Daily reflections from the Bolton Circuit

Rev Hilary Howarth – 17th September 2020

“What have you got in your hand?”

On Saturday I was part of a circuit leadership team away day (via zoom). One of our facilitators, took us through the story of Moses and the burning bush and asked what we have in our hand. Again, it may seem a strange question, but we were invited to look at it in terms of the gifts and skills that we each have in our hand that we can use to undertake what God is calling us to do, or we believe are important to work towards.

“What have you got in your hand?” This is the question God poses to Moses when he invites him to come close to the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3. God “invites” Moses to go back to Egypt and to the Hebrew people to lead them out of the country to a new home in the Promised Land, but first Moses is required to go to the Pharaoh to ask him on behalf of God to “let my people go.” Moses comes up with very plausible excuses as to why he is unable to do this –that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to him, that he wouldn’t believe him and he wasn’t a very eloquent speaker (slow of speech and of tongue is how Moses put it). Moses came up with a huge list of excuses why he shouldn’t go, but God was having none of it! “What do you have in your hand?” God asked him, which may seem a strange question to ask, but Moses replied “A staff”, and God told him to throw it onto the ground where it turned into a snake. When Moses picked it up again it turned back into a staff. Moses knew that even with all his excuses, this was something he had to do, and rather unwillingly he goes.

What do I have in my hand? What do you have in yours? One part of us says we don’t have any gifts or skills, and we naturally and rightly don’t want to brag about the gifts that we do have, but we all have them. Every single one of us. What gifts and skills do you have in your hand right at this current moment? We will not be called to lead as Moses was, but we are all in a position where our gifts and skills can be utilised to work in the church, local community or further afield.

Sometimes we think we are past it and too old to work for God. What do you have in your hand? A telephone with which to ring someone up to brighten their day, a pen to write to someone to let them know you’re thinking of them, a skill to work with the technical team to create Sunday morning worship – even during lockdown (or especially during lockdown) we have “something in our hand” to make a difference.

Perhaps we could look at it from the other direction, that we are too young to know what we have in our hand, but let me say that the enthusiasm on a Sunday morning from the children as they come onto zoom for Family church, is their gift that makes me smile. On Sunday morning Catriona will share her story as she moves to Liverpool to start university to study architecture. What does she have in her hand? – a passion to speak about climate change that has made me sit up and take more notice of what is going on around us. So, what do you have in your hand that God is asking you to use?

Fast forward to Exodus 14 and Pharaoh has finally agreed after a series of increasingly destructive plagues, rather reluctantly, to let God’s people go. But then he changes his mind and chases after them. When Moses and the Israelites arrive at the Red Sea they are faced with a seemingly impenetrable wall of water before them and the might of the Egyptian army behind them. God says to Moses “stretch out your hand” and Moses does so. Without question, he utilises all the gifts and skills he has and stretches out his hand and the Red Sea is parted. The Israelite people escape through the waters and the Egyptians meet a soggy end.

In 11 of the most thrilling chapters in the Old Testament, we see Moses move from a reluctant, excuse-finding, feeble leader to a man who had the wisdom to use the gifts and skills he’d been given, to not question God but to do as he is asked.

Moses moves from a place of being asked “what do you have in your hand?” to the place of “Stretch out your hand”. Today, what do you have in your hand? Are you being asked to stretch out your hand to use what you have for others?

Prayer: Lord, I often feel I don’t have anything in my hand, it’s rather empty. But I know that is not the case, I have all sorts of gifts and skills that I could use to build your Kingdom or to make someone else’s life a little brighter during this time. Enable me to see what I have in my hand and be willing to stretch it out so I am able to move from a place of saying “I can use this” but a place of saying “I will use this.” Amen