Who knew last September, when we said farewell to our beloved Rector Fr. Tom that we would be embarking on a journey that would be long, painstaking and mysterious? Remember how we all thought we knew the path Trinity would take to install our new rector? We were sad to say goodbye, but felt secure in our future. We had assurance that there would be little need to worry. Patrick was the one- a native son who would walk us forward into the future. We had our plans.
I'm not a bible scholar. In fact, my knowledge of scripture is fairly shaky when I need to pull up a passage or apply a verse on occasion. But I do have a love of stories and a predisposition to apply bible stories to my everyday situations. Recently I've been thinking about Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert. Remember how, in October, Patrick said during our meeting with Rev. Tolzmann, that this time ahead for Trinity will be our wilderness experience? Well, wasn't he right?
While there are many differences, I would like to draw your attention to several parallels between Trinity and the Israelites in the desert.
1) We don't know where we're headed.
2) We're afraid that what's ahead is not as good as what we left behind
3) We worry that we'll run out of provisions to get us through the journey.
Do you agree? So like the wanderers in Exodus we too are challenged to trust. We're on a faith journey.
Trust- All healthy communities build on a foundation of trust- and we all know saints among us in this parish who trust in Jesus regardless of what life deals them. We honor them and look up to them. And, at times, all of us as believers have exercised our trust in God, our faith that Jesus is the answer to our soul's cry.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB
It occurred to me just a few days ago that this time in our church, this wilderness walk of Trinity's, is a first for us. We have all trusted that God will protect and go before our missionaries. We trust that our ministry efforts will be fruitful. Our clergy has taught us and went before us to show us how to walk out in faith. Individually we can name events and situations that had required trust. But have we ever, as a singular group, the congregation of Trinity, had to seek to hear God's voice and follow his lead without a parent figure, our deeply known clergy, leading the way? Some of you were here when Fr. Howard retired. While we went through a transition process then, we didn't have the same level of concern because in addition to our interim, we had our assistant, Andy, who stayed in place to carry Fr. Howard's ministry forward. We were happy with that and thought to replicate it with Patrick- and why not? This is a logical way to keep doing what we do without change. We had our plans.... But God has other plans for us. God has faith in us. He believes in us. During this transition time we are being called to walk in faith and trust that God is guarding and guiding us- all of us. This is a tall order. At any given time someone in this loving community of Trinity is worried, scared, or mad because we're all, after all, human beings and have feelings. It's built into our natures to sometimes retreat or find comrades who share our fears and look ahead at the future with alarm. At times like these we need to remember that God has faith in us, his church.
Joshua knew all about this. He was directed by God to take the land across the Jordan for their own. He was a young and new leader. When he sent explorers ahead they returned with reports of giants and fearful things that causes the community to worry and grumble. Then the Lord spoke:
"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you."” Deuteronomy 31:6
We are eager to "get this over with". I've heard this phrase repeated many times over the past year. "The sooner the better". (Truthfully, at times I have been one of those voices) I'm thinking the Israelites were pretty justified in their eagerness to reach the finish line. Remember, God deliberately sent them to randomly hike the wilderness for forty years. Why? It seems clear that He had some things to teach them. They just couldn't get it right, so he send them around and around until they did. What about us? Could this time we have together as a parish be God-given time for us to rely on each other? Could God have orchestrated this time to strengthen our individual relationship with Jesus and with each other? I sincerely believe so. God forbid that we leap ahead of his guiding light- the pillar of fire- and attempt to slay giants on our own. If there has ever been a time at Trinity that we need to pull together, to pray together, to love each other as brother and sister it's now. As long as we are walking together, sharing our lives, or hopes, our fears and our love of Christ, we'll be okay because God has plans for us:
“For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NASB