Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
September 27, 2020
“Why Is This Happening?”
Exodus 17: 1-7 – The Message
Directed by God, the whole company of Israel moved on by stages from the Wilderness of Sin. They set camp at Rephidim. And there wasn’t a drop of water for the people to drink. The people took Moses to task: “Give us water to drink.” But Moses said, “Why pester me? Why are you testing God?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there. They complained to Moses, “Why did you take us from Egypt and drag us out here with our children and animals to die of thirst?”
4 Moses cried out in prayer to God, “What can I do with these people? Any minute now they’ll kill me!”
5-6 God said to Moses, “Go on out ahead of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel. Take the staff you used to strike the Nile. And go. I’m going to be present before you there on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock. Water will gush out of it and the people will drink.”
6-7 Moses did what he said, with the elders of Israel right there watching. He named the place Massah (Testing-Place) and Meribah (Quarreling) because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because of their testing of God when they said, “Is God here with us, or not?”
Yup. They’re still in the wilderness. Still complaining – still griping and grousing and groaning. Moses is still exasperated. And God is still providing exactly enough for their needs every day.
Today’s reading is part of the Great Liberation Narrative. From the birth of Moses through his death, this foundational story of the Israelites of the exodus from slavery to freedom gets only 10 weeks of attention during our three year cycle of assigned readings, called the lectionary. And two of the 10 involve complaining – last week food, this week water. I was tempted to look at other options in the lectionary for today. Who needs another story about complaining and being stuck in the wilderness? And then I thought of our own.
And yup. We’re still in the wilderness, too. We have food and water, but the isolation. Separation. Church from home. Some still work from home. Some still go to school from home or some combination. And the complaining. People are still griping, grousing, groaning about masks and social distancing instead of realizing what a wonderfully simple way it is to save lives. I don’t mean to shame the Israelites for their complaining. And I don’t mean to shame any of us for feeling tired and frustrated. All of us just want this to end.
Do you ever wonder why this is happening? Not in the sense of some conspiracy theory, but a deeper “why”? Why is this happening?
One of the commentaries I read asked a really good, very basic, question: why not lead the people straight from slavery to the Promised Land? Hadn’t they suffered enough? Yes, still stop in Palm Springs for six weeks, but then get on with it.
Among the explanations for why it took 40 years in the wilderness is that it takes a long time to unlearn being enslaved. It takes a long time to learn freedom. So, they underwent a series of trials meant to form them, strengthen them, and prepare them to be a people with a shared story and experience of what it takes, how hard it is, to live with freedom. Matthew Myer Boulton said, “They had to learn that the heart of freedom is trust.” I like that.
We have been following the narrative in the Book of Exodus, but this story of liberation is also told in the Book of Deuteronomy which gives an explicit reason for their 40 year sojourn: “by letting you hunger, then by feeding you manna,” the people would understand personally, viscerally, that “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus cites this exact verse during his own 40 days of testing in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry.
So, I get this. I understand this explanation – sort of – that their trials and testing were meant to train them for a life as free people, to turn their longing into trust, to turn their doubts into faith, to turn their complaints into food and water.
I get it, but it makes me uncomfortable. And that’s because I’ve seen it lead to people making hurtful and ridiculous claims to people who are suffering. For example, You were given cancer so that you come to value life.
Kate Bowler writes about being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at age 35, mother of a young child, and in the midst of a promising academic career. She’s heard it all, including a neighbor who came to the door and told her husband, “everything happens for a reason.” He said, “OK. What is it?” The neighbor looked stunned as he waited. “What’s the reason my wife is dying?” Kate wrote a book about it. Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. Christians were particularly insistent that God had a plan for her – abbreviated – life.
A month into our pandemic separation, she was interviewed by the New York Times and asked about the idea that we should all just “stay positive” through this.
She replied, “The idea that we’re all supposed to be positive all the time has become an American obsession. The good part is: It gives us momentum and purpose to feel like the best is yet to come. But the problem is when it becomes a kind of poison, in which it expects that people who are suffering — which is pretty much everyone right now — it expects that people are always supposed to find the silver lining or not speak realistically about their circumstances. The main problem is that it adds shame to suffering, by requiring everyone to be prescriptively joyful.”
