So much of our thinking now is saturated with binaries—people are ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys;’ we are socially conscious or benighted; I am right and you are wrong. This categorical way of thinking is as old as the Manicheans, a religious movement that thrived between the third and seventh centuries of common era holding a cosmology that divided the world between the spiritual world of light and the material world of darkness. Grounded in the teaching of Mani, Manicheanism was intended to combine and surpass the teachings of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. You see this cosmology in bold display around us from Marvel comics to Sunday talk shows.
The Biblical witness is more subtle than such dualism. Our heritage draws us into the reality of ambiguity and shadow, ours is an obscuring faith. We don’t get neat places of clarity often. In our lesson for this Sunday from Exodus we will hear a recounting of the Israelites’ deliverance from the bondage of slavery in Egypt by God’s parting of the sea. Pharoah has released the Israelites from slavery after the plagues have ravaged his land and his family, but then he reneges, recognizing that he is losing face and economic power. He opts for military intervention.
The people of Israel are divided when they see the Egyptian army pursuing them, some want to return to slavery, others follow Moses whose hand is stretched out, as the sea parts, the angel of the Lord preceding the people. The people have the choice of settling for oppression under the Egyptians or risking freedom withuncertainty. Exodus 14 describes their situation this way: “The angel of God who was going before theIsraelite army moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so, the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.” They were sandwiched by God.
We live in that place between the angel of the Lord and the cloud too. We abide in the tension between God’s justice and mercy; a tenuous and firm perch of loving, awful presence. The cloud was there with the darkness for the children of Israel, just as it is for us. By our faith we stand together. Doubting, skeptical, fearful, courageous, bold and grace filled. All of it. Together.
-The Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector