On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightening, 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....Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go down and warn the people not to break through to the Lord to look; otherwise many of them will perish. Even the priests who approach the Lord must consecrate themselves or the Lord will break out against them." Moses said to the Lord, "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.'" -- Exodus 19:16-17, 21-23 (a reading for Saturday 3/10)
This passage paints a picture of God that is very different from my picture of God. In this picture, God is separated from the people. This separation is for their own safety. Otherwise, "the Lord will break out against them and they will perish." This passage almost makes me afraid.
But, my understanding of God is that he is absolutely approachable. Granted, this is a figurative statement. I know that I cannot actually see God, "face-to-face", or touch God, but I still feel that God is very close to me.
These different ways of thinking about God reminded me of something my brother-in-law once asked me. He asked, "Have you ever imagined what it would be like to walk with God in the Garden of Eden?" I said that I thought that would be a wonderful experience. I would ask God all my questions, or at least the ones I still had. I would love that. My brother-in-law said that he would be too much in awe of God. He wouldn't be able to say anything; he would be struck absolutely speechless. You see, we have totally different images of God.
Coincidentally, while reading "Primitive Christianity: In Its Contemporary Setting," by Rudolph Bultmann, a little later in the day, I came across the following commentary: "The Greeks believed that God was not perceptible to the physical senses. But the Greeks did not believe that God could not be known. Though it needed tremendous effort on man's part, he could apprehend him by reason, and even adduce rational proofs of his existence. The Old Testament never reflects this way. God is not invisible to the senses as a matter of principle. Indeed, Hebrew has no word for 'invisible.' God is invisible because he wills it to be so. To see God would be to die. ....Man cannot get God into his possession or control; he knows about God only because God speaks to him. Hearing is the means by which God is apprehended. In the last resort, this is no more acoustic apprehension than seeing is optical apprehension. ... For [the Greek], sight tends to be the most important of the senses. For the Old Testament, however, hearing is the most important." (pgs. 22-23)
This is certainly my experience. I "hear" God speaking to me in the words of other people: in a book (like above), in the voice of a friend or a stranger, in a sermon, in a song on the radio, even in a movie. All these are things that are heard.
But, just as I was thinking about all of this, and wondering if God can only be "heard", I met a person who told me something different.
I went to the UA Book Fair on Saturday afternoon. I wanted to get some information about how to publish the book I am writing. I went to one workshop, "From Proposal to Published Book." It was a workshop showing the chain of events of one particular author's book. First the author spoke about her experiences, and then her publicist and co-writer spoke, and then their agent/editor spoke. The author is Ann Bolinger-McQuade, and the book that was published is called "Cloud-Speak."
Ms. Bolinger-McQuade sees messages which speak to her specific concerns in the clouds. She said, "You can call these messages from God, if you are comfortable with that. [-- I am.] Or you can call these messages from the Universe." So here is someone who sees messages. Which I think is very cool, especially in light of my thoughts for the day. That was, for me, one of those moments when I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I invite you to check out her website at: http://www.oraclesinthesky.com/
The next day, I read the following passage in the daily lectionary:
The heavens declare the glory of God,
the sky proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day makes utterance,
night to night speaks out.
There is no utterance,
there are no words,
whose sound goes unheard.
Their voice carries throughout the earth,
their words to the end of the world.
-- Psalm 19:2-5a (The Jewish Study Bible)
Dear Lord, thank you for teaching us what you want us to know in whatever way we can learn. You are amazing! Love always, Pam