But the most poignant statement of the entire interview is this: A pandemic is not a judgment. “The trick is to find meaning without being taught a lesson.”
Do you ever wonder why this is happening? The explanation: we were given the pandemic so that… fill in the blank. I get the attempt at explanation. To be honest, I’ve also tried to rationalize, to redeem it. But, again, it negates the suffering of people in the wilderness, whether 40 years then or 6 months and counting now. Can you believe it? Six months and counting…
I was curious so I went back and looked at some of the sermons I wrote at the beginning of our pandemic separation. In the beginning we thought it would only last a few weeks. Take a break, flatten the curve, and we’ll be back in the sanctuary by Easter.
On our first Sunday apart, I said, “If we ever thought being a church member was just coming to church on Sunday, this moment is teaching us the value of community. So, reach out to one another.” We created Zoom meetings to stay connected.
The next Sunday I asked, “what has this pandemic revealed so far?” For one, not providing health care for everyone leaves an entire nation always at risk. But, I said, it has also revealed the blessing of belonging to a community. I said, “I wouldn’t say we got the Coronavirus so that we can appreciate community. But, because of Coronavirus, it’s been even more clearly revealed that we need each other.”
I asked what things we will never take for granted again. Like a handshake. Full shelves at the store and enough toilet paper at home. The mad rush to school in the morning. Dinner with friends. And finally, the question: Who do you hope this pandemic will help you become? Looking back, it’s funny we thought we could answer that yet. We had no clue what was still coming.
The third week I spoke of these being inspiring times, praising the heroism and sacrifice of everyday citizens rarely seen in our lifetimes.
On Palm Sunday I asked us to choose vulnerability, like Jesus. To be awkward, brave, and kind. And on Easter, to be real with one another. It’s OK to be sad and long for normal.
Six months ago we had no clue we would still be worshiping like this. Nor do we know when it will end. And neither did the Israelites. Why did they spend 40 years in the wilderness? We are told it was meant to form them, strengthen them, and prepare them to be a people who live with freedom. And part of that is to learn that the heart of freedom is trust.
Perhaps that’s why freedom feels so fragile for us right now. For freedom to work, we must trust in institutions to work, we must trust in the constraint of laws, and we must trust in our fellow citizens and neighbors. The real or imagined threat of tyranny in the land of the free right now is not only frightening, the destabilizing power of mistrust makes some fear our democracy could topple over. Can the republic survive?
How do we explain the wilderness of the past 4 years? Perhaps historians will suggest: you were given Donald Trump so that you would come to understand the value of democracy and the rule of law – not the kind of dog whistle slogan of law and order, which is to uphold the order of white supremacy, but how the rule of law is meant to constrain wanna-be dictators. The explanation is that without this disruption of norms, you wouldn’t appreciate them and guard them, protect them.
So, I get this. Like scripture attempts to do with the Israelites, I understand this explanation – sort of – that the trials and testing of today are meant to train us and form us into a people with a shared story and purpose. But it still makes me uncomfortable. Again, the terrible suffering of so many already vulnerable people.
Therefore, I risk suggesting, perhaps there is no lesson to be learned. Instead, however, I embrace what Kate Bowler said: “The trick is to find meaning without being ‘taught a lesson.’”
And not worrying about whether we can redeem this suffering. But rather, as the Israelites finally learned: to trust and let God redeem this suffering. And leave our task to keep caring for each other and remain present in this moment, as the song we’ll now sing says:
“You shall cross the barren desert,
but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands
and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.
Be not afraid. I go before you always.
Come, follow me, and I will give you rest.”
Thank you for meeting us in our anxiety, dear God.
Thank you for always walking alongside us.
Thank you for welcoming our questions - like why is this happening.
And it's not only the pandemic, God -
the 200,000 of your precious souls in our county,
but also the 76,000 people in Mexico,
93,000 in India,
and 13 people in Sri Lanka - each with families devastated by their loss.
And only the pandemic of Covid 19,
but the pandemic of racism,
and not just 6 months of deaths like George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks captured on cell phones,
but 401 years of enslavement,
and lack of justice for Breonna Taylor who can't even sleep in their own homes,
for whom on one will take responsibility.
