Eloise Chandler, a senior at Roanoke Catholic, gave this sermon for Youth Sunday this year, on March 24.
A bush on fire but not burning? God calling a shepherd to save the Israelites, an entire population of people?
It makes sense that Moses was confused and frightened by the will of God. Moses was afraid to look at God. Moses stumbled upon God’s mountain by mere circumstance. He did not know God’s plan for him but proceeded to follow God’s instructions. He was afraid to look at God out of utter fear and respect. Right here, Moses shows us what it’s like to put full faith in God.
[In today’s Old Testament reading, Exodus 3:1-15] God tells Moses he knows of the suffering of the Israelites and tells Moses to to go and bring them out of the suffering of Egypt. Moses is a simple man minding his business. Just like us, he had no warning signs and he feels incredibly underqualified to go and save an entire race of people. He doesn’t know how he would save a whole race of people so he questions God, like we all have done.
God tells Moses that when he has rescued the people he shall bring them to this unexpected holy ground and there they will all worship God. God says to Moses, “I am who I am,” and the Israelites are to follow, because God has sent Moses by his command to rescue them.
Moses is a biblical example of an everyday situation. All of us sitting here today are patiently awaiting God’s call. God may not come to us in a burning bush, but eventually God will present himself to every one of us in his own way.
We, just like Moses, are probably not prepared to hear the voice of God. To prepare for God’s calling to us as individuals we should keep our hearts open to prayer and open to new ideas and opportunities in our lives.
Now that I am a senior in high school, a lot of opportunities are in front of me. I have the path that I want to take but I am slowly beginning to see that God may have written my story a bit differently. Or, I always thought that high school would be like the movies and that I would have this perfect life, but God often has different plans. I am thankful for the path that God has put me on. Through the paths that God has designed, we will find him and hear his call along the way.
Personally, finding God’s reasoning in things like being rejected to a college is a struggle, but I have put total faith in that whatever happens through the next few years, God will help me thrive. When God closes one door, it is his way of leading us to an open one with better opportunities and experiences, whether we view it that way or not.
One door God opened to me would be my call to help preserve the environment. As someone who appreciates nature and has a genuine care for God’s creation, I believe he has put my family and me in the crossfire of the [Mountain Valley] pipeline so that we can live out one of our callings.
Through all the fighting and turmoil caused by greed, my eyes have been opened to another of God’s callings in my life. Through my experiences being a protestor, I have become aware that I have a calling that is bigger than myself, something beyond the scope of my personal life. This call affects various individuals in all kinds of situations; my call to stand up for what’s right impacts much more than myself and has made me realize that God’s call on our lives may not be straightforward either.
All of us experience God’s plan for us in an individual way because each of us has our own story. Every one of can make an impact in our church, in our community and throughout the world. Through these impacts, we can find a new calling or create a new holy ground where we least expect it.
Not only did Moses not expect this call from God, he did not expect the mountain where he was standing to become holy ground. Think of a time when you have experienced God’s peace. This is God at work in our everyday lives. Through God’s creation we create interactions with our surroundings and with our neighbors. Sometimes we might not even know or we forget that we are on God’s holy ground.
God works in mysterious ways. Two summers ago I visited Norway, and while we were there we walked on a glacier. It was below freezing, sheets of ice were being blown in our faces, I could hardly see the person in front of me, and I loved it. If I looked close enough I could see the striations of the water running in the glacier beneath my feet. Something like that could not be man-made and it made me take a second and realize that God is able to create something so powerful. I felt very close to Him.
I’m not saying go to Norway and walk on a glacier to find God’s presence – unless you want to, and I highly recommend you do if you have the opportunity.
Another experience where I discovered God was attending the St. John’s mission trip. I have been on two and if you are available or interested in going, I highly recommend it. We went to Wise county, Virginia, which is an area that suffers from poverty. We fixed up houses to make them more livable. These mission trips are so much more than rebuilding houses, they are about building relationships with someone we would not choose on our own to associate with. The places we helped became holy in those moments. Being able to go to a place to help another person who is in incredible need opened my heart and my eyes. This is another calling I have received from God that ties into my activist side of things. The ability to help a person is everything. God created us all in his image. No one is above anyone else. These experiences where we get to help others in need have humbled me to that realization.
These experiences made me realize all the things I take for granted every day and how lucky I truly am. It surprised me how much human connection and holy ground I found in some of the places we went to, and the relationships I formed.
Every person experiences God differently and finds holy ground in different places and I encourage all of us to help someone in need and to find some meditative time in our chaotic weeks to find holy ground in an unexpected place. The experiences you will encounter, through the serenity of the outdoors and the beauty of the human connection, will help guide you along God’s path.
Moses received an unexpected call in an unexpected place. He is no different than any one of us sitting here today. We all have a call from God – we just have to be listening. Through our experiences, out trust and our willingness to answer God’s call, we are living our lives to the fullest.