Blessing at the Burning Bush

The Burning Bush
Image: The Burning Bush © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Year A, Proper 17/Ordinary 22/Pentecost +12: Exodus 3.1-15

God called to him out of the bush,
“Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”
—Exodus 3.4

I have recently returned home from Minnesota, where I was on retreat at Saint John’s Abbey with wondrous folks from my community of Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery. At Compline (night prayer) on the opening night of our retreat, we heard these words from the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict:

What, dear brothers and sisters, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?

Delightful is probably not the first word that comes to Moses’ mind on the day that he hears God calling to him from a bush that blazes but is not consumed. Maybe terrifying, Moses thinks. Maybe overwhelming. Moses hides his face, but he does not leave. He does not turn away from the one who speaks to him and knows his name.

Nearly every story in the scriptures seems, in one way or another, to ask us: Will we open our eyes, our ears? What will we do with what we see, with what we hear? How will we bear the terrible delight of the blessing that blazes before us, that burns within us?

Blessing at the Burning Bush

You will have to decide
if you want this—
want the blessing
that comes to you
on an ordinary day
when you are minding
your own path,
bent on the task before you
that you have done
a hundred times,
a thousand.

You will have to choose
for yourself
whether you will attend
to the signs,
whether you will open your eyes
to the searing light, the heat,
whether you will open
your ears, your heart
to the voice
that knows your name,
that tells you this place
where you stand—
this ground so familiar
and therefore unregarded—
is, in fact,

You will have to discern
whether you have
defenses enough
to rebuff the call,
excuses sufficient
to withstand the pull
of what blazes before you;
whether you will
hide your face,
will turn away
back toward—
what, exactly?

No path from here
could ever be
ordinary again,
could ever become
unstrange to you
whose seeing
has been scorched
beyond all salving.

You will know your path
not by how it shines
before you
but by how it burns
within you,
leaving you whole
as you go from here
blazing with
your inarticulate,
your inescapable

—Jan Richardson

For reflections on the Gospel reading, click the image or title below.

Blessing Cross
Blessing in the Shape of a Cross

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Burning Bush,” please visit this page at (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

9 Responses to “Blessing at the Burning Bush”

  1. Linda Faltin Says:

    Jan, this poem is wonderful! What an amazing way you have captured the quote holy ground image. I am printing this out to keep on my desk to read often.

  2. Tanda Ainsworth Says:

    Dear Jan,
    The last stanza of your poem resonated deeply for me: I will know my path not by how it shines before me, but by how it burns within me.
    This last stanza pulled me deeper into some words from Teresa of Avila: “My happiness will consist not in untroubled, peaceful days, but in the courage to follow your will wherever it may take me.” I find myself faced with a deeply embedded belief that if I live a good spiritual life I will experience peaceful days. I am now challenged, both by your amazing poem as well as by the words of St. Teresa to change that old belief of mine. May I have the courage to say Yes to the burning within, and to let go of the notion I will find a shining path before me.
    Your words and artwork so touch me. I have one of your pieces hanging in my loom room where I weave prayer shawls. It is a bit like having you there with me. Thank you for your gifts of words and art.

  3. Gail Churchill Says:

    Your poetry confronts me in a way like none other. Thanks.

  4. Catherine Says:

    Dear Jan,
    In two weeks, 3 young people will be confirmed in our church. I decided to give them all the gift of a journal and was waiting for inspiration as to what to put inside on the first page. This poem of yours would be perfect, so I am asking your permission to include it with each gift, giving credit to you of course.

    I await your reply.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Catherine, kind thanks! I’d be delighted for you to use the blessing in this way. Many blessings to you and to the three young people who will soon be confirmed! Thank you again.

      • Catherine Says:

        Jan, you are more than kind, thank you ever so much! I’m praying that the blessing of your words become a blessing to these 3 young people.

  5. Lynda Says:

    I read and reread this poem and was led to think of the disciples who had spoken with Jesus on the road to Emmaus when Jesus came, walked with them and broke bread with them after which they recognized him and he disappeared. “They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us…'” (Luke 24:32)

    The last verse articulates exactly how I feel regarding the path on which God is leading me. Thank you for this amazing reflection.

  6. Carolyn Sargent Says:

    This image is so beautiful. And the words? Beautifully thought provoking.

  7. Ernest Izard Says:

    Thank you again, Jan. The words about how the land was made holy. Wars have been fought, blood spilled over so called holy places around the world. There is no monastery or cathedral built over the place where Moses heard God’s call. Maybe there is a message in there over what and where God meets us to call us. And maybe that’s a good thing.

    Blessings on your safety! Prayers remain.

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