Call or vocation is a primary aspect of Judeo-Christian faith. We believe and trust in a God who speaks to us, knows us personally, invites us to know God personally and who involves us intimately in the ongoing work of creation, sanctification and world reconciliation. But, we often turn aside, or miss out on such an invitation. Maybe it would be easier if we ran into Jesus on the beach (or the street)? Maybe it would be easier if we saw and heard God while we went about our daily life (like Moses today)? Or maybe it wouldn’t change anything.
We jump from the story of the binding of Isaac (last week in Genesis 21-22) and Abraham’s confession of God as the Lord who provides, to the foundational story in the First Testament about the identity, purpose and passion of God. Often called the Burning Bush, it’s the experience of Moses, who going about his daily life as a shepherd, is invited to turn aside to see a great sight and a bigger picture. The reading starts with emphasis upon God’s hearing and responding to the cries of help of the people. In fact several words are used, groans, cries, suffering. It’s not just that God hears, but God takes notice, acts, follow through. And so God interrupts the routine schedule of Moses who responds with the classic response to God’s invitation (as we saw last week in Genesis 21:7 Hineni (הנני), which means “Here I am” – I’m ready to do your will. God invites Moses to draw closer, to remove his shoes. There is something different to see, to hear, to recognize that requires a change in rhythm: an openness. Notice the heavy repetition of the word see throughout the text.
God invites, calls, gives a vocation to Moses, but Moses stalls, avoids and tries to work his way out of it. Four times he responds by “but…” His four buts keep him from his call. He’s not a loser, but rather someone just like us filled with fear, grappling with anxiety and hesitation, plagued by self-doubt and mistrust. Yet God doesn’t smite him, but rather continues to invite him to draw near, to go deeper, to leave his buts behind. God reveals the divine name YWHW, often called the Tetragrammaton meaning “[consisting of] four letters”) יהוה in Hebrew and YHWH in Latin script. It’s so sacred that religiously observant and over conservative Jews neither pronounce nor read aloud the name יהוה,; instead substituting a different term to refer to God such as Adonai (“The Lord”), or HaShem (“The Name”). The name is a mixture of the word for “to be” conjugated simultaneously in more than one way, giving the impossible to grasp definition of “I will be who I will be” or “I am who I was” or “I was who I will be.” It conveys that message that God cannot be put in a box, controlled, or limited. And that is the message, the name that Moses in called to go and tell others about.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What shimmers for you in this passage?
- What image most speaks to you today?
- What buts keep you from entering into God’s call for you?
- How are you called to tell of God’s name in the world?
- What does it mean for us to go and say “I am has sent me to you”? What might that look like?