Becoming More Fully Alive
Homily for Lent III
March 20, 2022
Becoming More Fully Alive
Homily for Lent III
March 20, 2022
The Third Sunday in Lent
Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight,
and see why the bush is not burned up.”
In today’s reading from Exodus chapter 3, Moses is a man on the run; he is running not only from the authorities in Egypt (where he is wanted for murder) but also from himself, from whom he truly is. In today’s reading from Exodus Moses is a man who is lost, not merely “beyond the wilderness” but also in life, as his life meanders without purpose. In today’s reading Moses is a man who is cut off, not only from his people the Hebrews, but also from himself, from his core, from his heart. In today’s reading Moses runs from accountability, shirks responsibility, fears his gifts, embraces rather his weakness and refuses to recognize the roots from whence he came. Moses is (as they say) “failing to thrive.”
But in Exodus chapter 14, which we read at Easter (during the Vigil), Moses is no longer a man on the run; rather, he stares down the nearly mutinous people of Israel as the pursuing Egyptians trap them at the Red Sea: “Do not be afraid,” Moses tells them, “Stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today.” In Exodus chapter 14 Moses is no longer a man cut off but is in touch with his core, his heart, such that when God speaks, Moses hears and obeys: “‘Lift up your staff,” God said, “and stretch out your handover the sea…’ [and the] Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea.” In Exodus 14 Moses is no longer a man who is lost, but rather sees and follows the Lord, who “went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day…and in a pillar of fire by night” (13:21). By Exodus 14 Moses no longer shirks responsibility, he no longer fears his gifts, and he not only no longer avoids his people, his roots, but instead rises to their defense and leads them through the waters of the Red Sea to safety from the Egyptians. What accounts for Moses’ transformation?
In just a moment, I want to take a closer look at what might account for Moses’ transformation. But first I want to look at why the story of the Burning Bush might be in our readings today at all. We are today in the middle of Lent, a season that began with these words on Ash Wednesday:
Almighty and everlasting God… Create and make in us new and contrite hearts.
In our Psalm on Ash Wednesday we prayed,
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me…
And later that day in the liturgy we prayed,
Almighty God….Who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn…and live...grant…that at the last we may come to his eternal joy.
Lent, then—begun with these words on Ash Wednesday—is a season for the creation of new hearts, for the renewal of our spirits within us, for discovering the joy that results from lives rooted in God. Lent is a season to help us more fully come alive. The story of the Burning Bush is in our lectionary today because in it, Moses begins to become more fully alive.
What accounts for Moses’ becoming more fully alive? He turned, looked and saw, and was willing to go on a journey.
The first three verbs Moses does after seeing the burning bush are “turn,” “look,” and “see”: “I must turn aside and look at this great sight,” Moses said, “and see why the bush is not burned up.” Moses turned aside in the way he had intended to go. He made the movement of metanoia, of taking a new path. Moses looked. Moses resisted the tendency to encounter his surroundings with the filters we often use to see what we want to see, but with open eye she engaged what was in front of him. And Moses saw. Having changed direction, having looked with open eyes, Moses saw something new.
Moses turned, looked and saw, and was willing to go on a journey, a journey to lead the people of Israel out of slavery toward freedom in the Promised Land.
In his book The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler says the following about journeys:
At heart, despite its infinite variety, the hero’s story is always a journey. A hero leaves her comfortable, ordinary surroundings to venture into a challenging, unfamiliar world. It may be an outward journey to an actual place… But there are as many stories that take the hero on an inward journey, one of the mind, the heart, the spirit [which is the journey of Lent]. In any good story the hero grows and changes, making a journey from one way of being to the next: from despair to hope, weakness to strength, folly to wisdom, hate to love.
After Moses turned, looked and saw and was willing to go on a journey, then began the extraordinary transformation of Moses from one who was lost, wandering and cut-off, to one who was clear about and rooted in his true essence and calling. After Moses turned, looked and saw and was willing to go on a journey, Moses began to become more fully alive.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like my Lenten “story” to be a “good” one in which I grow and change. I’d like some of the “new heart” of which the Ash Wednesday prayers speak. I’d like the “renewal” of which the Psalmist speaks. And, as the Ash Wednesday prayer suggests, I’d like to become more fully alive. The story of Moses offers hope that with God’s help we can have a renewed heart and spirit, we can find joy, we can reconnect to our roots and more fully come alive. It will be a journey. But as we like Moses can dare to turn aside and are willing to venture into new surroundings; as we like Moses can open our eyes to look and to see what may be challenging or unfamiliar; we with God’s help like Moses can grow and change and “make a journey from one way of being to the next.” We need not be people on the run, we need not wander lost, we need not be cut-off from our true selves. But with God’s help, and with new hearts and renewed spirits, we will more fully come alive.
Homily for Easter 2
Homily for Easter Day
Homily for Lent V
Homily for the Memorial Liturgy for Dr. Robert Yuan
Homily for Lent IV
Homily for Lent II
Homily for Lent I
Homily for Ash Wednesday
Homily for Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Homily for Epiphany V
Homily for Epiphany IV
Homily for Epiphany III