We meet Moses again this week. Both he and God are still hot with anger about the whole golden calf incident from last week. Now maybe anger sounds harsh, coming from God; but I take it as a good sign, a sign that God really wants to be in relationship with us- you know, the deep kind where our actions affect each other. A curious line leads us into the scripture today: the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
And it follows that Moses said to the Lord, "See, you have said to me, 'Bring up this people'; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.' Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people." God said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." And Moses said to God, "If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth."
The Lord said to Moses, "I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name." Moses said, "Show me your glory, I pray." And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, 'The Lord'; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But," God said, "you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live." And the Lord continued, "See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen."
Show me! Show me! Moses pleads with God, Show me your way. Show me your glory.
I encounter this phrase a lot. “Show me! Show me! I want to see!” It’s often when I’m using my vantage point to see something that a 4-year old just can’t. See that pretty ornament atop the tree? See that deer running through the field? And when she can’t, I hear: “Show me, I want to see too!” It’s easy to forget that others can’t always see what I see, that I need to point or lift or redirect attention. Thank goodness kids are good at asking for what they need; they remind us that sometimes, seeing is believing. The truth is, we all need each other to see new perspectives, maybe especially on God.
Moses knows the people need to see God, to engage God, to be with God the way he has on the mountaintop. So Moses keeps asking God, “show me your way, show me your glory,” show me how to lead your people back to you again.
The Lord says, “Yes- I’ll do it! But on my terms. You won’t see me fully, but you’ll feel my glory pass by and you’ll know I’m with you.”
It’s aggravating at times to not see God fully, isn’t it? It’s like catching only a glimpse of the deer leaping the fence, when what you want to see is the full display of elegance bounding across the field. It’s frustrating to read a passage of scripture and think, “um, what does that mean?” Like a child listening in on adult conversations.
It’s upsetting to hear contradictory statements about faith and biblical truth swirling around us, leading us to implore God once more, “Show me your way!” It’s confusing at times, trying to parse ancient text into a modern day.
I’ve wanted to see God’s face fully since I was young; really if I think back, most of my life has been this meandering quest in search of God. The first time I recognized this in myself was at the age of 9, at our church camp meeting (we called it) just outside of Brookings, SD… I didn’t know much at the time about this force in my heart calling forth tears on my face, but that same force lives within me today. That same force lives within each of us- expressing herself in an many ways as we have people in this sanctuary. Scripture gives that force a name: Spirit, and that Holy Spirit lives constantly among us, even when we can’t recognize her.
One way (not the only way) Spirit is called forth in our lives is through Scripture. If you were with us last week, you heard the “why” of integrating even 5 minutes of scripture into your daily routine. But reading alone often leaves us without the connections that make the text come alive!
We need to ask questions, preferably with other people. We take scripture (a wonderful, gritty, and sometimes confusing tale about God’s love for the world) and ask, “so what?”
Rich Melheim’s 3rd step in the faith5 nightly routine is exactly this: TALK. Talk about how scripture speaks into your life. Connect what you read with your highs and lows for that day. Help one another discover God illumining new truth and purpose for the journey. And because this doesn’t come naturally to many of us, Rich offers two prompts in order to engage the bible as a living word:
My first year in undergrad, biblical studies 101, I asked my professor a question that had been burning inside my earnest little heart. This is it: If Jesus came after all the OT folks had already died, what happens to their salvation? Good question, right?!? Being the insightful, patient instructor she is, Dr. Jackie Smallbones affirmed my question- and promptly redirected me to the question that I’ve since discovered matters a great deal more:
Prayerfully wondering Who are you God? (repeat)
Maybe you have the same reaction I did when I first heard it: that sounds a little vague, doesn’t it? Listen again. Each time you read scripture, if you have one question to ask, this is it: Prayerfully wondering “who are you God?”
In truth, it helps answer that ache we all have: to see God’s face more fully. It also keeps us in a spirit of openness, curiosity, and awe. Not trying to pin God into a box of our making- but allowing God’s Spirit to flourish in all mystery and wonder. Who are you God? Show me! Show me! I want to see you! And by seeing God, we begin to see ourselves a little more clearly too.
Show me your way. I thought about Moses’ words here, and how similar they sound to Dr. Smallbones’ prompt- the one that remains the first question I ask of every bible story I read. I can still hear her voice patiently instructing us all: Seek God first, and if that’s the only answer you find in scripture, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Especially when we take time to listen to the way others also wonder who God is alongside us. Because each of us only sees a glimpse of God’s glory on our own, but together in conversation and prayer...God shows up.
Sometimes unexpectedly, like a deer bounding through the field. At times we catch only a glimpse of the tail, but there are moments, friends, and I’ve heard it in your faith-filled stories these past three years- you see God’s face.
Unlike Moses, for whom God’s full glory was off limits, we get full access, because Jesus became human and lived among us. So these stories, they matter, at least if you too are calling out from your soul: Show me your way. Show me your glory! Amen.