Last night at Bible study we discussed the exodus from Egypt, and had a great conversation about where the Israelites actually entered the wilderness, what body of water they really crossed (the Hebrew translates 'Reed Sea' and not Red Sea and if you read the text while consulting a map of the area one easily sees that there's no way they crossed the actual Red Sea) and how much it matters what actually happened. The general consensus was that what happened is not as important as that it did happen, and the meaning behind it. I likened it to the resurrection. So many place the specifics of the event above its meaning for our lives. One attendee astutely pointed out that usually the reason behind that is that evidence about specifics will help others come to believe. I agree. It's a large part of why some Christians bend over backwards to seek evidence for creation, Noah's ark, the exodus, the resurrection...that others might believe.
We also talked about the Israelites preferring the familiarity of slavery to new life in the unknown wilderness. I likened it to the movie 'The Shawshank Redemption,' where two released prisoners find it extremely difficult to cope with newfound freedom after being locked up for so long. 'If only we could go back,' the Israelites think. 'If only I could go back,' Brooks and Red think.
And what familiar words in the church! If only we could go back 'to the way things were,' 'to the faith handed down,' 'to how we did it before.' If only we could turn around. This isn't just brought up in the usual hot topic issues, it's brought up in one form or another in every aspect of church life. If only we could go back to the way we used to worship/teach/study/fellowship. Remember those days of yore? Those memories that look a lot more rosy than reality probably was? We need to go back. It was safe and comfortable. If only we could.
There's a brave new world out in that wilderness, a world unexplored, a world of endless possibilities for faith and mission. We can't go back now. We have to move ahead and address what's coming up. New life is possible. Jesus tells us and shows us, even if we don't know all the specifics.
We've come this far by faith. We can't turn back now.