Sermon Pentecost 18A Sunday October 16, 2011. Ocean Forest
Freed to Follow
There are only a few people, senior to me in my life, with whom I have been able to share the kind of close intimacy that can handle personal challenge and experience true friendship at this deep kind of level that the Lord and Moses share in our text.
I counted up the people: there are about 8 people with from whom I will willingly take personal challenge and trust they are not out to get me or shame me and with whom I can dialogue and challenge and argue without threatening our continued relationship. I consider myself very blessed to have these people in my life. I need them and they need me.
I wonder whether we all want someone in our life that is ahead of us in experience or wisdom with whom we can really share what we really want, what we really value. How good is it to have at least one person in your life with whom you can take the risk of letting them see who you really are and what you really hope for and what your weaknesses are? How good is it to have at least one person with whom you can dice – challenge each other’s views, share concerns about each others dodgy behaviour at times, make comment on what is going wrong hen needed?
I find this little scene between the Lord and Moses quite inspiring. It shows me just what kind of relationship is possible between a holy and almighty and perfect God, and a person who knows his place but reaches out for intimacy and experience with the Lord. it shows me that the Lord is a friend to me first and a judge of me second. it shows me the goal of my life – to relate to the Lord as he relates to me – a very good friend who will not be a yes man, but a real man. In this Exodus journey the relationship between the Lord and his chosen but flawed man, Moses, has been deepening. They have had their great moments of pain, their great moments of victory and joy, their great moments of trust and doubt, or perfection and total inability on Moses’ part, and their relationship has grown through it. The relationship has grown so much that, as one of people said on Wednesday night, Moses can tell God what to do! The people are now ready to leave Mt Sinai after their great sin against the Lord. Moses shows his huge heart for this dodgy community of people by interceding for them before God. He speaks so openly, honestly and with great integrity. There are few issues Moses needs to speak with his Lord about: 1. Moses’ continued authority and place as the Lord’s leader and who will be his helper, since Aaron has really failed as a leader Moses can trust:
12 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you.”
In other words: Lord, give me a faithful and capable lieutenant to help me fulfil my calling from you and teach me how to do this calling.
2. The Lord’s continued commitment to his promise and plan
Remember that this nation is your people.” “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Simply: ‘Lord, stay the course for us. Don’t leave us’. 3. And that is really the BIG issue in this moment of the journey that Moses raises – the Lord’s continued presence. That is what is at stake after the great “fall” of the Golden Calf. Moses needs to tell his Lord that the Lord needs to remain present and true to his plan and promise – lest all is lost. The response is instant. The request from Moses, the man to whom the Lord could talk face to face, as a friend talks a friend is heard and granted quickly.
14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
What a great gift. The Lord knows Moses by his name. Just as the Lord took the risk of giving Moses his own personal name way back when this all started, so Moses is now completely known by the Lord – by his personal name. The Lord knows Moses’ character, weaknesses, heart for people, humility and integrity. Moses trusts God’s commitment, loyalty, goodness and power to see this thing through together.
And yet, Moses has the trust and the desire to reach out to the Lord for more. Moses wants what no other person has asked for so directly. He wants an experience of the Lord at very close range. “Show me your glory” he boldly and plainly asks the Lord.
What a prayer! What a trust! This could actually kill him. Moses has seen the awesome power of the Lord at work. he has seen people be overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord, and this has been in a veiled way – in a misty, unclear, hidden cloud – the Shekinah – the “glory cloud”. Moses trusts the Lord completely and truly speaks with the Lord as a good friend.
Moses is asking for clarity. No cloud, no mist, full sight of the holy, direct connection with the Lord in all his fullness. The Lord knows this would kill Moses.
19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
The Lord is mighty and holy and pure and perfect and Moses is not. In a great act of kindness the Lord again takes a huge risk in showing Moses more than any other man alive has ever seen or known of the Lord. But because of Moses’ humanity, the Lord has to protect Moses when the moment is granted. Moses can only handle so much.
There is a deep humility here on Moses part. He is not on some glory hunt for some egocentric reason so he can say he is the most spiritual man alive. He is direct, honest and thankful to receive whatever the Lord determines because the Lord knows best. he wants to know the Lord and share in his character because he knows that is life and the future and the only hope he and his people have.
Friend, there is a vision of hat is possible here for you. There is an intimacy and friendship with the God of all creation in the offering here. The Lord went one even better than Moses when he himself entered into the human domain and took all unholiness, weakness, ignorance and evil into himself in that wretched man on a cross, Jesus of Nazareth, and dealt with it there and then, once for all time.
Jesus, the Lord of all things, the name above all names and the Saviour of all now offers you a great privilege – to be able to call this might God a name that is offensive to some because of the intimacy is seeks – ”Abba”, or “Papa”.
Because of what the Lord has done in calling us into this Christian church, this holy nation, this kingdom of priests for the world, we as baptised and loved children of God our heavenly Father may call God Abba, Papa. That is stunning.
Jesus called the Lord by this intimate name, EVEN IN THE PRAYER HE GAVE US TO PRAY – THE Lord’s Prayer….Our Farther….. it begins. Jesus gives us sinners permission to use this name.
Paul directs Christians to ponder this great gift and do it when he says;
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
The problem we have with intimacy is that it is risky for human beings. Intimacy with anyone on any level takes risk – the risk of being hurt, rejected, dismissed or misunderstood. that is how it is with human beings. But we are caught then, because we need intimacy at various levels to be fully alive and fully functioning follower of Jesus Christ and to be fully human – to enjoy life, to fulfil our calling, to experience the good stuff in this life and to have hope and courage and love and faith and hope. What shall we do; keep self contained, not risk friendship, not seek the Lord simply but boldly like Moses, not show our hand lest it get chopped off by some unthinking or even hurtful person? The more we do this the less we can experience the glory of God – in the word, in creation, in people in life itself. But what if we throw caution to the wind more often and truly reach out the Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit as we talk to the Lord as a trusted friend talks to a trusted friend? What if we reached out to each other more often in humility and simple honesty and invested ourselves in people around more and more, even taking a hit or two from time to time for the sake of experiencing more of God’s marvellous plan for our life and his hope for our future in him? Is the Lord calling you in the Exodus journey to come out of the closet and seek him and others in ways you have not yet learned. Is this a prompt to ask the Spirit to help you identify why your scared of and what is holding you back from giving yourself more fully to him and others – despite the risks? Is this a call to inspire you – inspire you to speak with the Lord and trusted Christian friends, face to face, as friend speaks to a friend? Surely we all have to pray that prayer of Moses, Lord, teach me your ways so I may know and continue to find favour, blessing and life in you” Amen