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Jun 9th: Leaving Home, with Rev. Kally Elliott.

Posted: Sun, Jun 9, 2024
Leaving Home with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: QUEST: The Awakened Traveler A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Exodus 13.17-22, Matthew 4:19. Join us this Sunday to hear Reverend Kally discuss as one might be an “Awakened Traveler” and learn more about allowing God to transform us through life’s uncertainties so that we may better understand God and our true selves.

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Rev. Kally Elliott

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Leaving Home with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: QUEST: The Awakened Traveler A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Exodus 13.17-22, Matthew 4:19.

Join us this Sunday to hear Reverend Kally discuss as one might be an “Awakened Traveler” and learn more about allowing God to transform us through life’s uncertainties so that we may better understand God and our true selves.


If you’ve been part of this congregation, or really any Presbyterian congregation, for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the Reverend Buechner quote the place that God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. Most of the Bible talks a lot about call this idea that God calls God’s people into a new future, that God agitates, disturbs and makes us uncomfortable with the status quo, so that we might follow God into an uncertain future, but one that is always more full of life than they before. Now, in theory, this sounds great like I mean, who doesn’t want a more full life or deep gladness meeting the world’s deep hunger, if it comes with that sort of satisfaction, why wouldn’t we follow when God calls, but when we talk about call as the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet, we make It sound like we actually know what our deep gladness looks like or feels like, where this call might be leading us, and that reaching that place of deep gladness happens overnight. And in the stories from the Bible, God often does tell the character where they are going and what they are doing. Take, for example, when God calls Abram and Sarai, he says, go to the land. I will show you. Go there and make babies and I will make you a great nation. Or with Moses, God says, hey, hey, I need you to lead my people out of Egypt, out of slavery. And then I think of that call when God goes to Mary and says to Mary, you know, hey, you’re gonna have a baby, and this baby will be called the Son of God, and you’ll be his mother. You’re supposed to raise him, Mary. It’s pretty clear. You know, their callings, do this particular thing, go to this particular place, but doing the thing or getting to their destination is not always so simple. I mean, first of all, most of the people God calls in the Bible don’t think they don’t believe that they’ve got what it takes. When they finally do realize that there is, you know, no ignoring the call of God, getting to the place or doing the thing requires a long, winding wilderness journey, during which they almost always forget why they’ve been called. They’re not even sure they will survive, much less reach their destination. So this week, we are beginning a sermon series called the awakened traveler. It’s a series about following God on a journey of discovery, of wonder, of becoming open to all that we might learn from the world and from each other and those we meet along the way, about what we might learn about ourselves and about this this God who calls us. So we begin this Sunday with one of the first call stories in the Bible, known as the Exodus. If there is a single most important story in the Bible, this might be it. Scholars tell us that the Exodus the story of God calling Moses to lead the people of Israel from slavery into the wilderness for 40 years, and then finally, across the river to the Promised Land. Contains within it all the major themes of the rest of the Bible. In other words, it contains the plot line for all of the rest of the stories in the Bible, within this one story, this one story of Exodus, we have a God who calls people from slavery to freedom, providing for them along the way, never, ever abandoning them in Egypt because of famine in their own land, the Israelites become slaves to the Egyptians. So they are forced to make bricks for the Egyptians, day in and day out, bricks and bricks and more bricks, always bricks. You can imagine. That it was a miserable experience for them, and groaning under their oppression, crying out to God. God finally hears their cries, and he caught calls on Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom. Well, of course, it’s not as simple as that, and Moses argues that, you know, he’s not good enough and he’s not tough enough, and he’s not smart enough for such a calling. And so God, of course, argues back. And finally, Moses agrees to do the job. But now Pharaoh isn’t just going to let his slaves go. So finally, God has to send not one but seven plagues on Egypt, including the killing of all the firstborn Egyptian sons. And that, that is finally what seems to get Pharaoh’s attention and deciding that the Jewish slaves are no longer worth the trouble, the pharaoh tells them to leave. And so they do. They gather all the children and their grandparents and all their livestock and all their belongings, and they walk out into freedom, sweet freedom from slavery. But it’s also the wilderness. There’s no food nor water. They have no idea where they are headed, and they they seem to be walking in circles, or at least taking the very long way there. And this is where we find the people of Israel in the Scripture. The Scripture starts when Pharaoh let the people go. God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer for God thought, if the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness bordering the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. They went out prepared for battle, which I think is really kind of cute, like they are walking out of Egypt, like they are an actual army prepared for battle. I wonder who forgot to tell them that not one of them had been schooled in combat, at least not that I know of. They were brick makers, not soldiers. They’d done nothing to deliver themselves from Egypt. They hadn’t fought one battle, they didn’t lift a sword. They hadn’t even really stood up to Pharaoh, they just kind of stood back and let Moses do that. Yet, when they walked out of Egypt from slavery, they walked out like they were, like the Roman legion, armored up, ready for battle, tough guys, but God knew them better than they knew themselves, though they seemed very confident. We read in this scripture that God led them the long way, because if they actually faced