I wonder what comes into your mind if I ask you to think of something majestic?
Would anyone like to proffer a thought?
Our minds and imaginations may well go to natural images. Perhaps a truly wonderful piece of architecture might do it as well? We don't tend to think of a person, we no longer live in
a world where we are literally bowled over by a world leader, although some cultures might still experience that to an extent. But we no longer live with the Pharoahs.
So 'majesty' might come into our mind when we look at a mountain range. And how about a cloudscape? There was a fantastic cloud pattern this last week as I walked on the
beach in the morning. Where I was there was still some blue sky and encroaching fast on that was a fantastic stretch of stippled mackerel sky with small, even, beautifully coloured
clouds. And then as I turned onto the bank and came back towards Brancaster and looked beyond the sky became increasingly dark steely blue and then iron grey, almost black.
It was stunning and I think I would say the vista was majestic as it spread out across the horizon.
One sight that I hope you haven't seen before is what New Zealand, Australia and Chile have battled with in the last months: the summer wildfires. I have only seen it on a documentary
but perhaps if you were driving and came across these walls of fire, well ‘majestic’ might not be the first word, perhaps terrifying would precede that thought?
Interesting that our Psalm this morning says of God:
1 Why are the nations in tumult, and why do the peoples devise a vain plot?
2 The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his anointed:
3 Let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their cords from us.
4 He who dwells in heaven shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.
5 Then shall he speak to them in his wrath and terrify them in his fury:
Last week and this week we are looking at two qualities of The God we serve. Last week we explored the mercy of God. Our God is a force of unfailing kindness and compassion
towards us whom God has created.
However, God is not two dimensional, and certainly not a slot machine of goodies given out indiscriminately to demanding children. And today our readings show us quite a
different take on God.
In Exodus we hear of Moses meeting with God:
12 The Lord said to Moses, 'Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there';
15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.
Here God is darkness, a great dark cloud,.
Many many times in the bible God is described in terms of light. So it is intriguing that an aspect of God is darkness, not a bad darkness, not evil, but nevertheless God waits in
thick darkness: impenetrable mystery.
The sort of picture conjured by RS Thomas in his poem 'Raptor'.
God is not easily described, , we cannot the Old testament often says 'see' God, it is not possible to take God in and lay God out as on a table, like a machine or even a body that we
can dissect and say ah yes, see here, this is what God is....
God is darkness, impenetrable mystery.
And then Moses found another manifestation of God
16 The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud.
17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain.
God is fire. Devouring fire...
We have been thinking about what we would call 'Majestic' and our reading today gives us some images of God that are awesome and speak of a Majestic Being. There is
a way of thinking that I sometimes hear, where people say: 'well the God of the Old Testament was one thing, but Jesus changed all that.'
So let's take a look at our other readings today.. and they are very much linked. We heard the story of Jesus going up the mountain with Peter, James and John and they see Jesus
transfigured before them.
Clearly Jesus going up the mountain has echoes of Moses going up the mountain and Matthew is always keen to let his readers know that Jesus is the new Moses, the even better than
Moses. And just like Moses who when he came down from the presence of God shone so that people looking at him had to cover their faces, so Jesus does not disappear into the
darkness of God, but instead shines with the light of God, brilliant light, unbearable, painful to look at. But awesome. It reduced Peter to a gibbering wreck, he didn't really know what he
was saying afterwards. And then later, reflecting on this experience he had had with Jesus, Peter writes in his epistle:
'We made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, ..we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, 'This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am
18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.'
Jesus spent most of his time telling people not to speak about who they had realised he was. He emphasised again and again to his disciples that they, like he, came to serve, not be served. Jesus spoke of the humble being blessed in the beatitudes, and all that. But, that did no mean that Jesus was not God, and every now and then it was as if the glory of God,
the majesty, leaked out and people got a glimpse.
As we go through the season of Advent we remind ourselves of Jesus first coming. That coming in poverty and obscurity and vulnerability. But the second coming of Jesus will not be
like that. It will be majesty it will be awesome, and then and possibly only then will we understand who we are dealing with.
So let's take in today this other quality of God. The majesty of God.
Let us remind ourselves that God is not like us, we are made in God's image. And our God is thick darkness, a devouring fire, like a bird of prey, a Raptor, who glides above us and it
may sometimes feel to us as if he has sunk his talons in.
But God is not malevolent, as we saw last week, in fact God’s mercy endures forever... but God is awesome:
May we be surprised by the power, the love and beauty of God who is mercy and majesty. God says to us:
'This is my Son : You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place'.
Rector of the Saxon Shore Benefice
Ordained Pioneer Minister