Posted by: frroberts | February 25, 2016

Sunday Sermon Notes: Mary the Burning Bush, part 1

We are in the midst of an election cycle and one of the things about election cycles that never ceases to amaze me is how much politicians promise voters and how little they talk about where they are going to get the resources to do it.  Of course, very few of us really like making sacrifices except for things that we really, really want.  For example,  who among us can say that when we pay our taxes we don’t try to find every legal way possible to pay the lowest amount of money possible?  I certainly try to pay as little as I can.

When it comes to the things of God, we can have a similar attitude.  We ask ourselves, “What is the least that I have to do in order receive His help?” We are willing to give Him what He deserves, but not a penny more.  We want to have as much left over as possible for ourselves after we have given God His due.

In our first reading today, we hear the story of Moses encountering God under the appearance of a burning bush.  The bush burns without being consumed, which is very odd.  This oddity tells something very important about God.  When we allow God to enter into relationship with us, He does not consume us but rather transforms us.

If I am honest with myself, and perhaps you have same experience, it is very easy for me to fear God in a way that is not good for me.  Too often I understand obeying God’s will as a  zero-sum game.  In other words, when I do God’s will, I miss out on the chance to do my own.  So I say to myself, “When I fast in order to draw closer to God, such a sacrifice takes something away from me.”  When I allow God’s fire to touch me, it consumes a little part of who I am.  But the reverse is actually true.  When we allow God to touch us, He lights up our lives without consuming anything that is good in us.

Early Christian writers loved to contemplate this image of the burning bush as an illustration of what God’s grace goes when it touches an individual Christian.  In fact, these writers proposed Mary as the perfect embodiment of the image of the burning bush from the book of Exodus:

A Syriac Christian hymn from Thomas Christians in India sings:

The bush that Moses saw on the Mount Sinai
was symbolic of you, O Holy Virgin
The bush indicated your holy body
and the leaf unsinged, your virginity.
and the fire on the bush, God Who dwelled in you.

Likewise the ancient Christian Church of Egypt sings:

The Burning Bush seen by Moses
The prophet in the wilderness.
The fire inside, it was aflame.
But never consumed or injured it
The same with Mary the Mother of God.
Carried the fire of divinity
Nine months in her holy body
Without blemishing her virginity

How is Mary the perfect embodiment of the burning bush and why does it matter to us today?

(To be continued…)




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