Finding Sinai

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Horeb: Holy Ground, from the series Before the Foundation

Lord allow my life to reveal you to others and empower others to reveal you to me. 

This was one of those thoughts that came to me recently in prayer with enough impact that I had to write it down in a draft email. Draft email is kind of my version of John the Revelator’s scroll and I put things there whenever I have a sense, like John did in Rev 21, that God might be telling me to “Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.” My truth claims are a bit more tentative, but I do know it is something I should ponder.

Lord allow my life to reveal you to others and empower others to reveal you to me. 

So why was this so significant? On the surface it seems like something we kind of always pray. Jesus said “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:16) As children we remember praying that through a song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” As adults we become familiar with all kinds of similar prayers such as “The Prayer of St. Francis” which begins with the words, “Lord make me an instrument of your peace,” and includes the line “where there is darkness let me bring your light.”

All of those prayers are about being used by God, desiring that our transformed lives might serve as examples, however imperfectly, of a Christ-centered life that can bring hope to others and glory to God. Good stuff. Part of our calling.

But it crossed my mind that just letting our little light shine is really only half the story. “The Prayer of St. Francis” probably wasn’t written by Francis himself.’ The argument is that it is too filled with the words “I” and “me” to have come from his lips. Maybe that’s the case, but at least it provides a clue as to why “let your light shine” feels a little incomplete. As usual, it ain’t about me.

So Moses goes up to Mt. Sinai, barefoot, hangs out with God, and when he returns, his face shines so much from the encounter that he has to wear a veil to keep from blinding the rest of the tribe. His light shone because he had been in the presence of the (capital “L”) Light.

Nothing like a good mountaintop experience, is there? We think about that a little and immediately want to set out for Mt. Sinai in our own life so that we can have the kind of encounter with the living God that requires us to wear a veil when we are around the common folks, those who are less “enlightened” so to speak. Yet despite our best efforts to practice the “spiritual disciplines,” that kind of encounter with God seldom happens. The Christian mystics call it the beatific vision and It does happen sometimes, but rarely. I suspect this is because God knows it would go to our head. We’d get all holy (in our own mind) and Christian bookstores would make a killing selling all kinds of veils branded with the names of famous religious leaders. You could buy a C.S. Lewis veil, or a Beth Moore veil, or a Marty Grubbs veil.

If I recall correctly, the (capital “V”) Veil was in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple and it was torn in two in the crucifixion. No longer would anyone have to crawl into the Holy of Holies once a year with a rope tied around their waist to interact with the living God on behalf of the rest of us. The meeting place between God and humanity has moved, as Brian Zahnd puts it, “from the Temple to the table.” So, is the Mt. Sinai experience still valid? And if it is, how does that happen to us? Where exactly do we encounter God? How does our “little light” get switched on?

Jesus was clear that, although he would always be with us, we would not always be able to see him. But he gave us some really big clues about where we could find him.

‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but those verses come from Jesus’ discussion of the scene at the final judgement.

It seems to me that if we truly want to have that Mt. Sinai experience in our own lives that we need to go where Jesus is. And if he says he is to be found among the hungry and the thirsty and the poor and the sick and the stranger, then we need to seek out the hungry and the thirsty and the poor and the sick and the stranger. He calls “the least of these” his brothers and sisters. And he tells us that by loving them, we are loving him. And for the record, the word “stranger” in Greek is “xenos” (as in xenophobia) and it refers to people of other ethnic groups, foreigners, aliens, and probably even immigrants. (Just sayin’)

My church has a program called LifeCare where anyone who is living through a difficult season in life can find others to walk with them. The people who come to LifeCare may not be hungry or poor, though sometimes that is also the case. But they struggle with the symptoms of a sickness that is common to all of us—clouded vision—the inability to see God clearly enough to know how much he is head over heels in love with us. When we know that it is so much easier to accept his healing.

It is a high privilege to walk with people in their struggle, and we may think we are helping them, but in that helping dynamic, it becomes less clear who really is “the least of these.” Jill Carattini, editor of Ravi Zacharias’ newsletter describes it this way: “He is both the hand extended to the weary and the eyes of the one in pain.”

If Christ is in them, and he certainly tells us he is, I believe we have located the source of our Mt. Sinai experience—the hungry and the thirsty and the poor and the sick and the stranger. That is where we encounter him and that is where we both find healing.

Lord allow my life to reveal you to others and empower others to reveal you to me. 

Perhaps this is a better way to put it: Lord help me to see you in others and then allow my life to reveal you to others.

Now, go see Jesus.

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