When we began this ministry in 2010 we knew right away we wanted to name it "Withyou." God used the story of Moses, in Exodus 3 to renew our spirits and encourage our hearts, in a difficult season. God had given Moses a seemingly impossible task, and when Moses responded with feelings of inadequacy, asking, "who am I that I should go?", God reassures him with the promise of these words... "I will be withyou."
We learn a lot about the character of God, and our part in His greater story, when we look at all the things God didn't say to Moses in that moment. He could have puffed Moses up with a pep talk, and encouraged him that his training or skill set would equip him for the task.... but He doesn't say anything like that. Instead, He clears away all the clutter and simply speaks life-giving power and freedom in the promise: "I will be with you…"
That promise continues to remind us of God's bigger picture. It can, for all of us, bring a comforting clarity to our souls, as we step into the mystery that often comes with following God.
We are reminded again that God has already done all the work, and simply invites us to step into all the good works He has already planned in advance for us. We have truth from God's Word, but sometimes we panic if there is no formula, or no 10 easy steps to follow that can guarantee it will all be okay.
But when we aren't sure which way to walk, we can lift our feet up to take a step in faith anyway, knowing that our feet will land on the rock of the His promise, "I will be with you".
Sometimes that promise, "I will be with you" feels sort of grand, and maybe a little vague. It's a banner that waves over all of us with its strength and promise. And every once in awhile, we find ourselves in a familiar position. We feel the Lord saying, "you believe this so easily for others...but do you truly, in the deepest most quiet places of your own heart, believe this is true for you?"
We recently found ourselves in that moment, and God brought things full circle for us, in the most surprising and beautiful way.
In all honesty, following the Lord in ministry, more often than not, feels like stepping into that "mystery." It's not easily managed, and there are certainly no blueprints to follow. It calls us into that place of mystery spiritually, emotionally, sometimes physically, and most deeply felt for us, financially. We continue to be humbled as we learn and lean into wisdom from others for how this all works. Earlier this year, We found ourselves in unfamiliar territory, wading into those waters of 501(c)3 non-profit fundraising. We knew we wanted to do something different... to somehow use the opportunity to provide an experience that not only fit those objectives, but almost more importantly, pointed back to our mission of providing resources and experiences to help people remember and rest. In one of the retreat experiences that we offer, we follow the relationship of Jesus with one of His disciples, and after being with us for a retreat weekend, a wise and dear friend suggested that a great companion experience would be a Seder Dinner for families the week of Easter.
We loved the idea, and with the help of dear friends, put a date on the calendar, booked a venue, spent months preparing and invited hundreds of people.
We were blown away, the more and more we began to dig into this kind of celebration, and how participating brings such an amazing way to remember God's story of faithfulness. A Seder is an integral part of the traditional Jewish feast of Passover. We have found the meaningful reasons for a follower of Jesus to participate to be two-fold. First, the amazing tradition… The words, the scripture, and even the food on the table, all tell story of God's redemption and rescue. It's a story He's been weaving through generations, and it's beautiful how every year, there is a prompting to stop, remember and re-tell the story of God's faithfulness. The other beautiful reason that followers of Jesus may find participating in a Seder significant, is that because Jesus Himself was Jewish, He grew up celebrating Passover, joining in the re-telling of the story, eating the familiar foods and praying the same prayers. So, it helps us to understand Jesus more fully, and significantly deepens our understanding of the words Jesus spoke the night before He went to the cross, as He gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room for the Last Supper.
Jesus and all the disciples would have participated in this familiar tradition every year of their lives, so it is even more significant, when we realize that He used a familiar moment in an annual Passover Seder dinner, to offer His body as the Bread, and His blood as the wine, to begin His new covenant with us.
For generations, the people of God bore the weight of striving to be made right with Him, by trying to keep an unkeepable law! And in that one moment, at the Last Supper, Jesus put striving and performing, and feelings of inadequacy and insecurity to rest. He offered Himself as the perfect, and ultimate Passover sacrifice, and all at once, and once and for all, He made a way for us. Through Jesus, God's story of redemption and rescue was fulfilled. Freedom through Jesus extended not just for one people, but for all people, now and forever.
Learning and participating in these ancient traditions, and following the example of Jesus was so very meaningful to us, and the night of our Withyou Seder Experience was something we'll remember forever.
Sometimes, it's important for us to follow the lead that Old Testament scripture gives us to stop and make an Ebenezer to mark and remember God's faithfulness.
And sometimes God begins to build them for us...
One of the most sacred and life-changing moments happened for us, as we were finishing preparations the day before our Seder a few weeks ago. We had an amazing epiphany, and it was nothing that we had intentionally realized or planned for. On this side of it, we can so clearly trace the lines, but while we were in it, God had to open our eyes to see it.
We'd spent months and months planning this whole Withyou Seder Experience around the Last Supper of Jesus in the New Testament, because it correlated so amazingly with another encounter that we've studied between Jesus and one of His disciples. It was the way these two New Testament stories of Jesus complemented each other that captured our attention. What we hadn't realized at first though, is that these two New Testament stories we've been studying actually had their beginnings, way back in the Old Testament. Instead of "Once upon a time", the story began with Moses and a burning bush, and God's words to him, "I will be withyou."
God's rescue and redemption story through the Passover,
is what was waiting on the other side of "I will be withyou..."
Moses couldn't have known it at the time, but when He stepped into the mystery of following God, armed only with God's promise that "I will be withyou", he joined in God's invitation to bring about the rescue and redemption of His people.
An event that is so significant that millions of people have gathered every single year, for thousands of years, to remember and celebrate.
An event that Jesus Himself, used as the backdrop to initiate His New Covenant with us.
Moses couldn't have known...
We rarely get a glimpse of the end of the story while we're still in it, do we...?
But we are learning that for all of us, there is a clarity that only comes in the mystery.
We can stand firm on the trustworthiness of God. It was true for Moses.
It was true when Jesus, Himself explained to His disciples that it was time for Him to go, but He looked at their confused faces and said, "and surely I am withyou always, even to the end of the age."
And it is still just as true for each of us today. Even when we can't see what's next, and even when we don't fully know what following in obedience will look like, we do know that He promises to be right there with us, every step of the way. There is a clarity that only comes in the mystery.
For years, we have read and told and re-told the story of that encounter, and God's promise to Moses...
"I will be withyou".
And you know what... ? It's an amazing story. God's promise to Moses in Exodus 3 is a game-changer. It stands on its own.
It is so much more than a nice little catchy phrase. God uses those words... His trustworthy promise, to bring rest to our weary souls, as we step into mystery.
What we hadn't realized at first, is the whole Seder Experience, the whole Feast of Passover, the whole reason we stop and re-tell the story of God's faithfulness and redemption, all go back to the moment when God told Moses, "I will be withyou," and Moses believed Him and stepped out in faith into the mystery.
God's redemption of His people through Passover, is the next chapter in the story that began with the words, "I will be withyou..."
It is quite literally, the rest of the story.
And it is so beautifully, the rest in our story.
"He will be withyou..."
These great and precious promises are ours in Christ.
There is clarity waiting in the mystery.
What mystery is God asking you to step into today?
You can rest in knowing that He is withyou in that today, and also, already waiting for you in tomorrow, on the other side of His promise,
"I will be withyou..."