New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
October 19, 2014
The hardest thing to do after a betrayal or argument with someone we love is to reestablish communication. You know, talk to each other—without bitterness or sarcasm, the passive-aggressive form of bitterness. So in this morning’s reading from Exodus we have God and Moses trying to make a go of it, to rebuild the connection they had before the making of the golden calf. In verse 11 it reads that the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. But now God says that Moses may not see God’s face and live. The intimacy that once was has been broken, yet God still reaches out to Moses, for Moses has found favor in God’s sight. God wants to satisfy Moses’ longing for connection and closeness and yet still remain God—holy and wholly other.
It seems that is how it has always been between human beings and God: intimate yet distant, or in churchy language, immanent yet transcendent. God-in-our-face, God-apart. We want God close but not too close. We want something we can hold onto but eventually find this kind of God lacking and powerless, hence, easy to leave. Like the genie in Aladdin, we want God to have phenomenal cosmic power but give God only an itty bitty living space. And yet God doesn’t give up on us in this push-me-pull-you relationship.
The truth is, more often than not, we witness God in our lives after the fact. We see God’s backside walking in and through our lives, leaving a wake or a ripple. No footprints in the sand but like after a storm, often there is a new beach to walk on, both familiar and strange, and the journey continues.
|Moses in the Cleft of the Rock, Phillip Prescott Parham, 2007|
But enough of this swirly talk. Let’s actually look at where God has been moving in and through our lives and the life of this church. This morning I’d like us to make two lifelines, one for our own life and one for the life of this church. If you haven’t been a part of this church for long or you’re unsure of some of its history, instead chart your relationship with church in general.
All of us have negative and positive events in our lives that have had a lasting impact on us. The same is true for the life of the church and our life with church.
As you fill in the empty spaces on these lifelines, reflect on where you can see God walking in and through your life. If God appears to be absent, give some thought to that. For the one about church, thinking about either events in the life of this church, or your relationship with church, where do you see God or not and when? Also look for patterns and ask yourself is this how God has not only been speaking to me but also speaking through my life and through the life of this church?
(give congregation 10 -12 minutes to fill out lifelines and share with a neighbor)
When I filled out my own lifeline recently, I could see that for good or ill my father was the driving force in my life, either directly or indirectly. But I could also see God’s care and love through the people around me, most evidently witnessed in the church that I had come to love. I realized that since the death of my father, I have been the driving force for many of the significant changes in my life and the life of my family. My hope is that this has been God acting through me and my desire to heed God’s call for my life and not just the desires of my ego.
I would bet that many of us have had an ebb-and-flow relationship with church, either this one or others. God and community and individuals is one of the most difficult, joyful, frustrating, life-giving ways to learn to love. Like marriage or any other kind of covenant, we can be tempted to jump ship on any given day. Then, at the right time, God walks by, with only her back visible, leaving a ripple, a wake, a storm or stillness. And somehow we are ready to keep going, keep giving, keep traveling to where God is leading. I’m in for the long haul. How ‘bout you?
(You can create your own lifeline chart like this one.)