“Face To Face”

February 3, 2019
Jonathan Rumburg
Exodus 34:29-35


If you follow the news you probably have seen that the tech giant Apple has been taking it on the chin lately.  Stock prices down.  Trade war and war of words with China.  The ongoing reputation that that battery continues to be inferior and infuriating.  And now their Facetime video chat feature has a bug that will allow outsiders to eavesdrop on you.

Ain’t technology great!?

But despite the hassle and frustration our technology gives us, today’s technology can make some truly amazing connections across continents and around the globe.

We can talk to someone anywhere in the world at any time.  Texting has become the easiest and preferred way to communicate.

One of my favorite things is that not terribly long ago we would never call someone and think to ask the person on the other end of the line, “Where are you?” It would be ridiculous because phone were only in whatever place they were, tethered to the wall.  But today it’s a common question when calling to ask, “Where are you?!”

But as connected as we are, we have become rather disconnected.

Take for instance in the world of business, virtual meetings have become increasingly popular because they save time and money while offering flexibility in location and availability.  No more costly travel expenses to meetings complete with bagels and doughnuts and Starbucks coffee, only to last a faction of the time it took to get to and from the meeting.

So because we can beam ourselves around the world in Star Wars like hologram ways— saving time and money—is there even a need to ever be with someone face to face?

If such a question was asked of our society today, the answer may be no.

But ask that question of Moses, and his answer would be an emphatic yes.  Yes, we need face to face meetings and conversations, because it is in the face to face moments, with others and with the divine, that the power of transformation happens.

Move 1

A Forbes study involving more than 750 businesses revealed the surprising agreement of more than 80 percent of business executive— That face-to-face, in-person meetings do go deeper than webinars and virtual events.  They believe in-person meetings are superior for achieving almost every business objective, including: leadership, engagement, inspiration, decision-making, accountability, brainstorming, and strategy.

So when to comes to making a case for face to face—despite its costs and efforts to do such— business executives prefer it.

And truth be told, face to face is what God prefers as well.

But how do we have face to face time with God?

Certainly we all would be more than willing to sit in a room with God—maybe we could finally get some hard and fast answers to our questions like:  What is heaven like?  Why do disasters happen?  Will the Browns ever win a Super Bowl!?

Now we all say we’d like to see God and ask questions like these, but given the chance I wonder if we’d go through with it.  After all, seeing God might mean having to do something we don’t want to do, or be confronted with something we’d rather not be confronted with.  Maybe it’s better if we keep thing as they are.

Thankfully that wasn’t Moses’ belief.

And thankfully God and Moses didn’t just Facetime each other.


          Moses was on Mount Sinai with God for 40 days and 40 nights.  It was a high-level and intense meeting— no bagels or doughnuts—actually Moses neither ate nor drank.  He wrote out the words of God— “the words of the covenant’, the ten commandments.

Then, after doing so, Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets to present to the people.

Now, Moses could have simply placed the commandments in front of the people and walked away, saying something sarcastic like, “Read ‘em and weep people!”

But instead he gathered the people and spoke to them; he had a face to face conversation with them.

Moses knew the value of face-to-face conversations, and used them for leadership, engagement and inspiration.

Moses has an experience with the Creator of the universe, an encounter that deserved and needed to be shared.  This face to face with God was a game changer.  A text message would never have cut it.

Move 2

There are three lessons to be drawn from this face to face encounter between God and Moses.  Each giving us evidence that makes a case for face to face encounters—between the children of God and even with God.


          The first lesson is that Moses takes the necessary time to build a relationship with God.  He doesn’t try to arrange a virtual meeting with God where he can have some flexibility in location and timing, one that’s convenient for him.

Moses doesn’t call in to God. “Hey, God, let’s just do the dream thing this time. Hiking to the top of Sinai is tough on my knees.  Just hit me up while I nap.

          Instead, Moses hobbles up Mount Sinai to the precise location he’s called, where he gets close to God, where he spends 40 days and 40 nights, listening to God.

Moses takes the time he needs to build a relationship with God.


          Today, we might do this through daily prayer, through weekly Bible study, through a commitment to regular worship.  All of these practices put us in personal contact with God and keep us in contact with God.  But how much time do we give it?

What kind of relationship might we have with God if we simply took the time to sit with God, silently, in deep prayer and meditation?

Or maybe a better question to consider would be—What kind of life would we have if we took more time building a relationship with God?

Move 3

The second lesson our text gives us is: Expect your relationship with God to change you.

When Moses spends time with God “the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” (v. 29)

Theologian and author Walter Brueggemann writes about this encounter, saying, “After this meeting, Moses is no ordinary person, because he has entered deeply into God’s own life.”

That’s a crucial takeaway—“Moses entered deeply into God’s own life.”

When we see the glory of God face to face, when we have taken the time to be in the presence of God, we are going to be changed.

This was true for the shepherds of Bethlehem who saw the glory of God.

This was true for the disciples who saw the glory of Jesus in the Transfiguration.   Transformation happens when we enter deeply into God’s own life.  We become more compassionate, loving, forgiving and faithful.  Our actions serve others instead of ourselves, and our decisions are driven more by what is right than by what is profitable or even just easy and convenient.

So we should ask ourselves… Does our life reveal that we are no ordinary person, because we have entered deeply into God’s own life?

Move 4

A third lesson from the mountain is this:  Reach out to everyone, even those who you are afraid to go near.

One of the attractions of virtual meetings is that we can keep our distance from people, particularly the people we would rather not be in a room with.

Aaron and the others didn’t want to sit down with Moses because of the way he looked, and it can certainly be argued that Moses wanted to keep his distance from them, particularly after that whole Golden Calf debacle.

But Moses insists on face-to-face meetings, even with the rebellious and stiff-necked people of Israel.

No doubt, this is hard to do.

But Moses gets close to the people of Israel, again and again, because it is the right thing to do.

Think about this concept—How much better would our political life in America be if Democrats and Republicans actually sat down at a table together and had conversations?

How much healthier would our society be if conservatives and liberals decreased their internet battles and increased their face-to-face meetings.

Rachel Maddow, could you please pass the salt.”

          “Sure Sean Hannity, here you go.”

It’s hard to act upon your hate for someone when they are right in front of you.


So why does this matter?

What is the message of this passage for us in this world of Skype, FaceTime, video chats, webinars and other virtual meetings?

Our story and lesson for today is one that is calling us to a life of balance—a life that makes use of technologies such as Skype and Face-Time, but also a life that preserves and strives for the value of face-to-face contact—with God and with others whether we love them or can’t stand them.

Moses challenges us seek out the face of God and to take time to build relationships with God and with each other, and in doing so, expect to be changed by these relationships.

Moses shows us the importance of doing so, and then pushes us to reach out to everyone, and not hide behind technology when the encounters are difficult.

For when we do, our faces and our lives will show we have indeed seen the face of God.


          So go ahead and Skype and Face-Time when it’s the only option to get and stay connected to those far away.

But may we listen to both Moses, and even to America’s executives, who make the case for face to face—for it is in the face to face meetings—with God and with God’s children—that we are truly changed, that we are truly transfigured, into those who have seen God face to face.  Amen.

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