Do Not Call Us to Investigate…
By Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
3Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”– Exodus 3:1-3 (NIV)
While traveling to Grand Junction this last weekend to provide pulpit supply there, I encountered one of the changeable road signs on I-70 that read: ”Dotsero Fire Ahead- Crews on Scene- Do Not Call to Report!” And as Deb and I drove on, sure enough we saw the smoke, then the fire and even the crews who were on the scene.
Now, in context, this message made a lot of sense. But I was planning on preaching on the Burning Bush because it was the Old Testament Lectionary Text for the weekend. And in that context the sign was kind of ironic.
What if Moses had decided not to turn aside and investigate the Burning Bush?
What if Moses had even just decided to call and report it instead of investigating it?
What would have happened if Moses had driven on by the Burning Issue of the Day just like we so often do…assuming there were already crews on scene already handling the problem?
You see, for me, Moses’ Burning Bush forces me to ask: “What are the Burning Issues today that we as a church must turn aside to see?” Three examples of this might be: Immigration and how do we welcome the stranger in our midst, Racial issues and how do we love one another as ourselves, and Human Sexuality and how we are to handle the conflict of changing cultural values and the traditional values and understanding of the church on these issues.
And like the Dotsero fire, many of us are tempted to drive on by and allow the “authorities” to handle the issue…whomever the authority may be for us. For some that authority is a trusted pastor, Biblical scholar or maybe even the television evangelist. For others, it might be the culture, political correctness or the market-place. But whomever our whatever that “authority” is, we are tempted to drive by these issues, not giving them a second thought because there are “crews on scene!” We simply don’t need to worry about them.
But because Moses took the time to turn aside and investigate for himself, he encountered the Holy that day. Because he was willing to believe that there was more than meets the eye, in this situation, he discovered a new calling, a new mission and a new purpose.
For we Baptists who proclaim boldly our belief in “The Priesthood of the Believer”… the idea that God can and does speak to each of us individually through the Spirit (most often utilizing The Bible to do this, by the way)… assuming that the burning issues of the day have already been handled… that there are “crews on the scene”…is not an option for us. We are called, compelled and expected to go and to investigate for ourselves. What does God’s word have to say about these issues? How does that word and our experience, our upbringing, our ability to think and reason about a given situation come together? What are others saying about this…both those we trust and tend to agree with most of the time and those who we often find at odds to our way of seeing things? And finally, what do I believe God is saying to me about this? What am I to think, say, do and or believe about this matter?
No, just like a sworn officer of the law, an EMT or a firefighter cannot just drive by an accident without stopping, as priests of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we cannot just drive by the burning bushes of our day and assume there are crews on scene. We can’t even just call it in to our local pastor or seminary professor. We must stop and investigate for ourselves. And when we do, we just might find we… like Moses…. are on holy ground!
Prayer: Father, it is so much easier to drive by these issues and let others worry about them. But you have entrusted me with this great gift and responsibility… that I can call upon you and you will show me and teach me. Let me not give in to the temptation of letting others stand between you and me on these matters, but help me to do the work to hear your voice and understand your ways in all things. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran