Saturday, March 7, 2015

Experiencing God

 Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God.  They took their stand at the foot of the mountain.  Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln and the whole mountain shook violently.  Exodus 19:17

The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.  
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.  Psalm 19: 1,2

And he was transfigured before them....Then Peter said to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."  He did not know what to say, for they were terrified  Mark 9: 3,4

The texts today are about God's HOLY  and perhaps TERRIFYING presence.  .
  • The text from Exodus has only Moses having a direct encounter with God.  It says: "Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go down and warn the people not to break through to the Lord to look; otherwise many of them will perish.  Even the priests who approach the Lord must consecrate themselves or the Lord will break out against them." 
  •  On transfiguration mountain only three disciples are invited to go with Jesus where his clothes and visage are dazzling white and there is a cloud overshadowing and a voice from the heavens.
These are the original "mountaintop" moments of people experiencing the presence of God.  And as I read about them, I know that they are real.  Because I have had times like this.  Times of knowing that God has "broken through" and is present with me in a closer way that is holy and yes - scary.
It has happened on silent retreat and in daily prayer.  It has happened on a walk at Sharon Woods and at the beach on the Outer Banks.   And sometimes when I look back I recognize God broke in with sermon preparation or in a conversation with a friend. All of this is impossible to explain or to control but it is very real.

This morning I find myself thinking about resistance.  My resistance to God's invitation to go deeper, to go higher, to come closer.  There are so many ways.  When I first started the Wellsprings program for spiritual direction I had an image of me riding a bike and always putting the brakes on when I started to go to fast.  And I think I have a lot of ways of putting the brakes on when it comes to truly entering into relationship with God.  I put on the brakes when I limit my time with God in prayer, when I dismiss the holy with a "rational" explanation, when I keep going back to the same places.
I put on the brakes because I am afraid of crashing or looking foolish.  I put on the brakes because of my pride and my fear and my anxiety.

I know that our life is more than a search for the mountaintop "Aha!" moments.  I do not want to trivialize this journey with God into something I create and do. But what I know is that always there is something more in the invitation of God for me.  And it is to experience God's holy presence and allow God to "melt me, mold me, fill me, use me."

I was drawn to a book in my library today - Inner Compass by Margaret Silf.  She starts it like this:

The Invitation....
is made out in your name,
but who are you?
Who is this person who feels drawn to explore the spiritual treasures that lie within you?
Yes, within you...
Not in some closet in the sky or the bishop's office.
Not in some divine database, to which only the elect hold the password.
But in you.
Jesus said it himself:  "The Kingdom is very close to you.  It is in your heart."
Six centuries before Jesus a Greek philosopher who rejoiced in the name Empedocles said something else that might interest you.
"God" he said, "is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."
Now there's a thought to ponder.
Because that "center" is in every human heart - recognized or not.
That "center is in you.  It is the very essence and heart of you you are.

And so we arrive deep in the WHO  center.  Not everyone has the courage to go there.  There is glory, sure, but there is also shame in that center.  To be truly there, before God, we will be invited to take off our protective masks and allow ourselves to be known - and loved - just as we truly are.  That encounter with the living God may challenge us way beyond our comfort zone.  But it will be the most important adventure of all, because it is what we are all about.

Your WHO center is the place where God is growing God's unique Dream in you.
The invitation is to discover that Dream and to live it.


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