Exodus 3:1-15
Moses encounters God in a burning bush while feeding the flocks of his father-in-law, and is called to be God’s messenger to tell Pharoah to release God’s people. When Moses asks for God’s name, God tells him that he must say that “I Am” has sent him.
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b
A song of instruction for God’s people to praise God and to remember God’s wonders when God made the Israelites greater than the Egyptians and sent Moses and Aaron to them.
Romans 12: 9-21
Paul encourages the believers to be committed to a life of love for one another and even for enemies – seeking to bless and not curse, and to conquer evil with good.
Matthew 16:21-28
Jesus tells the disciples about his coming death to which Peter responds with a rebuke. Jesus in turn corrects Peter and calls the disciples to take up their crosses, to follow Jesus (in his suffering) and to give their lives in order to save their souls.
(Bible summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Call to Worship  (based on Exodus 3:5)
Come take off your shoes
For where we stand is holy ground
Come love your neighbor and do good to all around you
For where we stand is holy ground
Come and respect the planet
For where we stand is holy ground
Love all that God gave us,
for we are all standing on holy ground
(Source: Tricia Ziegler,

Call to Worship (based on Exodus 3: 1-15)
This place for us is Holy Ground.
The place where we sing songs of praise to the Lord,
and repeat the stories of faith
that inspire us to respond to Christ’s love.
God called us here,
in whispering winds and in burning flames,
and with his presence
disarms us of the barriers we have placed around us.
Instead God meets us in our vulnerability,
our humanity.
Let us worship the Lord.
(Source: Rev. MaryAnn R. Rennie, Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday)

Opening prayer
Surprising God,
you have an uncomfortable habit
of showing up where we least expect you:
in a burning bush,
in the face of an enemy,
in a livestock feed trough,
on a rough wooden cross.
Turn our lives upside down
with your radical love.
Help us fully embrace your surprises,
even as we revel in the joy
of being fully embraced
by your all-encompassing grace
and mercy.
We pray in the name
of your most amazing surprise of all:
your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Source: Ministry Matters)

Prayer of approach and confession
(based on Exodus 3: 1-15)
God of fire,
You are a force beyond human understanding,
with the power
to sear through the veins of creation
with passion and vigour,
or to extinguish life in consuming flame.
Your presence is dangerous
for there is no predicting
where you might burn,
and yet comforting
for the light and warmth
offer an invitation to draw closer.
Redeeming God,
out of the flames of your creation,
your voice calls,
marking us as your own.
Yet there are times
when we choose to ignore your voice,
and listen instead to our own needs and desires
and those that challenge our faith
from within the world.
Forgive us for those times;
when we have ignored the needs of others;
when we have failed to place our feet upon your path;
when we allow the earthly voice to distract us from your call.
Loving Lord,
in your forgiveness
you offer again your invitation
to know your love,
to be loved,
and to respond to your call.
In hearing your voice
may we find our place
within your creation. Amen.
(Source: Rev. MaryAnn R. Rennie, Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday)

When God calls us on to larger life, we rarely see much beyond the next step. When Isaiah was called by God, his first response was to say, “Woe is me! I’m lost!” When Moses was called, he hid his face in his terror. When poor Jeremiah was called, he was scared and pleaded, I am just a boy and I’m not good at speaking. But to each one of them, God spoke these gentle and gracious words. “Don’t be afraid. I will be with you.”
(Source: Br. Geoffrey Tristram, Society of Saint John the Evangelist)

Moses and the Burning Bush
You stood on that dry mountain,
eyes narrowed against wind
and sand, scanning
the bright horizon,
looking for threat, or grazing
for those sheep.

Were you content to be a shepherd
now, Prince of Egypt?
Were you reconciled to this life
smaller than your dreams?
Did you think it was all too late,
too late to do anything
to help your brothers,
to help your sisters,
the slaves,
to reclaim your people?

Shepherd, with the bleating
of the flock about you,
did you dream still,
under the strong sun,
of what-could-or-should-have-been?
Did a new world seem impossible?
Or were you breathing
in this moment,
with the dust smell,
and the sheep smell,
and the plants thick with resin?

It was no dream,
what happened next,
no could-or-should-have-been,
that burning bush –
crackling, smoke smell,
burning, but not consumed.

In that moment you took
off your shoes, and learned a
name for God that is no name,
I am what I am.
I will be what I will be.

In a moment,
your reality peeled open,
revealing fire within,
the truth within,
giving you back
the discomfort of hope,
giving you back
your people,
and your way.
(Source:  Andrea  Skevington)

Holy Ground, barefoot
This people had no temple,
no worship-place.
This people built temples
for others,
for gods they dreaded,
rising in terrible power
over them, having
no regard for
their misery.

They prayed under
the weight of their burdens.
They cried out in
the unprayer of pain,
and God, having no need
of temples, heard,
as God always hears.
And God, leaning to the
brokenhearted, saw,
as God always sees.

For the very earth is holy.
The ground under our feet.
Take off your shoes and feel it,
feel the dry-ground-powder
and the sharp stones,
the infinite tiny beings
that call the earth home.
Take off your shoes.
Know you are part of
all this, part of the
the glory that fills
all things, as the waters
fill the seas.
You will be heard,
wherever you are.
You can listen,
wherever you are.
You are home.
(Source: Andrea Skevington)

On fire, but not burned
Do angels speak
from every bush?
Whispering in the
rustle of leaves,
the low hum of insects –
or louder, clearer,
more insistent.
Was that holy fire
for one place,
one purpose,
or might it
happen –
could it happen –

The bush on the hill
of Horeb was aflame,
we read of it –
worth turning aside
from the work of tending
sheep, or finding water,
turning aside to see.

