The text this Sunday was the Burning Bush (Exodus 3). On my drive to church I was struck at dawn by glory rays streaming through the clouds and trees over Constantine. I wondered, ”Did Moses catch this power surge as sun ran riot through a desert shrub? Would it be a less glorious appearance of God?”
“And, what is it that lit up Moses face, striking awe among desert congregation?”
“This ‘vibrant’ I am seeking in church and community. What is it, really?”
In Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor describes the Presence of God as being lit up from within.
As hard as I have tried to remember the exact moment when I fell in love with God, I cannot do it. My earliest memories are bathed in a kind of golden light that seemed to embrace me as surely as my mother’s arms. The Divine Presence was strongest outdoors, and most palpable when I was alone. When I think of my first cathedral, I am back in a field behind my parent’s house in Kansas, with every stalk of prairie grass lit up from within. …Because I was not brought up in church, I had no religious language for what happened in that gold-lit field…Day by day, the practical implication of this feeling of communion was that I could not walk by a hurt thing without hurting too.
(Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church (pp. 22, 23, 25)
She sees the light as well when it emanates from God’s human creatures. She describes her husband after a Sun Dance ceremony:
His face leaked light, as if every ray of sun that had landed on him that week had seeded his pores. Ed shone, and when he looked at me I felt the beam hit me in the chest across fifty feet of wet pasture.
These experiences left Barbara often in the dark at church in her role as priest. And it is a story I also heard, and felt for myself, in my own brief Exodus from church in Costa Rica. I only met one person there, Armando, my Spanish Intensive teacher, who was lit up by church. On the other hand, I saw light streaming from folks who had left the church behind, or on the side of their main stay of tending land, building community, and growing and eating good food.
How is God sparking up?
It seems in the USA we go to extremes to find the “lightning bolt” that has fallen into memory.
This week 40,000 people will go into the extreme environment of the desert of Nevada for Burning Man, to create a city of creativity and community, self expression and self reliance, no holds barred and no harm done, into be “lit up from within.”
This Sunday at Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite we entered the old God story in the old way. Thirty five of us came to hear and imagine Moses’ conversation with the “I AM” from the burning bush. We took off our shoes in the presence of God, and we stooped low to wash one another’s feet. Then we were “lit up from within” as we recalled our own holy moments.
Martha recalled arriving in Cuba for a women’s conference, walking through the mud, and being met in the middle of the night by the women of the church who washed their feet. Tears flowed.
Fridbert remembered climbing as high as he could in trees when he was a boy, to be alone, to sway in the wind, to watch all the littleness below. “Sometimes we don’t know until later that we are having a God moment. When I was in those trees I did not know. Now I see.”
Jane and Nora and Dallie and Mary said living bare foot was their way of life. And I remembered that it was my mother’s way as well.
Don reminded us that our feet ground us in holy earth, as much or more than holy heaven.
So, I am not leaving church. I am longing for sparks, both within and out. It is conversations with God and the God World that light me up from within.
Then even a dust mote in the light sparks glory.