In this week’s lectionary reading, Moses declares to God: we will not go forward unless your presence goes with us.
Actually, he says it in the negative: If your presence will not go, do not carry us from here.
It reminds me a little bit of my child refusing to go up the dark stairway to get ready for bed unless I accompany her. If you don’t come with me, Mommy, I won’t do it!
It’s terrifying to look into the distance and imagine ourselves journeying through unknown terrain on our own. And so we seek that assurance, that promise, that we won’t walk alone.
We might even dig in our feet, much like Moses, or like my daughter. I won’t go if you don’t go.
The passage in Exodus, and the Psalm that accompanies it (99) fills our minds with rich imagery of the awe-inspiring power of God.
Who wouldn’t want this God to be on your side?
The people tremble; the earth quakes.
There are times when I dislike the transcendent, all-powerful, intimidating power of God expressed in these passages. I’d say most of the time I prefer nestling in to a warm and cuddly God, who is patient and kind and gentle.
But, the transcendent power of God can also be a true comfort and assurance.
So, I can also relate to Moses’s adamance that he will not proceed any further without God to guide him.
I’ve been saying this myself, recently:
I simply don’t want to go forward with anything I’m dreaming or planning or envisioning if God isn’t going to go there with me.
It’s simply not worth it.
If I’m venturing off toward something that sounds like a great idea to me but God’s not in it, I’m wasting my time and energy. I’m sure to sputter to a stop in no time.
But if God is in it, if God is on that path with me, all things are possible.
This transcendent God can move mountains. This God can make the earth quake. This God can ignite fear in the hearts of those who don’t stand for the way of justice and peace, mercy and love.
With a pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day, God led Moses and the Hebrew people across their wilderness.
And today we ask this same God to walk with us across ours, and to give us signs of God’s presence that give us assurance and comfort as we move forward.
We sing to this God a new song – an ancient song, sung anew in our time.
We ask – no, we demand, in the same way as our spiritual ancestor Moses did – that wherever it is we go in the coming months and years, God’s presence would go with us.