Today's Lectionary Text
At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. And they reported to him and said, “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large, and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites live in the hill country, and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.”
But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we.” So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim), and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
I have always been fascinated with this story of the report of the 12 spies returning from the Promised Land. In short ten spies gave an “unfavorable report” saying the inhabitants are bigger than us and we can’t face them saying there are giants in the land and “to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers and so we seemed to them.” The 10 basically were driven by negativity saying, “we can’t” and urged a Back to Egypt committee be formed. But there also was a two-person minority report from Joshua and Caleb who reported “we are well able” to face these challenges. To them the challenges of the land didn’t cause them to shrink to a grasshopper identity (now there’s a sermon waiting to be preached).
Today we are beginning our Fourth of July weekend as we celebrate our nation. Isn’t it true this year our nation is facing giant challenges? Consider some of our giants: rising inflation as well as gas prices, increasing gun violence, ongoing conspiracy advocates and voices, unhealthy government legislators focused more on political sides than being wise, ongoing hate crimes, racism and sexual abuse, increased reactivity by threatened white privilege, growing poverty coupled with unbridled corporate greed ... to name only a few.
I suggest this Fourth of July we take seriously to not be grasshoppers as we face our national challenges. You know how grasshoppers are: small, jumpy, anxious reactive creatures. Well let’s take a pledge to not be and do that. Instead let’s see Caleb as our role model. Consider Caleb: a well differentiated, non-reactive person of faith. Caleb, a courageous minority voice speaking from his center and encouraging others to be calm. Caleb, a realistic visionary who saw giant challenges but also saw “well able” abilities to move forward not backward.
So, what say you this holiday weekend? As we wave our flags, have our BBQs, play patriotic music and also recognize our giant challenges as a nation – will we be tempted to shrink, regress and reduce our God given identities and powers to a grasshopper identity and religion? Or will we be a Caleb who sees that we live with a God who is “well able” and who invites us to join forces in facing our giant challenges as we move forward not backward.
--Rick Saylor, retired elder
Kansas City, Missouri
Prayer for Reflection
Take an imaginative meditative moment and consider what you would want to ask Caleb about how he was able to be calm, differentiated and positive in his minority report about the challenges of the promised land.
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