Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Bachelor, Happiness, Lent, and Holiness

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:15-16
I was "outed" a few weeks ago in a church service which revealed  I watch the "reality" show The Bachelor (if you stop reading at this point I won't blame you). I stand by my statement that I watch this show purely because I love my wife who watches the show. There are many elements about this show that make my head and heart hurt. As you might know toward the end of the season the bachelor meets some of the girls' family. Watching this episode I noticed the contrast between those families who's aim was their daughter's lasting marriage relationship and those who's primary concern was their daughter's happiness.
Unfortunately in our society the highest pursuit in life is happiness. Yet, as we've all learned, happiness is relative and fleeting. More lasting and our deeper craving is God's call to holiness. Happiness points beyond itself to something greater and that is holiness.
Thus Ash Wednesday and Lent can help in our journey toward holiness. Ash Wednesday service and the 40-day season Lent can seem solemn with the themes of repentance and examination. Though seemingly at odds with happiness and holiness, Lent's themes are important steps toward holiness. Holiness often gets a bad rap. Holiness is neither a badge of self-righteousness nor following legalistic rules. Holiness is certainly not a solemn pursuit either. Rather, holiness is about pursuing God personally and corporately. Holiness is more than a solitary effort, it is a communal endeavor. It is through holiness that we get glimpses and foretaste of joy which far surprises temporary and fleeting happiness.  
Just in case you need a refresher for Lent, checkout:
What do you see as the difference between happiness and holiness?  Which are you aiming for?
What Lenten practice of giving up or taking on something new will you try?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lin-sanity, Predictability, and Discipleship

Scripture: Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23
First there was Tebow and now there is Linsanity. Have you heard of Jeremy Lin and how he is taking the NBA by storm? The NBA's first Taiwan-American was the Player of the Week last week. This is after being cut by two teams and going virtual unnoticed by NBA scouts playing his college basketball at Harvard. Due to a ration of injures for the New York Knicks, Lin got his shot and he has taken advantage of it. Lin's latest dramatics is that he hit the last second three-point game winning shot last night. The reason for Jeremy Lin's comparisons to Tebow is that both are evangelical Christians. Both have also had to overcome skeptics and doubters. What caught my attention this morning was the quote of NBA Commissioner David Stern about Lin. With all this rise in notoriety Stern is obviously happy. Though I couldn't find the actual quote it went something to the effect, "In an age where scouts pigeon-hole NBA ready guys at the McDonalds All American Game (for graduating High School players) it is nice to see someone like Lin who has brought some unpredictability to the game."
This made me immediately remember George Ritzer's book The McDonaldization of Society. (What, you didn't go there?) Sociologist George Ritzer points out systems in our culture designed to ensure rationality. He presents four dimensions: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. You can go to a McDonalds in the state of Washing and in Florida and know that when you order a Big Mac it will be same in both places. That is by design both in terms of ingredients but also in terms of the systems that control the employees and the methods they use. This ensures the ingredients and taste of the Big Mac are predictable.
None of these dimensions are completely bad. Having predictability in life is necessary for a sense of order and stability. We can predict when the sun will rise and set. We can predict that mail will come each day. We can predict what our orange juice, coffee, etc. will taste like when we purchase our favorite brand. But too much of anything is a bad thing. As much as we  psychologically need predictability we also crave unpredictability. We desire some drama, we desire adventure. There's a reason action adventure movies are so popular. As is the reason the media hypes stories like Jeremy Lin. He comes from out of no where. No one predicted it. Will the story and fascination continue? For how long? How will it end?
In our "McDonaldized" age, we look for unpredictability often through harmful means: drugs, alcohol, dangerous adventure seeking, pornography, etc. Yet when Jesus declared that the Kingdom of God had come near, I believe He was giving us an opportunity to live the adventurous life we truly crave in following Him. When Jesus declares "Take up your cross and follow me" He is calling us to the ultimate life of unpredictability. Just go ask Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, David, Jeremiah, James, John, Peter, or Paul.
How does viewing discipleship through the lens of adventure and not a preprogramed set of rules help or change things for you?
