Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Monday Reflection - Joanna Moffett-Levy
This homily was given by Joanna Moffett-Levy , a final year ordinand, at Evening Prayer on Monday 9th May 2011;
There is a theme in today's readings and that theme is awe, awe at God's overwhelming greatness. First, in Psalm 29 'the voice of God is over the waters, the God of Glory thunders.' God's voice shatters the greatest of the trees and makes the wilderness shake.
In the reading from Exodus, God prepared Moses and the people of Israel for the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. The people needed to be pure to receive God's words and the mountain was so holy that no creature might touch it. Thunder and lightning, thick cloud and smoke were all around when the people met at the foot of the mountain. God's presence was like the loud blast of a trumpet, like an earthquake, like a violent storm. In the next chapter we will hear that they asked Moses to speak to God for them – they were afraid that if God spoke directly to them they would die.
And lastly, we heard Luke's account of the message given by the angel to Zechariah, husband of Elizabeth and father of John the Baptist, a message that came to him as he served God in the sanctuary. Imagine the shock when he looked up to see the angel standing by the altar of incense. Gabriel was there bringing the message from the place where he stands in the presence of God. Zechariah questioned the message, mildly, and as a result was rendered silent; his silence lasted until the circumcision of John in the Temple.
We are shown in these readings that God's power is overwhelming, like a terrifying natural phenomenon; we human beings cannot look at God, cannot survive in God's presence – we need a go-between like Moses or the angel Gabriel. Our response, our right response, is awe and fear.
The contrast for us this week is between this God who thunders and the God in Christ of the road to Emmaus. The Lord is present with the two disciples and walks along the road with them and is with them at the table as they eat. They may not recognise him at first, but they see him face to face.
Can we keep these things in balance? I think that we do need both but it is not easy. We may find the intimacy easier than the awe. We don't get a lot of practice at awe, I think, here in a city, away from whirlwinds and floods and earthquakes. But our fellow Christians in New Zealand certainly have. The theologian in residence at Christ Church Cathedral, New Zealand, Revd. Lynda Patterson, struggling with where to look for God in the destruction, wrote this recently.
"the earthquake was not an act of God. It was just the earth doing what it does. Under our feet there are two unimaginably vast slabs of rock floating in the tides of a ball of liquid iron. They grind on slowly, as they have done for millions of years, and where they rub together the earth is pushed up at the seams into mountains, or swallowed up in vast trenches. Sometimes the slabs move, stick and then move again as they did for us. Into all this impermanence, we are born and set up camp for the briefest of periods. But that's not the end of the story. Behind this globe of molten rock, there is a God who designed it all and put it in place. There is a God who knows just how breakable we are and how much it hurts, because that God has been here and walked about, laughed and wept and died and rose to life again here among us."
So this week I am going to keep trying to get a glimpse of the God who we know in the breaking of bread and who fills the dark spaces between the stars.