I grew up in the very socio/religio-schizophrenic culture of America, raised to be a man of faith by parents of faith amid a post-Enlightened society clinging to a scientific worldview. And in that worldview, you cannot see God! This is axiomatic. But at least it gelled with biblical faith, so it seemed, where we learn in Exodus 33 that no one can see God’s face and live. This becomes an almost immutable rule which then explains my otherwise double-mindedness as a believer on the one hand, and then enables me to function in a secular world with the same commitments as pagans, atheists, and agnostics on the other.
I am not writing to explore that issue really, but I want to note it as I revisit the heavenly invasion I wrote of in my previous post. I think WORSHIP of God has a power – a quiet power – that is more powerful than is normally acknowledged. I really hate for my brothers and sisters to miss this. Our worship of God changes our world, POWERFULLY. And, anyway, the Bible itself is filled with these power lunches!
In my last post, I told of a group of lowly bums in an alley breaking bread and sharing the cup in worship, and how they themselves saw that moment as more powerful than many of the uppity banquets, lunch-meetings, and galas which normally feature politicians, bankers, business leaders and other pillars of the community. God showed up at our power lunch! The divine plans he brings for our world are actually more powerful and more important than any meeting our counterparts would ever imagine!
But as I have sat with that post the last few days, it has come to my mind that though my picture there of that moment provides a point of interest for a few blog readers, it does not amount to much more than a novelty. No one I know of read that and said to themselves or to me: Wow! That picture reveals world-changing power that I want to be a part of… that I want to make changes for and join. No, not even close.
So, let me retell that story with only a few minor changes here and there. I will tinker with a few of the names, slightly change the setting, and take you back in time, but I think you will see more similarity than difference.
Go with me back to Moses and the Exodus. Moses shows up in Egypt, blowing in off the desert with a message for powerful people on behalf of a God that seems to have been either unknown or very silent for the last 400 years. His message is announced in the brickyard to the brickmaking taskmasters and those slaving at the grind.
“Let my people go!”
We all know this message! But have you ever looked closely at just where Moses aims to take these people? What does he want to do with them? I mean, we know the general gist of what happened, but did you catch his stated agenda? The itinerary?
Go look at Exodus 3:18, 5:3, and 8:27. Moses is demanding that Egypt let this strange God’s people go a three-day journey into the wilderness where they will be able to worship him the way he wants to be worshipped! There are all kinds of theological lessons we can take from this, in fact the statement is like a stick of dynamite that would blow us in lots of directions. Yet two features I want to highlight are: 1) a three-day journey into the desert amounts to a death sentence (and has this text bouncing sparks of Jesus in the tomb for three days). Yeah, there are more effective ways to carry out a death sentence, it is possible to survive this one, but very unlikely! I used to live in Arizona where a short walk without water kills some unprepared soul almost every year. But then also there is number 2) God/Moses have in mind there will be a worship/party at the end of this journey. Basically, the itinerary says: Go die in the wilderness and party with God when you get there!
(You never hear this bit preached. I don’t know why not, it certainly makes the grumblers following Moses in the desert a few chapters later seem a lot more sympathetic.)
Well there is that bit in the drama about the Ten Plagues and all that. And I wouldn’t want you to miss it! But I sincerely doubt any of my readers ever have missed that part. On the other hand, there is this one really strange little passage several chapters later that … well, if you aren’t looking closely, you sure might miss it. Turn to that part where God gives Moses the Ten Commandments and see how awesome and terrible the presence of God is up on that mountain. Notice how the people don’t want to approach it; they send Moses to be an intermediary, and besides, God said that if anyone so much as touches the mountain while he is there, they will die! (Exod 19:12). So, like I said, you might be excused for missing the meal God shares with the elders if you blink at Exodus 24:9-11.
Yeah… They ate and drank and BEHELD GOD! Did you catch that? And the ground turns like sapphire and looks like heaven? This happens AT THE MEAL in WORSHIP!
Here’s the kicker: If you and I (Bible-believing, Jesus lovers) can miss that moment and all its significance… what about Pharaoh? He wasn’t there! Didn’t even get invited! Leads the world’s greatest empire (which presumably means he has a few power lunches of his own), and has no idea what God is doing with that rag-tag bunch of slaves he took out into the desert.
But which power lunch has the real power? Are you familiar with any (let me shout that word… ANY) power lunches, banquets, or galas Pharaoh ever put on?
But God takes a few stragling, murmuring, ex-slaves on a hike to their death sentence, feeds them, reveals his face to them and in so doing starts a whole nation out of them! A nation whose influence has EVERYTHING to do with my faith and yours today all these many thousands of years later. That’s POWER!
Open The Eyes of Our Heart, Lord… We Want To See Jesus!
And it is not the only time in Scripture where God eats with the bums and reveals himself to them in POWER! In fact we see it numerous times – including that little story we here at Fat Beggars School of Prophets take to be our foundational text (II Kings 6-7). But I think that perhaps the premier text where we see all of this come together again most powerfully is in Luke 24:13-35 – the story of Jesus with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Yeah. Go look at that more familiar passage carefully. The disciples walking there are some of the most downcast people on earth. Lowly disciples of what they believe to be a failed messiah who had just undergone a death sentence three days before. When the stranger joins them as they walk, they do not recognize him as Jesus/God, their eyes are not opened until the breaking of the bread! But the stranger begins opening the Scriptures to them beginning with Moses (and I cannot help but wonder if he doesn’t look at the meal he shared with those elders soooooooo long ago). But when they sit down to eat, THAT is when they see Jesus for WHO he really is! That is a POWER lunch that sends them running back to Jerusalem with a new hope and a powerful message from which the world has never been the same since!
Did Herod know? Caesar? Those guys ate power lunches… No? Of course they did. But whose power lunch had the real power???
I really hope that those who read here will think about this next time they break the bread and drink the cup in worship. I hope you meditate on these passages of Scripture. But I don’t hope you merely have a theologically warm-fuzzy feeling. No. I hope you see the POWER in what you are doing! You get to see God! (Gal. 3:1). You are affecting the world! (I Cor. 11:26). And even if you go to a fine church with a lot of gold, crystal, vestments and so forth – even if the mayor of your town attends the meal with you – I hope you realize that this worship meal reveals God to his creation. And the secular power-players go right along not even knowing what is happening right under their noses.
AND THEN… I hope you will think about those beggars, bums, and prophets in that alley sharing worship and the meal that what they are sharing – or more importantly – that God is revealing himself there in those lowly people (Matt. 25:40). It is apocalyptic in nature and more powerful than you can imagine. AND, I hope you are just a little bit jealous…(assuming you have not seen God in communion and lived)… jealous enough that you are moved toward humility – humble enough to approach and ask if you might join.