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Wilderness

June 13, 2020

“They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.” Exodus 19:2

Three moons after walking on dry ground through the Red Sea, the Israelites entered the wilderness of Sinai. They camped at the foot of the mountain upon which the God who saved them would gift them with the Ten Commandments. Our Old Testament passage for tomorrow shows us Israel in an in-between time. They have been set free from Egypt, but they are not yet in the Promised Land. They are in the wilderness.

We, too, find ourselves in the wilderness. We have already been set free in Christ. This is an accomplishment fully realized. But we are not yet in the Promised Land of God’s Kingdom. We are already forgiven and sin has no power over us. But we are still in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We are on the journey from one place to the next, and the wilderness in between can be wild and daunting.

Wilderness is where we are right now. The killing of George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and…) has awaked us more deeply to the longstanding reality of racism, injustice, and oppression experienced by people of color. These structural sins, hardwired into our nation’s fabric, are showing more clearly. But a growing awareness does not mean we’ve gotten where we need to go. We are in the wilderness, searching for the right responses. It’s okay that there is confusion and uncertainty. One thing we can’t do is stop moving forward.

The wilderness can be a difficult place. It makes me aware that not only is there sin out there, there is sin in here. In my heart. In my life. I am complicit. I benefit from the way the scales are tilted; I have done too little to right these wrongs. But I am forgiven, too. The God who led the people out of Egypt journeyed with them through the wilderness. This same God was incarnate in Jesus Christ and through him has conquered death. The God of life will continue to journey with us. This God has stolen the power of death and invites us to step into a way of life that values life.

The condition of being in Christ means that we are always being forgiven, always being set free. We are already where we need to be; at the same time, we have a long way to go. But we’ll get there, fellow sinners. You are forgiven. Follow Jesus as he leads us to a better future, a world more like the one to come in which divisions are broken down, structures and systems are overthrown, and people learn to live together with peace, justice, and equity for all.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of new life, we confess our sins to you. Our sisters and brothers have not mattered to us nearly as much as they matter to you. Forgive us, Lord. Free us again to walk in your ways and take up your work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: The desert wilderness of Joshua Tree National Park, July 17, 2019. Photo credit: me.

From → COVID-19

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