"The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the church is famishing for want of His presence. The instant cure of most of our religious ills would be to enter the Presence in spiritual experience, to become suddenly aware that we are in God and that God is in us. This would lift us out of our pitiful narrowness and cause our hearts to be enlarged. This would burn away the impurities from our lives as the bugs and fungi were burned away by the fire that dwelt in the bush."
Moses at the burning bush is a traditional Epiphany text... and Dave proclaimed today at our worship service that "God is cosmically big... a true encounter with God will absorb us into God's magnificent purposes for the world... but He will not completely overwhelm us with his presence and wipe us out... He comes subtly... we must pay attention. When He reveals Himself to us, He transforms who we are and what we do."
It's this attentiveness that I am yearning to develop... this persistence to push beyond the veil and into the holy of holies... to remove my 'shoes' of self-love and walk barefoot into His presence... to pay attention to where He is.
After the building of the tabernacle, Israel knew where to find His presence... even had prescriptions for how to approach His presence: sacrifice, cleansing, incense, bloodlines, priestly rotations, etc. The common man (let alone woman) was prohibited from ever directly experiencing the presence of God... I wonder if they ever craved His presence? Did the common worshiper in the temple courts ever long to go behind the veil? Or was the presence of God such a terrible and overwhelming thing that they would never even dare to imagine?
I wonder if they realized that at the baptism of Christ, the heavens were torn open... and the Spirit descended as a dove... and suddenly, God was at loose in the world. No longer safely contained in the temple, His presence could now suddenly be revealed anywhere... at any time... wine at a wedding, dinner with sinners, rule-breaking healings, calm seas, breaking bread. I wonder if it felt at all like Pandora's box to them... It's no wonder that the response was to try to put God back into His box...
How did the common Jew receive the news that the curtain was torn at the crucifixion? Was it a comfort to know that the barrier had been removed? Or was there terror in knowing that it hadn't worked to nail Him down?... that the Presence of God might still be anywhere?
How do we receive this news? That the Creator of the Cosmos can reveal Himself us to anywhere, anytime? Sometimes, I find myself wishing that there was a particular place where I could go... and find that He is always there. Sometimes I seek Him, but feel like I'm fumbling in the curtain, unable to pass through to His presence... unable to remove the veils I have erected.
But other times, I'm barely paying attention... and suddenly, He is. Yesterday, I facilitated a spiritual retreat for thirteen people... together, we paid attention... removed our shoes... and the bush burned... consuming bugs and fungi and enlarging our pitiful narrowness.
But Christ didn't allow Peter to pitch tents on the mountain... and Moses had to put his sandals back on and head into Egypt... and Saul / Paul had to stumble blindly to Damascus... and so the question is begged: how to experience His presence, but also get on with living? How to live in the tension of knowing that He reveals Himself... but that part of His revealing depends on our attentiveness?