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A Sermon By the Rev. Stuart Schadt

 

How do we know God?  Most of us know God through the fellowship with other believers, the scriptures and the natural revelation. (The fact that the creation speaks to us of God.) But God is also made know through revelation or what we might call direct contact. Direct contact might range from what we personally experience and might call God Moments, or epiphanies moments of awareness, or when we might say God was with me in a way I had never felt before. And some have a developed prayer life that allows them to dwell in the presence of God for extended time. At this past Wednesday Eucharist we celebrated the life of Evelyn Underhill. Born in the 1800’s died in 1941. A spiritual writer who believe the profound spiritual experience of the mystics was available to all people.  

Then there are more profound moments of revelation these are moments where the God experience is so profound that it moves the person to change their life and that change takes a person from an obscure life to have a profound impact on the course of human events. Giovanni di Bernardino heard God say “Build up my church,” and he went on to found the order of friars and to be known as St. Francis.

Last summer with some of our High Schoolers I visited the Shrine of our lady of Walsingham. In 1061 a noble Saxon woman in Norfolk England had a vision of Mary the mother of God that still brings Pilgrims to Little Walsingham to pray and to seek healing.

 You might think the bible is just chalked full of people telling us of their mystical God experience but in reality very few people in scripture report such experience.  And the nature of those experiences varies greatly. Abraham reports the visit of three strangers who he is certain are the messengers of God. Likewise Jacob wrestles through the night on the shore of the river Jabok with a man who he not only tells us is an angel of the lord but God. Quite often God speaks to people in dreams. Jacob in his sleep sees angels ascending and descending a ladder. Joseph is told in a dream to take Mary and the child and flee to Egypt. And in a dream God tells the Magi not to tell Herod of finding the child. And there are trance type visions. These often produce the longest messages. In the Book of Revelation St. John tells us “I was in the spirit and lo there was a throne in heaven.” 18 chapters of reporting follow.

The most significant revelation experiences are reported as direct contact. And they become the foundational visions of faith.

Moses is part of a three part foundational religious experience.

Alone tending his father in law’s sheep on mount Horeb, also known as Sinai, he sees a bush filled with fire but not consumed. He turns aside to see this. The divine presence speaks. “I am who I am,” Yahweh is my name; I am the God of Your Fathers, Abraham Isaac and Jacob.  In this God has told Moses a lot of information. God has revealed self in a way that has not previously happened. Then there is an outcome to this vision. Moses must go do. Moses is sent to lead the people of Israel out of the hand of Pharaoh.

The second Part of this revelation God safely delivers the people of Israel from the armies of Pharaoh. The scripture tells us that the Israelis cross the sea on dry land but the waters swallow up the army of pharaoh.

And thirdly the people of Israel return to the base of the mountain where Moses encountered God. Moses returns to the top of the mountain alone and there he receives the tablets of the law and a covenant is forged between God and the people. The people will keep God’s Law and god will be their God.

This three part historical experience is the foundational revelational experience between God and the Jews. Through much of the Old Testament we see this revelation recalled in ritual as a covenant renewal ceremony. Most clearly outlined when Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land and says, “Choose this day who you will serve, as for me and my house we will serve Yahweh.”

Today this revelation is ritualized in the Seder or Passover meal and the focus is moved to the Exodus.

For us Christians, the Foundational revelation can be seen as a three part experience

  1. The Life and teachings of Jesus
  2. The submission unto Death even death on the cross
  3. The resurrection.

We ritualize, repeat and return to this revelation every Sunday in the Eucharist. The ritual allows us to live into the mystery of the revelation. And God is revealed to us. We are invited to live into the Eucharist as though we are selves remember it. As though we were there in the upper room. I always thought it would be powerful to build churches with low ceilings so it would feel like we were there in the upper room, in an attic room.

In the repeat of the Eucharistic ritual we are incorporated into the original revelational experience.

There is good news and bad news to the revelation experience. The good news is we feel connected to God. The Bad news is sometimes when we want to get back to that experience we can’t. The other bad news there is always doubt. In today’s gospel we read From Matthew the story of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to his apostles on the mountain in Galilee. Even in this powerful experience we are told some doubted while others worshiped Jesus.  And when we go to tell people of our experience they often aren’t ready to hear them. 

And it is true that if we understand God telling us to do something that is out of the ordinary for ourselves or immoral or even illegal. We appropriately question the validity of the message.

The most important message is God seeks to be known and to know us.

 

 


Copyright © 2011, The Rev. Stuart E. Schadt. All rights reserved.