One Comment to “The Shining Face of God”

  1. Donald McMahon
    June 3, 2019

    “The Shining Face of God” (Psalm 80)(6.2.19)
    Psalm 80 (NIV84)
    For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant.” Of Asaph. A psalm.
    1 Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock;
    you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
    2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
    Awaken your might;
    come and save us.
    3 Restore us, O God;
    make your face shine upon us,
    that we may be saved.
    4 O Lord God Almighty,
    how long will your anger smolder
    against the prayers of your people?
    5 You have fed them with the bread of tears;
    you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
    6 You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors,
    and our enemies mock us.
    7 Restore us, O God Almighty;
    make your face shine upon us,
    that we may be saved.
    8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.
    9 You cleared the ground for it,
    and it took root and filled the land.
    10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
    the mighty cedars with its branches.
    11 It sent out its boughs to the Sea,
    its shoots as far as the River.
    12 Why have you broken down its walls
    so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
    13 Boars from the forest ravage it
    and the creatures of the field feed on it.
    14 Return to us, O God Almighty!
    Look down from heaven and see!
    Watch over this vine,
    15 the root your right hand has planted,
    the son you have raised up for yourself.
    16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;
    at your rebuke your people perish.
    17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
    the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
    18 Then we will not turn away from you;
    revive us, and we will call on your name.
    19 Restore us, O Lord God Almighty;
    make your face shine upon us,
    that we may be saved.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Title: The Shining Face of God
    They were supposed to be God’s chosen people. They were supposed to be one nation. Yes, there were 12 tribes; but, they were united as God led them through the wilderness and into The Promised Land. Then there was sin, disobedience, and idolatry. Conflict and disunity led to strife from within and without. Outside nations saw their weakness and faithlessness.
    Is the state of the Christian Church in America any different? We focused on our differences and not on what we held in common. As the Church weakened, so did the fabric of society. Relying on ourselves and manmade solutions, we brought the world into the Church. Cheap grace was championed and the call to pursue holiness was silenced.
    Somehow, Open Hearts; Open Minds; Open Doors; was interpreted to mean open to anything. Yes, that is a popular slogan of The United Methodist Church. Considering the current state of affairs, it seems ironic that the Holiness Movement in the United States was birthed out of Methodism. While Unity was the siren call of our Council of Bishops just six months ago, now we are supposed to pursue “new expressions of Methodism.”
    While the United Methodist Church was formed in 1968, its origins were in England in the 1700’s. Originally, Methodism was a Revival movement. The intent of its founders was to reform the Church of England and the nation by spreading scriptural holiness. As a matter of fact, many have ascribed the saving of England to Methodism.
    John Wesley said, “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
    A form of religion without the power – My friends, we find ourselves at the threshold of that prognostication. Look through the open door. What do you see? You see declining attendance. You see minds darkened in their understanding because of sin. You see hearts that have never been baptized by the Holy Spirit.
    What is the solution? What can be done? Where are we to turn? We find the answer here in Psalm 80. The answer is found in the shining face of God. Only the presence and power of Almighty God can overcome the lethargy and powerlessness in our churches.
    3 Restore us, O God;
    make your face shine upon us,
    that we may be saved.
    7 Restore us, O God Almighty;
    make your face shine upon us,
    that we may be saved.
    19 Restore us, O Lord God Almighty;
    make your face shine upon us,
    that we may be saved.
    This is a crescendo of prayer! And, for revival to happen, it must be preceded by prayer. In the book of Daniel, we know that he was thrown in the lion’s den for praying three times a day to Yahweh. We know that Muslims pray five times a day. Christians are told to pray without ceasing; but, are you and I obedient? No, we are not.
    The psalmist starts psalm 80 with calling God Israel’s Shepherd. A shepherd has a lot of great attributes. He cares about the sheep; is smarter than the sheep; watches over the sheep; leads and guides the sheep; seeks the lost sheep; protects the sheep; provides for the sheep; it goes on and on. In fact, the Shepherd even shears the sheep when they need it. The common aspect in all these attributes is the Shepherd’s presence!
    The reference to God sitting enthroned between the cherubim is a powerful statement. First God occupies the highest throne possible amongst the heavenly creatures. Not only there. Also, The Almighty sits on the Mercy Seat. This was the golden cover on the Ark of the Covenant. There was a cherubim on each end of the Mercy Seat. Inside of Ark of the Covenant were the tablets with The 10 Commandments.
    The Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Holy of Holies inside the Temple. This was the place of God’s presence. The prayer is for God’s merciful presence to shine forth upon all the tribes of Israel. Bless Lord. Bring your power to bear upon our burdened hearts and circumstances. Come to us. Save us.
    Lord, remember that we are your people. It seems that you are angry with us. We are suffering. All we have to eat is sorrow and sadness. All we have to drink is doubt and depression. Without you God, we are weak and worried; empty. Everyone around us judges you God by our condition. “Where is their God?” is their mocking question.
    Once we were no people, but you brought us out of bondage in Egypt and planted us. You gave us victory after victory and we filled the land. But now Lord Almighty, you have withdrawn from us. We are being conquered. You created us. Look down from heaven and see our sorry state.
