Christ: The Rock Who Follows US

“For they all drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 10:4)

Notice something unusual about the Spiritual Rock from which the Israelites drank?

It FOLLOWED them!

We have this idea in our heads that the rock which Moses struck at Horeb and Meribah was some huge immovable mountainous boulder.  But St. Paul spiritualizes the story for us – the Rock which gave them water was following them!  It wasn’t immovable at all.  It followed them and provided for them when they were in need – where ever they happened to be.

Christ traveled and still travels with the people of God.  The Rock which is Christ who followed the Israelites in the Old Testament, has followed the Orthodox to America as well.   Christ followed the Israelites into and through the desert for forty years.   Christ follows us into every circumstance, into our desert, in times of trouble, or of dissension, unhappiness or scandal.   Read the Old Testament – God didn’t abandon His people even when they traveled down the wrong path as the OCA did for the past twenty years.

Think about the Israelites in Numbers 13-14.  God told them to spy out the land of Canaan and then to take it for themselves.  But the spies came back and said, “the task is too hard, we aren’t up to the task, there are giants in the land, and they have armies and fortified cities, and we are too weak, and inexperienced and don’t have the resources and it can’t be done.”

It sounds like the people of the OCA.  Like the Israelites we are too afraid to establish ourselves in the land in which God has planted us.  We have the same whiney excuses – there are too many obstacles and we are too few, and lack leadership and lack monks and resources.    Yes, the task is daunting – to plant the Church in America.  We don’t think we are up to the task.  We don’t have the resources or the leadership.   God has called us to do it anyway.    We need to do what God has commanded us to do.  If we haven’t noticed, throughout the Old Testament, God doesn’t call the greatest, richest, strongest as His chosen ones.  God often chooses those who are weak and insignificant and unnoticed to do His will  in order that we might understand if the task is accomplished it is only because God provides.

Let us not be enslaved by our own fears and failures.  Even if we don’t succeed, let us at least not rebel against God like our ancient forefathers did!

God bestows the spiritual gifts His people need and God raises up for Himself people to lead. 

Despite virtually everyone of the Israelites so strongly agreeing that they weren’t up to the task of moving into Canaan that they were willing to rebel against God, Caleb and Joshua wanted to lead the people into doing what God commanded – in spite of the odds and the obstacles.     

We don’t need to go back to Russia or Greece to find leaders for the Orthodox Church in America.  God distributes the gifts the church needs.  God will give us a Caleb and a Joshua.  The Israelites had the leadership in the desert, even though people rebelled against them. 

What we do need is the clear vision to see what God is telling us to do.   And we need the clear vision to see the spiritual gifts which God has distributed among His people.

Christ is the Rock which follows the people of God – you don’t have to go back to anything.  Christ is here.  Christ is the deep well who gave the spiritual drink which satisfied and saved the Israelites in the desert.   He is the deep well to which we can go – but we don’t have to go “back” to somewhere else – for Christ is the Rock who follows us and is here and has brought the water of salvation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to us.

7 thoughts on “Christ: The Rock Who Follows US

  1. Ioann

    I think that story from the Old Testament is acutally more applicable to the situation in the OCA:

    The Holy Prophet, St. Elijah complained to God:

    “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

    In the Lord’s answer:

    “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

    The OCA is too enamored with itself and its tomos of autocephaly that is ignored by first, the very Moscow Patriarchate who granted this autocepahaly (soon to be rescinded?) and every other Patriarchate and Autonomous Church who continue their presence in America. Do these churches only exist in America to “horn in” on the OCA’s rightful place. Not at all.

    They, like the “seven thousand…whose knees have not bowed down to Baal” are doing the work of God and continuing to shine the holy light of Orthodoxy to the world while the OCA, still burdened by its delusions of grandeur have effectively placed their lamp under a bushel.

    In other words, the OCA has dropped the ball. God still has servants to do the job.

  2. Fr. Ted

    Ioann,
    Thanks for your reply. I do agree with you that the OCA has dropped the ball. And it probably is true that the OCA has at times acted like it is the only Orthodox Church in America and those others are simply trying to “horn in” on its corner of the market, as you said.
    But I do think the OCA has a place here in America, and a calling from God. It has to date failed miserably. That doesn’t take away the mission which it has – to move Orthodoxy beyond being merely an immigrant Church in America to helping it become an indigenous Church.

