We Know Who We Are
Bezalel made the chest of acacia wood. It was forty-five inches long, twenty-seven inches wide, and twenty-seven inches high. He also made the table of acacia wood, three feet long, eighteen inches wide, and twenty-seven inches high. – Exodus 37:1 & 10 (NRSV, adapted)
“We are explorers reading every sign. We tell the stories of our elders in a never-ending chain. We know where we are. We know who we are, who we are.” (Moana soundtrack)
Thanks to a toddler superfan in my house I have watched the Disney movie Moana approximately 3,274 times. Of all the kids’ movies to be compelled to watch and re-watch, I’m glad it’s this one. Besides the catchy tunes, humor, and beautiful tropical setting, even after many viewings I still appreciate its messages of courage, creation-care, friendship, and the power of the feminine divine.
The character Moana loves her people and the traditions that sustain them, but she recognizes that circumstances require that they change. By the end, her people repurpose the tools of the past and use them in a new way.
In the United Church of Christ, we often say that we take the Bible too seriously to take it literally, and I’ve never known a UCC congregation that takes literally Bezalel’s guidelines for ecclesiastical furnishings. But most of our churches have some kind of furniture, either metaphorical or literal, that we believe must remain unchanging. Too often, we try to force our old things to work for us in new times. Instead, we are invited to receive what we’ve been given with enough gratitude to recognize that it must change along with us, to meet the times we are in.
Holy God, help us to love the past even as we explore the future with courage and humor. Amen.
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor of Vancouver United Church of Christ. Her writing appears in the collection, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms For the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.