Behold the Blessings - Week 4
October 22, 2023: Twenty-First Sunday Following Pentecost
“What Do You See?”
Behold the Blessing: Week 4
Exodus 33:12-23 (Moses asks to Behold God’s Glory) | Matthew 22:15-22 (Jesus teaches giving rightfully to the emperor and to God)
Welcoming Words (Liturgist)
Today, we are wrapping up our October series, “Beholding the Blessing”. The great leader and prophet, Moses, expresses his deepest desire while up on the mountaintop with the Lord. He asks to behold the Presence of the Most High. Caution is spoken, for “you cannot see my face and live,” says the Lord, however, Moses is granted his request in a different way. Instead of seeing where God is going, he can only see where God has been. Moses is given permission to see God’s backside, but not the Sacred Face.
In the tradition of our Scriptures, it is not until the time of Christ that humans are granted the very special gift of seeing God “face-to-face”.
And so, in the teachings of the Christ, we come to know God through and through. The Heart of God is made flesh, and sets up a tent, inhabiting the world alongside of us, as one of us. But, those of us who have not seen Christ in the flesh are able now to behold God through the gift of loving one another, as we are taught through the epistles of John.
In the gospel today, Jesus gives us a teaching to give to the emperor what is theirs, but always remember to give to God what belongs to God. This does not give us a free pass, however, as long as remember that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it!” (Psalm 24:1)
Let us join together now in our Call to Worship.
Call to Worship (Liturgists):
Leader: We gather today to remember and proclaim that we are God’s people.
All: We are God’s people! God’s presence is among us!
Leader: Like Moses, we seek an encounter with God’s goodness.
All: God, show us your goodness that we may glorify you in all that we do.
Leader: God’s goodness passes by us every day in the gracious gifts of creation and in the faces of our neighbors.
All: God, help us notice your goodness in everything and everyone that we meet.
Leader: When we notice God’s goodness all around us, we recognize this truth: all things are God’s.
All: Let us give to God the things that are God’s! Amen.
Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, April 2023.
Prayer of Confession (Led by Liturgists)
Leader: Let us now come before God together to confess the ways we have missed the mark, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation with God and one another.
All: Merciful God, we confess that we have not given you the things that are yours. We quibble over technicalities and argue over questions that do not lead us to love you, ourselves, or our neighbors well. We ignore your goodness that is all around us, and we do not allow ourselves to be filled with the Spirit who empowers us to live as people who glorify you. We do not recognize your holy touch in the world around us, and we neglect our responsibility to treat all things and all people as sacred. Forgive us, we pray, and free us to live in love and peace with you, with ourselves, with our neighbors, and with all creation. Amen.
Leader: As forgiven and reconciled people, let us greet one another with signs of peace and thanksgiving saying, “Thank you for being the presence of God today.”
Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, April 2023.
Exodus 33:12-23 (NRSVUE)
12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider, too, that this nation is your people.”
14 The LORD said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”
17 The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”
18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord,’ and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
20 But,” The LORD said, “you cannot see my face, for no one shall see me and live.” 21 And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
*Choir Music Between Readings *
Matthew 22:15-22 (NRSVUE)
The Question about Paying Taxes
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said.
16 So, they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one, for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.
20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this and whose title?”
21 They answered, “Caesar’s.”
Then he said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed, and they left him and went away.
Prayer Following Scripture:
Leader: Loving, living God, be among us now. Show us your ways. Guide our steps.
All: Live in us, that we may be people of steadfast hope and powerful giving. Help us hear your words, challenging us to give you all the things that are yours.
Leader: Help us remember that all we are and all we have are gifts from you, gifts to be shared in service and love.
All: Holy One among us, help us be a holy people who receive your word with joy and live your message with love. Amen.
Written by Mary Scifres, on the Ministry Matters website, http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/blog/entry/1779/worship-elements-october-16-2011. Reposted on the re:Worship blog, https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2011/10/call-to-worship-prayer-proper-24a.html.
All: We go now as those who have found favor in the sight of God. We will work to be imitators of Jesus Christ, and an example to all of the life of faith.
Pastor: To the world in which you live, give your love and service, and to God, give all that you are and all that you shall be. And may the glory of God’s goodness be revealed to you; May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ take root in you; And may the inspiration of the Holy Spirit fill you with joy. All: We go in peace to love and serve the Lord, ........In the name of Christ. Amen.
© 2002 Nathan Nettleton, LaughingBird.net. Reposted on the re:Worship blog, https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2011/10/commission-benediction-proper-24a.html.
Reflecting with Pastor AJ
As we have read through the scriptures, prayers, and words for worship this week, we have been invited to look at the world through a different lens. Throughout his ministry with, and leadership of, the people of Israel, Moses often took time to be away from the crowds to have conversation with the Lord. We can look back through the Exodus journey and see that Moses and the Lord speak very intimately with one another, showing expressions of a deep and powerful friendship. And yet, Moses has never seen this Divine Presence face-to-face.
How amazing it must have been to actually have an experience of God’s glory! Even though there was a caution, that “no one can see the face of God and live,” Moses is granted a sneak-peak at the Lord’s Presence once the Lord has already moved through.
We have a saying today, that hindsight is 20/20. I wonder if that was true also for Moses. He would never have known the Lord, if he had beheld the Presence face-to-face earlier in their relationship. It seems that they had to have many years of experience, and shared many miraculous signs with the community before Moses was able to gain the lenses with which to see the glory of God.
To this day, our Jewish siblings re-tell the story of the Passover, and recount the amazing acts of mercy, provision, abundance and miracles that had been experienced along the years-long communal journey with Moses. We, too, have the blessing of being able to hear and receive the wonders through our reading and hearing of the Sacred Scriptures that we share in the Judeo-Christian milieu. And, several of these scriptures overlap significantly with our Muslim brethren as well.
Sacred Stories are powerful! They are inspirational for people far beyond the walls of the churches, synagogues and mosques. And if we listen to the Sacred Stories our other soulful siblings of many different faith traditions, we will learn so much from them, too.
How does each faith tradition view the Presence of Divine? How do we define God’s glory? Can we ever fully behold it? How do we develop the “eyes to see” together?
It seems that, like Moses, we can only ever catch a glimpse of God’s glory as the activity of God has moved through. We catch God on the back side. Hindsight is, perhaps, 20/20 after all. We never know what God is up to until after something happens.
I wonder what our Creative Dreamer is doing right now, across the globe, that we will not understand until after the work is finished. Perhaps together, we may gain the spiritual lenses that will help us to see, and to understand, with our heart of hearts. May the Holy Spirit guide our prayers and introspections this week, as we watch for the movements of God’s grace and love.
Blessings upon you all!
~ Pastor AJ Wolff-Lynne