Exodus chapter four finds God cajoling Moses into leading the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and eventually to the promised land. Moses is not so keen, finding several reasons why he is not that guy...
Classical theology often presents us with a God who never changes and appears immovable, almost carved in marble. The First Testament however, tells a different story, in which God works with what God has. A negotiating God. If life gives you lemons...make lemonade, etc.
God asks Moses; "What is that in your hand?" This innocuous question gives us a clue that God calls people to achievable transformations. God sees the potential, notes the resources at hand for his chosen and draws them out. Moses has all the excuses, God is patient, working with the sub-optimal material at God's disposal.
Today (Wednesday) marks the fifth anniversary of my induction into the Ministry of Word and Sacrament at Forrest Hill Presbyterian Church. People at times have wanted to project the role of CEO, dynamic leader or prophet on me, which is why I state what I am actually called to. Call me the teaching elder if you will, we are a church led by the discernment of the body through the elders. Glimpses of prophecy and dynamism are a bonus I guess.
Many of you know I have a fondness for Moses as a motif of ministry and call, that man of faltering lips, timidity of speech. Responding to Moses' protestations, God said;
‘Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.’
Moses was pretty cheeky and tested God's patience even after this rather clear affirmation. I guess he liked living on the edge. I don't think I'm that bold, preferring to accept that according to God's wisdom/sense of humour I have been called to ministry. Thanks God...
This five year chunk of ministry has had its challenges, some personal, others corporate. One of the interesting things in ministry is for the minister to encounter a local culture and try to figure out how it ticks. Culture shift is difficult. Language and behaviours define and reinforce the culture over time. A minister accustomed to moving around a bit (Howick - East Taieri - Kaikorai Valley - Hillsborough - FHPC) has an opportunity to see the local culture from outside, at least initially. Parts of our FHPC culture are quite entrenched, and not always in a good way. Other parts of the culture are wonderful, and to be cherished. This is the pattern with every church I have found.
God asked Moses; "What is that in your hand?" God asks us the same question. There is always a way forward in a faith community. God provides resources and enables. Obedience is required from those called. There will be challenges locally and nationally that reshape the church and unsettle us personally. Some things we push against, others we 'go with the flow.' Discernment is required to decide which.
My experience is that a number of community organisations are hospitable and good places to be. The church has no monopoly here. So what makes the church/faith community unique? Surely, it must be the hope we have in the coming kingdom of Christ, and the grace of God in which we are able to stand.
May God be with my mouth, and teach me what I am to speak.