No Turning Back
Numbers 14:4 (NRSV)
14 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”
I believe we’ve reached the point of no return.
I keep thinking how strange it is that it’s only been 4 full days of lockdown, but already I’ve adapted to this as a new normal. I go outside once a day. I practice my bass once a day. I’m in every evening. What was, at first, a novelty, has quickly become routine.
The same is true for church life.
What was unthinkable only a few weeks ago is now regular. I wrote before that the global church is working out what church looks like now. And it would be easy to anticipate that, whenever this might end, that we would return to business as usual, in all aspects of life.
I can’t help but associate with the Israelites at the moment – it feels like we’ve entered an unknown wilderness. That said, what the Israelites left behind was slavery, whereas we have merely had a change of lifestyle. We do, however, share in the uncertainty and the deep need for faith in this time.
As one follows the story of the Exodus and the journey to the Promised Land, there are many points, typified by the passage from Numbers that starts this post, when some of the Israelites are wanting to go back, losing the progress they’d made and the freedom they’d been led into.
When I think about the future of the church, I fear that we might settle for just going back to the way things were before. We need to take stock of what our circumstances have brought to our attention; our shortcomings, our opportunities. To some extent, we have been offered freedom from the restraints of our previous ways. Not that all of them necessarily need changing- there is lots that we do that is great.
It would be remiss of us to fail to listen to God over this period of enforced challenge. I think that, as we listen to God, He is leading us forward, to a new place; one full of the best of what we do, combined with our learned wisdom from this time.
We could communicate better, we could be better connected with our local community, we could be giving more time to seek out the vulnerable of our society and work with them to meet their needs. These are things we are beginning to see come to the forefront of our ministry as a church- and rightfully so.
I think we have gone past the point of no return. Just like the Israelites, we find ourselves in unknown territory. And just like them, we have to choose to trust in God through this time, follow God closely and step fully into whatever God has in store for us, His Church, next.