Not long ago, a theologian, professor and father reflected on the lessons the journey of life had taught him, and how his trust and hope in God had grown over the long haul: “As a teacher, I do not hope that all “C” students will turn into “A” students. Rather, I hope in the Living God who constantly, in every generation, sets fire in the minds of some of the young, igniting in them the drive and the desire to take up the never-ending battle for truth and beauty and goodness against the forces of barbarism even within themselves. So I cast little seeds of thought, hoping in my students and in the One who can gift them with wisdom… As a father, I do not hope that my children will avoid all suffering and pain; rather I hope in them, and I hope in the Living God who can sustain them through all their suffering and pain… I hope in the Living God whose tender mercies might include a place for those who place their hope in him.”
During these past weeks we have been hearing a great deal about Moses’ own life journey which comes to its conclusion in today’s Scripture passage. How much the journey must have taught Moses from that first encounter with the Living God in the burning bush on Mt. Horeb to this final moment on Mt. Nebo. Moses’ reluctant yes to the Living God in the very beginning, opens him up to experience the wonder and the grace of being a servant of God—being at the service of his Word and allowing this great and loving God, to act in and through him. How deeply Moses comes to know this God, whom Scripture tells us revealed his name to Moses and was in a face-to-face relationship with him. But the journey also tested Moses and taught him about discouragement, frustration and deep doubt. From the journey Moses learned compassion; in time he would learn to know and love the people he called stiff-necked, as God knew them and loved them. And Moses would even invoke God’s forgiveness upon their unfaithfulness and idolatry. The journey made Moses one with his people. But perhaps the greatest lesson the journey taught Moses during his forty-year sojourn in the desert was how to live with his own incompleteness and that of his people and to trust and hope in the process, the whole journey–to allow God to bring things about, to brings things to completion as he wills and when he wills. On his final day on Mt. Nebo Moses knows that journey has all been very worthwhile and that his trust and hope have not been in vain. Moses beholds the fulfillment of God’s promise. He is given a glimpse of the destiny of his people– a new land, a new beginning. Though Moses will not enter into that promised land, God will take him to himself and bring him to an even better place. God has kept all his promises.
God’s word to us today invites us into deep reflection on the gift of our own journey; we are called to deep gratitude for the many lesson learned–the God who has called us by name and into friendship, the people we walk with, the compassion growing within our hears as we embrace more and more our own incompleteness and that of one another. But most importantly we are called to a renewed trust and hope in God is about in and through us and all around us. What matters most is not what we accomplish in a life-time; rather, it’s all about the journey and what we learn from it. It’s about trusting that journey, the process, and knowing God always has and always will keep his promises.
These words taken from a meditation by the late Bishop Kenneth Untener sum up very well the whole of our journey and what we are about:
“We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us…. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development, we provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”