There once was a stormtrooper named FN-2187, but his friends called him Finn, and he was called to stand up to a great evil, but he was terrified, certain that he knew that he and his friends would fail.
Finn, a former Stormtrooper, becomes a hero.
There was a hobbit named Frodo, who was charged with a sacred quest, to destroy one of the most powerful artifacts ever created, even though he refused the quest initially, afraid that he, a simple hobbit, could not possibly achieve such a goal.
Frodo Baggins and the One Ring.
And there was a lion named Simba, who had run away from home out of shame, but then his home fell into disarray under the rule of his uncle Skar, and when an old friend found Simba and urged him to return home and take his rightful place as king, Simba put his paws up and refused.
Simba reluctantly returns home to assume his place as king.
Who was Simba take on such the awesome responsibilities of being King of Pride Rock? Who was Frodo to be entrusted with the One Ring? Who was Finn to stand up against a great evil like the First Order?
If you’re familiar with Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, or the Lion King you know the stories of these brave heroes. (Apologies to those who don't and just wasted your time reading the first portion of this blog!) It’s a common story, an ancient story—someone to whom society pays little attention, or who is seriously lacking in self-confidence, is given a call, a purpose, a mission, to undertake something bigger than themselves for the sake of others. In the case of Finn, Frodo, and Simba, they each initially refused the call issued to them—“Who am I?” they said. But in the end, with some encouragement from those around them, they proved to be heroes and lived into their call.
In the lectionary on Sunday we met the greatest hero of the Hebrew Testament—Moses. This guy is far from the model for a hero. He’s a murderer, having killed an Egyptian that he saw harassing one his fellow Israelites, and he’s a coward, having fled from the wrath of Pharaoh and settling in the land of Midian. We find him this day tending the flock of his father-in-law near a mountain called Horeb, or Sinai as it will be called later in the story. This is hardly the stage for the calling of a great hero, and yet that is exactly what happens.
Like those other heroes, Mosses is taken off-guard by his call, which comes from a bush that is burning but not consumed. In the midst of the fire is a voice, and when Moses hears it, he hides his face out of fear. For anyone who is ever called to a higher purpose, this is generally the very first response: fear.
An artist's rendering of the call of Moses.
The voice is that of the God of Moses’ ancestors, the God of Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, and Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This God has heard the cry of Moses’ own people—the people from whom he ran away—and is charging Moses, this cowardly nobody, with the task of liberating these people. And Moses’ response is the same as all those other heroes: who am I? Who am I that I should go to Pharoah, he says. Who, indeed?
This question holds a lot of power. It keeps us in-check, prevents our egoes from getting out of hand. But it can also cripple us, hold us back from saying yes to something new in our lives. Perhaps it’s because of our own brokenness, our own sinfulness, the very elements of our lives that we take time to recognize during this season of Lent. Who am I? Who am I to stand and preach on a Sunday morning? Who are the lectors, that they should proclaim God's Word? Who are the Eucharistic ministers, that they should share the Cup of Salvation with us? Who are any of us, that we should come into the presence of Almighty God and dare to be the people God is calling us to be?
There is a wonderful animated movie Prince of Egypt, which does a remarkable job at retelling the story of Moses and the liberation of the Hebrew people. This particular scene—the call of Moses—is, for my money, the best scene in the movie. I'll let it speak for itself here:
Moses is called by God in Prince of Egypt.
The very one who calls Moses is the very one who gave him life, who crafted the world from nothing, who holds all time and all things. This is the one, as Anselm of Canterbury said, "of whom nothing greater can be thought." This is the one calling Moses to this new life. But it isn’t that Moses will go and do all these things. God will do them, using Moses' hands and feet and voice to liberate God's people.
Who is this God, Moses inquires. The response is not entirely clear. The words “I AM”, all capitalized, show up three times in the text. In the first the Hebrew is “ehyeh asher ehyey” (I am who I am), the sceodn time it’s simply “ehyeh” (I am), and the third it’s “yhwh” (the one who is causing to be). There is an ambiguity there, Moses does not get to know the name of this god, for if he knows the name then Moses will have a degree of authority over God. Instead, the answer to Moses’ question is a phrase that can be translated anything from “I AM” to “the one who has been, is being, and will always be into enternity.” The point is that the one who calls Moses is the supreme being of all the universe, it is not Moses himself who undertakes the call, but this God, the God who was, is, and ever shall be, who will go with him and work through him. And we all know how this story ends. It ends with Moses being a hero.
Being called into a new venture is scary. The response can easily be the same as Moses, or as Finn, Frodo, or Simba. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. A sense of inadequacy. Who am I to do this? Such a response, though, is actually quite self-centered. Because it makes the call about ourselves. I can’t do this. I don’t have what it takes. What we forget is that it isn’t about us; in fact, NOTHING is about us! It’s about God. All of it! It’s about the one who was, is, and ever shall be. That One, the only One, is at the heart of everything we do, every place that we are called, every new venture that is set before us, every relationship that we find ourselves in. It all flows from this One. The One who is causing to be, is the one who causes the Holy Spirit to stir us up and push us out into the world, into the unknown, into glory.