That Burning Bush Moment

Heritage Presbyterian Church

August 30, 2020
13th Sunday After Pentecost/22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture reading – Exodus 3: 1-15

Today I want to talk to you about four different sets of people:

  • Moses
  • Dan Rather
  • A hospital security guard
  • And the Cajun Navy.

Let’s begin with Moses, since you already know a lot about him.

When Moses appeared on that mountain and the Lord spoke with him, I doubt that Moses’ backstory mattered much to the Lord.  Yes, Moses had been born to a family of Hebrew slaves.  Yes, Moses was hidden because the Pharaoh had ordered all Hebrew male children to be killed.  Yes, Moses was rescued from the waters of the Nile and from that basket by a member of Pharaoh’s royal family.  And yes, Moses was raised as a prince of Egypt.  

But none of that mattered.  In fact, all of that had been lost…completely.  On the day the Lord called Moses, he was not the prince of Egypt and he was not even a Hebrew slave; he was tending the flocks for his father-in-law in the wilderness.  He had probably walked for days with no one to talk to and nothing to distract him from his thoughts.  It is easy to imagine that perhaps the Lord chose the perfect time to call Moses.

And still Moses debated the Lord.

Moses saw a burning bush…that was not being consumed.  The Lord got Moses’ attention and then told him what was needed.  The Lord called Moses…and Moses hesitated and debated the Lord over it.  This is proof-positive that the Lord doesn’t change people…the Lord helps them to become better people while fulfilling His will.

Moses went with the Lord’s help to challenge Pharaoh and lead God’s people out of Egypt.  

An ordinary man in an ordinary location called by the Lord for extra-ordinary work.  That’s how that burning bush moment went down.

Nowhere in the rest of the Bible is there a call that is anything like the one Moses received.

Noah was called by the Lord and told to build an ark to save a remnant of every living thing on the face of the Earth – because the Lord was going to flood the earth.  Noah heard the call and obeyed.  Living things were saved.  Humanity was saved.  All because Noah answered that call.

Abraham was called by the Lord and told to take everything and to go to a land that the Lord would show him.  Abraham answered the call and did as the Lord told him.

When Isaiah was in the middle of a vision sent by the Lord, a voice lamented, “Who can I send?” Isaiah answered that call and probably shouted his answer, “Here I am!  Send me!”

Others have been called throughout biblical history.

But what about today?  Sure, not too many of us receive an actual burning bush in order for the Lord to call us.  But does that mean that no one is called by the Lord anymore?  Hardly!

Now I’m ready to talk about three other people who heard a call and responded.  The first one is Dan Rather.

In 1961, Hurricane Carla was approaching the Texas Gulf Coast as a category 4 hurricane with winds topping 145 miles per hour.  At the time, Dan Rather was a 29-year old news reporter for the CBS station in Houston.  During his reporting, Rather used special maps that were overlays to the traditional maps to show the size and strength of the storm.  His detailed reporting was credited with better informing the public and probably saving thousands of lives.  From that storm, Rather went on to a career at CBS news that lasted more than 30 years.

Now let’s ask some questions: 

  • Did Rather answer some type of call from the Lord when he reported on that storm?  Perhaps…it was his way of reporting that saved thousands of lives.
  • Did Rather do this story on his own or was he ordered to do it?  He was the news director…he chose how to do the reporting himself.
  • Did Rather do this story – including driving to Galveston and staying there for 40 hours broadcasting updates as Carla headed inland – in order to move up in the news reporting business?  He had no way of knowing what would happen.

What matters is that a storm was approaching, and people in the path of that storm were not taking it as seriously as they should have.  Rather’s reporting saved lives – and set the standard for how other reporters would bring the news about other storms for years to come.

Next, let’s talk a hospital security guard.

He was a big man…I mean a BIG man.  He worked at a hospital in Louisiana and provided for his family.  He dreamed of doing more.  But how?

One day, as he was leaving work, he happened to be walking toward the parking lot at the same time as a trauma surgeon who was also getting off work.  The two men struck up a conversation, and the security guard said he was really impressed that the man was a surgeon.  The surgeon invited the security guard to “come down to the surgery room anytime and you can come in and watch if you want.”  The security guard took him up on that invitation – and the rest became local history.

It took several years of night school, but the security guard went to college, graduated with honors, then applied to medical school, where he excelled due to his hard work, his brains, and his compassion for others.  During this time, the surgeon stayed in contact with the security guard and gave him advice and support.

Today the former security guard, is a surgical medical resident – at the same hospital where he was once a security guard.  With his wonderful grades and glowing recommendations, he could work just about anywhere he wanted.  But he chose to return to the hospital that had given him a chance – and to give back to the community where he had been raised.

Now for the questions:

  • What was the burning bush moment: when the two men met in the parking lot, when they talked, or when the surgeon invited the security guard to come and see what surgery was all about?
  • Did the security guard change because of this call?  Did the surgeon change because of this call?  Or were they simply two good men serving the Kingdom in the ways that were put in front of them?
  • Do you think the surgeon provided any more burning bush moments for any other potential surgeons?
  • Do you think the former security guard did?

Finally, let’s talk about a group of funny-sounding people that all of us know and admire – the Cajun Navy.

When Hurricane Harvey hit three years ago (we certainly are talking a lot about hurricanes today, aren’t we?), the storm came and went – like many other hurricanes have done to the Houston area over the years.  It left behind damage, death, and destruction.  But what is also left behind was a lingering flood of water.

Because of a bizarre set of events, the water from Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston for weeks and weeks.  The city found itself unable to adequately respond quickly to the situation.  Then, from the swamps of nearby Louisiana, came a flotilla of trucks pulling various small fishing boats; it was the so-called Cajun Navy.  These good people came to town, met in parking lots, divided up the areas, and went in looking for people to rescue and help.  Some of them brought barbeque grills and began cooking for anyone who needed a meal.  Some rescued hundreds of people – and did it a few at a time, since none of the Cajun Navy boats are very big.  The city of Houston quickly learned of these good people who talk a little differently than we’re used to.  But we embraced them as our brothers and sisters in crisis and in Christ.

And now that Louisiana has been clobbered by Hurricane Laura, there is talk of a Texas Navy going to Louisiana to help out just like the Cajun Navy did for us.

A last question or two:

  • Who was called first in the Cajun Navy?  No one knows…no one took the credit.  That’s not why they did it.
  • How many people are in the Cajun Navy?  Hard to say…they don’t stand still long enough to be counted.  They are too busy moving and helping people.
  • How many people were inspired by their call to action – and answered their own call?  Not sure that question can be answered by us.

You see?  Everyone can be called.  It doesn’t have to be on a mountain the Holy Land and involve a burning bush.

It doesn’t have to involve going off to seminary or to missionary work in a foreign land.

It doesn’t have to save the enslaved Hebrew people.

It just has to be answered.

When we see something that needs to be done, and we decide to get involved, that is answering the call.  That could be our burning bush moment.

When we know of a problem that no one is attempting to solve, and we decide that it bothers us enough to get involved, that is answering the call.  That could be our burning bush moment.

When any of us hears the whispering voice of the Lord compelling us to go and do something, that is answering the call.  That could be our burning bush moment.

We have mission work here at our church that anyone can get involved in and make a difference. 

There is work to be done in ways that have not even been thought of yet.

All we have to do is approach that burning bush – just as we are – and listen for the Lord’s call.

And then answer it.