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Removing the Distance

What I'm Reading Today: Exodus 24-27

When I first discovered the emerging/emergent ways of being within the Christian movement, there was a huge rush for me initially. I felt that rush because the emerging/emergent Christian communities expressed many of the visions I had held for years that went against much the traditional church was teaching – particularly when it came to ways of being community.

You see for centuries, most institutional Christian churches acted as if there were levels – or layers – in the community that stood between individuals and God. Most Protestants would say that it's only Roman Catholics that have such levels or layers. That is completely untrue. The truth is we Protestants have just as many levels. Instead of calling our levels "popes" and "bishops" we call ours things like "councils" and "committees". Each of these entities function for the same purpose; they were created in order to control or manage things.

Now don't get me wrong. I understand there is a certain degree of control or management that needs to exist in order for a group of people to function as a community. Light bills, for instance, have to be paid – so we need finance committee to empower someone to write a check. Sadly, however, in many faith communities these practical needs have been used to justify the creation of other mechanism so that other areas of the life of the community are being controlled to unhealthy degrees. This has had an unfortunate consequence. It has made many of the lay people in our faith communities feel completely disempowered. Eventually, they get tired of putting up with other people's efforts to control them, and they walk away. Then we wonder why our churches are declining?!

I was frustrated with today's reading because it seemed to feed into this process of disempowerment. We were told, for instance, that God said to Moses: "Climb the mountain to God, you and Aaron, Nadab, Abihus, and seventy of the elders of Israel. They will worship from a distance; only Moses will approach God. The rest are not to come close. And the people are not to climb on the mountain at all."

Talk about disempowerment!

I suppose some would say this was one of those practical moments where it was most effective for Moses to commune with God in a way where there were as few distractions as possible. That's why the leaders and people were told to stand off at a distance.

Even if that's the case, I think as people of faith we are called to be honest with such assumptions and challenge them when people tell us to remove ourselves. For the last thing I believe we want these days are faith communities whose purpose is to put a distance between God and the people. Faith communities should be all about drawing people in to a direct experience of God – a TRANSFORMATIVE experience of God.

Today I would encourage to examine your life for areas where you have been content to allow distance to exist between yourself and God – areas when you've allowed others to mediate or negotiate the presence of the Divine for you. If you find such areas, challenge yourself to be open to taking a different approach. Take the risk of encountering God in new places and in new ways!

Til next time …

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