Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent

March 24, 2019

Have you ever been in a crowd and saw someone you knew, yelled out their name or tapped them on the shoulder only to realize it wasn’t them?  An embarrassing moment of mistaken identity. But sometimes mistaken identity has more serious consequences, as in a police investigation. Other times, like in a case of stolen identify, it can have dire consequences.   In our faith, identity also plays an important role, as in: how we identify our God. Or in more common language, how we know God.

When Moses came across the burning bush, he was unfazed; in his culture those kinds of theophanies were well known.  But, he needed to get close, being faithful, he wanted to make sure it was his God, not another. So as he neared, God identified himself as “the God of your Fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. “  One would think that a voice from a burning bush identifying himself should have been enough, but not for Moses. He had to push the envelope and, just to make sure, asked, “What’s your name.”

“I AM.”  - That cleared it all up!  I AM… The God who is, who was and is to come; the God who is before all and is in all, the God whose Word created all things.  There is no other voice, there is no other God, there is no other power, there is no other. I AM.

Generations later we came to know God, not in a burning bush but God Incarnate in Jesus the Christ.  The Word of God made flesh, not a Word that appeared and then disappeared thirty-some years later. No, Jesus Christ is the Word of God, as St. Paul rightly identified as the same Word that spoke everything into being, the same Word that spoke from the bush on that mountain, the same Word that led God’s people to the Promised Land.  

The Word of God, Jesus Christ, is the same voice that calls all humanity - throughout all of history - in all cultures - to holiness and justice and compassion and charity and faithfulness and forgiveness.  Christ is the Word of God that speaks through the church as she grows and sins and reconciles; the Word that speaks to every culture and to worldly powers, to the richest and the poorest, to old and young, to straight and gay and black and white, to male and female.  To all. There is no other Word of God that ever was…is…or that will be. I AM.

In the parable that Jesus told we often mistakenly identify the voice of God with owner of the orchard.  It seems logic, right? The boss, the one who makes the calls, who determined what was to be done, which trees would be kept and which ones would be cut down.  But it’s not. In this parable, WE are the owners of the vineyard; we are the ones who are making the call of what survives on this earth, of who or what is worth saving, of who or what must go.  The voice of God is the gardener…the one who pleads to gives the tree a second chance, the one who sees what we cannot see, who takes pity and nurtures, who has compassion on the unproductive and the unworthy.

So, when the gods of comfort and wealth and prestige and false-promises come shouting for our attention (and they will) it is critical that we can distinguish the voice of God from all others.  When the voices of intolerance and impatience and efficiency and productivity at all cost shout out to us, we must decide if we will listen to them, or to our God, the God of second and third and fourth chances.  

There won’t always be a burning bush to grab our attention, and the voice of Jesus in the Gospels will often get lost under more prominent and flashy voices of the world.  It is then that we must listen closely to the voice of God that dwells deeply within our hearts and speaks with such a profound truth that it could not possibly be mistaken for any other voice except the voice of the great I AM.   “This is my name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations.”

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