Finding the Art in Everything

28 April, 2013

Where God is in The Tent

This morning a friend preached from Exodus 33, about the Israelites’ reaction to when Moses went to meet God in the Tent of Meeting. He reminded us that the tent was there for everyone to enter, but only two did. He implored us to daily enter the Tent as Moses and Joshua did, because we, too, are dependent on God’s Presence and Glory.
I'm desperate for it. 

There are many days—many moments even--where I miss my turn in the Tent, where I miss my Divine Appointments and forgo the opportunity to enter God’s presence. Sometimes it’s because I let the day get in the way and forget to go out to the Tent of Meeting, but sometimes it’s because I go looking for the Presence of God in the wrong place

It’s true that God is everywhere present. Theologically, I believe the Presence of God manifests itself differently from how it did in those wandering desert days the Hebrews faced. After the Resurrection, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God is no longer in an isolated location, where a certain ethnic group and its leaders held exclusive rights.  We believe God is now with us all the time. 

Yet we still have to go looking. 

Also,  the presence of desert days hasn’t changed. I still have those. I am still wandering, asking big questions about what God has in store for me. Where I’m going--what’s next--and even wondering if He’s actually going to make good on those promises of a land that flows with milk and honey. There are days where I climb the mountain, and the vista doesn’t reveal that Land is anywhere close. 

Not that I’m sure I even know what I’m looking for.

I went up on that mountain so I could see for myself where we were going. I figured if I went up to the place where He was last—the place where Moses got the Law and brought it down—I’d find God, some clear vision, a way forward, something. I wanted a glimpse of the Promised Land for myself.
So I could get reassurance for myself.
No wonder I didn’t find what I was looking for. 

God is not at the end of a long climb propelled by my fear of what’s next. 

God is no longer where the rules and procedures carved in stone were handed down. God is not in the shrine that I built to those stone tablets, believing those rules are the very formula that will deliver me from suffering and to a land teeming with things I think I want.  

I come back to the sentence that has propelled me for the last three years: I surely have to be where God is. 

And this time, God is down in the tent, behind the pillar of cloud.

In a tent, behind a pillar of cloud – God is  in the place where I see the least of the land and where there are few people. God is in all the obscurity and mystery. God is in all that I cannot see and all that I cannot know. God is where I carry the weight of Glory, not the weight of worry about the future.
That tent is the place where God will speak to me, face to face “as a man speaks to a friend.” And like Moses, I can take to God all the things I was promised but still don’t know.
 All the things I still can’t see. 

When it comes down to it, I realize, like Moses, I want God’s favor more than I want answers. I, too, pray “Show me now your ways,  that I may know You in order to find favor in your sight.” I, too, remind God that I am one of His people. I remember that there are promises and there is work to do. 

God,  I’m ready. Please just show me  the way.
(And honestly, I, too, would like to know who is going with me.) 

God answers that for me as He did for Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

Yes, God is everywhere present. But if I am not in that tent, if I am not looking to meet God face to face, it means I am looking for something else. 

To get into the Tent, we must make an about-face, turning from our quest to secure our own futures with answers we got for ourselves. Taking the path to the Tent takes me off my well-worn path of worry, insecurity, and self-destruction. 

We go looking for the Presence of God so we stop looking for other things that don’t deliver. 

I see most clearly when I turn from all the other places where I’m seeking the affirmation and control that will bring me the future I thought I was promised.
When I repent.
I see most clearly when I enter God’s mystery—where I boldly walk into all that I don’t know. Where I remember who I am—which is one of God’s people who has been given Glorious Promises--promises of hope and a future!

I see most clearly when I enter the tent.  

04 April, 2013

Where I Take Communion 5 Times Before Friday

"A desire for communion has been part of you since you were born. The pain of continue to experience, now, reveals to you this deep hunger. All of your life you have searched for a communion that would break your fear of death. This desire is sincere. Don't look on it as an expression of your neediness or symptom of your neurosis. It comes from God and is part of your true vocation. Communion is your authentic desire, and it will be given to you.But you have to dare to trust that your deepest longing will be fulfilled. Dare to lose your life and you will find it. Trust in Jesus words:  “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel  will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30) 
-Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love 
On Tuesday, Communion at lunch with a Sister, when we didn't know how much we needed that. When we didn't know how much pent up sorrow and confusion there was. When we didn't know that everything would be different and how hard that would be sometimes. When we didn't know that everything would be different but now it's better than ever. When we find that His body was broken so that we might live reconciled here. When eating together in the sunshine brings more laughter and tears and truth and love and mystery and understanding than anything else we've done in months. Do this in remembrance of Me.

On Tuesday evening, Communion again with a great friend who reminds me how to break the bread. How to pour out my wine--my own blood in the death of my flesh-- as a drink offering. When we see Communion for the Ebenezer that it is. When my friend reveals to me that the unfulfilled longing for Communion is a place of pain I'll always carry, but that it's where I enter the sufferings of Christ. That each time communion is broken, I must remember this is the Father and the Son's pain, too. Then we drink the wine to remember that resurrection always follows suffering and death. New life flows, but we can't have it without the suffering first. When I take communion, I take part of the body that was broken to break me free from the fear that binds. I drink the blood that washes me clean of my unbelief. The bread and the cup are now forms that mean everything. Do this in remembrance of Me.

I went looking for a better anchor, so that I was more prepared when the Enemy swamped the boat next time. This weekend, the ship almost sank.Captain and crew nearly thrown overboard by waves of accusation, division, and deceit from the Enemy. We made it to the other shore, but we are still soaked and bedraggled. But a better anchor--a verse, a memory, a habit--wouldn't have stopped the storm. We needed Jesus for that. We needed to go together to wake Him up when we were afraid. We needed to enter together the presence of the One who could stop the storm. We needed to stop and pray. We need to run together to the table to break the bread and take the broken body into our own because it broke us free from the shackles of division and accusation. We needed to see we were drinking from the same cup. On Wednesday, at lunch, we, sisters, resolve to do this. To come together next time. Do this in remembrance of Me. 

On Wednesday evening, when I had a meal and prayed with a friend, offering and receiving encouragement like at that Final Dinner. In this world, we will have trouble. Take Heart. He has overcome the world.  On Wednesday night, when the sharing of quirky favorites is a delightful surprise--a spontaneous adventure that keeps me smiling the next day. Delight, Surprise, Adventure and Spontaneity that are signs of Life and the One who made it.  Communion when, as I reclined and rested, I looked across the table to find two other friends also feasting on the familiar. Do ALL THIS  in remembrance of me. 

Communion today, Thursday, when a Brother meets me for lunch. We enter the Holy Mystery of it all together: the mystery of how so much brokenness can still bring life and healing. The mystery of how it will all turn out. The mystery of having all that we need and never feeling like it--of eating the Bread of Life and still being hungry.  Where we wash each others feet with encouragement, humility, and transparency. Where, despite the odds and circumstances and scripts that should prove otherwise, despite all that bristles,  we know to our core that we are on the same side and for each other. Where how it all works--sin, atonement, and salvation--how it all works is a mystery to us, but we know that at the table and at the Cross there is love and grace enough to cover all the words we have left to say and all the work we have left to do. Do this in remembrance of me.