This week’s first lesson tells the story of Moses and the burning bush. Moses interrupts his everyday life to pay attention to something utterly wondrous—in this case it’s a “shrubbery” that seems to be on fire, except that it’s not being reduced to ashes. He hears a voice telling him that he’s standing on holy ground and summoning him to spend his whole life bringing his own people to a better place.
He wants to know where this voice came from, but all he gets is an enigmatic answer: “I am who I am,” or “I will be who I will be.” (That may be a wordplay based on the unpronounceable name of God in Hebrew: YHWH. It came to be understood as “the One Who Is”—God came to be identified with the holiness of sheer existence.)
That’s a story about the ancient past. Different scholars have different theories about that how much is history and how much is imagination. But when I hear the story in worship I don’t pay much attention to that. Instead I mostly pay attention to how this can be a story of here and now. It’s a sacred story that was passed down to us precisely because it was a story not just about Moses but about what continued to happen with those who followed and still follow Moses—of countless intervening heres and nows before ours.
If we listen to this story in the right frame of mind, we can be awakened to moments when our own lives have been interrupted by sheer wonder. Sometimes listening to a story like this even becomes one of those moments. A moment like that doesn’t have to look like a burning shrub. Maybe it’s when something prompts you to ponder something like this: “How is it that my life seems to matter so much, when I know what a tiny speck of reality I am in the whole scheme of things? Do I really matter or not? Do you?”
You wouldn’t wonder about this if your wondering didn’t matter. Did you ever notice that? You think it matters whether you really matter or not. Mattering seems inescapable. So even though our lives are slipping away from us constantly, it seems that they matter anyway—our lives “burn” (slip away) without being reduced to nothing but ashes. The sheer wonder of simply being here wondering is standing on holy ground. Maybe you haven’t thought about this before, but it’s worth interrupting your life to think about it.
And maybe, like Moses, you discover that, not only does your life matter, even though it’s slipping away, but that Life itself, the holiness of sheer existence (YHWH), is summoning you to matter even more, to make a difference in the lives around you that only you can make. Your life already matters, but it can matter immeasurably more.
What or who is telling you all this? Don’t expect an answer that you can pin down. If it’s anything like the God who called to Moses, the holiness of sheer existence, then you won’t be able to pin it down. You matter now—now matter even more. This is the promise and the demand Life itself makes of you. It’s the sheer wonder of simply being here wondering. You can’t pin it down, but you can’t escape it either.
Did Moses really have a conversation with a flaming shrub? Ask instead: Can we, like Moses, find ourselves standing on holy ground? Can our everyday lives be interrupted by the sheer wonder of simply being here wondering? Can we trust the promise and the demand made of us inescapably by the holiness of sheer existence (YHWH)? You matter now—now matter even more. Moments like that can make every difference to how the rest of your life goes.
Let your life be interrupted by the wonder that you matter. It’s more than worth it. Immeasurably more.