November 22, 2015: Next Generation Givers

Posted on : Nov 19th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This Sunday we come to the “last chapter” or our Exodus story. For the second year in a row, we have studied a book of the Bible from beginning to end!

The Exodus story ends in a most wonderful way. Moses and the people of God have built the Tabernacle. As you heard in George’s sermon last Sunday, the fundraising effort for this construction was over-the-top. Moses had to ask the people to stop giving! They were giving too much. That is gracious giving! But now, the whole purpose of this “gift,” this Tabernacle, was coming into being.

In beautiful poetic language, we are told that “the cloud” [the symbol of God’s presence] came down and “rested” on the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle would be the place where God would dwell among the people. The last two verses of this magnificent book of Exodus are these:

Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud would rise from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out. If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not move until it did. The cloud rested on the Tabernacle in the daytime, and at night there was fire in the cloud so that the whole house of Israel could see. And so it remained for every stage of their journey.

Anthony Robinson, one of our UCC “God Is Still Speaking” writers, describes this experience perfectly:

When the cloud lifted, it was time to pack up and move on because God was on the move, leading God’s people on their journey.

God is both near (in the midst of the people) and far (not wholly contained by the tabernacle.) Theologians speak of this paradox of God being both near and far as God’s “immanence” and God’s “transcendence.” Immanence means God is in humanity’s midst, dwelling among us. There’s a link between the world “’immanence” and one of the names for Jesus, “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” So our God is near, in our midst, not remote or far off. And yet at the same time, our God is not confined to one place, to the tabernacle, or a church, or a cathedral or a nation or an historical period in time.

What a fabulous way to end this story of our faith. In this journey, God is both near to us, yet at the same time not confined or limited by our own experiences and beliefs. There is always more of God and more of life to experience!

And even though that is where the book of Exodus ends, the end of this long story is actually found in two other books of the Bible – Numbers and Deuteronomy. In those books we discover that this wonderful, deeply spiritual leader Moses is never able to set foot in the Promised Land – the place these people’s journey is destined for. Instead, Moses sees the Promised Land from afar. This story gives new meaning to “so near and yet so far!” Poor Moses!!! But there is reason for this. Moses is called by God to do one more heroic, life giving thing on this journey of faith.

More about that this Sunday.

Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Exodus 40: 33-38

Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard.

So Moses finished all the work.

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of God filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud so densely covered it and because the glory of God so completely filled the Tabernacle.
Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud would rise (lift up) from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out. If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not move until it did. The cloud rested on the Tabernacle in the daytime, and at night there was fire in the cloud so that the whole house of Israel could see. And so it remained for every stage of their journey.

Numbers 27: 12-23

Then God said to Moses, “Go up this mountain (in the Abarim range,) and view the land I have given to the Israelites. After you view it, you will be gathered to your ancestors [meaning: “you will die”], as Aaron was, because you rebelled against my command in the Desert of Zin, where the community quarreled, and you did not honor me as holy before them at the waters.”

Moses replied to the Most High, “May you, the God of the spirits of all living creatures, appoint a person to lead the community – one who will go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in. Otherwise, your people will be like sheep without a shepherd.”

So God said to Moses, “Lay your hands on Joshua, child of Nun, on whom the Spirit rests. Have Joshua stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole community, to commission him in their presence…

Moses did as God commanded…Then Eleazar commissioned Joshua with the laying on of hands, as God had commanded Moses.

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