Where is God calling you? Another way to look at this question might be: where does my God given passions line up with a need in the world that I feel called to? How would this be a good adventure adding some unpredictability to your life?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Being spectacular through the mundane

A Man Just Like Us…
1 Kings 18-19
            If I had to do it over again, I think this sermon probably better fits last Sunday better than this Sunday. With last Sunday being Super Bowl XVLI, the spectacle watched by 111.3 million viewers corresponds well with the spectacle that is the Prophet Elijah’s life. With the Super Bowl we have the two best teams going head to head. There are the commercials that make us reminisce and make us laugh. There is the glamorous halftime show that again came with a bit of controversy. There was a last second hail-Mary pass. If you’re like me there were good friends to be around and good food to munch on.
            The Prophet Elijah is a Super Bowl sort of character with a flair for the dramatic. He is kind of like the spiritual seeker’s patron saint. We meet Elijah the Tishbite when he declared to King Ahab that the Lord will not allow rain until God says so. This comes just after Scripture tells us that King Ahab has taken Jezebel as his wife. With Jezebel came the worship of the Canaanite god Baal, who was seen as the God of thunder and storms. So for Elijah to say this to King Ahab is like a declaration of a war among the gods. God tells Elijah to flee for safety which he does in the wilderness next to a small pond called a wadi. For food God sends ravens who bring Elijah bread and meat. Like I said, pretty spectacular stuff. Then God sends word to Elijah to make his way across the country to the city of Zarephath, the heart of Canaanite country, when he encounters a widow who is making her last meal. She’s has just enough ingredients for a last meal for her and her son. Elijah asks her to bring this to him, since I guess he famished, but also notes that the God of Israel will keep her supply of ingredients continuous if she obeys. She does and they all have food until one day the boy dies. The grieving widow takes her anger out of Elijah and blames him. He proceeds to go to the boy. He lays on top of the boy and prays to God three times who then resuscitates the boy. Again we see the spectacular.
            The drought that the Prophet Elijah declared goes on for three years. Elijah then has a run in with an assistant to King Ahab who is on the search for water. Elijah then encounters King Ahab himself and summons the King and the prophets of Baal for a divine duel if you will. They go up to the top of Mount Carmel where the prophets of Baal set up an altar as does Elijah. The contest is for each side to pray to their god and the God that consumes the sacrifice by fire will be seen as God of the land. Elijah allows the prophets of Baal to go first. They cry out to their god for hours. At noon Elijah begins to mock the prophets. It’s kind of like Elijah stacks the deck in their favor a little bit. It’s like Elijah allows the opposing team to score some points all while mocking them by saying, “Go ahead and score at will. I’m still going to beat.” (Elijah would not have gotten the sportsmanship star if he were playing Upward.) In fact, Elijah mocks them saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 1 Kings 18:27 In the Message paraphrase it has Elijah in jest suggesting that perhaps their god in using the bathroom that’s why he doesn’t hear their cries. So the prophets not only begin to cry louder but cut themselves in hope to get the attention of their god. With a flair for the dramatic, Elijah has everybody come closer to his altar. He digs a ditch around the altar and has his people douse the altar and the sacrifice on the altar with water, three times. Then Elijah prays to God, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 1 Kings 18:36-37 Sure enough fire comes down and consumes the sacrifice, the altar, and even the water from the ditch is dried up. The people fall down and begin to worship God. Elijah then declares to King Ahab the drought will end even though all anyone can see is a small cloud over the sea. Elijah has a flair for the dramatic. Wouldn’t it be fun to be Elijah? To say a simple prayer and God respond in such an overwhelming and spectacular way?
            Before you get to wrapped up in desiring to be Elijah let’s continue his story. Elijah’s dramatics get the attention of Jezebel who promises to end Elijah’s life. Yet again Elijah had to flee to the wilderness. However, you might think Elijah still has some boldness or brashness or at least a little confidence left after such an amazing event. Instead Elijah has a pity party. “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4 What has happened to our extraordinary hero? Has anything like this happened to you? After an emotional high your rollercoaster of emotions takes over and you hit a deep valley? Things appear to be going your way and then life crashes into you?
