13 Pentecost, September 3
While keeping the flock of Jethro, Moses sees a fire-angel in the midst of a bush. The God of all power and might cuts open a space among temporal things to be and burn. This intrusion is not, however, the destruction of what God has made. “For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made” (Wis. 11:24; Collect for Ash Wednesday). The bush remains and is rooted in one sacramental and irrevocable truth. God so loved the world.
Moses is pulled toward this strange vision. “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up” (Ex. 3:3). Then the Lord calls out from the bush, saying, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5). Moses hides his face for fear and trembles (Ex. 3:6; Acts 7:32). God hates nothing made and yet he is still the “Lord of all power and might,” or, as the Latin source has it, “God of powers” (Deus virtutum). But just as God, in love, will not consume the bush, he will not be deaf to the cry of human suffering. “I have observed the misery of my people,” “I have heard their cry,” “I know their sufferings” (Ex. 3:7). Foreknowing the descent of Christ among the living and the dead, and the triumph of Easter, the Lord says, “I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8).
“Have the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil. 2:5). Going down to the valley of pain and death is a path up. “If any want to become my follower, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25). This is not merely a matter of identification, but also of liberation. “So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:10).
God in Christ has gone down to rescue us from Egypt, to pull us from the grip and the prince of this age. Imagining the deer of Psalm 42 as the newly baptized, St. Jerome says: “Just as the deer long for the water-brooks, so our deer (the baptized), who departing Egypt and this age have destroyed Pharaoh and have put to death all his hosts—after the destruction of the Devil, they desire the fonts of the Church, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Homily on Psalm 42). The font of being, the font of Wisdom, the font of Living Water, one eternal and transcendent Being, comes to rescue the afflicted, those who cry and weep in the night. God comes to save a people and to baptize with infusing and augmenting grace.
This is the ground of all Christian compassion. We were once slaves in Egypt. And because God heard our cries and came to save us so long ago, and again once for all in Christ, we are to feel for each other. “Let love be genuine; … hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection” (Rom. 12:9).
Look It Up
Read Exodus 3:14.
Think About It
I Am hears you.