For families still separated at the border.
Why is this happening?
We have questions, like
where is the integrity among our elected leaders
Where is the sense of fair play and civility
Without Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will fight for our rights?
The wandering Israelites asked, is God here with us, or not?
Yet, when they cried out,
you opened the sea for them to pass.
When they cried out,
you provided manna in the wilderness.
When they cried out, water gushed forth from a rock.
And if you can produce water from a ROCK!,
you will quench our thirst for justice,
our hunger for righteousness,
our demand for the liberation of all who are enslaved today.
You will, despite our question - WHEN!?
When, O Lord?
But in between, you never leave us alone.
You walk with us through our illnesses and death.
You walk alongside us when we lose patience,
when anger threatens to overwhelm.
You walk alongside those today who pray,
who ask our community to pray,
and you give us sighs to deep for words
when we don't know what to say.
And you invite us to prayer the words Jesus taught...
 Deuteronomy 3:8
Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
September 20, 2020
“Exactly Enough. Every Day.”
Exodus 16: 2-16 – The Message
The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. The Israelites said, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!”
4-5 God said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day’s ration. I’m going to test them to see if they’ll live according to my Teaching or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have gathered, it will turn out to be twice as much as their daily ration.”
6-7 Moses and Aaron told the People of Israel, “This evening you will know that it is God who brought you out of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the Glory of God. Yes, he’s listened to your complaints against him. You haven’t been complaining against us, you know, but against God.”
8 Moses said, “Since it will be God who gives you meat for your meal in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, it’s God who will have listened to your complaints against him. Who are we in all this? You haven’t been complaining to us—you’ve been complaining to God!”
9 Moses instructed Aaron: “Tell the whole company of Israel: ‘Come near to God. He’s heard your complaints.’”
10 When Aaron gave out the instructions to the whole company of Israel, they turned to face the wilderness. And there it was: the Glory of God visible in the Cloud.
11-12 God spoke to Moses, “I’ve listened to the complaints of the Israelites. Now tell them: ‘At dusk you will eat meat and at dawn you’ll eat your fill of bread; and you’ll realize that I am God, your God.’”
13-15 That evening quail flew in and covered the camp and in the morning there was a layer of dew all over the camp. When the layer of dew had lifted, there on the wilderness ground was a fine flaky something, fine as frost on the ground. The Israelites took one look and said to one another, man-hu (What is it?). They had no idea what it was.
15-16 So Moses told them, “It’s the bread God has given you to eat. And these are God’s instructions: ‘Gather enough for each person, about two quarts per person; gather enough for everyone in your tent.’”
“The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness.” Temple Beth Shalom developed a voice mail system for dealing with this kind of thing. “Thank you for calling. If you’re calling from a touch tone phone and would like our service schedule, please press one. For membership information, press two. To complain to the rabbi, press three. To complain about the rabbi, press four, five, or six.”
“The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron out there in the wilderness.” After all, what had Moses done for them lately? He had only left his comfortable and obscure life as a sheepherder in Midian, followed a voice he heard from a burning bush to confront the most powerful man in the world, usher his people across the Red Sea, turn bitter water into sweet, and even gave them a vacation to the original Palm Springs. Yes, soon after crossing into freedom-land, they came to a place with 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees, where they “vacationed” for six weeks. “Yes, we’ve been there and done that. But, what have you done for us lately?”
Moses took their complaints to God, added a few of his own about ungrateful people, and retorted back, “You know, when you complain against me, you’re really complaining against God. And you don’t want to do that, do you?” Moses clearly hadn’t been to customer management school, because if he had:
And he did. In addition to God’s promise to provide manna, God promised quail every day. But couldn’t we have chicken instead?
And yet, it really isn’t my place to criticize people for being hungry and thirsty and frightened. Or ungrateful. They were truly at the mercy of God. It’s hard to know what that feels like. The bigger question is why I do it every day? How many days go by that I don’t find something about which to grumble, gripe, groan, murmur – or down right complain about? Even though I have everything I need – every day.
I shouldn’t blame and point fingers at the Israelites and say they shouldn’t complain. Think of their existence under Pharaoh, hundreds of years of Pharaohs. Naturally, they picked up his habits. They existed as an example that even when the Pharaohs had more than enough, they wanted more, or rather, demanded more. Walter Brueggemann describes this is how the Israelites became slaves in the first place.
