Hineni: Here I Am Exodus 3: 1-4

During my school days, attendance was taken every morning and marked in the roll book. Being punctual and attentive, I always waited for my name to be called. When my name was called, I would say either "Present" or "Here," or I could raise one arm to indicate my presence. The phrase "here or present" showed that we were physically present in school, and the teacher would mark us as such in the roll book unless we were absent.
Truthfully, most of us hardly ever think about the word 'here' or 'present.' It's a word that doesn't usually cross our minds. I didn't contemplate this word's deeper meaning until I attended the Facing the Future conference last October. During a workshop session, we were introduced to a Hebrew word, 'Hineni,' which means 'Here I am.' This word is used in the context of God's call, and we respond by saying, "Here I am, Lord."
The Bible has many stories of people who answered God's call by saying, "Hineni—Here I am," without knowing what God would ask of them. For example, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham just said, "Here I am!" God called out to a young boy named Samuel; it took Samuel three times to realize it was God's calling and say, "Here I am!" Centuries later, in the book of Isaiah, the prophet said, "Here I am! Send me!" when God asked who would go for him. When God spoke to Moses from a burning bush, Moses said something like, "I'm here!" which led to God giving him a task. That moment at the burning bush was a big deal for Moses because it changed him from a shepherd to a leader of the Israelite nation.
Hineni is a Hebrew word that describes a significant turning point in one's life. It often entails making a decision, taking action, and achieving a resolution. It is comparable to the moment when Moses approached the burning bush with curiosity, and God called to him. Hineni carries a profound meaning beyond the physical presence of an individual. It is a response to God's call, where one answers with their entire being - physical, emotional, and spiritual - to fulfill God's request. It signifies one's readiness to respond to God's call, willingness to act, and commitment to give oneself entirely. It also represents a complete availability to whatever may unfold as a result. When we say Hineni, we express our willingness to respond to God's call with our full attention, which is different from how we respond to a teacher.
For some of us, it takes time to respond to God, while others may decline. Some of us are curious and investigate like Moses in the burning bush. However, the manner in which we arrive to respond to God is insignificant. What matters is that God persists until we hear God's voice and respond with Hineni.
God cannot speak to us and guide us until we respond to God's call. It is not just about saying yes but also about being present and being in a relationship with God so that God can communicate with us. It is not enough to simply answer God's call; we must also heed God's instructions. For example, Moses listened to God's instructions from the burning bush and freed God's people from bondage. Moses' Hineni turned from "Here I am, Lord" to Lord, "I am here" for YOU. In that, God does not only call us to be in a relationship with God but also to serve the people.
For me, my Hineni is to help every individual find meaning and comfort at times of joy and sadness, to enable our congregants to find a sense of the sacred in the everyday, ordinary acts in which we participate, and finally, to work to make our church a place of meaning, connection, and purpose for our members. I have always hoped to point to the sacred potential in each moment we experience along our life's journey. Whenever I visit a patient in a hospital, help parents welcome a new child, connect with our youth and engage them in God's words, share in the joy of a wedding, and hold the hand of someone who has suffered a loss — I am affirming those Hineni moments.
Each of us has daily opportunities to respond Hineni to God and the individuals around us. We must commit to serving God and our community by being available and ready to listen and lead them toward God. Remember, each one of us has the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life every day. So, let us be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need. Let us love and serve others just as Christ has loved and served us.
I know the call is not easy. It is hard work but fulfilling. It is the work of calming, quieting down, noticing, and acting in a manner that says Hineni, I am here and ready to bring God's presence into every relationship and encounter—the work of pursuing dignity and justice for every human being. God continuously calls us to change, imagine, and think of ways to fulfill that call in our lives.
In our response to God and to the call to serve, it is important to remember that God is always there for us, and we can always turn to God for help. God promises to be with us, and we should not be afraid. God promises never to leave us or abandon us. God has already demonstrated God's faithfulness and willingness to walk with us and help us, as seen through God's son's sacrifice on the cross. God is always listening to and waiting for us, but are we ready to respond to God's call and follow God's directions for us?
Pray with me:
Hineni – I am here. Today, I will hear the call that brings me into the present moment with myself.
Hineni – I am here. Today, I will focus more of my attention, love, and care towards those people I know need that from me.  
Hineni – I am here. May today be the day I dedicate myself anew to the rebuilding and repair of the world. Here I am, Lord! Hinenni! Send me!

Written by Rev. Kay Dubuisson