31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
September 29, 2019
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
My devotional calendar on September 23rd quoted Matthew 25:21 “Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.”
And all I could think was “Please Lord, make me the ruler over less things.”
Can I get an Amen?
We are so enormously busy that its no wonder simplifying gurus are all the rage these days. There is great appeal in having less to manage, less to think about, less to do.
This Sunday’s message is not about doing less. This is a message about saying no. Saying no so we can say yes to God. Saying no so we can hear God’s call. Saying no so we can say “Here I am, Lord” just as Moses did when God called him.
Maybe you have heard Moses’ story before and maybe you have not.
As he tends sheep, out in the wilderness, Moses is also aware of the suffering of God’s people in Egypt. Moses was born an Israelite in Egypt and had the great fortune to be saved and raised by Pharoah’s daughter. No oppression for him; however that didn’t rob him of his compassion. Moses’ heart was moved by how unjustly the Israelites were being treated.
And one day, while this man who was raised as a Prince of Egypt was out walking, he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite. “He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (Exodus 2:12) In his privilege, Moses does not wrestle with his conscience about killing another – until the next day when he is again out walking and this time, he sees two Israelites fighting. He tells them not to strike one another and one replies, “ ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ [and] then Moses was afraid.” (Exodus 2:14)
And so he did what many of us do when we are afraid, Moses ran. He ran and began a new life and tried to pretend that that life in Egypt, those people, that man he was, a man who had committed murder – that all of that had never happened.
It’s a response to stress and anxiety that systems theory calls “cutoff”. As Roberta Gilbert writes, “Cutoff is so much a part of the world we live in that it can be hard to recognize. It feels wonderful in the beginning. One is rid of the problem. But cutoff does not solve anything.” (Extraordinary Leadership, Gilbert, 12)
While Moses might have wanted to forget that life in Egypt, pretend he had not done what he did, God wasn’t interested in Moses remaining cutoff and in denial. There was a people to be saved, and Moses, an Israelite by birth, an Egyptian by upbringing, was just the man for the job.
Moses doesn’t see it that way though. Moses doesn’t think he has anything to offer – another sign of Moses’ denial – which makes me wonder…How many times and in how many ways did God try to get Moses’ attention before the burning bush? Was God like a parent saying, “Moses, can you come here?” and then “Hey Moses, did you hear me?” until finally God, in the form of a burning bush said, “Moses, for goodness sake! Listen up!”
While Moses’ denial and cutoff might have kept him from hearing God’s still speaking, always calling voice, I think most people today struggle to hear God’s voice because we are so busy, so overburdened – and maybe think we have nothing to offer, nothing more to offer.
Parents, children, co-workers, neighbors, jobs, volunteer organizations, church, children’s activities, social media. There are so many demands on our time. So many voices talking, calling, demanding.
How many of those voices actually need us though – unique, talented, special us, and how many need a warm body?
Years ago, when my son was a baby, I was asked to serve with a local non-profit. I think highly of the organization, and I was thrilled to be asked. And then they told me how they wanted me to serve. I knew right away that I wasn’t interested, that it didn’t suit my gifts, and I was able to say no. No and here is what I am good at. Here is how I could be called to serve with your great organization.
I never got a response, which left me with the distinct feeling that they didn’t really want me. They wanted a warm body to fill their spot and do their work.
Even the best of organizations can be accused of being vampires – of wanting only fresh blood and not the particular talents and insights a person might bring. The church definitely has that reputation. Over the years, I’ve had a few new attenders meet with me and tell me about their last church and how involved they were and how they basically don’t want to be the “ruler of that many things” again.
I get it, and I promise as a leader of this ministry to not guilt or obligate you into doing certain ministries, and to do my best to cultivate a community where no one else guilts others into serving.
However I am not saying you are off the hook, that that you can be a part of this community and always be served, never be a servant; because God calls each one of us to serve. God has created us with unique abilities and given us unique life experiences, expressly to do God’s will, to do good, to love our neighbor and make this world a better place for all.
God calls each one of us to serve, and sometimes, that calling feels important right away and you can see the fruits of your ministry immediately and sometimes that calling is not exactly what anyone would call exciting or deeply meaningful.
There is nothing about me that makes me better suited to volunteer at the school book sale than any other adult; however I have known since I was 17 years old that God calls me to serve with children and youth.
And so, over and over again, I need to say no to perfectly good activities and organizations so I can be ready to hear God’s calling and say yes to the ministry God is calling me to.
Moses needed to say no to his fears and denial so he could say yes to God. I need to say no to perfectly kind and well meaning vampires who just want fresh blood and a warm body to do fulfill their ministries, so I can say yes to God.
What do you need to say no to so you can be ready, so you can be open, to hear God’s still speaking, to hear God’s still calling voice, and say “Yes, God. Here I am.”?