How Will We Know?

Text: Exodus 33:12-23

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, Amen.

Today marks an anniversary of sorts. The first time I stood before you as a guest preacher was three years ago today in the lectionary cycle; that means in the three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary, the passages from that first time and today are identical. I looked up that sermon for inspiration, and came across these words:

In the wee hours of the morning, rain was falling on the roof and I could hear trees outside being tossed by the wind. I was working on this sermon when my son Timothy let out a piercing wail I heard all the way down stairs that let me know something wasn’t quite right, something beyond normal middle of the night hunger. Just in case, on my way upstairs, I made a quick detour into the kitchen to fetch a bottle from the refrigerator. When I arrived in the nursery, Timothy was standing in his crib holding onto the rail and crying out. Putting his bottle down on the bookshelf, I took him in my arms and whispered, “There, there, it’s going to be all right, it’s alright my boy,” and I held him tightly. He began to quiet down.

I turned on the light and changed his diaper, then picked him up and held him again as I eased over to the rocking chair, turned out the light and groped for his bottle in the dark. He began to quiet down even before I found his mouth and managed to get the bottle positioned just right. He took a few swallows, and then turned his face away. I put the bottle back down and rocked him, back and forth, back and forth in time to the ticking of the clock: tick-tock; tick-tock. I rocked him for a while, longer than I normally would. One of our cats jumped up on my lap and joined us, purring. Timothy slowly fell asleep in my arms. As I listened to the rain beat on the roof and the trees outside being tossed by the wind, all slowly became quieter as the storm wore itself out. Then, and only then, it dawned on me that this night it wasn’t about hunger. It was about comfort.

I find it somewhat ironic that I stand before you today with a new baby at home who also cries out in the middle of the night. Storms don’t seem to phase her yet, however. Still, she cries out in her need-her need for food, for a dry diaper, for comfort; for the real and present knowledge, that intrinsic knowing that someone is there to meet those needs. Maybe that is not so different from Moses and the Israelites.

Commentator Leslie Klingensmith writes, “The exchange between Moses and God is illustrative of the natural human desire for clarity and specificity. “How do we know?” surely must be among the most common questions that we cry out in our doubt and frustration. How do we know that God is with us? How do we know that God loves us? How do we know what God wants us to do? How do we know what God expects from us?” [1]

I ask myself those questions now and then. God, are you there? Will you keep me safe and on the right path for my life? Will you walk with me and keep me company? Even as Moses asked for God’s very real presence to be felt among the Israelites as they made their trembling and uncertain way into the promised land they were commanded to possess, I long for the very near comfort of God as I move forward into the unknown paths of the future calling set before me. Maybe some of you feel similarly. For me, how will I balance the life of a father, the life of a pastor, the life of Menucha’s program director? God, will you walk with me and show me the way?

Commentator Timothy Hare recounts a parallel tale of a young woman. She was at a cross-roads in her life and had to make a major decision, one that would change the course of her life forever. At first she prayed calmly and gently, hoping that clarity from God would come. It did not. As time went on, the young woman grew from concerned to stressed to panicked to angry. “God, you say you love me. You say you care about my life. You say you are here for me. Where are you? Speak! Show up!” The young woman resolved not to move from her room until she had heard from God a very clear answer.

It was not long, to her surprise, before she received her answer. God showed up with remarkable clarity. God did not tell her what to do in regard to the decision that she had to make. However, God became intimately present to her. God graced her angst-filled silence with calm and peace and told her again and again, “I love you.”[2]

What can we learn from this? Commentator Simon Tugwell, makes a thoughtful observation, he writes: “We had thought of God as the dispenser of all the good things we would possibly desire; but in a very real sense, God has nothing to give at all…except himself…. God has only the one thing to say, which is himself, he has only the one thing to give, which is himself. And he invites us to hear that Word, to treasure it in our hearts and find in it the source of all our bliss.”[3]

How will we know? Friends, be at peace, for we do have a way to know God is with us. Take a lesson from today’s Gospel story in Matthew. Jesus commands, Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Moses was told he could not see God’s face and live. Yet God seemingly changed God’s mind a few thousand years later. God shows up – as Jesus Christ, born in a human body like ours, with human limitations like ours, with human hungers like ours, and with human temptations like ours. God shows up – to help us understand and see that God is with us, imprinted on our very natures, and that we have God within us, with us, inscribed on our very hearts. Friends, there is no doubt, God is with us. Inscribed on our very deepest and inner-most selves, we are made in God’s image, male and female, created in God’s likeness.

How will we know that God is with us? All we have to do is take a mirror and hold it up to our neighbor; and there? There, gazing out of those earthly eyes will be the very reflection of God. Behold! God IS with us, thus may we also then be the hands and feet of our Lord in the world.

May all honor and blessing and praise be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

I invite you to reflect on today’s message during a brief time of silence.

[1] Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[2] Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[3] Prayer: Living with God, Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, 1975. Pp.124, 127; emphasis added).

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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