TEXT: Exodus 3:1-12; 4:1-5

(Nancy in chair by phone. Phone is ringing and ringing and ringing. She tries to ignore it. Finally she picks it up.)

Nancy: Hello? Hello? Excuse me? This is God? THE God? Wow.

Anne: That's how it all begins. God is calling and calling for us, but sometimes it takes us awhile to hear the phone. Some notice early in life...some later. Some need to see a burning bush or a blinding light. Others just need to see that their lives are going nowhere and the things they keep pushing aside as interruptions are really a ringing phone. God calling. God trying and trying and trying to get our attention.

Nancy: Excuse me, God, I don't mean to be rude, but why would YOU be calling ME? I mean,don't you keep pretty busy with all the preachers and the pope and all? Are you sure this isn't a wrong number? This is just me, Nancy Burns, here. Hey, are you calling collect?

Anne: It's baffling that first call. What are mortals that you are mindful of them, asks the Psalmist. It's hard to believe that the God of the universe wants to be in relationship with us. And it's harder still to believe that it doesn't cost us a thing.

Nancy: Free? A gift? Come on, God, nothing's free in this world...especially not a relationship with the God of the universe. What's the catch? A relationship with God, free for the asking? Right. I'll probably have to give you my first born child down in the fine print. What? See, I told you it would cost the first born...I knew it would...oh. It cost you YOUR child? I'm sorry, God. I didn't know. Yes, I understand now. It is expensive...but not to me. You're the one who paid the price.

Anne: And when we realize that and accept the gift, the relationship begins and our conversation can move on to other things. We're so grateful for the gift and so amazed that God would give it to US that sometimes we want to rush right out and show our gratitude. We want to do great things for God right away. But God wants us to wait until we have more instructions.

Nancy: Wait?! What for? God, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I mean, think about it. God called me and it wasn't a wrong number! God wants me...YOU want me! I get to call you "You"...just like a friend would. I've got to tell people. You might be calling them, too, and they might be ignoring the phone just like I was. What do you mean I need to wait? Training? Hey, you're not going to make me tend sheep, are you? You were always making those guys in the Bible tend sheep before they could go out and do your work. I'm allergic to hay, you know...

Anne: It was pretty common for God's great workers to tend sheep...Moses did it; David didit...and they learned a lot from it. They learned to be patient and watchful. They had to be caring and quite brave to fend off thieves and wolves and lions. And they had to put up with the rest of society thinking they were scum and still do their work with care and diligence and love for the sheep. The world is different today, but we still need to learn the same basic lessons before we can really be effective in the work to which God has called us. As hard as it is to wait, we need to have a time of training...a time to develop the gifts and talents God has given to us so that when God is ready to use us, we are a sharp and ready instrument in God's hand. And so we accept God's instruction.

Nancy: (Obviously answering a list of questions) OK...yes...yes...NO!...oh, all right, yes...I can do that already...hey, I love to do that--been doing that since I was a kid...yes...What? Uh, pizza with pepperoni--no anchovies...yes...uh huh...

Anne: And so it goes. We learn and we grow and we develop our skills. Not that we have tohave them completely mastered. We will continue to grow all of our lives. But finally we get to a place where we have learned enough not to be a menace to society and the topic of our conversation with God changes.

Nancy: Hey, God, you know this training thing isn't half bad. It's kind of neat to keep learning and growing. I've read a million great books...OK, so maybe a million is an exaggeration, but it has been a lot. And even Dave says I'm nicer to have around...I'm more patient, not quite so critical, and I'm getting used to thinking of what others need instead of just what I need all the time. So, God...you know what? I think I'm finally ready for those sheep. Yeah, I mean real, woolly, smelly sheep. It's time to intensify this training thing--I've even got myself a rod, just like all those Bible people. I'm learning so much and the more I learn the more I realize how much more there is. What's that? Go? Where? Put down the rod? No, God, we're talking sheep here. I'm not half ready to go out and do anything like that just yet. The sheep will help. At least ten. And I need the rod.

Anne: Once there was a time when we were anxious to go...to get out and about doing God'sbusiness in the world. But we had to wait. And as we waited, we discovered the joys of spiritual growth...the delights of learning about God and spending all of our time listening to good teaching, uplifting music, enjoying the solace of prayer and the excitement of study. The more we learn, the more we realize how much is still beyond our grasp and because of that sometimes we feel less able to do God's work than we did when our training first began. We want to hold on to what's comfortable...to keep our supports.

Nancy: God, you just don't get this, do you. I can't. Read my lips. CAN'T. You were right. I need training, and a lot of it. Why, you're more of a mystery to me now than when I started. I can't possibly go and do what you're asking. You'll need to get somebody else who is more able.

Anne: Just like Moses. Moses was ready...he was 80 years old with all the training he needed. God appeared and told him to go to Egypt to free the Hebrew slaves and Moses says, "I can't." Throw it down, Moses. God shows Moses wonderful signs and still he says, "I can't." It doesn't seem to matter that it is God telling him that he can...that it will be really God and not Moses doing the work. Throw it down, Moses. Moses can't see beyond his own inadequacies and so he says, "No. Find someone else." God gets mad.

Nancy: Couch potato?! Who are you calling a couch potato? I work hard all day and then Ispend all night studying your Word, praying, and trying to learn enough to do all thesemonumental tasks you keep telling me about. I am working my tail off trying to learn enough to be of some use to you, and you call me a couch potato! What? Go? Throw down my rod? Why do you keep saying that? I'm trying to listen for more of your wisdom and teaching and you seem to have forgotten all the other words in the English language. "Go." It's all you seem to be able to say lately. Go, go, go, go, go.

Anne: It's hard for us to get the message sometimes, even when it's quite plain. It's hardbecause it's frightening. Our time of growth and training wasn't all easy, but we grew to love it and to be comfortable in that way of life. We will continue to grow always, but once we achieve a degree of maturity, it is time to go to work for God. It might be religious work, it might be a secular job where God just happens to need Christians. It might not be a paying job or career at all. It might be volunteer work, it might be caring for family or friends...it might be leading slaves out of Egypt. But you can be sure of one thing...it will require you to "go" in some shape or fashion. Physically, emotionally, or spiritually, you will have to "go"--to step out in faith...out beyond your comfort zone...out into the unknown. Throw it down, Moses.

Nancy: OK, God, I hear you. But how can I be sure. I mean it's a big step. Suppose I'vemisunderstood and that's not really what you wanted. And I need my rod. My rod, my staff, it comforts me. Yes, I have faith. But I have doubts, too. How can I be sure?

Anne: There's the rub. We can't be sure. Faith and doubt go hand in hand. If we wereabsolutely sure, it wouldn't be faith...it would be knowledge. Faith means we trust that God is there, even when we're not sure. Moses wanted to know how he could be sure of God'scommands, but God would give him no more than the promise and the signs that God was withhim. A burning bush. A rod that becomes a snake. A hand that suddenly has leprosy and is just as suddenly cured. Throw it down, Moses.

Nancy: So, you're with me here...I mean, if I go, you're going too? And you'll help...I mean significant help, because remember I still have a lot to learn. You will? Can you just show me...no, never mind. It's a step of faith, I know.

Anne: Throw it down, Moses.

Nancy: (Hangs up the phone. Hesitates. Walks to the front of the chancel with the staff. Turns, places the staff on the altar, and walks out through the congregation.).

Anne: Go.


(c) 2000, Anne Robertson

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