Sometimes I'm jealous of Moses. In that burning bush, afire but not consumed, he had a powerful encounter with God. Who wouldn't want that - a chance to see God, to talk with God one on one, to hear God's voice? Surely after that meeting with God Moses never wondered again if God truly existed, if God was dedicated to Moses and the people of Israel. He had heard the promise from God's own mouth "I will be with you."
I long to see God. I yearn to hear God's voice and know beyond a doubt that God is here, that God cares for us. As the psalmist says (Psalm 42) "As a hart (deer) longs for flowing streams so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?"
In the National Cathedral in Washington DC one can sense the nearness of God, beautiful and mysterious. Sitting beneath those soaring arches and impossibly high ceilings with the stone floor underfoot, hearing how sound both carries and dissipates in the cavernous space, the mighty presence of God is strong and transcendent. Evening prayer in the nave is sublime; voices solemnly chant the liturgy while fading light gleans through stained glass windows that depict fire, the saints, creation. In the Cathedral, God seems near indeed.
The National Cathedral, however, is far away from Texas. There may be burning bushes around here but not the kind Moses saw, just products of this persistent drought. Still I want to see God, I want to hear God speak and know in the depths of my heart and mind that God is, that God is with us in our day.
In Jesus we learn to look for God, not in glamour and glory, but in ordinary aspects of life. Jesus resembled you and me - a human person - yet he was God in the flesh. Jesus distributed bread and wine for his friends to eat and drink, naming it his own body and blood. Jesus promised to be with us whenever we gather in his name. Through Jesus we have seen that God comes to those who suffer, that God lives among the poor, that God sits in prison alongside the incarcerated. Cathedrals are marvelous places, but God is found in our ordinary, mundane lives.
My Dad used to say that God's grace is a lot like pecans. Our family did not plant the pecan trees in my parent's yard, but there they stand - tall and fruitful. Fall comes and the pecans drop to the ground without our aid. All we have to do is pick them up. Likewise, we do nothing to earn God's grace, it is simply given and all we have to do is receive it. I've seen glimpses of God, heard God's voice, so many times in my Dad.
The other day as I walked to my car in the parking lot I saw, halfway down the row, a man sitting in a red pickup truck. He sat there, window rolled down, smoking a cigarette, talking on a cell phone. As I passed I heard his deep voice say, kindly, "you're a pain in the ass, but I love you." I had to smile. It sounded like the voice of God, talking to me, to you, to the whole world. Individually and together we can be a great pain and a royal mess, yet God loves us still. What a wonderful thing to hear.
No burning bush experience for me, just a red pickup, a Texas farmer, and a word from the Lord. I think that will do, for now.