Where Have You Seen God Today?
Probably it would be best to start this morning by setting the stage for the reading that we just listened to from the book of Exodus. Even if you don't remember the whole story as it's described in the Old Testament, maybe you remember the way it gets told in the movie "The Ten Commandments." After the Hebrew slaves are led out of Egypt by Charlton Heston, that is Moses, they eventually come to the mountain where God was supposed to live, Mt. Sinai. And for forty days, Moses is up on the mountain, getting the Ten Commandments from God. Finally, when Moses marches back down, he discovers that the people had given up on him. They figured that after 40 days, he just wasn't coming back. And so the Hebrew people had come up with another god for themselves and had made a golden calf to worship.
When Moses saw what the people had done, after all that God had done for them—how God had sent those plagues on the Egyptians, and how God had parted the waters of the sea for them, and how God gave them food each and every day—when Moses saw how quickly the people had turned away from God after all that, Moses couldn't believe what a bunch of chowderheads they were, and so he tossed down the stone tablets and they broke into pieces.
After a while, Moses then went back up the mountain to see what God was going to do. Deep down, Moses knew that God had every right to just give up on the people. But that's not what God did. Instead, God gave Moses another set of stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them to take down to the people.
When Moses climbed back down the mountain that second time, the people were afraid because when Moses got close enough for them to see him, they could tell that his face was shining. They could tell that he had been in God's presence, and so they were scared that maybe God had sent Moses back to them to zap them, to punish them for all that they had done. But Moses told the people not to be afraid. And that's an important thing for us to note. Because so many people think that the God we read about in the Old Testament is nothing but a mean and vengeful tyrant. But that's not even close to being true. No, the God of the Old Testament is the same God we learn about in the New Testament—a God who is merciful and forgiving. And from that day on, when the people looked at Moses and saw that glow coming from his face, that glow that was a reflection of God's own glory, the people saw that and remembered that God was with them. That no matter what, God was not going to leave them.
And that is something for us to consider as well. The fact that God is with us each and every day. But the problem is that sometimes it's not that easy to see God in our lives. We don't have someone like Moses, with a face beaming with light, to look at, to remind us of that. And so if we don't make the effort to look for God, to listen for God, chances are that we're going to end up figuring that God is nowhere around.
So how good are we at listening for God, at looking for God? It's like how a mother can go up to her child and say: "You need to finish your homework. And then clean up your room. And after that, take the dog out for a walk. Are you listening to me?" But the answer is probably "No." Because the child is probably concentrating on the TV set or taking care of their electronic gigapet or thinking about any of a million other things. You see, even when God tries to speak to us, so often we're busy with other things that we're just not paying attention.
Think of the first reading we had from the Bible today, the story in Luke where Jesus took a few of his disciples with him up on a hill, and suddenly they saw Jesus starting to glow with a brilliant white light. So Peter, one of the disciples who was there, said: "Jesus, how about I start working to build a shelter for us, so we can stay up here for a while." But when Peter said that, a dark cloud came over the hill and a voice said: "This is my Son; listen to him." In other words, while that amazing thing with Jesus was happening, Peter wanted to go off and build a lean-to. But God's answer to him was to hush up and pay attention. To listen and to look at what was going on.
But for many of us that's a hard thing to do—to be quiet and just to look and listen. So many of us can't seem to survive more than a couple of minutes without the TV or radio providing some noise for us. But God tells us that if we want to see him, if we want to hear him, then we need to spend some time being quiet once in a while, so that we might give God a chance to get through to us.
But so often we just don't look for God. Instead, we just go through the motions each day. It's like what happened in Australia. A boat had taken a load of tourists out to swim in some of the reefs. But when they were ready to return, the crew just went through the motions of counting heads, and they ended up miscounting and left a husband and wife behind in ocean water. The idea is that if we want to see God and hear God in our lives, then we can't just get out of bed each morning and sludge through the day by merely going through the motions. No, if we want to see and hear God, we need to make a conscious effort to do that. Otherwise, it's probably not going to happen.
Another minister shared an idea with me. He said that most every night when he and his wife sit down for dinner, they ask each other: "Where have you seen God today?" And I think that's a good question for us all to ask ourselves: "Where have we seen God today?" As we look at what's happening in our lives and in the lives of the people around us, where do we see God involved in what's going on? And what are those events saying to us? What is it that God is trying to tell us?
You see, a central Christian belief is that God did not just make the universe and then go off on vacation. No, God made everything, but has stuck around. And in someway God is there in our lives each and every day, and we'd realize that, if only we'd pay attention.
It's like the ancient story about a farmer whose horse ran away one day. A week later, though, that horse returned with a whole herd of wild horses from the hills. But a few days later, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, the horse threw him and he broke his leg. The next week the army marched into town and took away every able-bodied man they could find to work as slaves for the king. But since the farmer's son had a broken leg, they left him with his family. When you hear that story, what do you make of that? Do you just see that as a run of good luck and bad luck mixed together? Or is it possible to see each of those events as the work of God?
In the Old Testament book of Numbers, there is a blessing that says: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. God's face is shining on us each and every day. It all comes down to whether we make the effort to try and see it. Have you seen God today? Because he is there.
C. Edward Bowen
Crafton United Presbyterian Church