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Shekinah, Dimensionality, and Unity

Shekinah, Dimensionality, and Unity 2560 1920 Nicole

Radiant Lord,
you shine with purity, power, and truth.
Your mercy reflects your compassion,
your care, and your love.
Transform us into your image
as we seek to follow you.
Use us to make your presence known
throughout the world.
In your strong name we pray. Amen. 

from today’s sermon

Oscar Romero said:

When we leave worship, we ought to go out the way Moses descended Mt. Sinai: with his face shining, with his heart brave and strong, to face the world’s difficulties.

Oscar Romero

It seems there are two general ways churches have a tendency to engage their faith. They might retreat from the world and be separated (holier than thou crowd) concerned more with prayer and so-called spiritual growth than being among the heathens. Or they might be more concerned about the world’s issues, interested in social justice, but not taking care of the inner, spiritual self. But to live out the wholeness of our being – spiritual and physical – we need both.   

Jesus says, “Come away with me for a while.” And goes to a quiet place often. The disciples go up with him to pray, away from the crowds, and Jesus is transfigured before them. They enter a space – just by accepting Jesus’ invitation to come away, be with him – into a space where Jesus opens reality into greater dimensionality. Their eyes are opened to see 4th and 5th dimensional space – perhaps, more. If you want more discussion on what this means, just sit down with your coffee and Lysander after church.

Psalm 68 says this about how God occupies space as we understand it:

5 Father of orphans and protector of widows
   is God in his holy habitation
6 God gives the desolate a home to live in;
   he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
   but the rebellious live in a parched land. 
7 O God, when you went out before your people,
   when you marched through the wilderness,
8 the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain
   at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,
   at the presence of God, the God of Israel. 
9 Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad;
   you restored your heritage when it languished; 
10 your flock found a dwelling in it;
   in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

15 O mighty mountain, mountain of Bashan;
   O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan! 
16 Why do you look with envy, O many-peaked mountain,
   at the mount that God desired for his abode,
   where the Lord will reside for ever? 

17 With mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand,
   thousands upon thousands,
   the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place. 
18 You ascended the high mount,
   leading captives in your train
   and receiving gifts from people,
even from those who rebel against the Lord God’s abiding there.

19 Blessed be the Lord,
   who daily bears us up;
   God is our salvation.
20 Our God is a God of salvation,
   and to God, the Lord, belongs escape from death.

The targum(an Aramaic paraphrase or interpretation of the Hebrew scripture) Ps. 68:19 reads, “You ascended to the firmament, O prophet Moses, you took captives, you taught the words of the Law, you gave them as gifts to the [offspring]; even among the rebellious who are converted and repent does the Shekinah glory of the Lord God dwell” (see David M. Stec, The Targum of Psalms: Translated, With a Critical Introduction, Apparatus, and Notes [Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical, 2004].

Here we find a significant relationship to Ephesians 4:8. What ties this targum together with Eph 4:8 is its equivalent rendering of the key verb as “he gave” in place of the MT/LXX’s “you received.”

This is crucial to understand here as we have spent the last five weeks talking about the gifts outlined in Eph 4 that are given to us (for building up, in unity, in love). The verb “he gave” is given the interpretive swap with “you received” in both passages. It is supposed Paul refers to Ps68 in Eph. But it obviously evokes the transfiguration of Jesus and connects with the appearance of Moses and Elijah.

The Law is given as gifts, Moses receives them as gifts. Jesus gives the church spiritual gifts, the church receives them as gifts (APEST) – and this happens in the very space that God dwells, where God occupies space, the Glory of God indwells – and even among the rebellious.

In Jonah, from last week’s reading, the wrong people repented. Those who rejected God and oppressed the so-called people of God, want to know God – and they repent. But now, someone even greater than Jonah is here.

Those who were/are rejected by the church want to know God, want to be in God’s presence, want to be the place (vessel) where God’s Name resides – the temple that Solomon built to house God’s name, this Solomon from whom the Queen of the East came to hear the wisdom. Someone greater than Solomon is here who already made the places for God’s name to reside—Shekinah.

And the rulers of the kingdom of churches could not abide. So, those who were rejected, the ones despised by those rulers, these came to God, said ‘yes,’ please, reside here. The ones who are rejected, despised by the church recognize God’s presence and say ‘yes,’ please reside, dwell here.

