Moses and the Burning Bush: Exodus 3
Teaching Strategy: Ask participants to list injustices they are aware of in the world today and discuss appropriate and inappropriate ways to confront such injustices. How can believers – individually and in collaboration with others – confront injustice in ways that honor what they know of God’s character, purpose, and presence?
Exodus 3 begins with God’s appearance to Moses in a burning bush. Several aspects of the story are noteworthy. God speaks to ordinary people in extraordinary ways. Such moments and places are holy. God hears the cry of the oppressed; God has compassion for those who are treated unjustly. God responds to the misery of the Israelites by sending a human deliverer. God’s message to Moses is a call to action – a call to deliver God’s people from the Egyptians. “Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and 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’” (v. 7-8a).
Moses doubted his ability to do as God asked, but God assured Moses by revealing the divine name, and promising to work with Moses to accomplish God’s purposes. Justice comes when humans become partners with God in the work of redemption.
In the news ….
- What do justice and injustice mean in the realm of health care? To what extent do the various health care bills – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) implemented by the Obama administration, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) approved by the House of Representatives, and the AHCA proposed by the Senate – address injustice or advance justice for the majority of Americans, especially the most vulnerable? Senate Health Care Bill Includes Deep Cuts to Medicaid
- A budget is a moral document determining the allocation of resources according to values and priorities. Many Christians have spoken out against injustices in the budget proposed by the Trump administration: Christians Across the Political Spectrum Oppose Cuts to the Poor in Trump’s Budget
- What do justice and injustice mean in the realm of criminal justice? In what ways are criminals oppressed by the current system? Evangelical Leaders Push for Criminal Justice reform
- How should God’s compassion for the oppressed inform the relationship of the United States to the rest of the world? What effect will the proposed cuts in foreign aid have on the well-being of the oppressed and vulnerable around the world? America’s Foreign Policy: Embrace Thugs, Dictators and Strongmen; ‘Trump’s Aid Budget is Breathtakingly Cruel – Cuts Like These Will Kill People’
Summer 2017 Theme: God’s Urgent Call
Unifying Principle: People get accustomed to living with the injustices that prevail in society. What does it take to address injustice? God called Moses to address injustice and empowered him with the knowledge of God’s identity, purpose, and presence.
Samson’s Call: Judges 13: 1-7, 24-25
Teaching Strategy: Invite participants to share how, in hindsight, they have perceived God at work in their lives, preparing them for and leading them into their current leadership roles. Invite them also to discuss how they perceive God working through the lives of others in today’s world.
The story of Samson in Judges 13 is an example of a birth announcement like others found in Scripture. An angel of God appeared to the wife of Manoah (who had been barren) to tell her that she would bear a son. He would be a lifelong “nazirite,” a designation that imposed certain restrictions upon him, such as not cutting his hair and not drinking wine or alcohol. He was named Samson and the Lord blessed him. The stories about Samson that follow in chapters 13-16 describe a character who is not what one would expect of someone called to deliver Israel (13:5).
People want to believe that their lives have purpose and meaning. Believers have faith that God is present in their lives even before birth. They believe God uses life experiences to prepare them to fulfill God’s divine purposes. Many believers make vows to God and devote themselves to disciplined living, whether by practicing specific spiritual disciplines or regulating specific behaviors.
The story of Samson invites participants to reflect on many aspects of God’s call to us today: its origin even before birth, the demands it makes upon us to live in certain ways, the way its purpose(s) may be hidden in the present and visible only in hindsight, and/or its unpredictability – God often uses those we would least expect. It also invites reflection on where in today’s world God is working to deliver God’s people and God’s creation.
- How did God work through the life of Dwight McKissic, a black Southern Baptist pastor in Texas, to prepare him to fulfill his calling to be a leader at the recent SBC Convention? Here are two of many descriptions of what took place there: In Quick Reversal, Southern Baptists Denounce White Nationalists; and Southern Baptists, Racism, and the Alt-Right: It’s Time to Make This Right, Plain, and Clear.
- How is God calling believers to fulfill God’s purposes of reconciliation in response to the shooting that took place last week in Alexandria, VA, where Republican lawmakers were practicing for a charity baseball game? Here are reflections from leaders in the United Church of Christ: UCC President Condemns Violence Spawned by Political Divide; and Commentary: Love, Reconciliation Among Enemies
- The Creation Justice Ministries and the National Council of Churches recently published a joint statement, CJM and NCC Lament Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement. Where and how is God calling us to work together – as individuals, churches, states, and nations – to save the world that God created and entrusted to us?
