How willing are you to surrender all you are? To hand it over and say, 'This is not me any more.'
Exodus 3 tells us a story of Moses, encountering God at a burning bush. He is given the task of leading his people out of captivity in Egypt. He is not offered it. The God written about in the Old Testament doesn't say 'I'd like you to...' He says, 'I have chosen you to...' You remain called until such a time as you are uncalled. Unsurprisingly, Moses has many questions:
Who am I?
Who are you?
What shall I say?
What if they won't listen?
Why not send someone else?
Read the passage for the answers. This isn't a sermon, although the answer to the 'Who are you' question is particularly interesting. 'I am who I am' is a Hebrew construction. If someone says, 'Where did they go?' and you don't know, you might reply, 'They went where they went.' It means 'I cannot answer your question in your terms.' Hmm. Or maybe, on this occasion, megahmm.
So on our parish weekend together we were invited to lay down our identity, influence and income. For 24 hours the things we wrote on a staff of wood were laid, together on the floor.
Just as Moses' staff in the story was laid down and when picked up became a snake, then the staff of God, so we laid down a symbol of who we are. Surrendered.
A lot of my identity is to do with being on my feet in front of groups of people. So amongst other things, a little later than everyone else because I had a talk to do first, I laid down the fruits of 34 years public ministry and the ability to speak, some say quite well, in public. It was hard. It was hard because, as I explained to those who were there, it wasn't something I ever thought I'd do with my life, it wasn't something I had a natural aptitude for and it has been a struggle to get to the point of feeling that it is any use to others. It was a bit of an Abraham and Isaac moment. What Lord? Lay that down. Bugger.
I told people during my talk on being totally transformed that the end was going to be good. I didn't know quite how good. Because taking 34 years of sweat, tears, preparation and archiving and saying, 'That's it' when you think you have more to give is tough. It wasn't good in the sense that it was a well-rounded conclusion summarising the previous 40 minutes' points. It was good in that the drama of me, cracking up (I didn't know I was going to) said that this is what surrendering feels like.
We picked up our staffs again the next day to remind ourselves that we are all still servants of God. By a freak of diaries I don't have any sermons or talks to do for a couple of weeks. So although I have the staff back I don't know what I've got back yet. Bumpy ride ahead. December 13th may be an interesting day.