Because Joseph foresaw a great famine, Egypt built barns and storehouses, so much so that they became the great superpower of its time. As a result, Egypt had more than enough and saved their neighbors from starvation. We might hear that and think they had mercy upon their neighbors. But Egypt didn’t have mercy on their neighbors, they bankrupted them. Pharaoh demanded that Joseph ask hungry people, “Where’s your collateral?” The first year they gave up their cattle. The second year they gave up their land. The third year, they had no collateral left but themselves. They descended into slavery as the result of debt, a trade deal for survival from which there was no escape, an economic transaction to avoid starvation with someone who never believed he had enough. Brueggemann said, “by the end of Genesis 47, Pharaoh owned all the land except that belonging to the priests,” because, after all, “he needed somebody to bless” what he was doing.
So now, after 500 years, thanks to Moses, the children of Israel are free, and out in the wilderness with too much time on their hands, looking back and thinking, “Should we have really left? All of the world’s riches are in Egypt and with the Pharaoh.” Fish, cucumber, leeks, onions…
How many people falsely equate wealth with divine blessing? In Egypt they could see all the ostentatious displays, even if it wasn’t theirs. But now, they look out into the emptiness of the wilderness and think there can’t be enough for them. Let’s go back, not realizing that if they went back, it would have been to Make Egypt Great Again. The Israelites would see no economic benefit for themselves, only to continue to further enrich the Pharaoh. But they might have gotten an overpriced red MEGA hat (Make Egypt Great Again).
Out there in the vast wilderness, God heard their cries and began providing the Israelites with manna every day. It addition to their complaining, it’s not surprising that some people tried to take more than they needed. That’s what Pharaoh would have taught them to do. But two things happened. When people tried to hoard manna, they discovered in the morning that their excess was rotten and had a terrible sour smell. But those who hadn’t taken enough found themselves with exactly enough. Both had exactly enough. Every day. Just like today. God provides. Exactly enough. Every day. Which sounds like a good place to say, Amen.
Except, something’s not quite right. It’s one thing for me as a white, English-speaking man in America to say God provides exactly enough every day because I do have exactly enough every day. Well, let’s be honest. Most of us have more than enough.
So then, tell me, what am I to say to the family living behind the fence of a refugee camp for years? What about countries suffering from famine and starvation today? What are we to say to those who don’t have enough to feed their families, so they risk their lives to cross into our country in order to pick the cucumbers, leeks and onions that grace our dinner table every night?
God provides enough? It makes God sound like a fraud. It sounds like God makes promises that God doesn’t keep. But if God does provide enough, which I believe, then what’s going on?
There’s a line in our communion liturgy that says, “We bless you for the beauty and bounty of the earth and for the vision of the day when sharing by all will mean scarcity for none.” There is enough. There’s just not enough sharing. Or, rather, a system of justice and equity. That lifts the poor and constrains the greedy.
It’s not surprising that the Israelites didn’t understand what “enough” meant. After all, do we? Were they ungrateful complainers? Are we? They are both difficult lessons to unlearn habits we aren’t even aware of, just like white privilege.
But this pandemic is teaching us some even more difficult lessons. During this time of uncertainty, of fear, of wishing we could go back even though “back” wasn’t so great, but at least it was normal. A time of stock market highs and record unemployment – and the rich complaining about people making too much money on unemployment… And now Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s too much. We have enough on our plate.
All of it is like wandering in a wilderness of in between spaces – 40 days to the election, in between the election and how many more days to the election results, anticipating chaos or calm, and imagining 79 more days to inauguration, or 4 more years of hell, all the while waiting for a vaccine, or hoping there is one. That’s a lot of lessons! You know what, perhaps we do understand what it means to be completely at the mercy of God.
And if that’s true, does God still provide manna today? Perhaps not some flaky white substance on the grass every morning, but I do believe that:
This day and every one of the next 44 days. And 79 more days. And 365 after that. Exactly enough and even enough to share.
