Tom and I stayed up late last Sunday night to watch the Oscars. Actually, Tom stayed up and I went to bed at 11 but he kept me updated until they were over. I’m not sure why I wanted to watch them, but I like to go to the movies. I always make a list of movies that look interesting that I will watch at some future date. After all, I haven’t heard of most of the movies up for awards. For the most part, the show was pretty boring. The only time I was really drawn in was the performance of “This Is Me” by Keala Settle. I had tears in my eyes by the end of the song. Why? Because I love to see people moving together.
Seriously. When I watch the marching bands in the Rose Bowl Parade or see a dance group perform I get choked up. The more people moving together, the more it affects me. Even though I have never experienced it, I totally buy into the idea in musicals that people can suddenly burst into song and get the entire town dancing along. I think my emotional response is because – as a pastor – I know how hard it is to get people all moving in the same direction.
The people in churches rarely move together. We hardly ever had a unanimous vote or made a decision without someone thinking there was a better way. Sometimes church people passionately fight one another because of disagreements about the way to do a seemingly inconsequential thing. Trying to change the worship time by 30 minutes was a knock-down, drag-out fight! So I know how hard it is to get people moving together and I am always impressed when they do it well in any venue.
Moses had the same kind of problem with the Israelites. They followed him out of Egypt gladly, celebrating as they left. But shortly down the road the grumbling started. All kinds of people thought they had a better idea of how to lead people. Even though God was their leader, they complained about everything. It took 40 years of wandering to get the people moving together in God’s direction. And only when they were moving in the same direction could they enter the promised land. Eventually they learned and followed and conquered. They had to practice obediently following God.
If the people of Israel could do it, maybe the church can too. Of course, it requires following God instead of our own inclinations. Sometimes moving in God’s direction is inconvenient or hard or requires real sacrifice. And we rarely agree, even with other committed Christians. But maybe, after years of wandering in the desert, we can find ways of moving together in God’s direction. Maybe we can practice moving together. I will continue to work and pray for this.