A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

~ Albert Einstein

In the Jewish tradition, the noun shekinah is the place or space where God’s presence dwells, fills. Jürgen Moltmann posits that the Sabbath, as in the Shekinah, is instituted for this purpose—for the indwelling of humankind—and is like a hurricane: the Persons of the Trinity “are at once persons and the spaces for movement.”[1] The Scripture reveals this process in the experience of Jesus, who experiences the grief and sin of humanity; the experience of the Father whose Son cries out, “Abba” (Love); and the experience of the Spirit in fellowship, present with God and with humanity.[2] It is grace, love, and fellowship.[3] Herein lies another clue to what it means to image God: indwelling.

The Old Testament comprises story after story of God’s desire and attempts to dwell among the people of Israel. It is expressed by the word “to dwell,” shakhanti [BHS-W4] as a verb—active, intentional, communicative (Exod. 25:8; 29:45; 1 Kings 6:13; Jer. 7:7; Ezek. 43:9; Zech. 2:10, 11; 8:3). So, as perichoresis, the Trinity is revealed as active and intentional, Persons who dwell and indwell, who act as individuals while making room for the Other, moving and making room for rest. Thus, to image this God that indwells with mindful attention to the Other within the Trinitarian Self is to dwell with each other with mindfulness of one another by making space. It is a movement, a dance that gives up one’s place so that another may fill it and then to become more like oneself—and, more like the image of the Creator.

Nicole Oliver Snyder, Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone.

We image God by Shekhanti, indwelling – God in us, making space for God, to be filled by the Spirit, empowered, then poured out as Jesus leads. The church images God by Shekhanti, indwelling. Making space, empowered, poured out as Jesus leads. It is at once unifying and disbursement. We come to the mountaintop and enter, occupy, dwell in multidimensional space – to be filled, indwelled by the so-called otherworldly infinitely dimensional space.

But how often am I blinded by the optical delusion that my perception is absolute, and correct. And I stand my ground, remain in my space – alone. Remember limited perspectives from last week? Remember our fickle memories and the ability to reframe a matter? How do I let the scales fall from my eyes so that I may see the shining face of one in my path – one who bears the very image of God Almighty?

How do I let the scales fall from my eyes so that I may see the glittering, shining face of the person standing before me? How can we be people who visit that mountain top, enter that space where God makes room – that space where God dwells – and return filled by the indwelling of God, organic, flesh and blood and spirit, Shekinah? For this is who God is – one who dwells; and this is how we bear God’s image – indwelled, dwelling, expansive and generous with our space (and perspective).

When I make room, give you space, I do not loose part of myself (per se) – when I make space for you to enter and fill, I am more than before – I see more expansively, understand more fully. Then you invite me into your space and I have more with which to fill it. And how much better might we understand a matter; how much better might we know God in the place?!

We do this now, do we not? as we take communion – here we occupy the same space, inviting the presence of God, invoke Jesus’ Spirit to occupy, as it were, the bread and the wine. We ingest the bread and the wine and notice it passing our lips, on our tongues, we swallow and the elements are digested and absorbed – and we remember: the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ indwells us.

And when we come together on Wednesday and remember the dust, the earth from which we were formed – that same earth made through Jesus as all things were made – Shekinah.

Our denomination is experiencing disunity and the disinclination to listen, to make space for each other. It is important you know what is happening since it affects us all and may impact this church in significant ways. Let us pray that the leadership in the United Methodist Church will make space, hold loosely (holy indifference) their opinions, perspectives; make room, fill up, pour out, and fill again – that beautiful, terrifying hurricane that develops when the Holy Trinity lives and moves and indwells our space!

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About the author


Nicole Oliver Snyder’s expertise lies in the areas of leadership, gender issues, and mindfulness practice as it affects both. Leadership, particularly in an urban setting, requires community-relations skills, and an ability to clearly convey justice issues as they relate to felt, spiritual ones. Dr. Snyder is author of Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone, and specializes in teaching mindfulness leadership development, formative spirituality, counseling, and Old Testament theology (emphasis on justice issues). She has a diverse background in international community-relations work combined with volunteer work in multi-ethnic communities, and with local institutions. She is an ordained Clergy; holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, w/Education Certificate, an MA-Counseling, MDiv Equiv., holds a Doctor of Ministry and Advanced Certification in Formative Spiritual Direction, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (CO, MI).

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