Sermons 2008

Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28

Home | Light and Love, Christmas 1B , 28 December 2008, John 1:1-18 | The light and the darkness, Christmas Day, 25 December 2008, John 1:1-14 | What would you see? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008, Luke 2:1-20 | What did you say? Advent 3B, 14 December 2008, John 1:6-8. 19-28 | A refining fire, Advent 2B, 7 Dec 2008, Mark 1:1-8 | Alert, alert! Advent 1B, 30 November 2008, Mark 13:24-37 | Where will we stand: sheep or goats? Proper 29A 2008, 23 November 2008, Matthew 25: 31-46 | The talents to...? Proper 28A, 16 November 2008, Matthew 25:14-30 | Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13 | All Saints A, 2 November 2008, Matthew 5:1-12; 23:1-12 | Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46 | Things: God's or Caesar's? Proper 24A, 19 October 2008, Matthew 22:15-22 | The wedding and the allegory, Proper 23A, 12 October 2008, Matthew 22:1-14 | The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46 | Deference and disobedience, Proper 21A, 28 September 2008, Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32 | Be content, Proper 20A , 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Only one true church? Proper 18A, 7 September 1008, Matthew 18:15-20 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 22:1-16 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28 | What's in a name? Proper 16A, 24 August 2008, Matthew 16:13-20 | Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28 | Time to get out of the boat, Proper 14A, 10 August 2008, Matthew 14:22-33 | Who, me? Proper 13A, 3 August 2008, Matthew 14:13-21 | LIKE what? Proper 12A, 27 July 2008, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Good seed, bad seed, Proper 11A , 20 July 2008, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Watch the Farmer, Proper 10A, 13 July 2009, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 | Baptism of David William and Anne Tyler, Proper 8A, 29 June 2008 | The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15 | Jesus likes sinners?, Proper 5A, 8 June 2008, Matthew 9:9-13 | Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29 | What do you mean, if? Easter 6A, 27 April 2008, John 14:15-21 | Comforting words and St Thomas, Easter 5A, 20 April 2008, John 14:1-14 | Ordinary good shepherds, Easter 4A 2008, 13 April 2008, John 10:1-10 | Light for clarity, Easter 3A, 6 April 2008, Luke 24:13-35 | "Blessed are those who....", Easter 2A, 30 March 2008, John 20:19-31 | Hallelujah! He's alive! Easter Sunday A, 23 March 2008, John 20:1-18 | He had it all, Palm Sunday A, 16 March 2008, Matthew 26:14-27:54 | Lazarus: Waiting for Jesus, Lent 5A, 9 March 2008, John 11:1-45 | Miracles Physical and Spiritual, Lent 4A, 2 March 2008, John 9:1-41 | Living Water, Lent 3A, 24 February 2008, John 4:5-42 | God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17 | Temptation, Lent 1A, 10 February 2008 | Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | They heard the Lord call, Epiphany 3A, 20 Jan 2008, Matthew 4:12-23 | Come and See! Epiphany 2A, 20 January 2008, John 1: 29-42 | Remember Your Baptism? Epiphany 1A, 13 January 2008, Matthew 3:13-17 | We Three Kings, The Epiphany, 6 January 2008, Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 17A 2008 Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28

Holy Name and Holy Ground. Last week we considered something about the significance of names. Names are somehow connected with power over and between human beings. And some names have much more significance than others. And in particular for Christians, the name of Jesus, God in Christ, the Messiah, the son of the living God, has both significance and power. In that context let’s consider the Old Testament lesson from today. And then we’ll consider holy ground.

The event is a major theophany. A theophany is the manifestation of God in some physical way, usually to a human. In this case the theophany was in a burning bush. God and Moses engaged in a debate, God asking Moses to be God’s agent in freeing the Hebrew people from the oppression visited on them by the Egyptians. Moses, having already fled for his life after killing an Egyptian overseer tries to talk God out of it. But God always answers Moses objections with a solution.

It is at the end of this debate – argument, really, that what is technically called the Tetragrammaton – YHWH – the great I AM -- is revealed. In a last desperate effort to wiggle off the hook, Moses demands to know God’s name. This is really significant. In Israel’s salvation history to this point, God was spoken of and to generically, as God but sort of the chef god among many other gods. The general address was lord, as in master. God’s name was not God capital G as in English. God’s real name was unknown and unknowable as far as the Israelites were concerned – how could they really know a being so unknowable, unimaginable, infinite in power and knowledge, the creator of all that was and is and will be.

The universe stood still as it waited for God’s answer. The world was silent, dumbstruck with fear at what might be revealed. The power of the Holy Name of God struck fear and awe in the hearts of humanity.

And then God answered. Even now we aren’t really agreed on what God actually said. And in any variation of the answer God remains unknowable, beyond mysterious, vast beyond comparison in God’s transcendent self being.

God said, “I AM who I AM.” The convention is that I AM is all capitalized. The Hebrew words themselves evoke this infinite transcendent mystery. Translators and commentators have suggested that other translations could mean not only I AM who I AM but also I AM who I will be and I AM who I always have been. The great I AM encompasses all those denotations and uncountable connotations.

So powerful was the mere thought of the Name of God that until the late 20th Century God and humanity was in a very formal I-Thou expression of relationship, and not the God as Jesus my pal and buddy who we just know will do what we ask, we just know will give us what I want.

Holy Ground: At Saint Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai is a ancient remote fortress cloister believed to be the traditional site of Moses’ encounter with the great "I am." A stained glass window of the burning bush is in the small chapel. The stained glass burning bush comes to fire each day when the sun rises. When God first spoke to Moses out of the burning bush he ordered Moses to take off his sandals for he was standing on holy ground. Wherever God is present is holy ground. (1)

When the altar guild gathered for training several weeks ago, I reminded everyone that this small church is a holy place standing on holy ground, a consecrated building on consecrated. And that the altar was the most holy space in this holy place. For it is in elements of Holy Communion, however we think of them, that we are closest to what that great I AM theophany of over 3,000 years ago might have been like.

Sometimes we long for burning bushes and clear signs of God’s presence and calls to action, especially in times like our own when things can seem so confused and uncertain. That is when we need to draw closer to God, deny our selves, and take up our Cross and carry it with us to holy ground.

Wherever and whenever we are in communion and communication with God we stand on holy ground. Take off our shoes and risk getting burned or looking foolish. Investigate every bush, every face, every experience for God’s presence and call. Then, if we’re willing, risk letting ourselves be used by God as a sign of God’s presence to the world we see each day. Let the fire be part of us, and not be afraid — like the bush, we will not be consumed, and we will not be alone. (2)


1. From Lectionary Homiletics for Proper 17A,
2. taken from Barbara Brown Taylor, "Uncommon Light," in Mixed Blessings (Boston: Cowley Publications, 1986), 10-16, as summarized in Lectionary Homiletics for Proper 17A,