Maurice found out quickly that it was an enchanted palace in which he
had found refuge. It was Lumière, the candelabra, who broke the
silence and welcomed him. – By the way folks, if you have no idea what
I am talking about, that is the benefit of filming a service: you can do
your homework and watch the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast and
then listen to the rest.
Maurice, not quite sure why a candelabra could speak, picked up a
pendulum clock, which turned out to be Cogsworth, the Majordomo of
the castle. Maurice, completely amazed how it could be that two
objects talked to him, started investigating, turning poor Cogsworth up-
side down, shaking him, and even trying to mess around with his
pendulum, much to Cogsworth’s dislike.
Today, we heard about Moses and the Burning Bush and I was
immediately reminded of Maurice and Cogsworth when I read the
sentence: “Moses said: ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up’” (Ex 3:3). I see Moses looking at the bush from all sides, looking under and between the branches and burning twigs, trying to find the magic that does the trick.
Like Cogsworth, God didn’t like that too much and stopped Moses.
“Ey Moses, stop that and take off your shoes by the way.”
Poor Moses, I sometimes think, God came so wonderfully close to him,
but even face to face, God remained a mystery.
And what God spoke to Moses did not really help to reveal more to
There is the vocation for Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, which
seemed a bit of a farfetched idea for Moses at the time, and then, of
course, God’s wonderful self-introduction: “I AM WHO I AM”.
Moses was not alone in his dilemma. Peter, too, in our Gospel today,
had to find out that he thought he had understood Jesus, just to, then,
be rebuked by him in the toughest way imaginable. It took Peter 16
chapters in Matthew to realize and to confess that Jesus is the Messiah
just to then earn the rebuke from Jesus: “Get behind me Satan”, two
sentences later in the conversation.
God is who God is and Jesus is who Jesus is. The moment we think we
understood and finally got it, that is the moment when we lose grip on
Peter thought he got it when he declared Jesus the Messiah. But he had
to realize that his concept of what the Messiah was supposed to be was
completely different from what Jesus thought the Messiah is.
We try to nail down who and what God is, using big concepts to
describe God. Peter was so good with that. He kept telling Jesus what
he thought Jesus should be doing or not be doing, lording his concept
of Jesus’ ministry over him. ‘You mustn’t wash our feet, Jesus!’ Or on
the mountain, at the Transfiguration of Jesus, Peter wanted to build
huts and to nail down that mystical moment. In our Gospel passage,
Peter wants to push Jesus into his own personal concept of the
Messiah, who – in Peter’s idea – must not suffer but be the triumphant
Moses, to give him credit, gave up to define God constantly and to nail
God to one appearance. Moses did not start to worship bushes, nor did
he invent a ritual of burning bushes. Moses did not make a cult of the pillar of cloud and fire. Well, he made a bit of a cult around the two tables with the 10 Commandments, but hey…
He – in contrast to Peter – had realized that God had many ways to
reveal Herself. He must have realized that this God is a God in
relationship, a God of relationship.
I AM WHO I AM. And the self-introduction continues: And I am “the
God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob”.
God is who God is but God is God in relationship to people, in
relationship to us.
God is not defined by us but God’s self-definition happens in
relationship to God’s people. We try to nail God’s identity down by
using big concepts and by devaluing other people’s experiences of God.
But God, like Jesus with Peter, withdraws immediately when we start
pushing God into a box.
This is not to stop us from being curious like Maurice with Cogsworth. It
is part of faith to seek to understand God better. However, I hear the
Danish 19 th century philosopher Soren Kierkegard when he complained
that so often, God is only the human ideal and personal wishes
projected into heaven.
To avoid painting our own God into heaven, we have to remain open
for a God who surprises us again and again and a God who is always
completely different than we think.
God reveals some aspects voluntarily and out of grace but we can never
understand God fully and isn’t that our life-experience: Events in the
world often remain a mystery for us. For some things that happen, we
never understand the reasons; Like the loss of a loved one, like the
‘why’ behind this virus…
It drives us crazy but God wouldn’t be God if there was no mystery, no
But: In Jesus, God showed us one aspect of Herself that can lead us
through all the incomprehensible parts: God is true no matter what and
God is ready to go to the Cross, into and through death with us.
God works in mysterious ways, friends, but God is always at work. “The
God of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps 121:4). God is with us
in this and God is, who God is. This is a time of bearing the cross and it
is important for us to acknowledge that and to grieve about the loss of
our “normal” but as God let new life grow on the burned ground of the
Cross, so God will not let this bush burn but will use you as His tools and
hands to rebuild.
Don’t be a bunch of St. Peters who hold on to their concepts of what
things are supposed to be like, be creative and be open how to be
Church and community in this new time. Don’t wait 16 chapters until
you finally declare your idea, like Peter; get involved now and be pro-
active about it, and don’t spend too much time like Moses trying to
figure out what is happening under the branches of the burning bush,
but see the miracle of God’s presence in this community and embrace
May God Bless you all. It has been a Blessing and privilege for me to
minister among you.