Topic: Biblical Verse: Exodus 3:1–3:15
Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Each of us has some experience with eternity. Sometimes, you feel it, like when an experience stretches on and on – and not usually in a good way. You’re stuck in traffic as the tock keeps ticking. You’re sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office or a job interview. You’re waiting in a line at the supermarket, a lunch place, the DMV. Nothing seems to be moving, or if it is, it’s slower than slow. It’s taking foreeeeever, and you sense every passing second. But you’ve probably had other times where time just got away from you. You’re spending time with a good friend, reading a thrilling book, working on an intense project. You finally look up and see that a couple of hours have gone by. You can get so caught up in the moment that you don’t really feel like any time has passed at all. Eternity exists. You get glimpses of it in life even if you don’t see it for what it is. And while you and I might be stuck in the flow of time as it moves along, each of us it also connected with eternity.
You are not disposable. God created you as both body and soul, and neither of those is meant to be thrown away. Even so, how much of your energy is spent dedicated to the pursuit of short- or near-term wants and needs? When you don’t feel like you have the time to do anything other than what will get you through the next week, month, or year, eternity can seem like a far-off thing, a figure of someone else’s imagination. What does it mean that God is eternal, or that He wants you to spend eternity with him? You can get so caught up in the day-to-day that you lose perspective on the eternal aspect of who you are. Do you consider the eternal repercussions of your actions, or do you think that your choices are as disposable as the cup which held the coffee you stood in line to order?
When you do think of eternity, does it just seem like a really long time in a waiting room or in a line, where you’re stuck with no way out, thinking of all the other things you would rather be doing? Because that’s not what it’s meant to be.
Moses got a glimpse of eternity when he saw the burning bush. God had entered into time to be with His people. God knew their need. He knew their pain. He knew they were suffering in slavery. So He set about to make them free and place them into a land and an identity in which they would experience what it meant to be with Him. God chose Moses, someone who was estranged from his people and fugitive from the land into which he was being sent. It’s perfectly understandable, then, that Moses should ask, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Who is he, after all? But God answers Moses not by saying who Moses is, but that God would go with him. That’s the amazing thing here: God Himself is stepping in to history to see this mission accomplished. And so, when Moses asks another question, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”, God gives Moses His Name.
The eternal God is personal. The name that God tells Moses, Yahweh, we see translated as I AM WHO I AM. But there’s a lot going on in that short little phrase. It’s pointing to who God is: the “is-ing” God. The God of eternity who is constantly and continuously being, constantly and continuously doing, constantly and continuously active. Moses would bear God’s personal name to His people, so that they would know Who remembered them and would free them from captivity.
As human beings, you and I have a very limited sense of eternity. We move from what we know as the past to what we call the future, always living in the present. You could say that we have to go with the flow. But God created everything, including time. God stands outside of time and isn’t limited by the one-directional movement into what we call the future. At the burning bush, the God Who was, is, and will forever be, steps in to time to be with His people. They are not disposable, for God created them to know eternity in the full sense that He makes possible: life with Him. That’s eternal life.
Yahweh, the “is-ing” God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, entered into history to bring life that outlasts history. Answering the Sadducees, Jesus pointed back to the burning bush. These great fathers of the nation did not cease to be when they died. Yahweh was still their God. They lived with Him, awaiting the day of resurrection that this priestly sect of Judaism denied. Yahweh is the God of the living, for He gives them life into eternity: life now, life forever. God knew that people like the Sadducees got caught up in the day-to-day, so much so that they rejected the eternal aspect of their being. He knew that they spent their energy in the pursuit of short- and near-term wants and needs. He knew they were suffering in slavery to sin and self in their short-sighted view of life – even if they didn’t know it themselves. And so, God stepped into time to be with His people so that they could know life with Him.
As at the burning bush, God makes Himself known by His Word. God’s Name speaks to Who His is, how He relates to His creation. Jesus, God the Son, is the Word of God made human. He shows the truth of God’s Name. The constantly and continuously being, constantly and continuously doing, constantly and continuously active God, Yahweh, entered in to history to take on the sin that would keep you from living with Him in eternity. On the cross, Jesus connected past, present, and future. He carried the sin of every person from every time and every place – all the short-sightedness, all the doubting, all the careless throwing-away of life of which each of us is guilty – and he took it to death. The eternal God centered history on the cross, for that is where He made possible our eternity.
As a Christian, you bear the Name of God. God has given His Name to you as He did with Moses. He wants you to know Who He is both now and into eternity. Yahweh, the “is-ing” God, is your God. He has remembered you and set you free from captivity through Christ’s death and resurrection. You are not disposable. And right now, you are in the presence of the eternal.
Have you ever thought about taking off your shoes when you come into the sanctuary? When God’s people come together in His Name, He is with us. This holy place is made holy by God’s presence. Here, as we share in God’s Word and the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, God is again stepping in to history. Here, God is connecting us with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all who live to Him. Here, God is saying that you are not disposable, that you are meant for eternity.
Bearing the Name of God, you carry the eternal into the day-to-day. When you leave this holy place, you go out connected to the living God who sent Moses and who now sends you. How will that impact your world? How will you, as Yahweh’s people, share the freedom that you have through that anchor of history, Jesus’ cross? As He did with Moses, God will go with you. That’s His promise, both for now and into eternity.