FACE TIME

Exodus 24:12-18? Matthew 17:1-9

March 2, 2014 by Ken Dale

One of the fondest family memories I have was sitting with my grandfather one afternoon.? He was about 90 years old and we were talking about all the change he had seen in his life time from the Wright brothers taking off for the first time to our landing on the moon.? I remember him looking out the window and saying ?and it will be interesting to see what happens in the next hundred years.?? He spoke those words as if he was going to be here to see it.? I?m no where near 90 but I too am amazed at how things have changed.? Last year as Bangor Seminary was in its final months I sat in on Trustee meetings.? I remember one meeting that was changed due to a snow storm.?? It was scheduled for Portland but the day before the chairman sent out an e-mail and the meeting was to take place on telephonics.? We all had the number to dial and the code to punch in and instead of sitting around the table in Portland I sat at my dining room table, with papers in front of me, and held the phone to my ear.? At one point the meeting went into executive session so a few of us had to hang up until we got e-mails inviting us to call in again.? It was pretty impressive and safe ? the meeting still happened but no one had to drive in the storm.

A few of years ago I attended the annual meeting of the Maine Conference.? When it came time for the treasurer?s report we watched a video that did a pretty good job of explaining things.? Then on the big screen up front the treasurer appeared live, gave a report and answered questions.? He was in London, England and we were in Farmington, Maine.? It happened by Skype.? I was impressed.? We could see each other and were interactive yet an ocean was between us.? I read of a 7 year old boy who was suffering from a rare and aggressive brain cancer.? He was restricted to his hospital bed in Rhode Island, but he had a wish.? He desperately wanted to sing his favorite song, ?Walk This Way? with rock star Steven Tyler.? Through Skype the 7 year old Cole Grace and Aerosmith rock star frontman Steven Tyler connected and chatted for an hour ? and yes, they sang ?Walk This Way? together.? My immediate thought is captured in Cole Grace?s words after their meeting:? ?It felt pretty awesome!?

I don?t know about you ? but I?m feeling like I?m getting pretty old with this new world in which we live.? The cell phone in my pants pocket can access the internet, my e-mail, has a calculator, camera that does photos and videos ? and I can even make telephone calls on it.? Modern technology can make some pretty amazing connections between people across great distances.? But I?m still a fan of face to face getting together.?? I don?t own an easy pass and enjoy going to the toll booth with a person in it that I can interact with.? I would rather sit around a table with a group of people for two hours than sit by myself and spend two hours on the phone.? But again, while I haven?t really done it ? I know with my cell phone I can do ?face time? with another person ? and we can actually look at each other while talking on the phone.? I expect as my grandson gets older I?ll be taking advantage of that technology.

In Exodus this morning we read of Moses? meeting with God ? entering a great cloud high on a mountaintop.? Later in Exodus 33 we read Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses, face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.? Yet later in the chapter Moses requests to see God in glory.? But God only agrees to let Moses see God?s back after God passes before him.? In verse 22 of that chapter God says, ?I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.? In Exodus we hear of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai after spending 40 days and 40 nights of one on one time with God.? It was a ?face to face? type of encounter and Moses came down with two stone tablets of commandments to share with the people.?? I wonder if the technology was earlier if God and Moses would have Skyped ? and would it have been the same??? When Moses came down, unbeknownst to him, the skin on his face shone.? In fact it shone such that the people were afraid to come near him.? After speaking with them he put a veil on his face.? But when he went back to speak with God he removed that veil.? But see how Moses lived ? he spent time with God and then time with the people, then with God, but always back to the people.? ?Face to face? with God and then face to face with the people.? He knew the value of face time ? face to face encounters both with the divine and the human.

Our gospel lesson this morning has more bright light and shining faces.? Jesus goes up the mountain and takes Peter, James, and John with him. ??Matthew?s report says that Jesus? face shone like the sun!

The point seems to be that when there is an encounter with God, with the divine, with the sacred ? it shows on our faces.? And maybe a point that comes from that is that it should be shared.? When Jesus is on the mountain with James and John and Peter ? Peter is so touched by the whole thing that he wants to build and stay there.? But Jesus says no ? we must come down from the experience, down from the high place, and get back to real life in the valley, in the world.? And perhaps Luke drives the point home by making a healing story part of the bigger story.? There is practical work to be done ? there is healing that needs to occur and there are people with various needs that need to be tended to.? We must come down the mountain from such high experiences and get back to it ? just as Moses always came back down the mountain after his encounters with God.

I think an important point is quite obvious in these two stories.? We need time with God and we need time with each other.? If we only spend time with God and only focus on God we miss the crucial mission to which we are called ? sharing God?s love by serving the world in need.? And if we focus only on people, we will miss the glory of God that inspires us and gives hope to the world in which we live.? Life is a balance.? We need to build relationships ? with God and with each other.? Our relationship with God brings so much more to our relationships with others.

But like Moses, and Peter and James and John, and the people with whom they lived ? such encounters and relationship with God will bring change.? It is my hope and prayer that as technology continues to develop in our world ? that we never lose the opportunity for encounters that are face to face —- in some way with God, and in all ways with each other.

Amen.