Scripture Lesson: Exodus 33:12-23
I love astronomy. I love the stars. I had a telescope growing up that I would spend hours outside looking through. I've taken pictures of the moon and Jupiter and Saturn through it (which is no easy task!), and I've looked at several different stars. I love the stars. I love space. It's so big, it's hard to even grasp. Plus, I like the fact that we're all star dust. Our past and future physical state twinkles at us every night...and every day.
The Sun is our star. Earth was formed from it and is sustained by it. The Sun composes 99.8% of the solar system's mass (I couldn't believe that fact...that amazing!), and it is 99.2% hydrogen by volume. All that hydrogen is flying at super-high speed inside the Sun under intense heat and pressure. So much so that when the hydrogen atoms hit, they fuse to form Helium...But, when this happens, enormous amounts of energy is produced. That is why the Sun is so hot and bright: It is a huge fusion reactor. The energy that the sun produces is absolutely enormous. Temperatures inside the sun reach over 1,000,000 degrees C according to NASA's SoHo observatory.
The Sun provides our planet's warmth and energy. Just going outside on a sunny day and feeling sunlight on our faces warms up our day. A simple experiment that goes beyond science and into our emotions as well. The Sun's light also gives our planet's ecosystem energy. Plants convert it to sugars and animals eat plants. The energy of the Sun keeps our planet alive with warmth and with its energy.
However, this same Sun is also Destroyer. A few billion years from now, as the Sun expends its nuclear fuel, the earth will be consumed by the Sun as it stretches all the way out to Mars. There will literally be no Earth once this happens. Even today, the very life-giving radiation of the Sun would kill us all if not for the Magnetic fields of the Earth and the Ozone in our atmosphere. The Sun - brilliant, life-giving, beautiful, deadly, radiant. Glorious.
Today's Scripture Lesson is about the Glory of God. It's something we speak of often in church and in faith. We say, "God you are glorious!" Meaning, "God you are worthy!" Sometimes we speak of God's glory as a thing...like a shiny beam of light. "Your glory shines in the Heavens!" So what is glory? How do you define glory?
Perhaps a concept that might help us is the term "Beaming." We often use this word when referring to people, and there are three main ways that we use this word...
We speak of someone beaming when they are proud of something. When the team scores the last, winning points of the championship game, the players' faces are beaming. They are proud of their accomplishment. Or take the singer beaming after the applause for a job well-done. Or the look of a Daddy showing off his firstborn, bursting at the seams...he beams. Glorious of the worth that comes from within.
The glow of pregnancy is another way we use this word. The hormones and excitement of new life brightens a mother's face and skin. She looks brighter, more beautiful. These young mothers are beaming with the excitement of new life (not for German engineering). Their glow is the look of creation, of life, of beauty. Glorious from the life-giving nature of creation.
Nothing is more obvious or nauseating (not really, I like to see it) than the look of two new lovers. Happy and enamored. Beaming with love, couples have that silly smile and that twinkle in their eyes that beam. Notice, though, that this twinkle sharpens in the presence of the beloved. Love of someone shines out, the glory that comes from love.
And so it is with God - God's glory shines forth from the worth of who God is. The Creator and King of the Universe, worthy of our praise. It is a description and a brilliance. God's radiance shines from being the unique persona that always was, is, and will be. The Creator of the Universe, hotter, and more brilliant than a billion shinning stars: the worth and splendor of God. Behold, brothers and sisters, this is glorious radiance of God shinning forth from the very worth, life, and love of God. The glory of God is a Radiance, spendid and terrifying, Wonderful and Beaming.
Yet, within nearly all religions, we humans speak of the hidden Face of God. Perhaps this is a condition all of us lament: For there have been times all of us have called out to God wishing to see the divine presence in our midst. In need, despair, loneliness, or fear, I believe we all have longed to see God's Face smiling back at us, reassuring us of the Divine presence.
This is the Mysterium Tremendum, the Terrifying Mystery that God's Radiant Splendor is hidden from us...yet it is something we long for. Call it what you will, but the Radiant Glory of God, much like the Sun, is dangerous. Love and Life flow from God, yet the pure Holiness and Power of the Divine could annihilate us. I think of it like our TV growing up. Every few years a lightning storm would send a bolt of lightning too close to our house. The electricity, something the TV needed to work, from the lightning was too much. It fried our TV. Too much of exactly what it needed, fried it. Perhaps, this is what seeing the Face of God is like: Something that would overload everything within us.
So who can approach God!?! No one!?! Well, yes and no. For when God comes near, God is active, reaching out with Hands of Love, protecting us, restoring us, providing for us. Those same hands that reached down into the primordial mud and formed adam (humanity), in this text, reach down and cover Moses, sheltering him from the unbearable Glory of God's Face. So we see this at work: God's Hand of mercy is sheltering us and protecting us. Like a child holding a little critter being shown off to Mom, God cradles us in the Divine hands, holding us below, and covering us from above. So intimate, the Glorious King. God holds us close. God holds you close. God loves you and desires to keep you close at hand, in the presence of God.
There is a story of a child who had always wanted to see the circus. For years, he had begged his parents to take him, and one day it was announced that the circus was coming to their city. He was excited, and his parents gave him $5 to go see it.
He ran all the way downtown, and he saw elephants and lions and clowns parading through the street. He was amazed, but suddenly he though, "I haven't paid!" So he ran up to a clown and asked, "I have $5 to see the circus, who do I give it to?" The clown answered, "I'll take it." So the boy gave him the money. After the line of circus folk had moved on the boy ran home, saying, "Mom, I saw the circus downtown!" To which his mother replied, "No, Johnny, the circus is tonight, you just saw the parade."
Why do I share this? Because too many of us give our all to the parade and not for the show. Too many people have assumed that they got everything out of religion and faith because they went to the church service. On the contrary, like the circus parade, church worship services are but a taste of experiencing the relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The real show is in daily life practicing the Presence of God.
For the last two weeks, I've been reminded of how awesome sushine on our faces really is. With Winter approaching and a few rains, the sunshine has felt so amazing beaming down on my face. I've loved it. The warmth brightens up a bad day. The yellow beams seem to make worries lighter. So, too with Sonshine. Only by spending time in the presence of the Son do we experience the Radiant Glory of the King.
Moses said, "For Your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on earth." - Exodus 33:16
The Presence of God is what makes the life of faith. It is God's Presence in our lives that has changed us! It is God's Presence and Hand at work within us that is bringing forth Salvation!
The life of the Disciple should be one of presence. We should be seeking the Presence of God.
This can be done through three regular activities:
- Daily Scripture Reading
- Daily Prayer time
- Gathering together in Worship
Keeping these disciplines is a way to cultivate our spiritual lives and practice the Presence of God.
Now may the Glory of God shine brightly in our lives. May the Radiant Splendor of the King beam down upon us purifying us and making us whole. May the Glory of Christ fill us and shine from within that our lives might reflect the Light of Love to a hurting, broken, and dark world. Amen.