Throughout Lent, I’ll be sharing a weekly devotion that draws on my travels to the middle east. Here is the third.
“Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’” — Exodus 3:3-5
Today we visit St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, the traditional site of the burning bush. On your way to St. Catherine’s, you’ll climb through a beautiful but harsh desert landscape of blowing sand, jagged cliffs, and plastic water bottles, tossed by travelers. Bedouin settlements cluster around springs. Disinterested shepherds cradle cellphones and watch shaggy flocks of sheep and goats. At the racetrack, a runaway camel, fast and cagey, brays and evades his captors. It’s a stunning place to visit, but how do people live here? It’s a testament to tenacity, ingenuity, and tradition.
When Moses tended the flock of his father-in-law Jethro here, he may have been regretting his change in careers. He had traded his role as Prince of Egypt for that of a nomadic shepherd in the Sinai Wilderness. It was hot, hard, lonely work with plenty of time to think about the mistakes he had make, like killing that Egyptian overseer. Then, he saw something remarkable, a bush that appeared to burn but was not consumed. As he turned aside to explore the mystery, Moses discovered that he was on holy ground and that God had a holy purpose for his life: leading the Hebrew people to freedom.
Wherever you may walk today, remember that it is on holy ground, and God has a holy purpose for you.
What might you need to turn aside from today so that you can have eyes to see and ears to hear God’s holy purpose for your life?
Please pray with me . . .
God of our ancestors, we turn aside from the preoccupations of our life to attend to your presence. Grant us eyes to see the bush that burns for us. Take off our shoes. Give us ears to hear the purpose that you would have us undertake. When you call our name, may we answer, “Here I am.” We pray through Christ our Lord, who was and is and is to come. Amen.
“‘You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,’ said the Lion.” — C.S. Lewis
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” — Frederick Buechner
“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.” — Annie Dillard
Sinai Trail, St. Catherine’s Monastery, Egypt
2 thoughts on “Turn Aside”
Thank You, Joann, Now I better understand better Jesus’ words in Jerusalem to those who would kill him after He had turned aside and healed a certain invalid at the pool of Bethesda, “… the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” (Jn 5:19-21)
It is God in us, as the facts of consciousness play out before us, who quickens our attention and hearts to turn aside and responsively, in love, work the things he so wills. It is interesting to note that Jesus saw and heard… and then did… thus actively meeting the counsel imbedded in the Shemah (Deut. 6:4ff)).
Thank you, Russell. I like the thought that Jesus’s encounter with the lame man at the pool is a “burning bush” moment. No doubt about it — we are daily invited to “turn aside” to pursue the Father’s purpose. Will we attend, make the time, take the risk, open our hearts? There’s a good sermon in that 😉