Do you know why the Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40 years?
Because even then men wouldn't ask for directions.
It is a joke of course, one that makes light of a stereotyped vision of how men and women operate differently. But the joke came to mind recently because sometimes life feels like one journey through the wilderness after another. Sometimes we wonder when, or if, we will reach the Promised Land. Do we know which way we are going?
I suspect that is just what those ancient Israelites felt like from time to time. They had been told that there was something good to come but they just couldn't seem to get there. You have to think that they wondered if this Moses really knew how to get there. Did he have a map and directions?
In his book Reading the Bible Again for the First Time Marcus Borg suggests that the Exodus story is one of the 3 “meta-stories” of Scripture. It is one of the 3 basic stories that builds the foundation of Scriptural faith. And as such it is not something that happened once, it is an experience that echoes throughout the history of the faithful. Those elements of wandering, promise, and liberation continue to make up part of our story.
This October Riverview turns 55. Over those years there have been times of wilderness wandering and times of knowing we were in the Promised Land. Over those years there have been times when we knew where were going, times when we were pretty sure, and times when the road ahead was pretty well lost in the fog. When the road is lost in the fog, what happens?
So where are our wanderings taking us here in 2008? What Promised Land is in our future? I honestly wish I could say I knew. But I can't. I don't know what liberation will bring to Atikokan and Riverview. Mind you, I am not always sure Moses and the people knew what the Promised Land would be either. They just knew it was out there. They lived in hope. They lived in hope that they would get there someday.
So that is our task today. As we join with our neighbours to struggle with an economy that is struggling we live in hope. As we wonder how to keep providing ministry despite rising costs and sometimes dwindling energy we live in hope. As we try to re-vision what it means to be a community of faith in a rapidly changing world we live in hope. We hope for liberation. We hope for the time of abundance. We hope for that time when God's justice and peace are a reality not only here but around the world. We are people of hope.
As we start off into another year where we tell again the story of a child in a manger, a cross on a hill, an empty tomb, and a new community may hope carry us forward. In the face of a world of uncertainty, of a time of wandering in the wilderness, may hope in the Promise keep us walking. And may the God of hope, the God of promise walk with us as support and guide. And let's try to remember to stop and ask God for directions so we can keep a clearer idea of where it is we are supposed to be going.
Because we really don't want to wander around for 40 years do we?