Living Up to the Hype
The people quarreled with Moses and said… “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? There is no water to drink.” The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the staff … and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water.” – Numbers 20:3-8, excerpted (NRSV)
In his poem, “Security,” William Stafford uses the metaphor of islands that appear each day to give us solid ground on which to venture further into the unknown. The trick, he says, is, “you have to know they are there before they exist.”
As a pastor, I sometimes feel like a tour guide for one of those islands.
Describing the congregation to itself, I tell the story of a church that I know is there, even if it doesn’t yet exist. It’s a church that reliably shows up when we step forward in faith. But at other moments, we lose sight of it completely and wonder if we made it up.
Like the Israelites in the desert, that can be painful for the people I lead.
“You said you were taking us to a land of milk and honey, but all we see is rocks!”
“You said this was a community of love, but no one has even learned my name!”
They’re not wrong. It’s never the paradise that we promised (that God promised!). Or it is, but it doesn’t exist yet. Looking at all those rocks, we have to know there are unquenchable springs inside them. Looking at all those imperfect strangers, we have to know it is the actual Body of Christ.
And then, through the cracks, it comes streaming forth.
Our Rock and Our Security, make us into the people of love you know we are.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.