            I’ve mentioned before how much preaching takes out of me. My last appointment was to a three point circuit where I preached three times twice a month: 8:30, 9:30, and 11:00. That first year I was absolutely wiped out after preaching three times in a row and driving about ten minutes between each church (depending on how fast I drove the country roads in between them). Usually after preaching three services my adrenalin had been going so much that I would crash the rest of the day. Getting home I’d go into the parsonage’s large living room close all the currents and just sit for a while. I was so wiped you could have asked my name and I’m not sure I could have told you what it was. Though Elijah has the tendency for the dramatic, he is a lot like the rest of us with highs and lows, great faith and great doubt.
            God tells Elijah to get up and eat. An angel repeats this instruction to Elijah. Then Elijah journeys for forty days nights to Mount Horeb, the same mountain we discussed last week with Moses. God and Elijah have another conversation and again Elijah has bit of a pity party. God then tells Elijah to go out on the mountain and God will pass by. Elijah goes out and a strong wind comes by such that it was splitting rocks. But God was not in the wind. Then there was an earthquake but God was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire. But God was not in the fire. Then came the sound of sheer silence.
            God and Elijah continue their conversation and God gives Elijah farther instruction that will help the Israelites and give Elijah a helper and successor. Elijah goes on to continue serving the Lord, but his ending is even dramatic. God carried Elijah up into heaven on a chariot. Seemingly a fitting end for a person with such flair for the spectacular. Though Elijah’s story is full of excitement it is telling that Elijah wavers, fears, doubts and encounters God most of all in sound of sheer silence. As perhaps we’ve heard it said before about worship and serving God, “It’s not how high you jump and praise, but how you walk when you come back down.”
            The danger of Elijah’s story in our day is we too hope that God will show up in the miraculous in the spectacular overlooking to the ordinary and seemingly mundane. As my professor from January points out in his book What God Wants for your Life, "Signs and wonders offered reassurance, certainty, and a sense of God's presence in the midst of seemingly meaningless and painful events."[i] We can get caught looking for God only or exclusively in spectacular when God is often trying to speak to us in the stillness of a small voice. We’re so busy, so often on the move, with so much noise around us and we wonder where God is or why we’re not growing more in our spiritual walk with God.
Have you seen the shirts and signs going around that say, "If I agreed with you, then we'd both be wrong." Humorous for sure, but I think it reveals something else about us as a society. We're bad listeners. We really are. Look at our political process and there are debates, tweets, sound bites, speeches, and a few town hall meetings thrown in for good measure, but how much real listening takes place? We live in the rise of the digital information age with broadband speeds and as it has been pointed out it has not exactly made us anymore wise. What has become too common place is we can go to the websites and news sites that confirm our previously held beliefs rather than go to websites and news organizations that are different than what we hold to be true. Thus we are rarely challenged and rarely do we listen to the other side, we just lock and load with more of our own arguments.
The same can be true within the church. People suggest new ideas or creative proposals and are shot down because we don't things like that around here. Listening really is a lost art in our society. I actually got that from a title of a book by Michael Nichols, The Lost Art of Listening. It’s a book I had to read for one of my seminary classes. I remember getting this book and being humored at a 250 page book on listening. My first thought was to think that this author must be a terrible writer to spend more than 100 pages on listening. What can really be said about listening? We'll thankfully I read the book with a better attitude and learned a great deal about listening. One of Nichols main ideas is that "Listening is a strenuous but silent activity." I don't think many of us are really surprised to learn that silence is a crucial part of listening, but strenuous? One of those things you learn as you're growing up is that God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a purpose, to listen. But for most us during our moments of silence in a conversation, we're figuring out what we’re going to say next. We're getting our defense ready. If we're a parent listening to our child we're usually trying to figure out how we're going to set them straight. If we're a spouse listening to our mate we're usually trying to prove why we're right and they are wrong. If we're trying to convince a friend or acquaintance while their political ideology is crazy we're remembering arguments and looking for holes in their argument and so on and so on we go. Thus, I think Nichols sentence is exactly on point.  "Listening is a strenuous but silent activity." It takes effort, a lot of effort, to shut off those voices in our heads and truly be silent and hear what the other person is trying to tell us. This morning we’re blessed to have our Boy Scouts join us. I was a Boy Scout at one time. I didn’t get real far in scouting. One of the reasons why I didn’t get real far was that it requires some strenuous effort to get the merit badges to move up in rank and at that time I was unwilling to put in the effort. It takes work. They have to volunteer time. They have to learn new skills and a variety of them. They have to learn from others. They have to go through discomfort. And on and on. It’s strenuous.
