As Passover approaches I am drawn to a burning bush. Moses, simply tending sheep, not expecting any touch of transcendence to invade him, is drawn to a burning bush. The bush continues to burn but is never consumed. Out from this burning bush calls the voice of God, an unfamiliar voice, a voice calling in the desert... "Moses, Moses! do not come any closer." God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Moses can't even look, the sight is beyond him. This God, beyond vision, beyond understanding, hears the cries of his people in Egypt and he responds. When Moses asks for a name... when he disparately tries to manage this God, the response is "eh’yeh asher eh’yeh" a difficult phrase to translate (ironic?), a phrase which roughly means, "I am what I am." Moses can't pin this God down, he can't name him, he can't exercise any control before this God. "I am what I am" or "I am what I will be" is the God who's responding to the tears of slaves. Isn't it ironic? The gods of slavery and oppression, all of them nameable, manipulable for personal gain, and all of them crushing the people. Yet this God, truly beyond manipulation, beyond definition, beyond management, hears them in the lowest places. We are hard pressed to say who this God is, other than by watching what this God does, but we can say what this God is not... this God is not a God of oppression and slavery. This is a God of freedom, exercising his own freedom in alluding our definitions and seeking the freedom of people by sending them a savior. This is a God who demonstrates power, not through crushing people and forcing them to make bricks, but through liberation and compassion!
"We call out your name in as many ways as we can.
We fix your role towards us in the ways we need.
We approach you from the particular angle of our life.
We do all that, not because you need to be identified,
but because of our deep need,
our deep wound,
our deep hope.
And then, we are astonished that while our names for you
serve for a moment,
you break beyond them in your freedom,
you show yourself yet fresh beyond our utterance,
you retreat into your splendor beyond our grasp.
We are--by your freedom and your hiddenness--
made sure yet again that you are God...
beyond us, for us, but beyond us,
not at our beck and call,
but always in your own way.
We stammer about your identity,
only to learn that it is our own unsettling
before you that wants naming.
Beyond all our explaining and capturing and fixing you...
we give you praise,
we thank you for your fleshed presence in suffering love,
and for our names that you give us. Amen."
_Walter Brueggemann (Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Page 14.)