    The difference being?

    Instead of Orthodox immigrants, Orthodox descendants and Orthodox natives, welcoming “other Americans” into their church, the indigenous Church serves first those for whom America is their homeland and outreaches to the immigrants. The Church needs to do both and to do all. But many in the Orthodox Church still see their primary role as serving a particular “ethnic” interest and welcoming in those who can also embrace this “ethnicity.” An indigenous Church does not see its primary role as preserving some “other” culture or Orthodoxy, but accepts the task of finding the best way to evangelize in America and to speak to this culture. That is a task that many seem to fear, but I do believe it is the task that Christ laid before us. In Matthew 28, we are to go into all the world and to teach each nation what Christ has commanded us, we are not commanded to go into the world and teach people how to be ethnic (a nation) nor to join them to any particular ethnic group. Hopefully in Greece the Orthodox Church teaches people how to be Christian Orthodox, not how to be Greek. In Russia we hope the Church teaches people how to be Christian Orthodox, not how to be Russian or Greek. Our task is the same in America – we are commanded to teach how to be Christian Orthodox, not how to be American or Russian or Greek.

  3. Ioann

    Re: “Read the Old Testament – God didn’t abandon His people even when they traveled down the wrong path as the OCA did for the past twenty years.”

    Actually you should read the next verse after 1 Corinthians 10:4

    Verse 5:

    “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”

    Even though they drank from “the spiritual rock”, it didn’t change the fact that the sinful generation that rebelled against God perished in the 40 years wandering in the wilderness with the notable exceptions of Caleb and Joshua. Perhaps this give us hope. According to you, Fr. Ted, the OCA has only been wandering on the wrong path for twenty years, so maybe the OCA only needs another twenty years to get into shape to take the Promised Land of America, once the rebel generation moves on.

    Numbers 14:
    26 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,

    27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.

    28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:

    29 your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,

    30 doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephun’neh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

    31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.

    32 But as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in this wilderness.

    33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness.

    34 After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.

    35 I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.

  4. Ioann

    BTW, I’m really irked by this idea about a rock following us around while we sin, rebel and wander in the wilderness. Something inside of me tells me that we Orthodox Christians might be better off doing the following part…following the Rock which is Christ than having it the other way around.

  5. Fr. Ted

    You may not like St. Paul’s metaphor about the Rock who is Christ following the people of God, and you may prefer the Old Testament version of events rather than the New Testament’s interpretation of those events, but that Rock did follow the Israelites throughout all their rebellions, including the rebellion of Moses which prevented him from entering the promised land. And no I did not forget the next verse in 1 Cor 10 – I was quite aware that anyone who would look up vs 4 would see vs. 5 and the following verses and maybe would recognize how much like the Israelites the OCA has been.

    The Rock followed the Israelites throughout their 40 years of pruning in the desert – for that is what the 40 years was about, so that all of those who rebelled would die off before they were allowed to enter the Promised Land (except for Caleb and Joshua). God was angry with His people, and Moses interceded with God on behalf of the rebellious people. Moses clearly understood that his salvation lay with the rebellious people, and when he intercedes before God on behalf of God’s chosen people, we see his unique role in salvation. Read the entirety of Numbers 14. Moses is the Christ-like figure, which is exactly part of St. Paul’s argument. And what happened to the Israelites accoring to St. Paul happened as a warning to us (vs. 11).

    You may be irked by the Rock who is Christ following the Orthodox Church through its own rebellions and sins, but you’ll have to take that complaint to St. Paul. We don’t get to pick and choose the images which Scripture presents to us. The image of Christ the Rock following us is in our Scriptures and Tradition. Christ was with God’s people in the very moment of their rebellion toward and rejection of God.

    Following Christ is another Scriptural metaphor – but it is obvious that sometimes when we follow Christ, we are imitating Him, not walking behind Him. In fact sometimes “following” Christ means taking the lead. Christianity is not a passive spectator sport. There are times when we are on the front lines and in the spotlight, and our following Christ means taking the initiative, leading by example, discerning what needs to be done (see Acts 15 for example where the apostles must make a difficult decision and note that no one quotes Jesus or brings up any teaching of his or points to his example. Following Christ meant taking the lead and setting the example, not simply mimicking Christ).

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