I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deuteronomy 31:19-20)
The theme of our last Annual Conference was “Wilderness,” which was decided in place of the theme for this year’s Virtual Conference, “In Ministry with All the World.” We were hoping that by this time we would have crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land, after the decision by the General Conference in Minneapolis, which was postponed. But now it seems like we are in the wilderness still. We are stuck in the COVID-19 desert. But if we entered the promised land, what would life be like?
The writer of Deuteronomy, especially in the last few chapters, did not have a very positive look about life in the promised land, even though it may be a land “flowing with milk and honey.” In other words, a land filled with peace, prosperity, and longevity. The writer, Moses if you will, charged the people that there are “life and death, blessings and curses” equally in the Promised Land; and that land alone would not give them what they have hoped for. If life means peace, prosperity, and longevity, then the people must choose God, love and obey him. Sounds like the nature of the land has nothing to do with the hope and dream of the people. God is to be their source of hope and dream…better life.
What would life be like after we pass the COVID-19 desert and enter the Promised Land? What would life be like when we have vaccine to contain the virus and we are able to return to church in-person worship and to work and school with full freedom? Would our relationships, economy, peace, health, and church attendance improve? Hard to give a definitive answer.
I would agree with the Deuteronomic writer that unless we put God as our primary focus in life and ministry, life itself is not going to get any better, even after the COVID-19 desert. A different pandemic, a different justice issue, a different desert will continue to hinder our way to the Promised Land. Thus, life as we hope for the Promised Land can only be better when we are able to help more people into a relationship with God, Jesus Christ. Moses’ mission was to lead God’s people to the Promised Land. That mission continues with us today.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.