Rev. Michael Costello
And God spoke all these words. … When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20: 1, 18-21)
As God speaks and the commandments are given to Moses at Mt. Sinai, “all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking.” What would be your response? Would you be afraid?
In Exodus the people were afraid of encountering God directly and wanted Moses to convey what God was saying. But just like the angels that would announce the good news of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s Gospel, Moses responds by saying, “Do not be afraid.” He continues: “God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.”
In Exodus and throughout the entire biblical narrative God is revealed in order to bring fallen humanity back to what it was created to be—free from sin to know and love God completely.
The church is given means of grace through which God promises to be present for us, just as God was present for Moses. Through these means we are given the very gift of communion with God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What a blessed surprise!
In baptism, God’s claim on our life is one that cannot be washed away. In God’s Word, we hear God’s never-ending love given in the very person of Jesus. In communion, we receive Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sin. In Christian community we receive what Bonhoeffer called the “mutual conversation and consolation of the saints.”
Surprise! God is near! We may not hear thunder or see lightning and smoke, but through the means of grace God is present with and for us. Do not be afraid but rejoice!
Almighty God, you come to us that we may be forgiven and love you more. Help us not to be afraid, but to rejoice in the life you have given us through Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.