But I glimpse, too, a deeper
peeling back an ordinary
moment to reveal
depth, and warmth,
and truth.

I catch a glimpse,
a hope, of
each living thing
with a heart of life-fire,
not of burning,
not of perishing,
but of God-fire growing,
giving, sustaining, all.

Maybe, angels still speak,
louder, clearer,
telling us
to take off our shoes,
for the very earth is holy.

Telling us
of a God who has talked
with our ancestors,
those who walk behind us
speaking old wisdom
we tend to forget.

But most of all
these living flames
speak of affliction,
they spark forth
in suffering,
roused by
the pain of all things,
of a suffering people,
they call to the work of

the body of one
who will listen to
this voice,
who will turn aside
to gaze on
holy flames.
(Source: Andrea Skevington)

A Meditation
Now Moses was tending the sheep of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. Then he led them to the back of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he saw the bush burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not consumed.” Exodus 3: 1—3
There’s Moses: Hebrew child drawn from the water, raised by the daughter of Pharaoh; a young adult, he struck and killed an Egyptian overseer for beating a Hebrew slave; fled to Midian after Pharaoh put a price on his head, marries Zipporah, daughter of the priest of Midian and becomes shepherd to his father-in-law’s flocks. Moses, husband, father, shepherd . . . living the usual shepherd life.
One hot day while leading the sheep to the back side of the desert he happens to notice a bush off to the side burning but not being consumed by the flames.
A cross-roads of sorts. It was a hot day and leading sheep can be tedious business… they do not always follow. (In the ancient Middle East, shepherds did not drive their sheep, they led them – thus in Psalm 23 we have ‘He will lead me beside still waters’ and Jesus’ admonition that the sheep will recognize the voice of the shepherd and follow him.)
The cross-road always holds the seed of conundrum: do I continue on my usual path doing my usual things feeling secure in the usualness of it all or do I step aside and consider this other possibility?
Moses stepped aside to see this unusual thing more closely; to consider the opportunities and the challenges it might contain and what he saw was very disturbing. He was being called to be a union organizer, a civil rights activist, a champion for equal rights under the law for LGBTG people, the one to challenge the status quo and he did not particularly like what he saw. He knew the consequences -the usualness of his life was about to be turned upside down. He began arguing with God, with his Heart: I am a man of heavy tongue, of slow speech . . . Pharaoh will never listen to me. “Okay, I will send your brother Aaron with you”. But what if the people say ‘Why should we follow you, who sent you anyway? “You tell them that I AM sent you”. (Hmmm) What proof can I take? “Hold out your staff and it will turn into a snake”. A conundrum indeed! But Moses did follow his Heart, went back into Egypt, confronted Pharaoh and led a stubborn people to their burning bush, their cross-road: they could continue in their usual lives living under the rule of the status quo or they could open their eyes to a new way of being. They chose the new way. Despite the hardships and the muttering and complaining along the way they kept putting one foot in front of the other until they reached the new place.
Even once in the new place, life was not always easy. Sometimes they forgot to follow their Heart and fell back into the usual ruts. But the really neat part of this story is that after that first time of turning aside to see and follow the new path, they were enabled to turn again and again. They never forgot what it was like to leave the usual behind and experience what Life had to offer.
Scripture is full of stories of those who came to a cross-road and their response: Abraham taking Sara his wife and leaving his tribe for a new place that he would not know until he got there; Lot leaving the usualness of a corrupt city and his wife looking back; the Prophets, speaking Truth to recalcitrant people; Mary, saying ‘Let it be unto me according to your word’.
A burning bush, a cross-road, an opening door, following the grain, going with the flow . . . whatever word we choose to call ‘it’, we all experience that opportunity to turn aside from the usual, to follow a new path. It takes discernment of the Heart to know the true burning bush from the fake fire, the real opportunity from the false desire. It takes questioning: am I good enough for the job (the door is open/you are exactly right); what are my credentials? (I AM sent you); what proof will I have this is right? (Your staff will turn into a snake). Ultimately, the test of whether or not it is truly an Open Door is the Heart and the Heart does not lie.
Trust your Heart/the Light Within/God.
(Source:  Alyce Denver)

Prayer: Romans 12: 9-18
Let love be genuine;
hate what is evil,
hold fast to what is good;
love one another with the affection of a sibling;
outdo one another in showing honor.
Never flag in zeal,
be aglow with the Spirit, serve God.
Rejoice in your hope,
be patient in tribulation,
be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints,
practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another;
do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.
Repay no one evil for evil,
but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.
Holy One,
the values you would have us live are
not mere niceness,
not wishful-thinking platitudes,
not unattainable pipe dreams.
You call us to lives of profound and energetic love.
You guide us to ministries of compassionate and generous hospitality.
You direct us to discipleship that is caring and costly.
Help us commit to yourvalues and vision.
Bless our being and acting in the church with your grace and kindness.
Sanctify our attitudes and behaviour in the world with your mercy and mission.
Let us breath in the Holy Spirit,
devoting our purposes to the common good,
that we might be afire with faith and service.
Let us hold one another with mutual affection and regard,
seeing one another with honour and nobility,
that we might build community and connection.
Let us value others with respect and worth,
sharing celebration with the joyful and glad,
being in solidarity with the suffering and afflicted.
Grant us authentic patience and humility.
Let our love be genuine.
(Source: Diaconal Minister Ted Dodd, United Church of Canada)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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