Wilderness Lessons

Exodus 16:2-15
Luke 10:25-37
Everyone complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness - Exodus 16:2

I have a special “Macro” lens for my camera. Its job is to selectively focus on little things. If I want to get a broad picture of the landscape, I need to switch lenses. Most of us are detail-oriented. We need a real awakening to switch lenses, to go from macro to wide-angle. Yet most soul growth is "big picture" in nature. Our narrow focus on details causes us to ask, "What's for dinner?" "Why can't my checkbook balance?" and "What channel are the Steelers playing on?" Better questions might be; "What is true or beautiful?" "How can my suffering have meaning?", and "What is the compassionate response to this moment?" The wide lens that lets us ask the right questions is rarely appreciated until we walk a while in the wilderness. How we see this day and the opportunities that lie in front of us depends upon the spiritual lens we have on.

Remember Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan? A man gets mugged on the way up from Jericho to Jerusalem. Two religious experts walk right by him. They are so caught up in the details of their theology that they don't see him. But a Samaritan was familiar with the wide landscape of the barren lands. He saw the opportunity to show compassion to his neighbor. Where did the Samaritan learn his way of seeing? I am suggesting he learned it in the wilderness. This is why the Exodus story is our story. Trauma, loss of employment, and socially disruptive events, like a pandemic, often force us to enter the wilderness. We stumble on blindly, just like the people under Moses, until we accept the new spiritual lens God is giving us. We can exit the pandemic as better people. Or we can choose to accept the new perspective that our suffering has given to us.

One way to avoid having our point of view shift is to practice denial and selective memory. As the people under Moses traveled through the Sinai Desert they retreated into denial and selective memory, just as we have been doing in 2020. Exodus 16 tells us how they kept wanting to go back to Egypt. Before they left the Land of Goshen, they never had to worry about water. They went to the store whenever they wanted to. They had cucumbers and garlic. They didn't have to wear masks. 

Moses says, "Yes. But you also had Pharaoh throwing your kids into the river!”

Today some are saying, "Before the pandemic, the economy was wonderful. If only we could go back to that Egypt."

I want to remind you that the healthcare system in America was broken before 2020 began. This is why people of color are suffering worse in the pandemic. Racism, classism, and antisemitism were on the rise. Part of what we need to do in our current wilderness is to remove our macro lens focus on our little islands of privilege. To see the big picture. The sweeping landscape of change that our land needs.

Yes, we are traveling through difficult times. There are new opportunities to be compassionate, though. May God give us the eyes to see them.

The grasshopper's compound eyes enable him to see all around him
Pentecost 16