Note: Each Thursday, I'll be looking at one of the lectionary passages for the upcoming Sunday. Today, we're looking at Exodus 33:12-23.
"Show me your glory."
That was bold. Moses has seen God turn rivers to blood, flood a country with frogs, rain down fire, and split a sea in half. Moses knows better than anyone the immense power wielded by YHWH. To ask to see God's glory seems like a death wish.
Maybe it was. The idea of leading a nation through the wilderness--a people that had already rebelled, complained, and questioned Moses seemingly every step of the way--was beyond harrowing.
So Moses, uncertain and yet hopeful, plays the only card he has left. He needs to see God's glory. He needs to know that God will be with him on such an arduous journey. Could this have gone horribly wrong? Yes. Hypothetically it could have made the opening of the ark scene in Raiders look like a brightly animated Disney musical number. Yet God does not seem as interested in bringing the wrathful thunder as we like to think. That probably says quite a bit about us.
God tells Moses that He will say the Name and pass by. Yet Moses cannot see God's face. He would not survive. I don't think this is any kind of threat. The glory of God is just too much for a mortal to take in. I wonder if God took great joy in the incarnation for that reason, because, in Jesus, God could finally be fully seen.
Moses will be put in the cleft of a rock. The Hand of God will cover Moses as the Name is declared and then Moses will be able to see God's back. He will see where God has been.
This is the one part of the story with which I can identify. Not that I have been placed in the cleft of a rock while a Divine hand has covered me. I would most certainly have a heart attack if that happened. Yet the idea that we can see where God has been resonates with me. We never can see God coming, but we always have a sense when we are in a place where God has been. Or perhaps better stated: We have a sense when we are in a place where people realize that God is there.
I believe the earth is full of God's glory. We just need to open our eyes. When we do, we see the holy come alive like a Divine blur. I have seen God pass by in communion gatherings on beaches, in the hospital rooms where my sons were born, in a Cuban church giving itself over to an impoverished neighborhood, in the tears of a student whose heart has been broken, in the majesty of the Grand Canyon, in a meal shared with friends.
I have seen enough that it keeps me holding on--sometimes white knuckled--even when my questions about my future journey stack as high as the heavens. Despite how screwed up the world is, those thin places where I realize God is close remind me that God is with us. These experiences are not as epic or supernatural as what we read about in Exodus, but that does not make them any less real.
"Show me your glory."
Maybe that request is not the dangerously bold move that I initially thought it was. It seems that God is all too happy to oblige.