Photo is from Death Valley, December 2019, by David Bahr
 Walter Brueggemann, “The Litany of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity,” The Christian Century, 1999
Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
September 13, 2020
“Go Forward and Live or Turn Back and Die”
Exodus 14: 19-31 – The Message
19-20 The angel of God that had been leading the camp of Israel now shifted and got behind them. And the Pillar of Cloud that had been in front also shifted to the rear. The Cloud was now between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. The Cloud enshrouded one camp in darkness and flooded the other with light. The two camps didn’t come near each other all night.
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and God, with a terrific east wind all night long, made the sea go back. He made the sea dry ground. The seawaters split.
22-25 The Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground with the waters a wall to the right and to the left. The Egyptians came after them in full pursuit, every horse and chariot and driver of Pharaoh racing into the middle of the sea. It was now the morning watch. God looked down from the Pillar of Fire and Cloud on the Egyptian army and threw them into a panic. He clogged the wheels of their chariots; they were stuck in the mud.
The Egyptians said, “Run from Israel! God is fighting on their side and against Egypt!”
26 God said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea and the waters will come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots, over their horsemen.”
27-28 Moses stretched his hand out over the sea: As the day broke and the Egyptians were running, the sea returned to its place as before. God dumped the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. The waters returned, drowning the chariots and riders of Pharaoh’s army that had chased after Israel into the sea. Not one of them survived.
29-31 But the Israelites walked right through the middle of the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall to the right and to the left. God delivered Israel that day from the oppression of the Egyptians. And Israel looked at the Egyptian dead, washed up on the shore of the sea, and realized the tremendous power that God brought against the Egyptians. The people were in reverent awe before God and trusted in God and his servant Moses.
(After watching a clip from the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments.) I couldn’t resist showing the scene of Charlton Heston raising his hand over his head to part the Red Sea. It’s a little kitschy and over the top, but it certainly makes the point about the miraculous nature of their escape from slavery. In fact, I find it more compelling than such rational explanations that a stiff wind all night dried marshy land making it possible for people to walk across while the heavy chariots got caught up in the underlying mud. Sure, it may have been possible, but I root for the triumph of the impossible. But how they got across isn’t as important as the fundamental message: “Once you were slaves in Egypt, and now you are free.” That’s more than walking with wet shoes. It takes God for that to happen.
They were trapped. On one side, water prevented their escape, and on the other side, 600 rapidly approaching Egyptian army chariots. Imagine hearing the sound, seeing the dust rise from miles away, feeling the rumbling of the ground as those chariots advanced. Just before our passage today, verse 10 says, “They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, “Weren’t the cemeteries in Egypt large enough? Did you have to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us? Back in Egypt we told you, ‘Leave us alone—we’re better off as slaves than as corpses in the wilderness.’”
But, of what were they really afraid? Was it death or freedom? For those who had never experienced it before, what is that thing called freedom?
In 1937, 2,300 formerly enslaved African Americans were interviewed as part of the depression-era Federal Writer’s Project. 88-year-old Mary Crane said she was 14 years old “when President Lincoln set us all free.” She said, “I’m telling you right when I say that my folks and friends did not regard freedom as an ‘unmixed blessing.’”
Ezra Adams said, “I don’t remember when I first regarded myself as ‘free.’ Many of us just “didn’t understand what it was all about.”
Daniel Waring said, “The former slaves where I lived knew they had an abundance of freedom, but they could not eat, wear, or sleep in it. They soon learned that freedom is nothing unless you have something to live in and a place to call home.”
Most of us know that Harriet Tubman was known as the Moses of her people. And you may recall she carried a gun with her as she led groups along the Underground Railroad. Not just to protect from slave patrols but to keep those who were afraid from turning back. Sometimes she threatened, “If you don’t follow me, I’m going to kill you. Go forward and live or turn back and die.”
Standing at the water’s edge, the escaping Hebrews cried out to return to what was familiar, even though it was bondage. Then the sea parted. They crossed and “The prophet Miriam took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her dancing. Miriam sang: ‘horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’” It’s the earliest recorded song in the Bible.
But their first day of freedom wasn’t even over yet before they began to reminisce, “Remember the fish we used to eat for nothing? The cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic… but now?” Again, that was the same day as their miraculous crossing over. But of course, as Daniel Waring testified from personal experience, you can’t eat, wear, or sleep in freedom.
