“When God needs a burning bush, any old bush will do!” I give total credit for this jewel to my special friend and much appreciated preacher/teacher, Bill Serjak. I love it! When God wanted to get Moses’ attention and speak to him in the wilderness of Midian, he did it by causing an ordinary bush to burn without being consumed. This caused Moses to turn aside and look at this marvelous episode. Likewise, we live in a culture that tends to be populated with all kinds of stimuli, with Facebook, with iPhones, with all kinds of entertainment, as well as tragedies and mindless day-to-day living. That often includes some zealous folk who are full of religious talk and can be annoying with it. How does God get persons’ attention?

Face it! Most folk aren’t looking too much for bland (dour?) church folk always going to church meetings. I don’t blame them. They are not open to arguments or sermons either. But, … when some ordinary person is selflessly, and unselfconsciously, living out those teachings of Jesus, such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1ff.) … they will be like the burning bush. They will be different and unselfishly giving themselves to commendable efforts, and Jesus says that the response will be that those outside will see their good works and be totally impressed that they are somehow different, and living fruitful lives. Yes, such are rare.

It’s not that many folk, who make no profession of being followers of Christ at all, are not also living fruitful and unselfish lives. It’s just that when the life of Jesus Christ indwells his followers by the Spirit that they will become an occasion of incarnating the love of God. They will be unselfconsciously incarnating God’s new humanity. They might well “turn aside” (as Moses did before the burning bush) and wonder what is the source of such inner motivation.

This is a frequent theme in the teachings of Jesus, and of the New Testament. Peter writes to those followers of Jesus, who are essentially exiles and aliens—maybe even hassled or persecuted—that they are simply to ‘do good’ and rhetorically asks them: “who will harm you for doing good?” It is only when those observers ‘turn aside’ and ask them the reason for the hope that is in them that they are to give a thoughtful answer with gentleness and sensitivity.

Jesus told his disciples that all men would know that they were his disciples because of the love they had for one another, and, also by his love for the poor, the halt, and the lame. His disciples would, first-of-all, be authentic in their new creation lives and relationships, and then they would have the right to gently herald their message.  This is all to say that Christ’s followers should be a disarming lot. They should be approachable. They should exhibit God’s love for his lost humanity and willing to suffer and pay the price for such lives. That inner flame of faith, that love of God which consumes them, should make them in this too-often-barren community of distraction, and of lives without meaning or hope, to be “pools in the wilderness”. They should wear the gospel of peace.

So also the lives which exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5): love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, patience, and self-control. And it takes all kinds of persons to be “burning bushes” in all kinds of places and circumstances. It is a noble and thrilling calling.  It is to be authentically human. Go for it!

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About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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2 Responses to BLOG 2/27/18. “WHEN GOD NEEDS A BURNING BUSH …”

  1. Craig says:

    Another good one. Thank you.

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