Pillars of Cloud and Fire

On Aug. 31st, Ana and I left on the train to begin a journey on what we thought would be a few weeks of walking. We were supposed to be back on the Camino De Santiago, Camino Frances route but due to Corona plans changed. Five days into our new German journey our plans would change again and a few weeks out, we were in Austria, our plans would change again. Again and again our plans continue to shift and change during Corona. One day we have a plan for something and the next it has to change due to numbers or restrictions or safety or something that is opening, etc.

This weekend, the shifting of plans worked to our advantage with a shift in weather and days like to today my plans constantly shift because I didn’t really have anything scheduled but the current situation keeps me from wanting to hop on public transit. It has turned out to be a sweet day. I worked out this morning which turned into more and more of a workout as the husky wanted in on the running around. I met up with a different friend in the neighborhood for coffee at our favorite and frequently visited coffeeshop. We are regulars and the owners are our friends. We sat outside and became icicles but had a blast anyway. I went to the store to gather up needed items for the week and came home to watch sermons that I didn’t watch yesterday. I am drinking tea and writing and later I will be giving out some pastoral care downstairs (Ana calls me the full time volunteer pastor around here).

I thought about museums and new places to visit and yet perhaps it is ok to stay put while the numbers rise.

Yesterday as I took the pups out in the morning I listened to a devotional put out by the Nomad podcast featuring one of my favorite teachers and mentors, John Philip Newell. I needed the intentional reset if I couldn’t go to communal worship. The woman speaking at first, Rachel Wilde, commented on the scripture of Moses and his people being led by a pillar of cloud and fire that the cloud and fire, aka God’s presence, always went before the people and always was on the edge of darkness. God always went before the people and was always at the edge of what came out of the dark, and not in a bad way.

The pillars struck me in this ever changing world. I thought back to when all of our plans shifted and we were on the train and it was pouring down rain. We could barely see out of the windows because of the clouds. I looked over to Ana to imagine what she might be thinking. Was she regretting this choice to venture out into the rain? Was she excited? Grateful? Nervous? All of the emotions that I was thinking through. And on the edge of it all, between us and the next thing was cloud, on the edge of something new and everchanging was cloud and light. Pillars of what might be God’s presence always before us.

In the story of Moses and the Exodus, the pillars are to remind the people that they are never alone and God always goes before them. It is not about God preplanning anything or causing anything. There is no predestination. There is nothing that God is doing ahead of them besides walking into with them and leading the way. God isn’t causing whatever they may happen upon but God is always with them. They can physically see that before them and they know God isn’t far off.

It is helpful to remember that God promises to always be walking alongside or just in front of. God is walking with. God is always present in the pillars before us. God is.

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