“Moses called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’”
-From Exodus 17:1-7
I’ve had a lot of sympathy with the Israelites wandering in the desert in recent weeks. I’ve been grateful these are the lessons that the lectionary has gifted us during these upended times. I’m grateful to be reminded that the path to the promised land is not a straight journey and the tendency is to look back with longing at our places of imprisonment. It’s particularly hard to find oneself wandering if you didn’t perceive yourself in need of freeing. If you like to load up your refrigerator and freezer with enough food to last weeks at a time (guilty as charged - I blame my Grandma Chown), manna is not comfort food. As the grumbling gets louder and the novelty is fully worn off, it is natural to say, “is the Lord among us or not?” This question does not indicate a lack of faith, but rather names our pain and isolation and fear that perhaps God isn’t working in the ways we want and need.
God has a funny way of working in our lives in ways that we only see in hindsight. I won’t make the obvious joke about it being 20/20 - oops, I did. But I do think that there is something powerful about the experience of wandering. It’s not pleasant. And we become immediately aware of our own limits in terms of patience, control, or even where our places of idolatry reside. But the discomfort of the journey doesn’t mean the Lord isn’t present, it means we are invited to pray for new ways of seeing and reliance on the One who loves us as beloved children.
We have been away from one another too long. We have as a congregation made that sacrifice to wander in isolation, to be cautious, and pay attention to the public health data in our city. I’m grateful for the Vestry and the working group that has been so faithful, as we continue to cry out, “How long?” The biblical version of, “are we there yet?” I am cautiously optimistic that we have some new opportunities on the horizon in October. We will start with a “drive-through” Blessing of the Animals in our parking lot on Sunday, October 4 from 4-6pm. Then for the rest of the month we will experiment with a Wednesday evening and Sunday evening in-person service at 5.30pm. We have protocols and sign up information along with a video coming to you soon. You will need to register before the service to ensure we can appropriately physically distance ourselves. If you are not comfortable with in-person services at the church, we will have options for small, outdoor services for those who are at higher risk. Look at your mail and stay tuned for an instructional video. This is all predicated on the numbers staying in a safe zone. If we have learned anything in this time it is that planning is something that needs to be nimble and flexible. I remain grateful for this community and anticipate with hope the opportunity for these modest modes of regathering.