The Israelites left Egypt under the direction of Moses…but all did not go well. They apparently thought it would be an easy journey, and when it got hard, they started muttering. They didn’t trust Moses or Aaron, their leaders…they didn’t trust God. They wanted to go back to what they knew, even though that would have returned them to slavery. Because of this, all of the adult generation had to die off for the Israelites to become the people they were called to be.
And, eventually, as they kept wandering–and apparently circling a specific mountain–God finally said to them “You have circled this mountain long enough. Go northward!” (Deuteronomy 2:3) In other words, quit spinning your wheels and move forward.
I’ve been thinking about that verse the last several days. We sometimes like to think we’re a lot different from them–but we’re really not.
We like the status quo. Even if we don’t like everything that happens with the status quo, we know what to expect. We know where our position is in it. And if we’re called upon to change, we complain. We want to go back to some mythical “perfect” time.
Change isn’t easy. It means loss in some way. Loss of comfort…loss of assurance…and it requires a willingness to trust God.
And change in a denomination is going to mean loss. People may disagree with a particular scriptural interpretation and refuse to move forward. In many denominations, this has happened in dealing with slavery…women’s roles…and now with homosexuality. We’re using the same arguments today to try to preserve the status quo that we did when we dealt with slavery and women’s roles as ministers. We came to new understandings–recognition that God called us to be inclusive, not exclusive…a call to look at scriptures through the lens of love.
It’s not an easy time. And whatever decision is made is undoubtedly going to bring loss of membership. That’s an issue my faith tradition is struggling with. But I think God is calling us to move forward to truly living out our belief in the worth of all people and the giftedness of all…to not put manmade limits on each other but to see each other through God’s eyes.
We may not be physically wandering in the wilderness…but we’ve been circling the wagons, trying to hold on to another mythical perfect time when we knew exactly what God expected. But I hear a voice calling…saying “You have circled this mountain long enough. Go northward!” Let’s go…and trust God.