    My brothers and sisters, I pray all these things for the American Church. I pray all these things for our denomination, the United Methodist Church. And, I pray all these things for Emmaus Church.
    Emmaus United Methodist Church traces its history to 1790 when the first Methodist congregation was established in Smithville with about 12 members. The first church building was located next to the Smithville Inn, which was then a stage coach stop. According to old church history, worshipers “were often disturbed by the music of the violin and the merry feet of dancers” so another lot was purchased and a church built on Moss Mill Road, west of route 9. One building on that site burned and a second building was used until the current sanctuary was built in 1869.
    At the time the church was established, Methodist congregations were served by circuit riding preachers who traveled by horseback from one church to another throughout the region. The circuit rider might only visit a congregation once a month and sometimes even less often. Services were held on whatever day of the week the circuit rider was in the area.
    Methodist congregations had a local “class leader” who provided spiritual support between visits of the circuit rider. Richard Leeds was the first class leader in 1790 and the first local preacher of the church in Smithville. He continued to preach until he was unable to do so due to advanced age and failing health. He died in 1857 at age 85. By his own request, he was buried directly behind the church and near the pulpit where he so often preached.
    Yesterday, Carol and I went over to that old Smithville Church Cemetery to look for Richard Leeds’ grave stone. We did find it; but, the sorry condition of the graveyard saddened me.
    This sanctuary was built in 1869 on a half-acre of ground at a total cost of $4,500. A dedication service was held on January 4th, 1870, a Tuesday, likely because that was the day the circuit riding presiding elder, David Bartine was in the area.
    A bell was added to the bell tower in 1890. It was cast by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, MD and the inscription on the bell reads “Let Him that Heareth Say Come”. So, that bell has been calling people for 129 years.
    The founding of this church was shortly after the creation of this nation. Emmaus has a long history and has navigated all the challenges of the years gone by. Even lighting strikes were overcome.
    Through more than 229 years and 85 preachers there have been changes from wood stoves, to coal stoves, to oil, to gas, additions of electricity and running water but the mission remains the same: To Preach, Teach and Model a Life-Giving Gospel.
    We are at a crossroad in our ongoing history. We need an infusion of youth and energy as we plant the seeds of the gospel in the next generations. As the congregation ages, we are in competition with the culture to reach new families for God’s kingdom. What we need is a movement of God. We need the Shining face of God. God’s presence should be the pursuit of our hearts.
    Clearly, the presence of God, the experience of God, the shining face of God, and dwelling with God, are all intertwined. With one comes the others.
    Psalm 67:1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah
    Isaiah 60:19 The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
    Revelation 21:2 (NIV84)
    2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
    Revelation 21:22–23 (NIV84)
    22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
    The Lamb is capitalized because it refers to the Lord Jesus. In Psalm 80, did you see the foreshadowing of Jesus? There is a reference to the vine, representing Israel, as being God’s son. In John 15:1 (NIV84) Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” Yes, through Israel, we have been blessed.
    Psalm 80 goes on to use the same term that Jesus most often used to refer to himself, son of man. Yes, The Son of Man has been lifted up and is seated at the right hand of the Father. This past Thursday was Ascension Day, the 40th day after Easter, when Jesus ascended into heaven upon the clouds. And, the angels promised that Jesus will return in the same fashion.
    Until that happens Lord, we pray that you revive us. We pray that you restore us. We pray that you make your face to shine upon us. We pray that you save us.
    In his book on American revivalists, The Spiritual Awakeners, Keith J. Hardman identifies five phases of God’s working. First, revival is usually preceded by a time of spiritual depression, apathy, and gross sin. Second, a small group of God’s people becomes conscious of its sins and backslidden condition, repents, and longs for a new outpouring of God’s grace. Third, leaders arise with prophetic insights into the causes and remedies for the current problems. A new revelation of God’s holiness stimulates a striving after that holiness by God’s people. Fourth, the awakening occurs, which may both renew the church and evangelize those outside. Fifth, the awakening may be God’s preparation to strengthen His people for future challenges or trials.
    Lord God Almighty, let your face shine on us.
    Now, let us prepare to experience God’s presence in Holy Communion. Listen to my Wesley Study Bible: The Wesleyan understanding of the Lord’s Supper hinges on Christ’s current ministry in heaven. There he is a high priest, serving in the heavenly sanctuary, as well as the sacrificed Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. Communion reflects both of these realities.
    Thus the Supper involves both a table (God’s gift to us of his Son, the lamb slain for our salvation) and an altar (our joining in the self-sacrifice of Christ to the glory of God).
    The Wesleyan understanding speaks of how worshipers can experience in sensory ways the saving activity of Christ. In Communion, by faith, it is as if the dying God is crucified before our eyes and we sense that his wounds are still open. Thus our greater concern is about time rather than space: it is more important to say why Christ is present now than to explain how one might say that Christ is present here.
    Lord, let your light shine; let your presence be manifested; may we dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Awaken your might; come and save us.
    Let that be our prayer. Let us be a people of praise and worship. Let us be obedient in the pursuit of holiness.
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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