Sermon Ideas For Exodus 34:29-35 Part 3
The play between a veiled face among the people of Israel and the unveiled face in the presence of God offers a vivid metaphor of life with God and life separated from God. Moses' countenance reflects the grandeur and glory of God. The people's fear of Moses' radiance betrays human tendencies to choose separation from God rather than oneness with God. Ever since fig leaves covered ourselves in Eden, human beings have struggled with the choice of hiddenness from God and each other or wholeness with God.
Wallace Stegner's The Spectator Bird1 is a novel about human communication: the alienation which comes from hiding ourselves from one another, the contentment which comes from honest revelation to another. By way of nightly rereading an old diary of a visit to Denmark, protagonist Joe Allerton slowly walks with his wife of many years through a mine field of amorous emotions for another woman which have been buried for a long time. Ruth, his wife, brings honesty to these ruminations, forcing Joe to respond with equal directness. Their shared wanderings down this difficult path of communication result in a lifted veil, a full disclosure of themselves to one other, and consequent radiance.
Robert Frost addresses this same theme of hiddenness versus exposure in the poem Revelation:
We make ourselves a place apart Behind light words that tease and flout, But oh, the agitated heart Till someone really finds us out. 'Tis pity if the case require (Or so we say) that in the end We speak the literal to inspire The understanding of a friend. But so with all, from babes that play At hide-and-seek to God afar, So all who hide too well away Must speak and tell us where they are.2
The movie Grand Canyon explores some of the risks and rewards of unveiled faces when it chronicles the friendship of an upper-class white executive and a working-class black man in Los Angeles. When his car breaks down one night in a rough neighborhood of east L.A., the main character, played by Kevin Kline, receives help from Danny Glover, employee of a nearby service station. Kline's life may have been saved that night, since Glover arrives just as an armed gang begin to "rough up" Kline in his broken-down car. Glover and Kline begin the slow process from that point on of removing veils of class and race and culture. Their friendship develops character and depth as a result.
God's disclosure of God's self to Moses leaves Moses radiant with the grandeur of God. In the presence of God, Moses is a spectator of God's glory: a glory which Moses then embodies for the people of Israel. Annie Dillard allows her shrewd and discerning eye to see the grandeur of God disclosed in nature. She, like Moses, is a spectator in the arena of God's great works. "The creator goes off on one wild, specific tangent after another, or millions simultaneously, with an exuberance that would seem to be unwarranted, and with an energy sprung from an unfathomable font. What is going on here...that it all flows so freely wild, like the creek, that it all surges in such a free, fringed tangle? Freedom is the world's water and weather, the world's nourishment freely given, its soil and sap, and the creator loves pizzazz."3
In another flash of insight, Dillard asserts that the believer's primary role is to witness to the glory of God. "We are here to witness," she writes. "There is nothing else to do with those mute materials we do not need...We do not use the songbirds, for instance. We do not eat many of them; we cannot befriend them; we cannot persuade them to eat more mosquitoes or plant fewer weed seeds. We can only witness them--whoever they are...If we were not here...the show would play to an empty house, as do all those falling stars which fall in the daytime. That is why I take walks: to keep an eye on things."4
This theme of veiled selves and revelation may be found in 2 Corinthians 3. Henry Alford's hymn lyrics We Walk By Faith and Not by Sight allude to the promise that "we may behold You as You are with full and endless sight." Charles Wesley's Love Divine, All Loves Excelling anticipates restoration of ourselves by being "changed from glory into glory...lost in wonder love, and praise."
This Exodus passage invites us to both observe and experience the glory of God. And to bear witness to that glory in lives of unveiled, radiant honesty with one another.
Judy E. Pidcock
1. Wallace Stegner, The Spectator Bird (University of Nebraska Press, 1976). 2. Robert Frost, "Revelation" in The Poetry of Robert Frost, ed. by Edward Connery Lathem (Henry Holt & Co., 1975), p. 19. 3. Annie Dillard, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek (Harper & Row Publishers, 1974), pp. 136-137. 4. Annie Dillard, Teaching A Stone To Talk (Harper &