Celebrating Holy Moments
Exodus 33:12-23

In the fall, at this time of year, I love to go walking in the woods right before sunset. And if you look up to the top of the trees, you will see the sun shining through almost from underneath. And this angle of light gives you a whole new way of seeing things. The leaves and the branches look completely different than they do during the day. The greens are darker and fuller. You notice the shapes and the branches. And the light seems to take on multiple colors reflecting back at you. It’s a moment when I remember how much beauty and wonder and awe there is in this world.

But many days I forget to look up. I forget that there is still so much beauty and goodness in our world.

A number of years ago, I was helping lead a youth group while they were painting a house. And during a break, I remember seeing a couple youth talking intensely a few feet away. So I walked over to hear what they were talking about. A female high school student spoke up, “I used to have a lot of faith, but it’s really hard right now. There are moments in my past when I knew God was with me. But now it just seems like I have more and more questions about faith and life and God. And I wish God appeared more clearly.

As she saw me approach, she turned and asked me a question. “What should I do? What helps you believe?”

At first I didn’t know what to say. But then thinking about it for a moment, I said back, “Those questions, those doubts, those hard days, those are real. And they are not bad to have. They are what makes up real faith. Having questions. Wrestling with new ideas. Don’t block them out.

“But also, those holy moments, those moments when God was there and God will be there, those are real too. Remember them. Celebrate them. Don’t let anyone tell you those weren’t just as real. Because those are a gift from God to be treasured.”

I tell this story, not because I had the perfect answer, but because I related so much with what the high school student was sharing. We all want God to be clearer, easier, simpler. But often our faith has more questions than answers. Often we have days where it is hard to see the holy.

Like Moses, we still only get a glimpse of God’s total glory. And often it is far too quick for our taste. In our reading for today, Moses is meeting God on top of Mt. Sinai. And there, God tells Moses, “My presence will go with you…I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name…I will be gracious and I will show mercy.”

“But…but you cannot see my face. For no one shall see me and live.”

God has promised to be there and be at work in everything that is to come. God’s mercy and justice and love will go with us. But it won’t always be easy to see and notice. Even Moses only gets a quick look as God is already moving past.

But as quick as it may seem, it is life changing. We don’t get a description of what God looks like, because how could you? How could you describe God, even from the back? What colors, what shapes, what sights that are beyond our language? But even just getting a glimpse of God transforms Moses. The wonder and awe and beauty of that moment makes him into someone new. As he comes back down the mountain, Moses’ own face is now shining bright. He is someone different, someone new. That holy moment, as sudden as it came and went, is a gift not just for Moses, but for all the people, to show that God is still with them. God is here. God is at work in our world.

I think that is how God still shows up today. God shows up in holy moments – moments of silence and songs, moments of being in creation and creating art, moments of solitude and moments of a community coming together as one. God still shows up in moments that are beautiful and heart-stopping and transforming. But they are almost always quick glances. Glances where we see or hear or feel something beyond description, beyond understanding. Glances that point us to something more.

And if we are not careful we can forget them. We can be told they are not real. We can even miss them completely. God can be passing right by us, and we can forget to look up and take notice.

That is why we as a community of faith celebrate holy moments together. It is why baptism happens as a church. It is why we receive the gift of Christ’s bread and cup, not alone, but as one. It is why we lay hands when someone receives a calling from to a new way of life and a new way to serve. It is why we share stories and sing songs, and lift up everything in prayer. Because we need those holy moments. We need to witness to them and tell them to future generations. We need to remember them, celebrate them, learn from them. And we need to be reminded to look up. To see God. To know that even in a world of doubts and questions, struggles and pain, there is the One who loves us, who made us, who came to earth to save us, and who wants us to be a part of our lives.