Tuesday, March 8, 2011

“Face to Face with God” Exodus 24:12-18 March 6, 2011

I do not know what ever happened to it. Probably no one else would have thought it of value. But, as a kid one of the things that most intrigued me the most in my grandfather’s house was a small framed engraved invitation to a Presidential inauguration and to the Inaugural Ball. I vividly remember being wowed by the idea that my grandfather had been invited to be with someone that had been elected by the nation to serve as its leader.

Who would you like to be invited to spend a day – or even an hour with? It is fascinating when you do a bit of web research to see the odd and eclectic names people offer. Some list great names from history- great leaders, military heroes or grand religious figures; others list great authors or entertainers; still others list people whose names are completely foreign to me. I imagine that if we all stopped and wrote a list right now we would probably be surprised at some of the names that might pop up. So, if you received an invitation to spend some time with one of those at the top of your list what would you do? Who would you tell? What would you wear? What would you want to talk about? What questions might you ask?

In our passage for the morning we hear Moses receive an incredible invitation. The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” Can you imagine getting a personal invitation to send time with God? We know in sequence that God has already given Moses the Ten Commandments. This invitation was for a time of conversation and instruction. This was to be a time when Moses would spend time talking with God and hearing from God. God wanted Moses to understand God’s word. God wanted Moses to understand God’s way. You cannot understand God’s words and way at a distance; it calls for you to get face to face with God.

Moses began to prepare for his encounter with God. This was no small task. It meant that he had to clear his calendar and clear his mind, so his sole focus could be on his time with God. The passage tells us; Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. 14 He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.” Moses lined up leadership to handle his responsibilities. He did not want anything or anyone to interrupt this sacred time. This was no ordinary meeting, he was about to claim time in the presence of the living and loving God.
What do you think it would look like if we put this kind of thought and preparation into our time with God? How might it change our experience in worship if we understood this time was sacred and nothing and no one should get in the way of our time with God? How might it change our experience in this place if we prepared for this time? What if we made sure that we had done all we needed to ensure that our focus in this place was to talk to God and to heard God voice? We cheat ourselves if we do anything less.
15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. These three verses are filled with imagery that would have had a profound impact on the hearers of this story. They understood that there was something special about the mountains; that God seemed to reside there. They understood that God was bigger than the bounds of a body and that the image of the cloud and the consuming fire on the mountain top was a picture of God’s purity, of God’s power, of God’s holiness, and God’s presence. They understood that when Moses was in the mountain top that Moses was face to face with God.

Moses was in no hurry to leave. The passage tells us that he was on the mountain with God for forty days and forty nights. You probably recognize that term. It is the timeline of the flooding of the earth we hear in the Noah story. It is the term used when we see Moses pleading on his face for the people. It is the time the Philistines challenged the Israelites before David confronted Goliath. It is the term we read when we hear that Jesus went into the desert after his baptism to face the temptation of Satan. It represents more than a month and ten days. It is symbolic of a long season where time seems to stand still. Moses was with God and did not want to be anywhere else.

I cannot offer you an engraved invitation like the one mounted on my grandfather’s wall. But I can offer some pretty powerful words of invitation from Scripture:

The psalmist sings out; (Psalm 95) 6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

In Isaiah 55 (vs.2-3) we hear God speak; Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.

We hear Jesus say; 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

You are invited to claim time with God. Not to go through the religious motions but to make your time in worship at time when you are able to set everything else aside to talk to God and to hear God’s voice. You are invited to a time in the presence and the power of the living and loving God. It is a sacred time. We cannot treat it as less.

Every time we gather for worship we respond to God’s invitation. The problem is that we so often think about what we get out of worship we fail to give serious enough attention to what we bring to worship and to our place in this encounter with the divine. In the process we cheat ourselves from an authentic face to face encounter with God.

Come with a heart of expectation for a fresh encounter the holiness of God. Come, setting everything else aside. Come and worship and while you are here let go of time and linger in the presence of God. Come – God awaits you.

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