The fact is that it was after the fact that Moses turned aside to look at the burning bush that Moses’ life changed. Prior to his encounter with God in the 3rd chapter of Exodus, these were the facts that defined Moses’ life:
- Moses was hidden by his sister for 3 months after his birth because of Pharaoh’s decree that all Hebrew male newborns be thrown into the Nile.
- Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses in a basket in the Nile and Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s palace.
- Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave and left Egypt as a wanted man.
- Moses married Zipporah and became a shepherd in the family business.
- God heard the cries of the Israelite slaves and remembered God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In the reality of these facts God stopped Moses in his tracks by telling Moses to remove the sandals from his feet as Moses was standing on holy ground. As Moses obeyed God’s command, God called Moses to define his life by a new fact – the fact that God was going to send Moses to Pharaoh to deliver God’s people, the Israelites, out of the slavery of Egypt.
Responding to this unexpected calling, Moses asked a faith defining question, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Responding to Moses question, God taught Moses about a lesson about living with faith after the fact, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
The fact was that Moses’ faith defining question about the future would be answered when the present reality of slavery in Egypt had become a past reality. The fact was that Moses would worship God after the fact as he stood on the holy ground of a new reality the next time he was on the mountain where a bush burned without burning up.
Michael K. Marsh shares this reflection about God’s encounter with Moses through the burning bush.
The burning bush doesn’t reveal God to be a Supreme Being, a Super Hero, or the Big Guy in the Sky. Instead, it reveals God to be more like a call, a solicitation, an asking, an insistence. In burning bush experiences God calls more than God does or accomplishes. The doing and accomplishing are for us. … The burning bush story is one of call and response. Something is being called for in the name of God. And I can’t help but believe that call and response is also the story of our lives. Something is being asked of us in the name of God.
I believe that Marsh’s definition of the burning bush is a good definition of the faith required of Moses as he lived after the fact of his calling by God. It was in faith that Moses responded after the fact as he was called by God to lead the Israelite people. It was in faith that Moses responded as the facts of his life intersected with the fact of God’s calling for his life.
Faith after the fact. The calling of Moses. Our calling.
Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor says that the most miserable job she ever had in the church was sitting on her church’s Board of Ministry, having to decide whom to admit to the priesthood. She said the candidates that year were a motley crew, people who had bombed out in marriage or other better paying careers, people of questionable emotional stability.
For her, the straw that broke the camel’s back was one guy who, as proof of his call into the ministry, pulled up his shirt showing where the off duty policeman’s bullet entered his side, exiting his back. He took the bullet as a young man while attempting to rob a convenience store.
“That bullet,” he said pointing to his side, “was my burning bush. That was my call into the ministry.”
The committee was aghast. In the discussion that followed some said, “Look, he’s served his time in the state Pen. Maybe he’s been redeemed.” But Barbara said the most moving argument was in the man’s citation of the burning bush story, the call of Moses to lead God’s people. “I knew enough of the Bible,” she said, “to know that God loves to call some strange, strange people into the ministry.”
Faith after the fact is the story of God’s calling of Moses, a leader whose life was defined by some strange facts. Faith after the fact is not only about Moses. It is the story of everyone whom God calls to walk in vulnerable faith as we respond to the cries of a hurting world.
Rev. Rob Bell wrote a poem entitled Walk, Don’t Run about what was required of Moses and what is required of us if we want to walk in faith after the fact.
Walk, Don’t Run
Walk, don’t run.
Slow down, breathe deeply,
and open your eyes because there’s
a whole world right here within this one.
The bush doesn’t suddenly catch on fire,
it’s been burning the whole time.
Moses is simply moving
slowly enough to see it. And when he does,
he takes off his sandals.
the ground has suddenly become holy,
but because he’s just now becoming aware that
the ground has been holy the whole time.
Efficiency is not God’s highest goal for your life,
neither is busyness,
or how many things you can get done in one day,
or speed, or even success.
which leads to seeing,
now that’s something.
That’s the invitation for every one of us today,
and everyday, in every conversation, interaction,
event, and moment: to walk, not run. And in doing so,
to see a whole world right here within this one.
May God bless us as we walk in faith after the fact.
After the Fact
by Pastor Marc Brown
September 3, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: Exodus 3:1-12
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for September 3, 2023
Scripture Lesson Exodus 3:1-12
The Good News “After the Fact”
Music “All Who Love and Serve Your City” Hymn #433
Closing Music “Postlude on ‘Madrid'” arr. Eugene Englert