This is true for listening and it is also true in our spiritual lives especially as it relates to God in prayer. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we're so often looking for God in the extraordinary and the miraculous. That’s easy really. It requires little of us. Thus we take little to no time to cultivate an inner relationship with God. We're so busy running from errand to errand, from children's activity to grandkids activity to meeting to event and on and on we run too busy to stop and listen and cultivate a spiritual life that is an ongoing conversation with God much less to hear God’s small still voice. If God would just speak to us out of the clouds or with fireworks or on billboard signs perhaps we'd hear because that's really the only way to get our attention at the lifestyle we are running. We wonder where's God? We wonder why we have so little energy? I really like my phone. It does all sorts of neat things. I’ve told you before how my prayer guide for morning and evening is on it. I’ve got all kids of Bible software on it. I can check Facebook or Twitter. GPS if I need it. Lately I’ve been playing chess. It’s funny how we can get addicted to those games. But you know this gadget is worthless if I don’t plug it in and charge up its battery. Isn’t that true for us? We can refuel our bodies with food and the will keep us going, but that plus a whole lot of spectacular wasn’t enough to sustain Elijah and it won’t sustain us either. It takes the strenuous, daily activity to listening to God in prayer to energize to live the Christian life.
Nichols goes on to observes, "Genuine listening involves a brief suspension of self." instead of formulating our arguments or biting our tongue until we can get a word in edge wise, to really listen we have to let go of our stuff, of our agenda, of what we want to see happen in order to genuinely hear our children, our spouse, our friends, our church members and the same is true for listening to God. I don't think this is far from Jesus' words, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25 There is more encompassed in Jesus' words than listening, but I think that's a part. If we really want to know what God wants for our lives, what God is calling us to do, to hear what God is desiring to do in us and through us as individuals and as a church, it will call from the strenuous activity of suspending our own agendas and listening to hear the still small voice of God. Maybe this sermon would have fit better last Sunday. But maybe now that we’re away from it, perhaps we’ll have new ears, both ears, to hear and an inner disposition that is ready to do the hard work of listening to God’s still small voice that we can begin listening to the real cries of others around us who are also like Elijah, worn out, burned out, looking for light.   

[i] Schmidt 66

Monday, February 6, 2012

Prayer as...

But Moses said to God
Exodus 3:10, 4:10-13
            I was at the funeral for a family friend’s father this week when my father poked me and pointed across the church aisle to an elder lady he identified as my kindergarten teacher. Following the service there was a reception for the family and sure enough I recognized her and she said she recognized me. Picture. I attended kindergarten at the Baptist church my grandmother and former kindergarten teacher still attend. She remembered me because I when I started kindergarten I was months removed from open heart surgery. Turns out my kindergarten teacher’s granddaughter had the same condition I did, but it went undiagnosed in her though she too had successful surgery. Also at my family friend’s father’s funeral, the family friend told a few stories about my dad’s younger days that were somewhat embarrassing which was fun. It was interesting watching my dad, my mom and some former classmates reminisce. So despite the tears and sadness there was also joy and even a strange sense of home for me. It is interesting how we can experience feelings of home in such strange places. Here I was surrounded by an atmosphere of grief yet celebration for a life well lived; a group of mostly strangers I had never met with a few who knew me and my family well; in a church I had never been in, and yet there was comfort and reunions. Home can found in the strangest of places.
            Moses. I wonder if you asked him where his home was what his answer would have been. You remember the story. Moses was born a Hebrew at a time when the Pharaoh had decreed all Hebrew babies to be killed. Moses’ name means drawn out. Moses was drawn up out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter but then nursed by his own mother. Decades later, Moses a man of compassion, saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew ended up killing and trying to cover up his murder. Seeing two Hebrews fighting and again trying to help, they called Moses on his cover up. Moses then fled as the Pharaoh was seeking to kill Moses. And I mean fled to Midian. We can see on this map how far Midian is from Egypt. Moses had to go far away from home to be safe from Pharaoh’s reach.