Summer 2017 Theme: God’s Urgent Call
Unifying Principle: Preparation for leadership may involve life circumstances not of one’s own choosing. How do we respond when we find ourselves in such circumstances? Even before birth, Samson’s call was assured as shown by the instructions the Lord’s angel gave to his mother.
Jephthah Answers the Call: Judges 11:4-11, 29-31
Teaching Strategy: Discuss modern-day examples of people or groups who allow incidents in the past or disagreements in the present to impede their ability to work together. Encourage participants to consider examples within their own church setting (or the wider Christian church) in which opposing opinions and disagreements hinder the work of the church.
Jephthah, the son of Gilead and a prostitute, was a mighty warrior. Jephthah’s siblings, sons of Gilead and his wife, rejected Jephthah and sent him away. Later, when the leaders of Gilead came to ask Jephthah to save them from the Ammonites, he reminded them of their past and questioned their motives. He agreed to be their leader only if God gave him success in the battle against the Ammonites, saying “If you bring me home again to fight with the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head” (v.9b).”
What can we learn from this story about God’s call to leadership? How are some of the challenges that leaders today face – such as painful histories, broken relationships, questionable motives, or fundamental disagreement – similar to the challenges Jephthah faced when he was called to leadership? How can leaders today overcome such challenges and bring people together to accomplish God’s purposes?
- How might institutions atone for the profound harm caused by slavery deep within their own history? Georgetown University To Offer Slave Descendants Preferential Admissions
- How can Congress fulfill its role effectively when there is such polarization between political parties and within each party, especially the Republican party which holds the majority in both houses? This Is Why Trump’s Legislative Agenda Is Stuck In Neutral
- How will the United Methodist Church move forward in the midst of deep divisions? Methodist High Court Rejects First Openly Gay Bishop’s Consecration
- What will be the future of the government of the United Kingdom and its leadership role in the world – in light of last week’s election results? A Simple Guide to the UK Election Result
- How will world leaders work together to address climate change despite the decision by the President to withdraw from the Paris agreement? Global leaders outraged over Trump’s Paris Climate Agreement Decision (YouTube)
Summer 2017 Theme: God’s Urgent Call
Unifying Principle: People called to be leaders may question the motives of their supporters. How do these leaders know if their supporters’ motives are sincere? Jephthah discussed the inconsistencies in the behavior of his supporters and established conditions for his leadership.
Gideon’s Call: Judges 6:11-18
Teaching Strategy: List and discuss additional examples from Scripture in which God chooses an unexpected person to accomplish great things. How do God’s choices of such people affect how we think about God acting in the world today?
Gideon questioned God’s call saying, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (v.15b). In a culture where family, parentage, and birth order largely determined one’s status, God’s choice of Gideon would have come as a shock. But Gideon’s call is a reminder that God chooses servants based on divine wisdom, not human criteria. The Bible is full of stories in which God calls an unlikely person and uses that person to accomplish God’s divine will. Often the person called doubts his or her ability to accomplish what is asked, and yet God’s presence makes all things possible.
In many ways the same is true today. God uses people we least expect to fulfill God’s purposes. Even when they doubt their ability, God empowers them to do more than they imagined possible. Questions remain! If we feel called, how do we know it’s God? How do we allow God to overcome our doubts and the circumstances that seem to limit us? As believers, how can we open our eyes so that we see God working through others – using “ordinary” unexpected people to accomplish extraordinary things? Where was/is God at work in these stories?
- The President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement and responses to that decision, including diverse views summarized in this article, Strong Religious Reaction to Trump Climate Accord Decision
- The death of two men who intervened when another man was shouting anti-Muslim hate speech at two teenage girls, one of them wearing a hijab: Portland Praises Its Heroes After Fatal Stabbing. NCC spokesperson Steven Martin wrote NCC Remembers, With Prayers, Victims of Portland Attack
- Efforts to end sex trafficking of girls reported last month in Christianity Today: Cambodia’s Child Sex Industry Is Dwindling-And They Have Christians To Thank
- Accomplishments depicted in the 2016 book, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, and its film adaptation, summarized here in Smithsonian Magazine
Summer 2017 Theme: God’s Urgent Call
Unifying Principle: People sometimes view their circumstances as a hindrance to being effective leaders. How do they deal with their doubts? Gideon voiced his doubts and requested a miraculous sign.