opposition, which they were likely to do, if they went the short way, they would quickly tuck their tails and scurry back to Egypt, where at least they were safe ish, even if they were slaves. So to put it simply, they needed the long way. They needed to go the roundabout way, the long way, whether or not they recognized it, because there’s a thing that happens on the long way, you don’t just end up at your destination. You put one foot in front of the other, mile after mile, day after day, sleepless night after sleepless night. Paulo Coelho, Arthur, author of the books the pilgrimage, and the alchemist, found this out when he was invited to do the pilgrimage. Santiago de Compostela, a 500 mile walk on the on bean podcast Coelho recounted for the first three days of my walk, I said, My God, I still have 450 miles ahead of me. This is never going to end. This is totally stupid. What am I doing here? We live in a modern world until the fourth day. The fourth day, he said, I started getting used to the idea of walking and talking to people and being aware of my surroundings and learning about my body. But you know what? I also started learning. Question about my soul. When Jesus calls his first disciples, he says, Come follow me. But then, most of the time, he doesn’t seem to have a particular destination in mind. Instead, Jesus walks up mountains to pray. He travels from town to town, stopping where he wants to, going around cities others might visit, pausing for a night or two to have dinner with friends and strangers and those who followed him. Well, they did this too, soaking up his life. They journeyed behind him with him as their guide. They took the long way. For three years, they walked in the dust of their rabbi, and in doing so, they too, began to learn about their soul. The scripture from Exodus continues. They set out from Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Now, when I think of wilderness, an immediate picture that comes to my mind is the desert, or, you know, the back country of our mountains, but Barbara brown Taylor tells the story of a meeting of teachers of religion when someone gave an inspiring talk about how exciting his students had been with the wilderness rafting and camping trips that He took them on, there was something about the riskiness of it, he said that opened them up in ways the classroom never could. And even when they got back to the classroom, they seemed more willing to take risks with each other as well. And when he was done, another teacher raised his hand and said, Excuse me, but were your students ever in any real danger? And the first teacher said, Oh no, no, no, I wouldn’t let that happen. And the second teacher said, Well, if there wasn’t any real danger, it wasn’t a real wilderness, because in a real wilderness, there has to be something that can kill you. And so I wonder if wilderness is any landscape or any situation that shows you how breakable you are. It is losing the life in which you’ve been comfortable, even if not thriving. It’s losing your identity or your certainty or someone you love. It’s finding yourself deep, deep impression or wild in mania, losing control and then realizing you never really had control anyway. It’s being perched on the edge of a hospital bed, gripping the hand of your beloved or your child or your mother. It’s prayers of desperation for God to fix the situation in front of you and then realizing there may be no fixing, but only facing. It’s addiction, it’s aging, it’s divorce, it’s a crisis of faith. All of this can be wilderness, and it’s not optional. Sooner or later, we will all face a wilderness of sorts. The scripture says they camped on the edge of the wilderness. The Edge not fully lost yet, but certainly heading in that direction, and they will end up deep in wilderness territory, wandering and wondering, not just for a few days, but the people of Israel will find themselves in the wilderness for 40 years, 40 years of asking, Who is in charge? Here? Are we safe? What are we going to eat? Who is this God, and who are we? There’s a word for this feeling of being in the wilderness. It’s called liminality, and it’s from the Latin word lemon. Which means threshold. So imagine standing in a doorway, neither in the room nor out of the room. That is what’s called liminal space. An airport is liminal space because nobody lives in an airport unless you count the nights that I’ve spent on the floor of a terminal when my flight was canceled, people are always just passing through an airport. For Israel, the entire wilderness pilgrimage from Egypt through the wilderness is liminal space. It is more than just a place to pass through. It is the very workshop of Israel’s becoming everything they know about who they are and how to survive is stripped away from them, leaving them vulnerable and uncertain uncertain, and God is in no hurry to lead them out of this wilderness or this liminal space and into the promised land. They’re just not ready. Yet. The wilderness, the liminal space, will make them who they are. In this liminal space, they will learn about their soul. But one thing I hear in this scripture, over and over and over again. And as you look through Exodus, you see it all throughout the book of Exodus, really, and then through the entire Bible, God does not leave them to face this wilderness on their own. God goes in front of the people of Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night, never leaving its place in front of the people, but leading them in a new direction. In her book bearing God’s name, why Sinai still matters? Author Carmen IMEs reminds us that trust is not automatic, and God does not expect it to be. God patiently works on Israel’s behalf until they can see that God is worthy of their confidence. Trust is not automatic. So God shows up in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. God never leaves them, but leads them. Catch that never leaves them, but leads them. Which makes me wonder if the whole point of all of the call stories throughout the Bible and all of Jesus’s invitations to follow me is so that we will understand who we are and whose we are, that we will come to know that we we are God’s people and that we belong to God. It makes me wonder if the place that God calls you to, the place where your deep gladness in the world’s deep hunger meets is simply the place or the knowing that you belong to God. I mean, isn’t that what the world needs more of people who know they are rooted and grounded in love, who know that they belong to that love and that nothing, nothing in all of creation, can ever separate them from that love. I believe that that when we know this, when this is our deep gladness, then we can live out of that love, and that’s when we meet the world’s deep hunger.

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