Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Lent day 13

This is the view from my sister's house over the Severn Estuary towards Cardiff 15 miles away where I live. The South Wales coalfield plateau with its famous valleys is in the background behind the city. On a clear winter day the snow capped peaks of the Brecon Beacons are visible to a telescope.

For many years this has been her fond glimpse of the place she calls home, where she grew up, and eventually moved away from. Welsh Christians have over centuries given biblical names to villages and places of worship. Being the place where they have learned to re-live the stories of scripture, Wales is thought of as another Promised Lane, blessed by God. This view has therefore often reminded me of Moses at journey's end after his forty year sojourn in the wilderness.

He stood on a promontory on Mount Nebo overlooking the Jordan Valley, absorbing a glimpse of the Promised Land beyond. (Deut 34:1-5) He'd guided the children of Israel through the Sinai desert after their flight from bondage in Egypt to the point where they could enter and lay claim to the land promised them by their ancestor Abraham. This, however, would be as far as he'd go. It was where he would die, having completed his mission. 

Moses wasn't motivated to inspire and lead others by anything he knew for himself about the destination to which God was guiding them. He was willing to take everything on trust because of his fragmentary experiences of divine presence and power, from the Burning Bush to the theophany on Mount Sinai. They were such powerful experiences he was convinced that over-exposure to God would annihilate him. Meeting God is a dangerous experience. As Hebrews 12:29 states "God is a consuming fire.

Moses keeps God at a safe enough distance from himself and the children of Israel, yet confides in God, argues with God in the midst of awe-inspiring encounters. Despite the fearful reverence God's presence awakens, God's good will towards him is assuring and certain.

"The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (Exod 33:11)

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of faith as "... the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen." (Heb 11:1) citing Moses as one of the great exemplars in the history of faith. He trusted God, accepted God's call to leadership. The memory of God's promise to his forebears was his, but he would die knowing nothing of the reality of the world to which the promise referred.

We are in a similar position. We may have ideas about the future but nothing is at all certain. Life here and now is full of the unexpected. We have little or nothing to go on with regard to life beyond this one, despite the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. His disciples handed on nothing from Jesus about his experience of death, nor of what lies beyond it. All is taken on trust, rooted in our experience of being loved by God. As Paul says:

"We walk by faith and not by sight" (2 Cor 5:7)

"Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed ..."  (1 Cor 15:51)

No comments:

Post a Comment