We’ve just completed a year-long study here at Central of the foundational words of our God in Exodus 34:5-7. This is the passage in which our God describes himself in his own words to Moses and his people at Mount Sinai. It’s the longest such passage in all of Scripture and paramount to the understanding of our heavenly Father and his ways. These words describe God’s eternal nature, his character, his mode of operation, his glory.
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.”
As a church family, we dove into these holy words in January of this past year and worked through them together a little bit each month. By God’s grace, we are trying to assimilate these words into our own lives. We want to live into these words. We want to become, as a people of God, everything these words tell us about our God. And we want to get better at seeing and recognizing the glory of God all around us.
A few weeks ago, as we were getting close to wrapping up the series, I asked our congregation to submit photos that, to them, reflected this eternal glory of God. Send me the pictures, I begged, that communicate God’s faithful love, that demonstrate his patience, that speak to his great forgiveness, that represent his holiness, that show his compassion and grace. Send me pictures that, to you, show God’s glory. And the pictures came in by the dozens.
Nearly a hundred different pictures accompanied by nearly a hundred different stories, representing God’s glory in nearly a hundred different and beautiful ways. Our enormously talented worship minister, Kevin Schaffer, arranged all the pictures and set them to music in three separate slide shows our church family enjoyed together during the sharing of communion on Sunday January 30. (You can see all three videos by clicking here.)
And I learned so much.
I learned about grace and forgiveness from Andrew and Stephanie and Evie. Mike showed me the connection between a newborn baby and a glorious sunrise. Mary Ellen spoke of God’s glory as reflected in her parents’ marriage of 73 years and John Todd saw it in his mother’s long and faithful friendship with Marilyn. I learned that Lyndsay was baptized by Paul Sneed, that Shirlene’s kids weren’t exactly chomping at the bit to move back to Amarillo, and that Joe and Margie once saved Becky’s life. My brothers and sisters at Central see the glory of God in hummingbirds and rainbows, in mountains and sunsets and in pink balloons at a sweet teenager’s funeral. Josh and Brittany see God’s faithfulness in their chocolate lab, Connie sees God’s patience in the spiritual journey of her grandmother, and many of us experience God’s grace in Judy and Linda as they so courageously battle cancer. Pictures taken in Africa and New Mexico, Brazil and Oklahoma, Canada and right here at home. There is so much of God’s glory. God’s glory is everywhere, testifying to his love, reminding us of his grace, showing us his forgiveness, witnessing to his faithfulness.
Through those pictures and the stories, I have learned so much about my church family at Central. I’ve seen inside your hearts a little more this past month. You’ve revealed to me a little more about where you’re coming from and how you think and how you experience God. That makes me a better preacher today than when this project began. And we’re all interested in that!
I pray that in thinking about these pictures and then sending them in, we all were forced to consider God’s nature in new and exciting ways. I hope we’ve all grown to begin seeing the presence and the power of our God in places we’ve never before thought to look. And my desire is that we will all seek to reflect that same heavenly glory so that our kids, our neighbors, our city, if facing a similar assignment, would feel compelled to send in pictures of us.