For generations in captivity, the Hebrews had been forced to build. They made those mud bricks day after day in the blazing Egyptian heat. You would think that after years of forced labor that the one thing they would have most appreciated hearing was “stop building.” Well after the dramatic departure from Egypt into the wilderness, one of the things they were told to do, by God no less, was to…wait for it…build! And remarkably, build they did! They built an elaborate ark and a tabernacle to be a mobile home for God. In fact, they had at it with such gusto, bringing lots and lots of treasure to the builders, that they did indeed hear those glorious words, “stop building!” Or at least they heard that they had more than enough to build the tabernacle.
Apart from the surprise that they we so enthusiastic about building after being forced to do it for generations is the amazing fact that not only did they have the precious metals and jewels required (they had been slaves after all) but that they so willingly parted with what could only have been brought with them at great effort. Remember that they didn’t even have time for bread to rise before leaving captivity, so they could have only taken those things they could grab and carry. Think about your own house. If it were to catch fire what would you want to take with you in that instant (and trust me, it is an instant, don’t make me put on my fire chaplain hat and scare you about the speed that fire spreads)? So these most special items were enthusiastically given to the point of over abundance. It is easy to overlook this remarkable piece of the story.
So if the church today looks and feels anything like that time in the history of people following God, what, then, is our story? First, as we fled our old places of bondage, what did we bring with us? Second, if asked, would we give up those gifts? And if we did, would we be so generous that we need to stop giving? And finally, would we know when to stop building? In this Great Convergence all those things will be asked of us. Regardless of which flavor of faith we are moving from, all the tribes were adept at building. We built buildings. We built institutions. We built doctrines. We built traditions. We didn’t know when to stop building. But now we are taking a journey in barren land so we need to travel light. We need to build, of course. We need to have our tents to care for our needs and we need to camp together. We also certainly need to have a meeting house for worship and call to mission. But we also have to know when to stop building. After all, whatever we build we also have to move. That is a basic truth of convergence, it moves! So let’s get building and moving!
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA and chaplain for the Brimfield Fire Department. 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