare ourselves for everyone to look at us and think we are lunatics? Or does the Church in America today need another kind of prophet? I do not have full answers to these questions.
But, here is what I want to tell the youth in my church who are still trying to decide if they believe if God speaks to people today. After our discussion I asked God to give me clarity, and this was the text used for the sermon at my school chapel the next day, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer 33:3). I want the next generation to believe that God will still answer those who call out upon the name of the Lord. I believe in burning bushes. But maybe, just maybe I am a lunatic.