If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, then walk.
If you can’t walk, then crawl,
but by all means, keep moving.
Martin Luther King Jr.
There seems so much excitement around as NSW begins to loosen restrictions and allow some greater freedoms for people. There is also a lot of anxiety and fear, as well as some people wondering what all the fuss is about. As I read the news, I see articles about “Freedom Day,” and “what it will look like when Sydney emerges from lockdown,” and so on. Reading deeper, it doesn’t take much time before it becomes apparent that people view “freedom” very differently. For some, it is all tied up in ‘what I can do,’ and for others, it seems to be more about ‘how do we navigate this new post-pandemic landscape together.’ For many it will be a mixture of both, and probably much more.
The book of Exodus tells the story of the Hebrew people escaping slavery in Egypt and travelling to the Promised Land. It seems very easy and natural to pull out the highlight moments, the key events through which God was clearly and actively present: the ten plagues in Egypt, the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, water pouring forth from a rock, and manna and quails provided daily in the wilderness. These are very significant events, sharp reminders to the people that they were not on their own and God had a purpose for them. Yet time and again my focus has been drawn away from these “big moments” to the simple story of journey — a story that is punctuated with these events, yet pays deeper attention to the step-by-step and day-by-day pilgrimage: learning to be with God.
Released from slavery by a Pharaoh who came to see them as a threat, this disparate group of once-slaves set off with what I imagine to be great excitement. Alongside some anxiety and fear, and perhaps even some ambivalence. On the way, they had to learn to become a nation, the Israelites. On the way, they had to learn who they were as God’s people, and how to live as a community. On the way, God was shaping them for the future they were called to inhabit.
Also, on the way the people grumbled. Their corporate memory was short as they lamented they had it better in Egypt. So, they had to learn they could not go back. Neither could they stay where they were, a nomadic people in the wilderness, for God would not remain with them there. God was constantly leading them on, reminding them of their identity as God’s people, and of their purpose, to be a light to all nations. They had to learn that God was with them in their moving forward as they headed toward the Promised Land.
Our Basis of Union is a constant reminder to us that we “belong to the people of God on the way to the promised end” (para 18). So, as restrictions begin to ease across NSW this week, I am reminded of a few things. I am reminded that we cannot go back to what we were pre-pandemic. Neither can we stay where we are now for the world around us is changing and we will be left behind. The only way for us to go is forward. Toward whatever ‘promised end’ God has in store for us.
It seems fair and appropriate that we are filled with excitement, tempered by fear and anxiety, and possibly even moments of ambivalence. Especially if, like the Hebrew people leaving Egypt, we have no clear idea of what our promised goal might be. But this we know: God is with us on the journey, leading us forward. God is shaping us as God’s beloved people, calling us to be a light to the nations.
God has a goal and a purpose for us, so let us put one foot in front of the other on this journey out of lockdown, and learn and re-learn how to be with God.
Blessings and Peace,