Here are my notes from Sunday:
The Face of God Exodus 33:12-23
Pastor Dan Damon, Richmond 1st UMC, 10-19-14
Holy moments and the face of God… some times I crack a joke at the wrong time and lessen the holiness of the worship experience. Some times I get it right and use humor in a healing way that builds community. We are Methodists, after all, moving on to perfection. We had camp meetings and revivals a hundred years ago that brought many to the Christian faith. Those were rowdy gatherings, filled with fun and dramatic preaching. I wasn’t a Methodist by birth, but I chose it as an adult. I had drifted around to Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic churches making good use of my twenties as a time of community and theological exploration. I found a home in United Methodism and have been happy to stay. I fight against certain teachings of the church that I feel are wrong— contrary to the law of love. I fight from within the church with my hymnwriting and preaching. I encourage this church to take stands on issues of justice and human rights. We are learning about the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church for the next 6 weeks, Sundays at 10 am. You are invited. We have fun, we study, we work, we sing, we pray. I’d like us to consider this hour of worship as a time to allow the peace of God, the peace of Christ, the peace of the Holy Spirit to fill us and refresh us. Let us not diminish the time we share together. These are holy moments, a quiet place amid the storms of life.
Retell the Scripture Story
As always the scripture lesson is in need of interpretation. Regarding seeing the face of God, we have different accounts in different times. In Genesis 32:30 after wrestling all night, Jacob says, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” In Exodus 30:11 we read, “And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” In John 14:9 Jesus says, “He that has seen me has seen the Father.” And at the end of time, in Revelation 22:4 we read, “And they shall see his face.”
But in the continuing story from Exodus today we hear of Moses’ thwarted desire to see the face of God. In Exodus 33:20 God says to Moses, “You may not see my face. No one can see me and live. And the Lord continued, “Behold, 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.”
I hear this as an amazing story of intimacy and care. Like a loving parent, God says, in effect, “That would be too much for you right now, but I’ll give you part of what you ask. You can see my back.” “Behold, 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;” The mystery of the full knowledge of God’s face is reserved for the next life, but Moses is not scolded for having a deep desire to see God, to know God better.
When we come to church, we are seeking to know God better, to have an experience of the holy, a moment that transcends our day by day struggles with moods, money, and the like. Last week there were holy moments in our worship service. At times I could see the face of God in each of you. I see it now. Do you see it, too? In worship we create holy moments of caring, silence, and peace. This is not a small thing in the face of such dangers as we face in the world as it is.
Would it be possible for us not to break these holy moments with applause or the waving of our hands? I feel it breaks the mood that has been lovingly created and reduces worship to a concert performance. The time to acknowledge people is during the coffee hour that follows worship. In Friendship Hall we naturally speak of the holy and wonderful experiences we have shared. Can we remain in silence allowing the gathered community to be moved by the still small voice of God within?
These holy moments are rare enough in life. Let us begin the practice of noticing and allowing them to live a little longer in the stillness of our receptive hearts. Karl Barth said, “In worship, God is the audience, the people gathered are the actors, and the preacher is the prompter. I am prompting you to seek the face of God in the stillness of the beautiful and powerful moments in worship created by our musicians, our prayers, and our work for justice. Then, renewed by our time together, we will depart in service to the world around us.
Let us be in prayer.
Sat., Oct. 25, 11 am to 1 pm Point Richmond Jazz presents Meet the Artist– with Jason Anick
Point Richmond Jazz presents a workshop BOTH for musicians AND the general public to meet the violinist from the concert the evening before. Musicians will join Jason Anick for a workshop for the full 1 and a half hours. Other interested members of the public will join Kit Eakle in another room to listen to recorded music and join in a discussion of the origins and influences of Jason’s music, and then all will join the musicians in a ‘MEET THE artist” Q & A with the violinist, Jason Anick. Admission is $30 – but $10 for season ticket holders. Go to http://prjazz.org/for more info and advance tickets. Held at the First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Richmond.
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