Exodus 13: 17-22 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer... Instead, God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea… The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
It has been an interesting summer with our son as he transitions out of pre-school and prepares for Bridge-Kindergarten (!). Weekly camp and swimming lessons with some of his pre-school friends has helped ease the transition. But he will not be spending as much time with many of those friends in the fall, and he is sad about that. He is also anxious about meeting the new kids and new teachers in Bridge-K, and being one of the “Bobcat” leaders (the older kids). So there has been a lot of challenging behavior and conversation recently. “Mommy” he said to me as we processed the consequences of some of that behavior this week. “I am afraid it is going to be different.”
Our son is growing and moving into a new developmental phase in his life. And yes, “It’s going to be different” (for him and for us). The energy of summer is in full-bloom right now. Vacation, parties, barbecues, and bingo is on our minds. But fall is going to start showing up around the edges in a few weeks and “It’s going to be different.” Here at church, our neighborhood is changing (again). Real estate speculators are in our midst, and condo complexes and shops are being planned up and down the Mission Blvd. corridor and construction has begun in some places. And yes, “it’s going to be different.” South Hayward is becoming more and more diverse and our Immigrant, Muslim, and Sikh, neighbors are deeply anxious about the troubling things going on in our nation. And there is no question, “It’s going to be different.” Meanwhile here at UCH, some of us are getting older and noticing that we aren’t able to lift those heavy tables and boxes like we did at the flea market a decade ago, and we have more physical challenges and not quite as much energy. So we are trying some new things. And yes, there’s no doubt, “It’s going to be different.”
Our roundabout Designated Term wilderness journey at UCH is taking us through many kinds of terrain. Sometimes our “yoke is easy and our burden light.” And sometimes our trail is rocky and uphill with no shade or water in sight. As we reflect and journey together, we learn that in some ways we are still in bondage in Egypt. In other ways we are in the middle of the wilderness. And in yet others, we are even catching glimpses of the “promised land.” Even though we have intentionally embraced this journey, even though we have made a commitment to be open to new things, there is no question, “It will continue to be different.”
I think it’s really important that we take some time to rest in the shade as we begin this new phase of journeying (into vision, assets, and action). We won’t rest long. But we need to celebrate the great distance we have come together. This is not the same beloved community I came to as Interim Minister. It is not the same community you came to (whenever you came). While we rest under the shade trees, have a drink, and feel the joy in our bones at this oasis, it is important to give thanks to God and to each other for what we have and are accomplishing.
I think this is important to keep in mind too. No matter where we journey, or what adventures and changes we resist and embrace, our Still-Speaking God promises that we will be comforted. God will be giving us light and shade, being a Still Speaking “pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.” And probably the best news is that God promises to never leave us. God declares that her/his place is with us. It is here as we rest and breathe deeply that we are called to affirm that our place is in the presence of the Holy, whether the sun is blazing and the trail is uphill, the breezes are pleasantly blowing and we are enjoying a cool drink, or the going is hard and it is so dark we can’t see our hands in front of our faces.
I am blessed to be your Minister and Teacher as we travel this “roundabout way.” I hope that God shows up for you, no matter what kind of road you are traveling this week.
I will see you in worship! Much Love, Rev. Jeanne