Though safe from Pharaoh, Moses received a dangerous call from God. Again Moses’ compassion comes out as he helps the daughters of a priest. This priest, Jethro, became his father in law. When Moses had a son, he named him Gershom which means “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.” Moses recognizes he is not home. His family might be here now, his career his in Midian, but this isn’t home.
            Moses becomes a shepherd for Jethro. One day Moses passed a bush that was burning but not burning up. Turning aside to see this spectacle, God speaks to Moses. Up until this point in the story God has been in the background of the plot. The people are suffering and it is not until the end of chapter two that we hear of God’s compassion, The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.Exodus 2:23-25 Earlier in the story God did deal favorably with the midwives who feared God by not killing the Hebrew children, but other than that God has been a bit absent from the story. But now God and Moses come face to face on top of Mount Horeb. God tells Moses that God has come down to deliver up His people. And the way God will go about doing this is through Moses. It might make some sense for Moses to be humbled by this or even overwhelmed by this call. Moses takes it to a new level.
            In fact, I imagine that if Moses were running for say presidential office of the United States he wouldn’t get very far. Today’s candidates are bold and brash. They put down their opponents, they mock contrary opinions, and most of them have confidence in excess to say it nicely. Moses was far down the confidence scale. Confidence was not a strong point of Moses. With the invention of television to cover political debates, our politicians have also had to become skilled debaters. Moses would have failed on this qualification as well by his own admission.
            When God tells Moses that he is to go to Pharaoh to demand the release of the Hebrew slaves, Moses’ first question is “Who am I?” (Exodus 3:11). Who am I to do such a thing Moses protested. God’s response is to take the burden and focus off of Moses by stating, “I will be with you.” Moses then responded with this second question, “Who are you?” (Exodus 3:13) God then reveals to Moses the divine name, “Yahweh,” normally mistranslated to “Jehovah” which means “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be.” I favor this later interpretation because it calls for act of faith. If you want to know who I am, God is saying to Moses, just watch what I can do.
Now Moses really begins to back pedal protesting, “It Won’t Work” (Exodus 4:1). “They won’t believe me.” God points out the shepherd’s staff in Moses’ hand. The staff was the symbol of his current career, his current residency, all which Egyptians mocked. This was a symbol of Moses temporary comfort zone. Moses could simply be this forever. Moses could ignore God. There is a rabbinical story that notes that the bush was burning every day and God was waiting for Moses to notice it. I like the story because it reminds me that God is always calling, it’s just a matter of us having the eyes to see it? And once we see it, how will we respond? God asked Moses to throw the staff down. Moses does so and it becomes a snake. God commands Moses to pick up the snake by the tail and it becomes a staff again. God then tells Moses to put his hand in his coat. When Moses pulls it out, it has a skin disease on it, leprosy, that was incurable at the time. God commands Moses to put his hand back in his jacket and when Moses does and then pulls it out it is healed. Moses has proof that what God is asking, God can achieve. This leads to Moses fourth response, “I Can’t!” (Exodus 4:10) Moses reveals that he has a speech impediment. God gets a little testy at this point and questions Moses, “Who gives speech to mortals?” (Exodus 4:11). “Did you forget who created you? Did you forget that I knew that already? Do you really think there is anything I can’t accomplish even through you?” If we’re honest, we’ve had those moments of self-doubt. We’ve had those moments where we have a pity party and wonder if we can ever do anything right. We’re in good company. Moses certainly wondered and doubted. Moses doubted directly toward God. That leads us to Moses fifth response, “I Won’t!” (Exodus 4:13) Actually, Moses puts it this way, But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send someone else.’ Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘What of your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad.’Exodus 4:13-14 In loving and angry words, God convinces Moses, that it is not a matter if Moses is up to the task, God is. God stays with Moses, they wrestle together over God’s desire.
            We begin this week a three week exploration of prayer. It may seem really odd to begin with this passage, but I think we can learn a lot about prayer from this interchange between Moses and God. Too often, we settled for a version of prayer that makes God out to be like a gumball machine. I drop in a pray for this, God shoots down an answer. Perhaps a broken gumball machine might be a better analogy because we drop in some prayers and all too often our prayers go unanswered. But really, that's a warped understanding of prayer. Technically when we ask for something in prayer it is a petition. We are petitioning, asking, requesting of God for a certain action like healing or forgiveness. It is petitionary because we can't make God do anything. If we could, we would be practicing magic and not praying before Almighty God. God is free and beyond whatever best intentions we have. We can only petition. But as important as petitionary prayer is, it is not the only way to pray and prayer itself is about much more than simply asking for answers and hoping for solutions.
