Moving Forward: Giving It All

Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter

All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the Lord. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments. Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              – Exodus 35:21-22

I read the Bible through every year, a practice I love because every time I do I pick up on a small piece of Scripture that touches me, or teaches me, differently.  No matter how many times I’ve read it before.  A few days ago the passage above from Exodus really struck me, so much so that I had to close the (OK, well, it’s on my iPad) and sit with it for a while.  A long while.

All whose heart were stirred. All whose spirits were moved.  Both men and women, all whose heart were willing.

My guess – and from the rest of the passages that follow I think it’s true – is that this was not a minority of the people, but the vast majority.

What an incredibly beautiful thought.  The Israelites were in the desert, uncertain about their future, walking in fear as much as surety, no home to call their own, wandering toward a future that had been promised to them but one they honestly had no knowledge of, no vision of – it was merely a promise.

But it was promised to them by their God.

Don’t we feel like that as His people even today?  We know there’s a future; it’s been promised to us by our God, but – but – but – our churches are getting smaller and our church buildings need repair and we’re afraid to change (or we’re too comfortable to change) and yet we know we need to and yet – and yet – and yet –

In times of necessary change and transition, we look for the safe place, the known thing, the familiar practice – even if we know it holds us back. That sure thing should be the Word of God, the promise of God – not the practice of a church.  If we are brave enough to move our practice to meet the needs of the 21st century, while honoring God, as the church has done for more than 2000 years, this becomes a place of hope and promise instead of a place of fear.  Yes, it’s pain and promise at the same time.  Is that not what the Israelites likely felt in that uncertain place in the desert?

Stepping into that new place requires trust and risk and the belief – the promise – that even when we get it wrong, we are loved and held by a faithful God. Yes, we have to let go of the familiar and the comfortable, or at least some of it. Just like winter is leading on to spring. We don’t yet see what will bloom – but we trust it will.

Would that our hearts be stirred and our spirits moved and our hearts be willing to give everything we have – which may mean giving up everything we think is safe – to serve our Lord. Not to necessarily keep our buildings, or our practices, but simply to serve God and respond, with full hearts and full spirits, to what He has asked of us.

One of my (many) favorite pieces of Scripture gives me a clue as to what that might be: No, O mortal, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.                                   – Micah 6:8