St Marylebone Healing Service 7th February 2016
Exodus 3: 1-6
Psalm 89: 1-18
May the Lord bless the meditation of my mouth. Amen.
The bible reading we heard from Exodus comes at a pivotal time in Moses’ life, a time when he had had a period of some stability after a fairly turbulent early life. If you recall he was born in Egypt, to Jewish parents. To save him, his mother put him in a basket and set him adrift in the bulrushes, where Pharaoh’s daughter found him – he was named and later brought to the palace to live as a prince and be brought up to privilege.
One day he saw an Egyptian hurting a Jew and he killed the Egyptian. He then fled into exile, married the daughter of a priest and became a shepherd and herder of animals. One assumes that this period he was settled, calming down after his tumultuous early life and expecting peace and quiet, but oh no – God it seems had other plans.
For the people of Israel were crying out to God, they were in pain and anguish, and their cries were heard by God. And he called this shepherd to come back and help and he called out to him from the midst of a burning bush. And the bush was aflame but not burning up. And the bush was a thorn bush. And Moses was ordered to take off his shoes for it was holy ground, to be in the presence of God.
Later in the bible, in the New Testament, Jesus would wear a crown of thorns and again holiness would be provided in the midst of thorns. Thorns may at first obscure holiness so a dawning recognition may be needed: despite what is going on, the fire, the pain, the blood, the fear, there is holiness within and the presence of God in here.
People who are in pain and are troubled can cry out to God, and sometimes it can feel that those cries go unheard. Here in Exodus the cries of the people were gathered and a plan was formed and deliverance was begun and Moses was given a job to do to help. And later in the New Testament Jesus was like the lamb caught in the thicket, wearing a crown of thorns from the wilderness, he went to the Cross to bring salvation and deliverance to all those who cry out to God
from the cry of a newborn who doesn’t live beyond a few struggling hours with the Zika virus
the cry of the baby’s mother and father in such distress
to the cry of a person recently diagnosed with leprosy or cancer
to the cry of a person struggling with Parkinson’s or MS
to the cry of a person battling addictions or a pain of the soul or the mind.
In the hospitals I see so many people who struggle, enduring really heart-rending struggle – some have to conquer pain itself, some have to conquer their bodies not doing what they used to, for some their memories just disappear never to return and some are struggling hopelessly watching a loved one fade.
All need to know that God hears their cries and I pray all will at some point in their struggle. Perhaps on a day and in a time and place where, like Moses, nothing much seems to be happening, perhaps there they will be brought before their equivalent of a burning bush – a place where the power of God is brought hard up against the pain, the thorns, but where the glory of God protects the bush and, the darkness not overcoming it, the bush is not harmed. So the one in the midst is protected and blessed and the very struggle itself can mean the place itself, the bush, becomes holy.
Being able to recognize God in the midst of pain and difficulty can be extremely difficult – we just want the pain to go. But we can hold on to the promise that where pain and difficulties are, God is there:
that God hears the cries of his people
and that we can bring our own pain to him for healing,
that we will not be overcome and that holiness will at the last always be found