12The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.”
15Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. 17Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. (NRSV)
|Sun rise on Mt. Sinai 2 by Endlisnis. Creative commons image on flickr|
“When was the last time you let God love you?”
My spiritual advisor asked me this question a few days ago. To be honest, this question never crossed my mind. The reason being (and this is going to sound silly) is that I’ve subconsciously that God would love me only when I got myself get right with God.
The truth is, God always makes the first move. But God has a funny way of loving people. Case in point: Moses.
God first appears to Moses in a burning bush. The Bible tells us that he was scared to death—and God wasn’t exactly gentle. God commands Moses remove his sandals, and then God places on Moses a most impossible task: to go to Pharaoh, demand God’s peoples’ release from slavery, and lead them out of Egypt. And God does not give Moses the option of saying no…
With God’s help, and with no shortage of struggle, Moses does this. Now, the people are free—but they’re in the wilderness. Food and water are scarce. The people are growing restless and angry. And Moses’ approval rating is falling fast.
If anyone needs God to love him, it’s Moses.
God is calling Moses up onto Mt. Sinai—and think about Moses is walking into: God’s presence at the mountaintop is a devouring fire in the middle of a harsh, barren, and dangerous wilderness. There, Moses will receive God’s Holy Laws and the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. At this point, Moses already knows that he’s got his work cut out for him…
To make matters worse, Moses will have stay up there to for forty days, while the people will grow even more restless and devious in his absence. When he finally comes down the mountain, the people have rebelled against God and Moses. So how could Moses possibly feel any love from God?
Moses’ experience is extremely common in the Christian life. Speaking personally, I would feel loved by God if I could silence all the noise of life; throw off the burdens and challenges; stop the passing of time; and just rest with God in the Garden of Eden. If God would just give me heaven on earth, I would be okay.
Sometimes, you do get to taste heaven. And it is vital to your own well being that you do—here at Church, in your prayers, and in your faith practices. I feel God’s love in music. I see it in nature and creation. I see it in the sunlight shining through our stained glass music. I see God’s love in my family and my friends—and in you.
But God will not always be like a warm, cuddly, and gentle. Sometimes, God will be elusive, frightening, mysterious… You’ll have with no answers… Prayers met with silence. Distress instead of peace… You’ll be wandering and waiting… Death and evil will be at every turn, and you will ask: where is God?
Sometimes, God will send you into frightening situations to do impossible things. God will send you to serve people who may not like you or accept you. God will literally knock you off your feet, just as Peter, James, and John were by Jesus’ Transfiguration. God will literally “scare the hell out of you.”
Yet the good news is that God will love you even then. In questions and doubts, fears and failures—God will love you even then. When you’re waiting on God for what feels like an eternity, and you feel like giving up on God, God will love you even then. When you’ve sinned by your own most grievous fault and God would be justified in condemning you, God will love you even then.
God will love you by driving you out of your comfort zone; changing your plans; and challenging your deeply-held beliefs. Jesus calls you to be a disciple so that God may love you in your dying and rising with him every day.
This Wednesday, we begin the Lenten journey. Lent is a solemn season, and appropriately so—because as God’s child, you must face harsh realities: you’re a sinner. You are not at peace with God or your neighbor. You have questions; you have fears, you have doubts. Death is real.
You need comfort—but you also need discipline. You need security—but you also need change. You need assurance—but you also need repentance. You need resurrection—but there is no resurrection without the cross. So receive your cross—because God’s love comes with it. In Christ, every cross gives way to light and life. You may see hell on earth—but God will love you even then.