Freedom is center stage in many of our lives right now. Some people are demanding freedom from the tyranny of wearing masks. Some people are demanding freedom from getting shot by police. Some people just want freedom from quarantine to hug, to gather with friends. And, of course, to return to such normal routines as coming home on Homecoming Sunday. I recognize not all of these examples are equal. But it’s also not right to judge some grieving as worse than others. Grief is grief. Just like fear.
The Hebrews were now free. From slavery. From Egypt. Now the question is, for what? In their fears, freedom meant hunger, even though the promise was a land flowing with milk and honey. But of course, they didn’t know it would take 40 years to get there because it would take them 40 years to unlearn a lifetime of bondage.
Ask someone released from prison. Freedom from addiction. Freedom from an abuser can be hard if it’s all you’ve ever known. Oppression. Cruelty. Tyranny. How long does it take for a society finally free from a tyrant to recover? And not do it again.
Note that God’s great liberation narrative is always freedom from oppression, not accommodation to it. We don’t need tips and tricks for surviving. God’s great liberation narrative, “the primal, most simple, most elemental, and non-negotiable story at the heart of biblical faith,” as Walter Brueggemann describes the Exodus; God’s great liberation narrative is freedom from cruelty, not a series of lessons in how to live with it. But freedom from means freedom for something. And that’s hard. Harder than going back. It’s sacrificial. It’s for a purpose. What was God’s liberative purpose in opening the sea for them? And what liberation is God seeking for our world today?
Out in the wilderness, the former slaves had to learn to turn away from the tyranny of Pharaoh and resist the temptation to recreate it among themselves. In the place of Pharaoh’s wealth and absolute power, God gave them “some of the most radical socioeconomic laws in human history.” As Marcus Borg describes it, “no interest was to be charged on loans to each other. Every Sabbath year, every seventh year, all debts owed to each other were to be forgiven and any slaves they collected were to be released. Every Jubilee year, every 50th year, all agricultural land was to be returned at no cost to the original family of ownership. When they settled the land, every family was given a plot. Over time, families that ran into difficulties sometimes lost their land because of debt. In the Jubilee year, the land was to be restored to its original owner.”
In other words, they were freed from ancient systems built on injustice and domination. And with their freedom they were to create shalom – a world of wellbeing, peace, and wholeness. A world Jesus would describe as the Kingdom of God. A world we describe as open, inclusive, just, and compassionate.
What does all of this say to the church on Homecoming Sunday? In its best sense, Homecoming means going back, telling stories, laughing, reminiscing… and at Park Hill, the youth group cooking hot dogs. Lance in his Black Panther costume. It’s a regrouping and regathering in one place to be sent back into the world in courage and peace. Of course, not everyone’s home or childhood was peaceful and loving, so returning home isn’t equally nostalgic for everyone.
In its idealized sense, Homecoming may be a reminder of better times. It’s not unusual for some churches that after years of decline, its forward mission is actually a retreat, trying to recreate what worked well decades ago instead crossing the sea to freedom-land. Remember when the youth group sold those cucumbers and leeks and onions…
As we worship from home today, it may feel like the momentum of our church’s steady forward mission has been put on forced retreat. But, in contrast, instead of looking back and hoping for a return to what we once were, God is leading us to become something we’ve never been before, something more than we could imagine. Going forward, our congregation will be more than those who get in their car to drive to church, or did so when they lived here. Not one place, but one people. As of today, we are the church home of people no matter where their home is located. That’s a new concept. One that liberates us from location to our shared vocation as people who seek a world that is open, inclusive, just, and compassionate. Still in Park Hill, but now also everywhere that Park Hill lives.
It’ll take some time to get used to this new identity. But God will make a way for us. It may not take the power of Charlton Heston raising his hand, but it will require more of us than a dry-cleaning bill for our shoes if we are to fully include more than just those we can wave at in the next pew. We certainly didn’t know it then, but the intentionality we gave to building relationships last fall has prepared us for this grand experiment in being church – before, during, and long after the pandemic. And I believe that building relationships is that which will heal our nation when we’ve escaped the latest tyrant named Pharaoh.
I love being the