Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dry times on the journey

The Old Testament reading from Sunday was Deuteronomy 34: 1-12 in which Moses and his band of 'not so merry' men and women and children finally (nearly) complete their journey across the desert. They have crossed the plains of Moab and Moses climbs up Mount Nebo, "and the Lord showed him the whole land." The Lord shows Moses the Promised land that had been dreamed of for those forty days in the wilderness. "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying 'I will give it to your descendents'; I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over there." You may remember that Moses had disobeyed the Lord earlier in the journey, and so the consequence was that Moses would not make it to the Promised Land.

Moses was an incredible leader, and the stories about him, from the babe in the basket, to the burning bush to the plagues on Egypt, to the crossing of the Red (reed) Sea, to the many years in the desert, Moses is worthy of study, reflection, and prayer.

What is most interesting to me about Moses on this day, is his time in the wilderness, in those dry patches of the journey when most of the people around him were really having a tough time. Walking through the desert, leading the people using whatever charisma and enthusiasm that he could muster. In our own time today, a time of financial loss and uncertainty about the future, a time of political attacks and meanness, a time of rapid change, a time that is swirling with the pace of change and growth, a time when the chasm between wealth and poor is growing ever bigger - this is a time to take time to recognize that we may be entering a kind of desert place. We may, indeed, be entering a dry time on the journey. Our assumptions about many things are being called into question, and we may, like the wandering Israelites, need to bind ourselves one to another, and bind ourselves to God.

This is not a sentimental nor a simplistic notion, rather, the story of our ancestors can be instructive as we enter dry times - and there are stories, and spiritualities, and theologies that emerge from others' dry times which can aid us in even this dry time.

Turning to the desert fathers and mothers and their writings is one place to begin. Another, is to consider deeply the greatest commandment - and its implications:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22: 34-46)

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

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