This week's scriptures are Number 13:17-14:4 and Luke 19:28-40.
I have often wondered how the people if the Israelites felt when they realized that they would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
They'd come all that way across the wilderness...kicking and screaming, murmuring and complaining...but they'd come. They'd seen that God would, indeed, provide for their needs; from water to food to guidance across the barren waste. Now they've arrived at the edge of the end of their journey. They're finally just about to be there...there in that place that God had promised them when they stated out...there in that place that would be home.
But before they go in, they send out spies to look over the tactical situation of settling in the region. They spies come back with wonderful news: the land is wonderful. In fact, they come back bringing a single bunch of grapes that is so big that they have to carry it on a pole between two of them (vs. 13:23). But, there are giants in the land. "When we set eyes on the Nephilim e felt no bigger than grasshoppers; and that is how we must have been intheir eyes" (vs. 13:33). The people rebel against going into the land, and God punishes them by saying that not until all of them were dead would the children of Israel be allowed to cross the border. The journey of God's people was lengthened because of their fear.
As a parent, I've wondered whether the question ran through the minds of the parents in this community of pilgrims, "will my son, my daughter, get to go into the Promised Land; or has my failure, my sin, meant that they too will die here in the wilderness?" "Will their journey be thwarted because I as afraid to fight with giants?"
As a therapist, one of the things I very often do is to ask my clients to make a "family tree" that goes back at least 3 generations counting themselves. I then ask them to note the issues (alcohol, mental illness, family violence, divorce, etc) that have been evident. As they go through the Family Tree (or genogram) flagging these issues they are often suprised to see that the same problems that brought them into therapy have been alive in their families for generation after generation. When I am talking with a client who is a person of faith, I will sometimes refer them to the biblical story we're looking at and point out that in their Family Tree they have been able to identify the 'Giants in the Land.' The issues at hand have deep roots and seem HUGE to them...and they often are. But the question is, will they go in and 'claim the Promised Land' or will they, in their fear of addressing these problems, extend their multi-generational life.
Of note in terms of scripture is the fact that when one of these giants is finally slain, it is David who does so...after that, scripture shows a whole litany of 'giant slayers' in David's family...slaying giants becomes almost a family business.
During this past Lenten season you and I took on some disciplines. We weren't always successful at them, and they often pointed up some things to us that made us unhappy or concerned. There are giants in the land. We know now what some of them are. They block the way of our entering into the fullness of the life that God has for us. Many of them are generations old. What will we do?
This Sunday morning we will dedicate a beautiful baby boy, Evan Gibson Foutz. We will also be committing ourselves to the task of his care and nurture as he grows toward a faith in the God who loves him.
Such commitments remind us that one of the ways we live out those promises is by dealing with the giants in our lives. To the extent that we do so, we free future generations from carrying the burden of those giants. As a father and a grandfather I know something about both the generational healing power of doing that work; and the ways in which those giants travel across the generations when they're not dealt with.
May this fortunate intersection of Evan's dedication and the end of the Lenten season remind us that we can face our giants in the power of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as we seek to keep our promises both to God and to those who come after us in family and faith.
Hope to see you Sunday.