In yesterday’s sermon, Adam spoke of how the Israelites complained against Moses because they had nothing to drink. Modern English translations typically translate the Hebrew verb here as “murmuring.” The Hebrew here would be better translated to indicate the Israelites were enraged. Their situation was viewed as no small inconvenience.
The Israelites rage was expressed in such a manner that Moses cries out to God that they are almost ready to stone him. This rage is most likely based on fear, as Adam expressed. A fear that is assuaged by grace as God calls on Moses to strike the rock so that water will gush forth and give the Israelites the water they need. Consider what happens here. Moses suggests the Israelites are about ready to strike him with rocks. Instead, God tells Moses to strike the rock to bring forth the water. The potential instrument of death becomes the instrument of life when it is transformed by the grace of the God of steadfast love.
A lot of rage is being expressed in our current context. As Adam shared, a lot of people are full of fear, afraid they will never have what they perceive or know they need or afraid they will lose what they perceive or know they need. Some fears are based on actual experience. Some fears are based on the political propaganda sourced by those that know the best way to get people to the polls is to fill them with fear. Enraged people vote, no matter their political affiliation.
In a culture of fear, dehumanizing language and misinformation rules. This fear seeks to lead us to hate our opponents. Language is used to view them as less than human and the reason for our fears. It seeks to leave us almost ready to stone them. Or brutalize them. Or shoot them. Yet the steadfast love of the God of grace seeks to transform the words and tools used for fear, hate, and violence to bring life. To bring what Martin Luther King, Jr., called beloved community. It was what Africans call ubuntu as explained by the archbishop Desmond Tutu: I am because we are. We do not have true community until we all value and love one another so that peace with justice governs our common life.
We are disciples of Christ, in covenant with the God of grace whose love is steadfast. How do we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, participate in the transformation of the words and tools of fear, hate, and violence into words and tools of life? How do we transform the rage we may fill toward our neighbor into a neighborly love that makes sure the fears and needs of all our neighbors are met in ways that give our communities life?
Grace and peace,
Rev. J.D. Allen