Out of Egypt, Into the Wilderness
Pentecost 19 – Narrative Lectionary 1
September 30, 2019
Grace, Mankato, MN
Exodus 14.5-7, 10-14, 21-29
It’s easy to judge the Israelites of the exodus story, a people who cry for freedom then blink when it seems at hand. How can they possibly go back to a life of oppressive slavery? A psychologist might diagnose it as the “Stockholm Syndrome,” where captives begin to sympathize with their captors. A sociologist in terms of political systems that binds us so tightly to our oppressors that we think our condition is normal and what we deserve. As true as those may be, a theologian would frame it in terms of their relationship with God. After 400 years in Egypt, their experience with the God they cry out to is tenuous at best.
And so God’s chosen people are afraid. They can’t see that God has made them a numerous people as God promised. Understandably, right now they don’t feel like a chosen people through whom God has said is going to bless all peoples of the world. They are also getting mixed messages. Moses is telling them to be still and the Lord is telling them to get moving, to trust him. Deathly waters are piled up on both sides of them, the pillar of cloud they’d hope would lead them is behind them, cutting off their way back, and the frightening uncertain wilderness lies ahead.
Like many of you, I’ve been following the Kavanaugh hearings as well as the sentencing of Bill Cosby. As we know all too well, these are only two examples in a long line of sexual abuse allegations over the past few years. To my shame, I’ve not spoken publicly about the “#MeToo” movement, I think because as a as a white male wondered if what I could say. But mostly I haven’t said anything because I have been trying to understand women’s experiences. I have been listening, and because of today’s text I’m starting to get an inkling of women’s situations.
As I listen, I hear stories of how an oppressive society and culture discounts them and what has happened to them. It is impossible for women to go back and undo what has been done, yet they are often stuck there. The memories threaten to drown them and the recriminations at hand could overwhelm them. The wilderness of disclosure that they are pushed to enter is fraught with danger and uncertainty. Women who have endured abuse and worse need us to help them take steps onto dry land, to walk with them into the wilderness.
It’s important to acknowledge that for over 130 years the people of Grace have stepped out in faith. God has asked us over and over again to leave some things behind so God can recreate us into a new people. Because we’ve taken those steps, even and often imperfectly, we trust God will bring us through. We can walk with each other during our broken times, just as we have walked with our shelter guests this past winter and will do so again this winter. And if God prompts us, we can walk others who need encouragement to enter the wilderness because that’s what we do. We can do so through the power of love of Jesus Christ who enters the wilderness, both with us and on our behalf. Thanks be to God. Amen.