Exodus 2:23-25; 3:10-15; 4:10-17
When I was graduating from college, I accepted a position to be the deputy news director of KNOM radio in Nome, Alaska- (KNOM, Yours for Western Alaska). I took this position over offers in for positions in England and in Boston. At the time, it seemed like God had given me many choices and I got to choose from several great options.
Moving to Nome led to loving Alaska. Loving Alaska led to meeting and dating Rob. Marrying Rob led to staying in Alaska. Staying in Alaska led to restricting where I was available for call. Restricting meant that I was available to come here. Coming here meant that we learned to live with and love each other. Living with one another means that I was here to do the premarital counseling for Joyce and Bryan, preach at their wedding, pray during their medical emergencies, frustrate Bryan by my softball ineptitude, have the privilege of baptizing their children.
All of those things, ostensibly, became possible when I said yes to KNOM. Some doors opened and others closed (some temporarily and some permanently). I was thinking about that this week as I looked at the verses we have from Exodus. The Israelites- the descendants of Abraham and Sarah- are in Egypt. When God made promises to Abraham and then, later, to Jacob, the covenant included the flourishing of generations, the strength to be a blessing to others, and the gift of land. God promised people, presence, and place.
When Exodus begins, the Israelites are not where they are supposed to be. After Joseph’s brothers (Jacob’s sons) sold him into slavery, he eventually became a very successful assistant to the Pharaoh. In a time of famine, Joseph had overseen the storage of enough food to sustain Egypt and their neighbors. Thus, the Israelites were among those who arrived to eat and multiply through Joseph’s resourcefulness (inspired by God).
Thus, generations after generations were born in Egypt until there arose a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph. This Pharaoh looked at the numerous people who were NOT “his” people and, thus, enslaved them. While I am in no way trying to blame the victims of slavery here, part of the problem is that the Israelites never returned to the place in which God had covenanted to bless them. They grew comfortable in Egypt and didn’t go back to Israel- the land that was their inheritance and insurance.
So when Moses is in Midian (having fled a murder charge in Egypt), God speaks to him from a flaming bush. Consider the character of God in this story. God doesn’t surround Moses with flames. God doesn’t pin Moses down so he has to listen. The bush burns, but is not consumed. Moses can’t help but get closer to investigate and then God speaks to him. This reveals God’s compelling, but not coercive nature. When considering what God can do and does, it is hard to look away.
Moses tries to resist. Five times he has a great excuse for why he can’t do what God asks- Moses is a nobody, he’s not eloquent, he doesn’t want to go, he’s afraid, he doesn’t know God’s name. Moses wants a sign, a signal, he can use when he goes to people so they know that he’s really from God. He wants a badge or a number- Moses, God’s Moses, Agent 001.
Instead, God says, “I am who I am. Tell the people ‘I am has sent me.’” What kind of name is “I am”? God goes on to tell Moses, “You can remind them that I am the God of their ancestor- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel.” Presumably, the Israelites will recognize God’s call through Moses’ words and respond. They need to get back to where they’re supposed to be- to the place of covenant and blessing. It’s not that God is not with them in Egypt or even that God is not blessing them in Egypt, but the specific promises of God to them involve being back in the land of their ancestors.
This is the good news for Dottie, and for all of us who are children of God. The font is the place of promise- God’s covenant of welcoming, of redeeming, of presence, people, and promise. The font isn’t the source of these promises- it is the reminder and the refresher.
When we are baptized, we come into a new life- a life that is united with Jesus’s own death and resurrection. It is in Jesus that God clarified the “I am”. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am the bread of life and the living water.” “I am the Good Shepherd.” Jesus is God enfleshed. Jesus as the Christ reveals to us the nature of God.
The God who is revealed in Jesus is love. God is not sometimes loving or usually loving. God is love. This is the love that is. Love that says “I am”. Love, that through baptism, says, “Dottie, I am with you. I am in you. I am wherever you go. I am not letting you go. I am always with you. I am never leaving you alone. I am guiding you.”
The God who attracts, the God who knows what Moses is capable of, the God who is made known to us in Jesus… this God says, “I am.” And, though we long to have that be a longer sentence… it is still complete in those two words. And “I am” is enough. It is enough to know that God is. It would be enough to know that God had blessed our ancestors. It would be enough to know how God had spoken through prophets. It would be enough to know that God had come among as Jesus. It would be enough to know that God had resurrected once.
But we do not live in a God who says, “I am done.” God says to Moses, to Dottie, to all the baptized, and to all creation, “I am.” That’s an identity we can’t escape. That’s a bush that burns, but is not consumed. It is a reality that weaves in and out of what we perceive to be our choices (KNOM, Rob, LCOH), but in truth is the guiding hand of the Spirit and the power of God at work in the world, moving us to where we need to be.
“I am” is enough. It is enough of a name to know, to call upon, and to be claimed by… For because of “I am”, we are.