Exodus 33:12-23 – The 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time â€“ for Sunday, October 19, 2014
â€œMoses said, â€˜Please show me your glorious presence.â€™â€ (Exodus 33:18)
Near the end of the conversation with God at the burning bush, Moses moped about not being eloquent. â€œI am slow of speech and slow of tongue,â€ claimed the guy (in Exodus 4:10) whoâ€™d soon lead the Children of Israel to freedom.
Really? (I can’t image Moses/Christian Bale, in the upcoming Ridley Scott film “Gods and Kings” being slow of speech! Charlton Heston’s Moses didn’t have a “slow tongue!”)
Much of Exodus depicted a whining, wondering, and willfull Moses. He cajoles, he vents, and he seethes. The precious child once plucked from a riverâ€™s bulrushes becomes the pushy man who persuades THE CREATOR OF THE WHOLE DARN UNIVERSE WHO IS CONTINUING TO CREATE AND ACCOMPLISH A WHOLE LOT MORE WHICH IS FAR BEYOND THE UNDERSTANDING OF MERE MORTALS to reveal the Holy name (which, in Hebrew, was gratefully shortened to Y-H-W-H instead of T-C-O-T-W-D-U-W-I-C-T-C-A-A-A-W-L-M-W-I-F-B-T-U-O-M-M.) Moses alone first received the radical and community-building commandments from God (and then the commandments again after some nasty idol business). Moses continually convinced God that the escaping, fake-deity-making, heartbreaking, and bellyaching Chosen People were worth saving.
Moses listened. (Well, most of the time.)
Based on the various accounts of Exodus (including the chatty Exodus 33:12-23 example of the God and Moses dialogs) Y-H-W-H and Mister Moses were the Abbott and Costello (or Key and Peele for you moderns) of the Old Testament.
Moses, forever with one more request, requested in the thirty-third chapter of Exodus that God show Godâ€™s presence.
God up close and personal, please.
God with Moses, face to face, please.
God with or without make-up, in a house robe or tuxedo, before or after the first jolt of holy joe in the morning.
â€œOkay, already, but be careful what you wish for,â€ God said.
â€œGotta see you, God,â€ Moses implored. â€œShow me your glorious presence.â€
â€œYou canâ€™t see my face because no one can see me and live.â€
In the endâ€”literallyâ€”Moses wonâ€™t be allowed to see Godâ€™s lovely but potentially fatal visage. Instead heâ€™ll witness a hint of the Holy derriere as Y-H-W-H â€œpassed by.â€ Better that God passed by than Moses dropped dead.
I can joke about the wordy, give-and-take between God and Moses, but Iâ€™m jealous. Whether itâ€™s the stunned Moses, barefoot at the burning bush, or the angry Moses, glaring at the golden calf his brother Aaron had championed, Moses was Godâ€™s confidant, Godâ€™s go-to guy, Godâ€™s main man.
I want to talk to God like Moses did. I want God to talk to me like God did back in the semi-good old days with Moses.
But Iâ€™m not Moses.
Iâ€™m just a twenty-first century fella, a sometime follower of Jesus, a wayward believer, an ordained fool, and an aging Baby Boomer who doesnâ€™t trust anyone over thirty (myself included).
I talk to God all the time. But Godâ€”thank you very much Moses and all those verses with verbosity in Exodusâ€”never seems to answer like he did with the kid plucked from the River Nile.
I pray to God for a loved oneâ€™s heath. And yet death comes.
I seek Godly guidance to make the right decision among two or ten choices. And yet when I say, â€œYesâ€ to one, the other options spawn regrets in the vacuum of divine silence.
I attempt to discern from God the right thing to doâ€”forgiving another, helping the stranger, loving the neighbor as myselfâ€”and yet doubt myself and second-guess my actions.
God remains mute; a Holy chasm, a Divine pause that seems to stretch the length of my lifetime.
Why canâ€™t God speak to me like I was Moses?
But I am Larry. Can I read Exodus and have the courage to remember that? I am Larry who has seen alpenglow burn on the high ridges of the Sierra and sensed the Holy. I am Larry who took the chance to ask Jeanie to marry me and sensed the Holy. I am Larry who stared at a blank screen and attempted a word and a sentence and a paragraph and a story and sensed the Holy. I am Larry who had held a hand in a hospital and prayed for hope with the ones I love and the ones I barely know and sensed the Holy.
I am Larry who has never heard Godâ€™s voice and yet . . .
I will never be Moses.
Let me read Exodus and be jealous. Let me playfully imagine God and Moses as a vaudeville routine, a comic and a straight guy, tellers of knock-knock jokes and above all else reverent revealers of the enduring bond of the relationship between the Holy and human.
God loves us, and treats each one as a unique creation in a unique relationship. Let me remember to be Larry and to keep listening.
I may never hear the Holy like Moses. But I believe I hear the Holy every day as Larry. (Except on the days I donâ€™t . . . which tend to occur on the days I fail to listen.)