Saturday, February 6, 2016

the Story of Blessing

Exodus 34:29-35, Gen 12:1-5a, Luke 9:28-32 The Story of Blessing 2.7.16

DBB on 'robcast
I heard a podcast this week in which Dianna Butler Bass was interviewed about her latest book, Grounded. She spoke about the very latest Pew Research Polling that found - 49% of Americans have had a mystical experience that was transforming. The poll was just released but in 1962 it was only 22% of Americans reported a mystical experience. Is spirituality on the decline or rise?       

While these stories we heard today may seem ancient and unrelated to current events, perhaps we just aren't talking to the right people or hearing the right stories. and our focus today is on stories. 
It is our theme for Lent, “Telling Our Story”     (Rev. Sarah Dorrance DMin theme, who gets all the credit for the ideas undergirding this series.)
. . .

'The one/story we just heard from Genesis (12:1-5) is one of the earliest stories in our Hebrew-Christian heritage. It can get lost in the many tales that come after, but it is the original calling of a people.
 It is original blessing for those who come to call themselves God's People. AND adding to last week's mission statement theme, it is God's Peoples' original mission statement. "We are blessed to be a Blessing".(1)
This may be the most important story of all. It is central to what Jesus tells in word and deed as he re-enlightens people; opening their eyes to see once again the BLESSING of God. 
His message of service to others is rooted in the Gift from God of Blessing. We are blessed in order to be a blessing to others. This is why we serve.
It's a story worth telling again and again.
. . .

The story we heard previously comes early in Moses' wilderness journey with the Israelites.(Ex.34:29-34) It too has many layers built upon it and easily gets buried with the spectacular stories about plagues and passover. 
Yet this short passage is key because Moses is transformed to the point of actual shining... And he doesn't even realize it! He is reflecting God’s glory and it is too much for the people to see, so he has to cover his face.  Unusual since he is not covering before God, but covering to protect God’s people from the truly AWESOME God.
Certainly this was a shocking experience of all the people who encountered him and made this a story worth telling again and again. 
The fact that it is in our Bibles makes it a story for millennia!

. . .
The related story today, also read is from Luke 9:28-32 

Clearly the story of Jesus' transfiguration (as it is known) is meant to tie him to the 'greats' in Israel's history; Moses and Elijah -- showing thru the story that Jesus SHINES with God's glory, like Moses and even more so. Jesus reflects God's glory. And even tho the disciples who saw it are asked not to mention it until a later time, it is clear this story was meant to be told!
. . .

These are stories of extraordinary blessing. Blessing that so prominently reflects God’s glory that it can be seen on the face.
. . .

What strikes me about all these is the way God chooses to reveal God's self through these great stories. .
 Through the stories of people's lives
*** If stories are how God reveals God's self, then OUR stories are the place to see where God is working in our world today! *****
. . .
Think about the ways you understand God. now 
Tell me a big story that has helped you know God.

1st - What Big Story is at the heart of how you know God?
is it a Bible story or is it a story from your life - a spiritual experience that helps you know God?

What are God's Big Stories? (we’ve been touching on the Big Stories in Big Sunday and we have two more.)
God "saves" God's people from slavery in Egypt. How does that story help you know God? What does it tell you about God?
God continues to stay with this people, even after they build a golden calf to worship. 
What does it tell you about God?

Of course we top it all off with Jesus as a self-revelation of God’s presence in humanity.

If you didn't have all these stories about God, what would you know about God? And how would you know?  (earth?)

We need the biblical stories to tell us about God. When we hear one of these stories, isn't our tendency to imagine ourselves in the story? Somewhere? 
  • We wonder if we could up and leave home, like Abraham did
  • We wonder what escape from slavery would feel like if you were running across the Reed/ Red Sea?
  • We wonder how a people could wander in the wilderness until a whole generation died - pretty much allowing only their children into the promised land.
  • We wonder what it would be like to look at Moses when his face shown too brightly to keep looking at.

Stories are how we learn to be in relationship with God.
We learn that God saves.
We learn from Jesus that God continues to save.
We learn that God cares about humans.
And we learn that these 'great' humans of our stories are changed by their encounters with the Holy One.
Moses is "stamped with the glory that God's words evoke" and his face shines.

All God's people have forever been shaped by Moses' experience on the mountain. The 10 great 'words' or better known as the 10 commandments shape our experience of God. "They are called 'glorious' words (like the glory seen on Moses' face) because they bear witness to the One whom heaven and earth cannot contain and yet whose glory it is to be Israel's God."
"Moses was marked with God's light - that "terrible light of God's reflected presence" that chose to live among God's people.

Can you feel your chest swell a little bit with excitement to be included as part of God's people? 
We are grafted in, as St. Paul wrote. We are witnesses to God's Story and we are meant to reflect God's light into all the dark places of our world.
We aren't different than Moses in many ways, we are broken and very human, yet we too are meant for shining. Numbers 6:25 (insert) "God who makes God's face to shine!"
 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites:You shall say to them,
 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

But just how do we do it?
How do we take the BLESSING of love we know and share it?
of course
We Share love by loving others and serving others, but how does that tell them the richness of this story, this heritage of which we are a part?

***We do it by sharing OUR stories. This is our purpose during Lent that begins this Wednesday. Each week as we work through the biblical story, we reflect how our own stories intersect with God's story of saving love.

We who know God, who have an intimate relationship with God, we need to realize that we REFLECT God's Glory. Even if we don't think about it that way. Each time you act with love you are reflecting God's love. Each time you tell your story of God in your life, you are reflecting God’s story with humanity.

Mystical Experiences have been with humans always as they have encountered the Divine Presence.
Mister Eckhart was one of the Great Mystics of the past. He wrote, "We should not think holiness is based on what we DO but rather on what we ARE, for it is not our works that sanctify us, but WHO sanctifies our world."

We were made to be a blessing, just like God first told Abraham.
The stories of God's interaction with humans tell us about God and help us see how our own stories are part God's BIG story with humanity.
Our stories are Our starting place.
Our story is the way we see God working in the world.
Lent is the perfect Time for you to spend time with the Great Mystery, we call God.

Think, Journal or talk to a friend this week.
What are the Big stories of you life?
Where do you see God in your life?
What have these experiences taught you about who God is?

We each reflect God, WE each are part of the ways God reveals Godself in the world. This makes our stories extremely important. Important to know and important to share.
Let us commit to learning, and telling our stories this Lent so that we too may reflect the glory of God.

(1)  nod to soon to be Rev. Dr. Sarah Dorrance and the Rev. Dr. Jeff Carter
Resource for quotes
Thomas Currie, Feasting On The Word - Theological (Louis:WJK,2009)434-438

No comments: