dr-rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgSurrender sometimes can be quick and easy but submission is tough because it is a life-long process. Any criminal who has run from the law fearing going to jail and the ensuing loss of freedom will tell you this. However, once captured, the criminal finds peace knowing the hiding is over and the beginning of repentance has begun.

When the full force of the divine breaks into our lives, it awaits a quiet moment of personal withdrawal. It is then the call from God comes, using a commonplace occurrence to capture our attention.

For instance, in Exodus (3:3-4), God creates an unusual, occurrence, the burning bush, to get Moses attention. Scripture tells us, “Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn.’ When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ ”

A bush on fire in the summer desert heat is not unusual but not being consumed by the heat of the flame is a symbol of the divine. The full force of the divine breaks into Moses’ life in his quiet moment in the desert wilderness—his ordinary workplace. For a shepherd, the desert is commonplace but now it is touched by God in the form of a burning bush that is unconsumed.

The intriguing event makes Moses turn aside to see what this great sight is and, when he does, he unknowingly surrenders to God. Seeing Moses turn aside (surrender), God calls him then by name, “Moses! “Moses!”  Moses answers, “Here I am.” It is then that God demands submission, telling him, “Do not come any closer,” and to remove his sandals, because where he is standing (the commonplace) is now Holy ground.

When the full force of the divine breaks into our lives, it awaits our undivided attention and God calls us by name from within our own burning bush. As He gets our attention, God pushes us toward the presence of Jesus.

Often we study God’s Word, grow in its knowledge and faith but fail to put our faith into action. It is then God brings Jesus into the picture and He calls us into action, as He did the disciples on the boat, their commonplace: “They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him. ” (Matthew 4:18b-20)

Recently, a fellow pastor shared her call into ministry, which started near the Columbine High School in Colorado, the site of the April 20, 1999, shootings. The pastor confessed to being a Christian at that time and living next-door to the high school and, although seeing all the grief, did nothing to help those troubled children. It bothered her and it was at that moment she realized with all the knowledge she had about God, her faith had no legs. So she decided to help her pastor in his efforts of doing something and, through this, she watched her faith grow legs and turn into action. This action led her into seminary and, ultimately, into the ministry.

Instances like the Columbine shootings and the burning bush are not meant to be barriers excluding God but, rather, veils used to hide the workings of God’s divine power in our lives and the lives of others.  Like the burning bush, we can see the glory of God’s presence in our everyday workplaces transforming us into who God wants us to be and, like the flame, the Spirit burns in us but yet it doesn’t consume us.

God calls us to surrender to Jesus and Jesus teaches us submission to the Holy Spirit, all three working together to bring a deep and lasting peace. The most important prerequisite, perhaps, for Christian service is surrender and submission to God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Surrender and Submission may not be easy, but together, they allow God’s divine power to create an everlasting peace within us.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at pastor@churchoftheopendoormiami.org.