In his 2005 book, Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods, Michael Vex expresses the view that Yiddish is the language of complaint, rooted in millennia of Jewish exile. “Judaism is defined by exile, and exile without complaint is tourism.” He identifies the birth of kvetching in the first act the newly liberated Hebrews when they complain to Moses in the wilderness, “Oy vey, at least Pharaoh fed us!” In this week’s episode, Eric pointed out how this is a very human desire for certainty, even when it is clearly not in our best interest. Thankfully, God had a better idea. The path to the Promised Land would require embracing an uncertainty of itinerary, trusting only that the immediate presence of the divine was certain in the pillar of fire and smoke. It is no easy task to embrace the gift of uncertainty. Heck, forget embracing it, it is hard to see it as a gift.
Or is it? Perhaps there is joy to be found in the journey itself, even if we don’t know where we are going. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of vistas to view our progress on the trail up the mountain. Sometimes the only certainty we can know is the next blaze on a tree assuring us that we are on the path. As great as the feeling is at completing a long hike, is the reason to hike in order to get that feeling? Isn’t the real reason the experience of hiking? The 5-month cross-country schlep that Scott and Eric were recounting on the episode was clearly as much about the journey as the destination. They were certain that there was a message to deliver and certain that they needed to deliver it not only at some place far away but also at every place along the way. So embracing the uncertainty of results and uncertainty of sufficient means, they set out with all the confidence that can be mustered in the face of such uncertainty. And along the way they were gifted. Scott recorded it in The Asphalt Gospel and Eric wrote it down in [amazon_link id=”0787986089″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Asphalt Jesus.[/amazon_link]
Last night, I tweeted out a prayer for healing following news of Mayor Menino’s cancer. I just got off of the phone with a reporter who saw the tweet and wanted to talk about prayer. I hear a lot of grousing about how the mainstream media only covers the religious extremes- and some of that is true. But if we want to be a voice in the public conversations, we need to be in the conversation. And the reporters are all on Twitter.
The conversation didn’t make it into a news story, but it did make contact with someone who is listening and potentially will share the on-going story of the uncertain journey of the faithful following God’s leading in the 21st century. Honestly, is there any better story?
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA. He blogs about the intersection of spirituality and society at CultureDove.blogspot.com and the intersection of spirituality and ornithology at https://birdparables.blogspot.com