The next three weeks, we’ll be focusing on the three stories that gives shape to Vacation Bible School, which happens at the end of July. This week corresponds with the the first night and the theme for the night—and our’s today— is Move.
- First, some initial thoughts on Move that came about when I began preparing:
Move is a good action word. Scripture is clear in that the role of the Holy Spirit (G-Force, using the language and title of VBS), does prompt us be be about holy activity.
- As a good Methodist and a good (liberal) mainline Protestant, this seems to come naturally to us. We want to do something. We want to make the world a better place, we want to make the world holier, more loving. I recently read that a hotel worker at the site of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference said to fellow coworkers, “Well, I’m ready to become a United Methodist. They sound like normal people who want to make the world a better place.”
- Since that comes so naturally, immediately right beyond this initial, “hey, this seems to fit well” thought is another…. one that says, “No. pause.” And that pause comes from two directions. First, the critique that we live in a fast-paced-enough society that does not need any further encouragement to get busier or more fast paced. There’s also the acknowledgement that many find reflective, contemplative spiritual practices as healthy corrective. But then I remember that stillness and activity are two sides of the same coin. We are still to wait for God’s prompting and call to act; when we move, we are listening for what to hold before God in our stillness.
So maybe there is some way to respond to this Scripture, in a way that doesn’t totally reinforce what we’re already doing, while also not completely dismissing this motion of movement.
First, before the call came from God, Moses had not only run for his life, but the life he found was a pretty decent one. He married, and had to one degree or another, been taken into his Father-in-law’s family and business. Many times, when the call of God appears, we realize that what we are currently doing, though it may have a good purpose—maybe even the purpose of preparing us for what God has in store—the current life is not longer satisfying. With Moses’ case, there’s even the point that what we are about before God’s call comes can distract or deafen us to God’s voice. Moses was so focused on his life and his work that it took an unmistakable sign to know that God was calling him to do a new thing.
There’s also this notion that Moses’ call was not a call to any old action in any general direction—not just any old movement will do. No, God called Moses to move in a particular direction, for a particular purpose. God called Moses to return the Egypt. And he was sent to Egypt in order to tell God’s people that they had been heard, that they had not been forgotten, and that a new thing was about to begin.
Also, the call to move, though specific, is not one that that has everything fleshed out. Sure Moses knew we was to be about the business of returning to Egypt to set God’s people free. He knew we was going to have to confront Pharoah. He knew he was going to have to gain the Hebrew’s trust. He knew there was an end destination. But beyond that, I’m not sure how much of the details Moses actually knew, and as many can testify, that’s probably not a bad thing!
Church—we are not called to simply be but to move. And just like Moses, we are to move in a specific direction for a specific purpose—making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Using the same three reflection points about Moses and thinking about our congregation, we need to remember that, though we’re in the process of discerning whether God is calling us to do a new thing, all that has come before is not a waste. Just like Moses’ life prior to calling proved formative, so has this congregation’s to date. And, like Moses attending to Jethro’s herd, maybe in our attempts to continue on what we think our lot in life is, we are deaf to God’s invitation to a new thing. And maybe a cancelled APS gym contract, a leaking roof, and hanging-on-for-dear-life boilers and cooling towers, crumbling parking lots and trees that continually seem to be at the end of their healthy lives are not something we try to ignore, hope it will go away, or pray for the non-profit version of an angel investor. Maybe these confluences of circumstances is akin to our burning bush. While I’m not one who ascribes too terribly much to Providence, and not at all to Holy good luck, I am enough of a mystic believe that when things happen, many times sequences of events are not accidental or circumstantial.
Also, if we choose to listen, hear, ponder the nature of this calling from God, whatever it turns out to be, we are not set adrift. God’s invitation to move is not like Forrest Gump and his willy-nilly notion to simply begin running.. in no particular direction, for no particular duration. God’s call to us is to seek and be in ministry in this community in a sustainable way. And it seems that our calling is to the people who do not know Jesus in a way that brings about transformation, who think the church is irrelevant, not for them.
And just like Moses didn’t know what was going to happen to him, I cannot stand here today and tell you for certain that I know what we’ll look like in a year, in 18 months, in 2 years… in 10 years, for that matter. I know that, eventually, things will change—and that’s a good thing because that is the way God operates. God is dynamic. God moves us from stillness to activity, from anxiety to confidence, from despair to hope, from sadness to joy. I also know we’ll go together–and again both because I believe that’s how God operates but its also a value this congregation holds dear We also go resourced by God with what we need to… not for forever, but for right now (remember the daily mana and quail).
Move. Our first G-Force theme. Quite appropriate for this lifestage of our congregation, don’t you think?