Moses told this to the Israelites; but they would not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his land.” - Exodus 6:9-11 (NRSV)
Through Moses, God whispers sweet nothings in her beloved people’s ears: promising them deliverance, promising them freedom, promising them belonging. “Tell them,” the Lord commands Moses. “Tell them I will make them my people, and I will be their God.”
Moses tells them, but the people are having none of it. Their spirits are too crushed to hope, their hearts too broken to trust. They have been enslaved so long they don’t know what freedom is.
Notice what happens next: God does not double down. God does not berate the people for their disbelief. Instead, the Holy One shifts divine focus to the injustice that has wrung the life right out of an entire people.
“Tell Pharaoh to let my people go,” God says.
Through Jesus and the church, God is still whispering sweet nothings: promises of healing and wholeness, Spirit power and beloved community, justice and peace. “Tell them,” God says.
But a people burdened by oppression may have a hard time hoping. People told they don’t belong may have moved on. People treated as less-than may have a hard time trusting.
When met with disbelief, let’s shift our focus – away from dwindling attendance to the political and economic systems that menace the poor, crush queer spirits, suppress people of color, and write off entire categories of God’s children.
Let God’s people go. Let God’s people live.
God who makes a way out of no way, give us the courage to speak truth to power.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.