I’m tired of Epiphany and looking forward to Lent beginning. This mid-winter season, takes us from the post-Christmas let down, you know, the Flight into Egypt and the Slaughter of the Innocents, to camping on the mountain with its weird epiphanies. I’m ready to be headed someplace real, like Jerusalem, the Cross, and an Easter Sunrise. It’s in Lent that we do religion. We tell people to fast and give things up. We schedule extra services and do Lenten studies. What Epiphany really lacks is controversy and some theological dogmas like incarnation and atonement. We want more words.
Then Moses brings the people to Mount Sinai and God appears. Jesus climbs a mountain with three of his disciples, and in the night, he is transformed. These Epiphanies are the final exams of a season when we haven’t been paying attention. So much of what is church is packed away after Christmas. People slack off their attendance and complain about the winter. Yet there is something empty and anti-church about these epiphanies. They take place on mountains far from any sacred buildings or large assemblies of people. Jesus doesn’t bring his Torah. The disciples can’t find a plug to charge their Kindle tablets. Into this emptiness, a mystery occurs which neither Moses, nor the disciples have words to talk about. God is other. Our experience of God is not just personal, it is ineffable.
There is a Taoist saying: “Cut doors and windows for a room. It is the holes that make it useful.”
Looking at Exodus 24 in context helps. Then you notice that Moses going up the mountain really doesn’t have anything to do with the Ten Commandments, which are talked about in Exodus 20. It has to do with experiencing the mind-numbing otherness of God. Note that in spite of the thick cloud, devouring fire, and beautiful floor of lapis lazuli, the people actually saw God and lived (Exodus 24:9-11). Same with the disciples. They saw the reality of Jesus.
As soon as we come down off of the mountain, we will be in the middle of the stuff of our lives. Religion is expected to fit in a corner at the edge of the real world. So Moses comes down and tells people how to make a little God box (see Exodus 25). Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem with its temple and its form of religion that is the antithesis of who he is.
So the task for this week is to cut doors and windows into our religion, get away from the God-box thing, and to simply be with God.