September 20, 2020

We’re Lost and it’s Your Fault!” The Rev. Dr. Teresa Dulyea-Parker, Regional Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for Illinois and Wisconsin

READING

Exodus 16:2-15

2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”

6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?”

8 And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him-what are we? Your complaining is not against us but” against the Lord.

9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.'”

10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.'”

13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.

14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.

15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

Pray with me: O God, You alone are our salvation. Help us to be open to Your word, soften our hearts and heads to listen for Your wisdom. For it is Your way that brings blessing. Amen.

REFLECTION

Good Morning. It’s good to be with you again. Just a reminder for those who may not have heard, you and I, and another 133 congregations are connected in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Illinois and Wisconsin. The very newest is Happy Christian Church. (Always wanted one Happy Church.)

We are part of a greater movement for wholeness in a fragmented world; and as part of the One body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s table as God has welcomed us.

Wholeness from the many parts, pieces and broken fragments of our lives;

Oneness of the Body of Christ—as Jesus prayed and as you emulate Disciple/UCC/Presbyterian covenant church.

Welcome—the kind of hospitality that is rooted in knowing you had no place, you were not welcome, but now you are home. (Your campaign—“finding our way home.”)

It’s the thing the former Hebrew slaves were looking for as they wandered in the wilderness. Moses, Aaron and Miriam had been great motivators calling them out of Egypt, standing up to Pharoah’s hard heartedness and stiff necked injustice, tending their every ritual need. They had a great exodus adventure, but now the reality was setting in. “Where are we? What are we doing here? Who packed the supplies? It’s a desert out here! Did you even think about what would happen next?—Moses, Aaron, Miriam? We’re lost and it’s all your fault.” They were afraid.

It helps to know that most of our Hebrew scripture (Torah) was written, gathered, re-interpreted through the experience of the Exile. Even the Exodus story, the primal experience (foundation) of the people re-visits the up-rooted, disorienting, terror of being ripped from home. There is no normal. We can’t even worship as we used to. Is it any wonder the people cry out, complain or give voice to their deepest fear, fatigue, and hopelessness? What will happen to us? “We’re all going to die.”

You and I are amid a time of fear, fatigue, and in danger of falling into hopelessness, too. What’s normal anymore? You know the list: covid-19, wildfires, hurricanes, climate crisis, racial injustice, and then Justice Ginsberg—and lack of coherent vision to bring us together in community and common purpose, despite are fears. And, then our Pastors are retiring.

You are not alone in this time of great change, transition and un-chosen transformation. Your Pastors are not abandoning you—after 23 years of pouring themselves out as servant of this congregation, they are choosing health, wholeness and well-being. It’s time. God bless them.

Your Steering Committee is working to prepare the way forward. You will find someone to walk with you. We are talking about an interim time—(pregnant and foundational) to answer questions about Vision, Mission, and creative expression of ministry that reflects who and who’s you are in this time. (We’re not in Egypt any more; or Kansas, Dorothy; or Normal. You  have the support of three judicatories (lucky you)—two are in conversation and committed to keeping a “progressive Christian community alive and well in Bloomington/Normal.”

Despite the judgmental tone of the LORD’s voice in the Exodus story (can’t they even remember who got them here), the action is compassion on their behalf. God hears their cries. God feeds them in the wilderness on bread and meat and quenches their thirst. Somehow, in terrifying wilderness journeys and traumatic exile—God helps the people survive. God’s plan is for them to prosper. God’s desire is for them to bear his/her name. God’s hope is in the light they will bring to the nations. God’s effort is for more wholeness/shalom to come into this world. God is steadfast in this Vision, even when we are lost in the wilderness. This is God’s plan for you, too. Even here, the Psalmist says, “God’s right hand will guide.”

Bread will greet your mornings, and protein your evenings, and cool living waters will refresh you when you need it most. You are not alone.

This is God’s plan. Amen.