            Prayer is intentionally being in the presence of God. We tend to be rather pragmatic and utilitarian people. We desire to do something if it works. That’s why people engage in debates about whether prayer works or how it works. If prayer is intentionally being in the presence of God, it is fundamentally about being in God’s presence and not getting answers to our requests. I’m not saying prayer doesn’t work. On the contrary, I absolutely believe it does, but what pray is about primarily is being in the presence of God. I’ve probably used this quote before, but it is worth repeating, “Love loves to be told what it knows already…It wants to be asked for what it longs to give.”[i] P. T. Forsyth. 
A few months ago, following children’s church, one of the workers told me how one of my sons was requesting prayer for their football team or their fantasy football team. My initial response was, honesty, a bit embarrassed. Here I am a pastor and the pastor’s kids are praying for football. Were these really worthy of prayer request? What kind of role model have I been? The more I have thought about though and if we take seriously that prayer is about being in the presence of God with all that we are and all that is concerning us, it’s probably not the worst thing in the world that their prayer request is about football. The more important notion to learn is to present God all that is within us. C. S. Lewis said about prayer that we should “lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.”[ii] Perhaps my over serious side should take a chill pill and instead of focusing on what I think is worthy or not worthy, to continue to cultivate my child’s willingness to bring all His concerns about God so that the point isn’t about getting what we ask for, but about being who we are in the presence of God. Even when that means truly wrestling with God with our doubts, fears, questions, trivialities, all of it.          
We see this with Moses. Moses' prayer seems odd to us. So much so we might not even acknowledge it as prayer. Moses’ dialogues with God, questions God, even argues with God. That's entirely appropriate if prayer is intentionally being who are in the presence of God. God can handle our emotions and doubts. I would even say God welcomes it. God desires that we be honest with Him in prayer. In fact it is rather silly that we aren't honest with God. God is well God and knows anyway whether we verbalize our frustration or anger or whatever feeling it is we think we are holding back with God.
            What we learn from Moses, is that prayer as a place of home. We are home whenever we are in God’s presence. We can experience this home whether we are at a funeral or fleeing for our lives in a foreign land. The early church father Gregory of Nyssa wrote a biography of Moses called The Life of Moses. In the book he notes that our goal is to be in the presence of God like a good friend and the worst state of life is not being a friend of God. “We regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God’s friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire. This…is the perfection of life.”[iii] I would say that being God’s friend, being intentionally in God’s presence is a life worth living.
            Whether our prayer is answered or not, in God’s presence we are at home. In fact if it is not answered, we’re in good company. In many of the Psalms we read where the Psalmist is crying out for God to answer their prayers as God seems especially absent. “But I, O LORD, cry out to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. O LORD, why do you cast me off? Why do you hide your face from me?Psalm 88:13-14 I say to God, my rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?"Psalm 42:9 We could cite many more. George Buttrick expressed prayer as sometimes like “beating heaven’s door with bruised knuckles in the dark.”[iv] In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed three times for the cup to pass and it doesn’t. Jesus cried out from the cross “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
            Moses cried out to send someone else. God sent Moses. In the beginning of the book of Exodus, we noted how God seemed distant, even absent. By the end of the book of Exodus, God has delivered the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, defeated Pharaoh and his army, as well as becoming radically present with the people of God. This is a new world, a new home for Moses and the people. The most amazing thing about prayer to me, is that God desires to be with us and hear the concerns of our heart. Not simply a god of our making or a god we can manipulate, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Moses and the Father of Jesus Christ desires we make room, find our home, in God’s presence. In this presence, God can change us and do remarkable events through us beyond what we can imagine.
            How do we make time to be intentionally in God’s presence? Are you willing to give God all that you in prayer?

[i] Prayer p. 181
[ii]Prayer 12
[iii] Prayer 150
[iv] Prayer 17