This week's author is Karen Ziel, Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Scripture: Exodus 33: 12-23 (CEB)Moses said to the Lord, “Look, you’ve been telling me, ‘Lead these people forward.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. Yet you’ve assured me, ‘I know you by name and think highly of you.’ Now if you do think highly of me, show me your ways so that I may know you and so that you may really approve of me. Remember too that this nation is your people.”
The Lord replied, “I’ll go myself, and I’ll help you.”
Moses replied, “If you won’t go yourself, don’t make us leave here. Because how will anyone know that we have your special approval, both I and your people, unless you go with us? Only that distinguishes us, me and your people, from every other people on the earth.”
The Lord said to Moses, “I’ll do exactly what you’ve asked because you have my special approval, and I know you by name.”
Moses said, “Please show me your glorious presence.”
The Lord said, “I’ll make all my goodness pass in front of you, and I’ll proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord.’ I will be kind to whomever I wish to be kind, and I will have compassion to whomever I wish to be compassionate. But,” the Lord said, “you can’t see my face because no one can see me and live.” The Lord said, “Here is a place near me where you will stand beside the rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I’ll set you in a gap in the rock, and I’ll cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take away my hand, and you will see my back, but my face won’t be visible.”
Reflection:Perhaps this wilderness wandering has gotten the best of Moses. Perhaps the golden calf was the “last straw”! Perhaps Moses is still reluctant to put his “whole self in” and is having difficulty drawing upon the resources within himself, the very resources that God has affirmed are there. Moses cries out to God, are you there? Show me you’re with these people! Intervening on their behalf, he insists that God show himself. Once again, anger, fear and uncertainty have crept in. These are the enemies of our best selves.
In any case, it can be scary in new or challenging circumstances to be our most authentic self, our whole selves. To put our whole self in requires risk, courage, and a willingness to face down our enemies!
A new baby in any household is a welcome addition until the first night he cries uncontrollably and a new parent is on her own, entirely 100% responsible for this new life. It is the rare parent who resists doubt and uncertainty in this moment, imagining all kinds of dreadful circumstances that may befall this precious new life.
Moses was just being himself, keeping a flock, and his world was turned upside down! I have often thought to myself, “I hope he remembered his sandals!” So begins a journey into unknown territory, new adventures, assuming challenging new responsibilities with twists and turns unforeseen. We ask just as Moses did. We ask just as Margret did in Judy Blume’s classic story of a sixth grade girl wrestling with an emerging identity without the benefit of a religious foundation, Are you there God?
I can’t say I have ever had the experience of being placed in the crevice of a rock while God has passed by. Yet, I have had the experience of Moses and Margret in crying out to God; are you there? Just as fortunately, I have had the experience in moments of knowing that God was truly present. Revealed in an inexplicable calm during helpless moments in the aftermath of a devastating car crash. Revealed in finding what I perceived to be unfathomable strength and clarity to face a difficult decision. God sightings that have become a more regular occurrence during my life as I cry out to God; Are you there, God? It’s me, Karen!
Be with us in the mystery. Be with us in moments of doubt. Be with us as we move through our days and our nights.
Be with us as we cry out, God are you there? It's me!
Special Prayer Requests:
- The people of California where wildfires have led to at least 40 deaths and burned more than 100,000 acres; and
- the millions of people currently worried about losing health insurance as the White House and Congress consider and enact changes to the current health care system.
- Those grieving or suffering after a shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, which left more than 50 dead and over 400 wounded on Oct. 2'
- the people of Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria caused massive devastation on Sept. 20;
- those grieving or suffering after a shooting at a church in Nashville, which left 1 student dead and 7 wounded on Sept. 24.
- those grieving for the 24 children and teachers killed in a fire in Malaysia on Sept. 14;
- those grieving or suffering after a shooting at a school in Rockford, Washington, which left 1 student dead and 3 wounded on Sept. 13;
- those suffering in London after a crude bomb detonated in the subway on Sept. 15;
- those grieving or suffering in the Caribbean and Florida after the effects of Hurricane Irma, which caused massive destruction of property last week and over the week end (September);
- the people of Mexico, where an 8.2 magnitude earthquake killed over 90 people and leveled many parts of Mexico on Sept. 7;
- the thousands of child immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as their future becomes unclear after the President's announcement that the program will end in the near future;
- Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
- the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
- the people of South Sudan where nearly 1 million people are facing famine;
- the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
First Congregational Church of Vernon, Inc
Robin Bird – SP
Leanne Connolly - MM
Evangelical & Reformed UCC
Attila Tobias - P
First Congregational Church, Wallingford
Kathy Cunliffe – SP
Margaret B. Jay – AP
Jeanette a. Gross - MM
Warren Congregational Church, UCC
Gary Kitchin – P
The First Congregational Church of Washington, UCC
Cheryl P Anderson - P
Karen Ziel is the Assistant Director of the Center for Transformational Leadership (CTL) at the Southern New England Conference. She can help congregations and their leaders with tools and resources for assessment and discernment. As a member of ...