Thursday, February 21, 2008

Distance and Darkness

The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:21).

So the Ten Commandments are an invitation; God’s invitation to a life lived well and whole. The Ten Commandments bring us into dialogue with the God who has claimed us and delivered us from those things that held us captive. That’s been the core of the message we’ve gleaned from the Ten Commandments so far this week.

But one can’t help but notice that when the commandments were given, they didn’t seem too effective in drawing people closer to their God. The people remain at a distance. They want Moses to be a mediator – a buffer between them and the God whose voice they fear. To say that the commandments are an invitation sounds nice, but there’s not much happening on Mt. Sinai that looks cozy and affectionate.

In the commandments God has spoken to us. When it comes to our response it seems we have two choices. We can remain at a distance, or like Moses we can approach the thick darkness where God is.

Finding God in the thick darkness is hard for us. Maybe we prefer to stand off, hearing the commandments, doing our best to keep as many of them as we can, but never dealing with God. Maybe we’re not sure that God exists in those dark places. We’re afraid we’ll approach only to find God isn’t there.

We’re not so different from the Israelites. They much preferred a god they could see, a god who would go before them in way that made sense. A manageable deity. That’s why they melted their jewelry and fashioned a calf. That, as we saw, was a big mistake.

But God can’t be managed. We don’t figure God out. We can’t live a life a faith and bleach the mystery out of it, try as we might. We either stand at a distance, or we draw near and approach the unknown and unseen, finding God in the dark places of our lives.

Maybe you’re familiar with thick darkness. Those moments when you have no idea what’s next or what you’ll find tomorrow. Sometimes the darkness settles on you like a mist or it seizes you like cellophane around your face.

But the thick darkness is where God is. Don’t be content to stand at a distance.

God of light, you conceal yourself at times in dark places. Help us to find you there. We don’t want to stand a distance. Make us bold in approaching you with every circumstance of life, and grant to us the light needed to live this day. Amen.

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