September 13, 2015: Who Is God? (and why should I care?)

Posted on : Sep 10th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Believe it or not, people give me a hard time about Biblical images and language.  I guess they think that since I am a minister, I’m responsible for defending stories that were written and images that were used 4,000-6,000 years ago. Lately I’ve been thinking about that as we talk more and more about “The Cloud.”

In the story of the Exodus, “The Cloud” is the way God is symbolized as being present with the people. As the people of God wander through the wilderness for nearly a lifetime, how did they know God was present? God went before them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Exodus 13: 21-22)

This week our story of faith focuses on Moses going up Mt. Sinai and having a conversation with God. The first time Moses comes down from the mountain after speaking with God, God says to Moses, “I will come to you in a dense cloud, so that when the people hear me speaking with you, they will always have faith in you.”   (Actually that didn’t quite work out as planned, but more on that in a few weeks.)

After coming down from the mountain, Moses asks the people to ritualistically prepare themselves to hear what God has to say. Three days later, when morning came, there was thunder and lighting, and a dense cloud settled over the mountain…The mountain of Sinai was shrouded in smoke, and God told Moses to bring his brother Aaron with him up the mountain. Moses enters “The Cloud” and is given “the Law” (Torah) or what we often call, “the Ten Commandments.” So, once again God is in “The Cloud.”

As I was thinking about this ancient Biblical image of “The Cloud” as the place where God is, I began to wonder if that is the image that was behind “cloud computing?” Today everything is stored in “The Cloud.” The Cloud is this super mass of collective stored knowledge. None of us could survive without “The Cloud!” (Well, maybe I’m being a little dramatic.) All of our email, all of our computer data, all of our finances, all of our contacts – everything is stored in “The Cloud!” And yet, in reality we know there isn’t a “Cloud.” The cloud is a network of super mega-storage servers located firmly on the ground in massive climate controlled environments – hopefully far away from water vapor or rain!!!

Nonetheless, “The Cloud” is our current image of that which holds our collective knowledge, all of our data, and all of our financial and personal information.  The biblical “cloud” is much like that. The Cloud is the symbol or image of the presence of God, and from “The Cloud,” God reveals God’s self to the people. The collective knowledge and wisdom of faith is accessed.

This Sunday we will focus on the first three of “The Big Ten” (the Ten Commandments) which reveal to us who God is and how we are to be in relationship with this God. And just as there is a fair amount of misunderstanding regarding the contemporary “Cloud,” I think you’ll find the same with this ancient Biblical Cloud. The God who is revealed here is not the God most expect to find. Control – Alt – Delete.

More on Sunday




~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Exodus 19:1 – 20: 7 (slightly edited)

At the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. Then Moses went up to God; God called to Moses from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.’

So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that God had commanded him. The people all answered as one: ‘Everything that God has spoken we will do.’ Moses reported the words of the people to God. Then God said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.’

When Moses had told the words of the people to God, God said to Moses: ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day I will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people…

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because God had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. When God descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, God summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then God said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people not to break through to look at me; otherwise many of them will perish. Even the priests who approach me must consecrate themselves or I will break out against them.’ Moses said to God, ‘The people are not permitted to come up to Mount Sinai; for you yourself warned us, saying, “Set limits around the mountain and keep it holy.” ’ God said to him, ‘Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you; but do not let either the priests or the people break through to come up to me; otherwise I will break out against them.’ So Moses went down to the people and told them.

Then God spoke all these words:

(1) I, the Holy One, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

(2) You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Holy One your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

(3) You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God, for your God will not acquit anyone who misuses God’s name.


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