Along our way to the Promised Land, we like Jesus may well find ourselves driven into the wilderness.
“Maybe you felt yourself in the wilderness a time or two this week, languishing in the dry ravines of Robert’s Rules of Order,” Martha Moore-Keish, associate professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary, preached on Saturday during closing worship of the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The wilderness may well be a fearsome place, “but for Israel it was also the place where people learned to trust in God and in one another,” she said. “Could it be that the spirit is driving us into a new wilderness, not to destroy us, but to trust in God alone as the source of life?”
She told commissioners and advisory delegates they had done “fine and difficult work this week, but I bet you are longing for the Promised Land of home, family, your own bed, home-cooked meals—and your congregation yearning to hear your stories.”
What Moore-Keish labeled Thursday’s “historic vote” on the definition of marriage “marked the Promised Land for many people in this room, and then you immediately laid out plans to seek reconciliation for those who will not receive this as good news.”
Not one to rely only on the spoken word, Moore-Keish enhanced her sermon by singing verses of “I am Bound for the Promised Land.” That was the song she, her husband, and the choir at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta sang on the day 17 years ago her elder daughter was baptized.
While their daughter may not have understood the words that were said and the song that was sung that day, “I think she got this much: She was held, safe and beloved” by that church community, Moore-Keish said.
“These waters of baptism signal to us God’s deep and abiding love,” she said, “and also the call to the deeper waters of life and the struggle to the shores on the other side.”
“If we feel we are wandering,” she assured worshipers, “it may be because the spirit has put us there. This is fierce and loving work. We will encounter wild beasts and angels waiting to minister to us. In fact, sometimes those who first look like wild beasts turn out to be angels in the end.”