Be One Too: See(k) God’s Presence
This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, October 19, 2014. This message is meant to freely flow from a moment with children to a conversation with adults who are all seated in the round at tables. It’s a new style of preaching for me in a new experimental worship experience we’re trying for the next few weeks at Lee Memorial.
Welcome kids to the table:
What does God look like? In our story for today, Moses asks to see God. Moses and God’s people were about to make the final leg of their journey to the land God had promised, when God dropped the news, “I’m not going. I’m sending an angel with you instead.” Moses pleads with God saying, “You’ve been with us this long; if you leave, how will people know who we are?” He begs God, “show me your ways;” and, then he asks the unthinkable, “show me your glorious presence.” Moses asks to see God. And, he does.
What did Moses see? Can you draw me a picture of God? or a picture of a time when you knew God was with you?
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today. It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray. Amen.
Read Exodus 33:12-23.
This is a powerful story. Thanks be to God for it. Amen.
I think Moses was scared. It had been a rough journey. You’ll recall from last week that everyone seemed to give up—the people, Aaron (Moses’ “right-hand-man”), and even God. Moses intervenes, he refuses to give up on God and the people God so loved and came to save. In our story for today, I think Moses was scared that things were going to get worse.
God had commanded him to take the people of God on the final leg of their journey to the land God had promised. On the first part of the journey, God had led the people with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night; God had provided quail and manna that fell like dew when the people were hungry, and when they were, it seemed, dying of thirst God instructed to Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water sprung forth. All of this was a reminder, a sign to the people that God had not left them. It must have come as a surprise to Moses, then, when God refuses to go with the people on the next part of the journey. Look, says God, these people are rebellious. If I go, I’m just gonna get mad and pull the car over and you don’t want me to pull the car over. So I’m going, says God, to send an angel to escort you.
Moses isn’t satisfied. If you’re not with us, how will outsiders know who we are and that you love us? Great question. In that moment, God must have rubbed God’s chin and scratched the top of God’s head.
Hey, kids, I think God has a chin and head.
Good point, says God. So God decides to go; but Moses isn’t done making his point. “Make your presence known now. I want to see you.”
It was a bold request (literally). The people of God believed that God was too holy to see with the naked eye. In fact, God was so pure and holy that to even utter God’s name would be an offense to God. That’s why your Bible’s say LORD in all capitals all over the Old Testament. In those instances, most of the time, the Hebrew word is YHWH, the name of God; so, out of respect, it is often translated—and has been for centuries—as THE LORD.
Moses asks to see God. You know how the story ends: God instructs Moses to stand behind a rock. God then puts the hand of God over Moses’ eyes and walks in front of him; and, as God removes his hand walking by, Moses gets a glimpse of God’s back.
Hey, kids, scripture says God has a back.
Moses desired God. He wanted to know God’s presence and consequences be damned. Moses sought God’s presence. He yearned, desired to see God and he did.
I don’t think God hides from us. I don’t think our faith journey is meant to be played like a pious game of hide and seek. I do think God’s desire is for us to desire God’s presence; that is, God wants us to want God. “Desires…not just decisions, really matter.”
Jesus said, “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, Common English Bible). Seek God and you will surely find God.
The truth—the Good News—is that God’s glory shines brightly all around. And, like Moses, we must not be afraid to see God’s presence; in fact, we must seek it out. For seeing and seeking God’s presence will inspire us to continue the journey and that what saints do.
Saints see God and that encounter inspires them to keep on seeking God as they grow in love with God and neighbor.
Saints seek and see God. Saints know that God is ever present if only we’d seek God out.
Jesus knew that the disciples would get weary. He knew that there would be times when the disciples would be tempted to give up, times when they’d feel like they were alone; so, I don’t find it at happenstance—indeed, it’s imperative—that in the gospel of Matthew Jesus’ last words (in fact, it’s the last sentence in the entire Gospel)—to his disciples is, “I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (Matthew 28:20b, Common English Bible).
How’d your pictures turn out? What does God look like? Can you show me—on the pictures you drew—when you knew God was with you?
Saints see and seek God’s presence. They’re not afraid to see God in others—even their enemies. Saints are not afraid to seek God in even the hardest of times. Saints seek and see God; and they inspire others to see and seek God also. …that’s what saints do. I mean to be one; and, I pray, you do too!
We thank you for the saints who have inspired us to see and seek you. You’re not hard to find; but, we tend to be hard-headed and hard-hearted people who try to go it alone. Help us to see and seek your presence that we might inspire others to do the same. May we live to your glory and it alone, we pray, in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.
 John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), page 19 <http://cdn.desiringgod.org/website_uploads/documents/books/when-i-dont-desire-god.pdf> Accessed October 17, 2014.