The Scripture Readings this week are:
- Exodus 16:2-15
- Psalm 78 (VU p.792)
The Sermon title is Can We Go Back?
Early Thoughts: MAGA. Take Canada Back. When I was your age... All three have something in common. They evoke a time when things were better, or at least a feeling that things were better then. They express a desire to go back to what once was, because then life would be better or easier, or more straight forward again. Nostalgia has a powerful presence in the world.
Normally when I prepare to preach on this passage it is to preach against the desire to go back. Because it is often unhelpful. Nostalgia is a tool we use to avoid changing our sense of who we are, or a tool to fight back against changes that scare us, or a tool to maintain our preferred status in our communities. Moving into a new sense of identity, moving into a new world can feel like moving into a place of barren-ness. We can easily make ourselves think that we would be better off it the place we used to be, even if that place was often painful. So often nostalgia is a force we need to push back against, because there are always folk who want us to go back to Egypt, even though hope and life lead out into the new place.
This year I am noticing a more nuanced approach is needed. And in that nuance lies a side to nostalgia that we often overlook. We talk a lot about the fear and resistance to change. We don't talk a lot about the grief that might underlie that fear and resistance. Even for the Israelites, recently freed from slavery, I think there was grief. They had to let go of their whole sense of identity as an oppressed, enslaved people. Who were they now. Grief, especially unnamed or unacknowledged grief is a potent force.
Thus is a year of grief for many people. So many people have lost so many different things over the last 6 months. And there is a real desire for us to get back to "normal". To get rid of social distancing, to sing hymns on church, to gather friends around a table for a meal, and so many other things.
It ain't happening nearly as fast as folk want it to.
So what do we do with that? Can we name the things for which we are grieving? Can we mourn what is lost? Then can we ask what we really want back and what we don't? Because it is plausible that we really should not go all the way back to "normal". It is plausible that when we come out of this pandemic we will never do things the same way. I think that has real positive possibility, because "normal" was not always healthy as it was. But I think we only get there by naming our grief and doing the work of grief so that we can honestly evaluate where we want to go next.
Otherwise we fall prey to nostalgia, and pledges to take us back to the Golden Age, to make us great again. How will we choose to move forward?