Aloha Friday Message – June 2, 2017 – Cloudy Days Ahead?

1722AFC060217 – Cloudy Days Ahead?

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Exodus 13:21 21 The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.

Sirach 24:4 I dwelt in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Peace be with you. I am excited about today’s message, so let’s get right to it.

Sometimes our Good Lord gives us a ZAP! We’re just going about our business, and then suddenly we hear something or see something or learn something – or relearn something – and then …

… EVERYTHING is different! That happened to me last Sunday as I listened to the homily given by our Associate Pastor, Parochial Vicar Rev. Moses Akubele. While presenting the facts about Jesus’ ascension, he said, “… and then Jesus was taken up in a cloud which throughout Scripture is the image of God’s power.” My little brain went …

The first thing I thought about was Exodus 13:21 21 The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. So when we read in Acts 1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight, we are hearing testimony from the Apostles that Jesus was taken up in the power of God. Then, a couple of verses later, two angels state quite clearly in Acts 1:11b This [same] Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven – that is in the power of God.

More illustrations raced through my mind as I hustled to keep up with my notes on Fr. Moses’ homily. I recalled that in Exodus, when Moses was called by the Lord to the top of Mt. Sinai, the top of the mountain was covered in smoke “like smoke from a kiln” because the Lord descended to the mountain in fire and the whole mountain trembled violently – as did the people in fear and awe. There were tremendous trumpet blasts and when Moses spoke to God, God answered in thunder. (See all of this in Exodus 19:16-20) Then in Exodus 20:21 we read 21 Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. Later, in Exodus 33:7-11, we learn about the pillar of cloud that stood at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting where … the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. The Power of God was present to Moses and visible to the Israelites. God clearly wanted to be seen, heard, acknowledged, appreciated, reverenced, and loved. He gave us that command himself – Love the Lord your God. And to get our attention, he used spectacular signs, wonders, and miracles – many involving clouds and/or fire – to communicate with us. (More on this in the conclusion.)

There are other interesting examples of “cloud” and “fire” in Old Testament and New Testament passages. I did a little sleuthing and here are a few of the results:

In Psalm 104:2b-4 we read You stretch out the heavens like a tent, 3 you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers.

Numbers 9:15-17 15 On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant; and from evening until morning it was over the tabernacle, having the appearance of fire. 16 It was always so: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. 17 Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, then the Israelites would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the Israelites would camp. I want to say something more about the appearance of fire a little later on.

Ezekiel 1:4-28 (only verse 4 shown here, but check out the rest of that remarkable passage) As I looked, a stormy wind came out of the north: a great cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing forth continually, and in the middle of the fire, something like gleaming amber.

Revelation 1:10 1 And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. In this passage the word “rainbow” is preceded by the Greek definite article (hē) {hey} so that it reads ἶρις – the rainbow. Thus, as one might envision a halo, this glorious angel (perhaps even Christ himself?) bears above all his magnificence the mark of one of God’s early covenants with humanity – the rainbow.

Matthew 3:11 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Luke 12:49 49 I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

And finally, of course, there is the beautiful passage in the Second Chapter of Acts:

Acts 2:1-4 1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

After that amazing moment, Peter addressed the crowd outside the Cenacle and reminded the Jews that the prophet Joel had declared that God himself would pour out his own Spirit:

Joel 2:28-30 28 Then afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. 30 I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.

OK, time to wrap this up. In Numbers 9:16, we saw 16 It was always so: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. In Acts 2:3 we saw 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. And in Exodus 13:21 we read 21 The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.

(click on it)

I came to understand that the “divided tongues, as of fire,” were like miniature pillars of fire – the presence of God – so that we might travel by day and by night in the light of his glory and grace as well as in the darkness of the shadow of Death and Evil. God gives us these gifts because he does want to be seen, heard, acknowledged, appreciated, reverenced, and loved. He gave us that command himself – Love the Lord your God. And to get our attention, he used spectacular signs, wonder, and miracles – many involving clouds and/or fire – to communicate with us. This is how we know Allah is not Jehovah. Allah is unknowable and non-communicative; only Jehovah is personal, personable, and knowable. Many Muslims believe fatalistically that Allah has determined in advance the outcome of all of your life thereby denying the Grace of Free Will. Jehovah loves all of humanity and calls all to salvation in Jesus; with Allah, he loves whomever he chooses and hates whomever he chooses. Allah cannot, will not, and would not die for you or for anyone. He most certainly would not allow someone else to die for you; and since Allah has no Son, that means you cannot believe in anything or anyone that will unconditionally love you and redeem you from sin. There is no wisdom in that.

The passage from Sirach (ben Sira) at the beginning is presented as spoken by the personification of Wisdom. Wisdom was with God when all things were created, and Wisdom dwelt in the highest heavens, and [her] throne was in a pillar of cloud. Wisdom is enthroned on the Power of God. That’s why I am always referring back to Proverb 9:10a. Wisdom begins with reverencing the Lord who makes himself known and knowable in myriad ways. He makes it possible for us to find him and follow him. If ever we stumble, it is he who protects and restores us. He guides us in all of life’s circumstances in ways that are always visible to the eyes of Faith if only Faith “opens the eyes of our hearts.” He – Jesus, the only-begotten Son of the Almighty, Living, and Eternal God – is coming back to us in the cloud of God’s Power and Glory. Let us hope and pray that there are Cloudy Days ahead as Jesus comes back in Glory! Start listening for that mighty trumpet blast!

Praise Report: We are expecting to hear any day now that AD, whose breast cancer was successfully removed surgically, will be released by her oncologist as a cancer-free survivor. Stay tuned for the celebration of Victory!

Share-A-Prayer – And with that in mind, another request has been made for prayers for ID – not related to AD – diagnosed this past week with an encapsulated tumor. Good prognosis, but still some discomfiting discomforts headed her way. Let’s continue praying for her as well as for all who have been, currently are, or will be affected by cancer. Mahalo nui loa!

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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