On holy ground (Part 3)


Sermon by Rev Stuart Simpson on 17 September 2017

Readings were Exodus 3:13-17 and John 8:39-59

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Can any of you remember what we’ve been talking about over the last couple of weeks? Our theme has been ‘On holy ground’. We’ve been reflecting on the story in Exodus, in particular the burning bush and the dialogue between Moses and God.

The first week we reflected on what might look like if we took time to investigate situations in life that God might use to speak, call, or affirm us. Last week I talked about what was meant by ‘taking off our shoes’  – that it is about showing respect to our Holy God, but also respect to others and ourselves, recognising that we are made in the image of our Holy God. Today, I want us to refocus on God’s name ‘I am who I am’ a name that Jesus also uses in our Gospel reading.

Moses desired to know God’s name so he could make God into one of his own making. I’ve talked about this in the past – culturally knowing someone’s name meant you had power over them. Moses wanted to at least control the situation and possibly what this divine figure could do for him. In response God says:

I AM WHO I AM

What does this mean? It means that God can’t be confined by any one definition or placed in a box that makes sense to any one individual. It also means that like Moses, we will only find out who God really is by moving with God.

The translation of I AM WHO I AM can also mean I SHALL BE WHO I SHALL BE.

Which signifies that God is both active in the present but also in the future. God has heard the heart cry of His people and has come down to do something about it. He, in all His Holiness and Power comes to deliver His people from slavery. God doesn’t just hang around the mountain top with an 80-year old man who has just taken off his sandals.

No. God, (and God didn’t have to do this by the way), God on His way to set His people free, invites a human to be intimately involved in His activity of salvation. But the only way Moses will discover who this God is, is by putting his sandals back on and moving in the direction God is going.

As Moses followed God he found out that I AM WHO I AM is:

  • holy
  • faithful
  • loving
  • jealous
  • powerful
  • forgiving
  • and is with Moses and willing to do all to save His people.

(Try putting all of that is one word to express properly who God is!).

In the New Testament, we hear Jesus respond to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees – who are disputing his authority,

before Abraham was born, I am!

I AM

The Gospel of John witnesses seven ‘I AM’ statements of Jesus.

I AM the bread of life

I AM the light of the world

I AM the door

I AM the good shepherd

I AM the resurrection and the life

I AM the way, truth and life

I AM I am the true vine

I AM – I Am in the Father as the Father is in me

Jesus is saying

I have all authority because I AM WHO I AM

And we know that only by following Jesus did the disciples find out who Jesus really was, as they witnessed:

  • His holiness
  • faithfulness
  • love
  • jealousy
  • power
  • forgiveness
  • and salvation, in a way that didn’t fit their assumption of how people needed to be saved.

That is, they thought God show overthrow the Romans occupation through power. Instead, God though Jesus was tortured and then crucified to bring salvation, for us as Christians to know Jesus, we can’t simply wait in Church – or stand on a mountain top, like Moses. We get to know Him by following Him – knowing that He is with us – into the places that need light, into the lives of people who long for the truth – or who need to experience deep nourishment.

Are we willing to venture forth with Jesus and in doing so get to know Him in ways that break our limited assumptions?

A lot has happened over the last year concerning the Dixon St Café – a couple of weeks ago we celebrated the one-year birthday. It has been one year since I was invited to bless the building and meet with some of the tenants.  It was one year ago where I heard stories of the tenants and how they wanted a place to build community.

Now, we as a faith community could have left it there. But we noticed something out of the ordinary – a burning bush moment. We went and investigated and in doing so heard God’s call for us, as a church, to go with ‘I AM WHO I AM’ to support, care, love and empower our neighbours.

Before we went, we worshipped God. We removed our sandals in reverence to HIM and remembered that all are made in God’s image. We were reminded that God would go with us. And in going we have come to know God greater and to love our neighbours more. We have learnt that God cares for all people, not just those like us.

On a personal note, I have learnt, in moving with God, that God is amazingly generous, in ways I could never have planned –

  • calling for volunteers and they turned up
  • requiring food for around 50 people each week and it was provided in abundance
  • someone with knowledge of the issues the tenants faced offered his time and skills

I don’t want this to sound clichéd but in all honesty I did go into this idea thinking St John’s would bring God into a very difficult situation – I should have known that God was already concerned for the people who lived in the flats, well before I was.  It is I who has – and continue to – learn from the people there, about God and the love God has for all people.

It is I who has learnt that with Jesus with me, the places we walk, work, live, serve coffee, are Holy – therefore they are places where we show reverence and respect.

As we finish the series ‘On holy ground’, I hope you remember to look out for those moments in your life that God might be calling you to something new or different or where God is affirming you.

That as we worship we remember to take our shoes off and in doing so show reverence to our HOLY GOD, and respect others and ourselves who are made in the image of God.

And finally, rather than trying to box God in, rather than trying to name God, we go if God calls and in doing so, get to know God, in new and amazing ways.

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