Sunday’s Sermon from July 19, 2020, revamped for the Caller
The Israelites were dislocated from every routine, every familiarity in which they found identity and a sense of belonging.
We are in a time and space, a world experience, in which we are dislocated from all the little and everyday routines that tether us to our sense of identity and belonging.
In the first case, the dislocation was sought, chosen. The people were led out of the routine of their slavery to the world as it was by Moses, Miriam and Aaron. The liberation of the Israelites from the bondage of Pharaoh’s economy was full of promises that soon felt empty. How does a people, how does its leadership cultivate hope in year 2, year 10, year 20 of wandering in the wilderness, looking for home? The shared journey of struggle and uncertainty wove them together into a community of belonging.
Our dislocation is imposed. Our promised land is a vaccine that provides durable immunity and can be safely administered worldwide. We had a blip of hope as the curve was flattened, much like the initial exhilaration freedom from bondage brings, as if that’s all that is required. A goal achieved is only the beginning of another story.
The Israelites worshiped an idol, a golden calf, in the wilderness. They were hedging their bets against the promises of God.
Inequity and Ignorance and You Can’t Make Me are the golden calves at which too many worship, in longing and demanding for a return to “normal”.
The Israelites thought they could go their own way, but it turned out, they needed some rules to live by for the sake of their community, in order to survive. Moses came down from his mountain experience with a set of rules, commandments they’re called. And the 10 we all talk about and enshrine are only the top ten on the hit parade. There are 614 commandments, intended to keep them in God’s safe keeping.
In our wilderness experience, there are two commandments: stay six feet away from people not in your household AND wear a mask when you leave home. (Simplify to one a la Dr. Lucy Jones, “Don’t Share Your Air.
There was a lot of complaining in the wilderness. They were thrown into a totally unfamiliar situation. No one in the group had ever been part of the liberation of an entire people nor had the logistics experience to manage a nation without a place to land. There was confusion, uncertainty, lack of food, lack of shelter.
We have valid complaints. Here are just some: Parents are frustrated about the loss their children experience because they can’t socialize with friends which is important developmental work, frustrated by the radical change in learning platform from in-person to online. Teachers and school staff are frustrated that their health is last on the list of consideration for bringing everyone back into the petri dish that is a school setting. How are they going to keep up with a hybrid program that requires a minimum 60 hour work week to do well so children learn at the same rate of pay? Sounds a lot like Pharaoh’s economy. Seniors living with severe isolation. Our mental and physical wellbeing is at risk because of the isolation all of us experience, the unmooring from routines that used to center us.
Who are we going to become as individuals and as a community of faith in light of what is? We didn’t go to school or take a webinar to learn how to parent, partner, be a friend, a person of faith, a congregation in a pandemic. I get it; most of us if we have a pulse are overwhelmed. But I believe God has given us, and is giving us gifts even now to be the people we need to be, that God needs us to be for this blip in human history.
Our faith story can shape who we are and who we are becoming. It can build a road to resilience as we recall the stories of our faith. God led the Israelites through their wilderness experience by day and by night: a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Sometimes it’s in the darkness that it is safest to travel; a little help from God can light the way.