If you were a spy, what information might you be looking to gain, to bring back? Who would you be delivering that information to? How might you gain that information?
In the Old Testament we hear of Joshua, Caleb and others leaving the safe confines of the Desert of Paran to secretly go into Canaan to check out this new land, to explore it and see “what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak“. (Numbers 13:18)
Moses and his followers had trailed for so many years across the desert, across fallow land, where food was hard to find. They had accompanied the Ark of the Covenant, they had tried to keep with their God, encouraging folk to remain firm, to stay with the people. They had set up rules for their priests to follow, they had put in place ways that would help their community as they travelled. Still the people complained of the hardships (Numbers 11:1), desiring, in their eyes, more succulent produce such as cucumbers, melons, leeks and onions rather than what God was providing them through manna.
Representatives from the twelve tribes of Israel were sent out to discover the delights, or otherwise, of the promised land of Canaan. Hoshea, renamed by Moses to Joshua, and Caleb represented Ephraim and Judah respectively. After 40 days they returned to Moses. I wonder how they felt? Triumphant? probably rather glad to be back with their friends for it may have been very lonely out there.
The representatives gave tale of the fruit of the land, the economics, the potential for crop production, could this be a viable way forward they proposed? But there were ‘issues’, in today’s speak challenges which needed to be compared to the opportunities previously heralded. The people out there were terrifying, strong, much larger than themselves – different. It was Joshua and Caleb who eventually calmed the crowd, speaking of following God. The crowd initially wanted to stone these two characters for what they were saying was way too radical, it didn’t fit their reality, their conclusion.
The church of today has been on its travels for many a year as well. We have focussed upon our buildings, the importance of these structures, becoming anguished at the cost of the upkeep, the maintenance and the need to upgrade them to keep in line with the law. We have set up considerable rules for our clergy and laity to maintain, and we can look out from our citadels and towers and see that other elements in our society may be enjoying life in a different way. Our way seems to remind me of the comparison of garlic and resin (Numbers 11:5 & 7).
Could we entertain that proposal to leave the building and seek out what lies beyond our church walls? I have written about this before when I spoke of ‘Church Without Walls’. The spies, noted in the Book of Numbers, leave and return. They bring back a description of the outside world which does appear both beneficial and frightening. They are human and realise that, despite their number, the statistics don’t appear favourable. They would have to win a number of battles, they would have to be alongside those who initially appear very different but really are still human, despite their size! Eventually they go…
but note: “they don’t bring those people into the camp – the camp goes to them!
Are we in that same position today? Has the church been on its travels for so long that it has come to a position where it needs to make a such a radical decision? Does it remain in the camp, safe, protected, sure of its findings and secure of the rules?; or does it in trepidation (I prefer faith!) leave the camp and seek to build those relationships outside of the security of the past? I wonder whether, once we have left the camp, our perspectives of the people outside might change, and importantly the opinions of those outside of the church might also change because of our decision?
I also note that Moses sent out representatives not the whole camp. Who goes out and reports back? How receptive will we be to hearing of the news, the emerging opportunities?
Today I heard of the impact of the economy on shop keepers
“Looking ahead, the turmoil facing the sector is unlikely to abate,” said Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC. (from the above linked article),
and I wondered whether the recent initiative from Calderdale Chaplains, seemingly replicating what Street Pastors and CNI have done in the past in the night time economy, might bring support and care through listening to those struggling on our High Streets and market places. Today I spoke with those who are on the front line of supporting those fighting addiction from drugs and alcohol as a local church seeks to provide a soup kitchen – I wonder who those within the church may be feeling seeking to support those whom they might not normally associate with but want to help? Tomorrow I look forward to listen to those who sometimes hide from view because of past traumas caused by society and, I’m sad to say, the church.
We are human, just like the people in Moses’ time.
Can we go out from our perceived safe havens and find opportunities, where God is leading us towards? I hope so.
(main graphic taken with thanks from http://www.flong.com)