Monday, January 28, 2013

The Challenge continues, day 22: Exodus 4-6; Psalm 18:21-50; Matthew 19

Bricks without straw....
Around the church I serve as pastor is a low brick wall. It traces around the outer half of the property, and is just about 100 years old, give or take. During Tropical Storm Irene, our church was devastated by flooding, and one of the casualties of those rising waters was that a section of the wall was undermined and collapsed. About 40+ feet. Those fallen sections of wall still stand (metaphorically) as testament to the power of the flooding, and we are in the process of working with an historic architect and the state's historical commission to determine the next steps.

Replacing that section of wall will be difficult on a lot of levels. First, the wall was built without a footing. Next, after decades of repairs with mortars and cements that were of different grades, most of what holds the bricks together is actually stronger than the bricks themselves (and that means that most of the bricks are fractured and in pieces, due to freeze-thaw). Finally, and perhaps the greatest challenge: the bricks are of a kind that are hard to find-extruded, glazed brick from a particular maker that no longer exists (and that probably used asbestos as an element to bind the brick together.)

As I was reading today's passage from Exodus, and about how Pharaoh and the Egyptians commanded Israel to make bricks without providing straw, my mind's eye turns to the image of that fallen wall. When the order to make bricks stays the same, and the straw required is not supplied, what are they to do? Easy to observe in the abstract, but as I ponder our fallen wall I find a new sympathy for Israel. How do we accomplish something required of us, when a vital resource is lacking? It is daunting, heartbreaking. It's downright frightening.

The fallen wall at St. Peter's, just after the flood (and as it looks today)
For us here? It means being willing to think outside of the box, or rather, ponder a possible solution without bricks. For the Israelites, it means working twice as hard to keep an impossible quota...and it spurs both them and the Egyptians on towards both inevitable conflict...and an inevitable Exodus.

For you? Take a moment and ponder those occasions in your life when you, too, were asked to make bricks without a supply of straw. What carried you through those times? Was there an Exodus on the other side of that trial for you, as well? Those moments of having NO straw to make bricks happen more often in life and work than we care to remember, but as I look back...and at that wall today, even...I can feel God's hand guiding me through it all. It is never an easy path, but I find myself more deeply engaged with my creator and redeemer after I have gone through those trials and find myself looking back from a vantage of deliverance.

So, time to go find some straw.... :)

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