God provides what we need for this day to quench our thirst and sustain us on our journey.
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 26 A
Texts: Exodus 17: 1-7
Beloved in Christ, grace to you and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
The people of God are thirsty.
Days and nights on this wilderness journey. Days blending together. Losing track of time. Forgetting the past. Wanting to turn back time. Frustrated. Uncertain. Powerless. Angry. Anxious. Afraid. And thirsty.
Thirst so consuming that the Israelites suggest turning back to Egypt, saying to Moses, “why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”
Thirst so consuming that they forget about the oppressive system they were living under. Can you blame them? At least in Egypt there was water… even if it was toxic water.
Thirst so consuming that they quarrel with God saying, “is God really among us or not?”
Thirst so consuming they are questioning if they are going to be able to survive to sustain their community during this journey. Wondering if the next generations will have a future where they can thrive.
I don’t know about you. But I am thirsty. And really, it wasn’t until reading and meditating on this story of the people of Israel that I realized I am thirsty all of the time.
Are you thirsty?
Thirsty from all that is happening around the world that is dehydrating our souls?
Creation is crying out as we witness to the effects of climate change. The U.S. has now reached over 200,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 and this virus continues to threaten our lives and our communities. The election is just weeks away. And there is still no justice for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd among countless others.
This is just to name a few major things on a societal level. Recognizing that there is still so much happening in our personal lives and in this community.
Author and Professor Kate Bowler wrote this week, “Lord, we are moving through time no longer believing it is taking us to somewhere good. Mark our Paths. Lead us now.”
Let me say that again. Bowler quarrels with God, “we are moving through time no longer believing it is taking us to somewhere good. Mark our Paths. Lead us now.”
In times like these we thirst with the Israelites asking God, “are you with us or not?”
When the Israelites begin to set up camp at Rephidim, they know that it is not the place where God is leading them. In order to settle in a new place, there needs to be a good source of water. If there isn’t flowing water, they know they have not reached the promised land.
No water = no life.
Their feet are blistered. Their backs aching from carrying their whole lives on their shoulders. Watching as members of the community, especially their children, their elders, and their livestock, suffer.
They stop to rest for the evening and set up camp. But they know they won’t be staying there long. What’s the point of getting comfortable if there is no water?
Even the journey can be deceiving. They possibly can hear the running water as they lay awake at night, but the water is nowhere in sight. They know it has to exist, but they don’t know what it will taste like.
Last week, we listened as we heard that these people were provided with an abundance of manna and quail. Maybe once they had food, they thought they were one step closer. An appetizer to what will be a full course meal of milk and honey.
A promised land so wonderful that the whole community could thrive.
But they are not there yet.
And the people of God are afraid.
They fear that they may not live to see another day let alone make it to the promised land.
We hear this fear in Moses as he cries to God, “what shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” Moses is representing his fear and the fear of the people.
God in return tells Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” So Moses struck the rock in sight of the Elders of Israel.
Water comes out of the rock so that the people may drink. The source of water isn’t enough for the people to build their community around it. But it is enough to quench their thirst.
When God’s people drink of this water, their thirst is no longer all consuming. The flowing water is all that they need for today.
Water for today = Life for tomorrow
Water for today = Hope for tomorrow
Water for today = Nourishment for the Journey
Like the people of Israel, we don’t know what the promised land here on earth will look like. But we know God is leading us there. Not because we see it, or hear it, or taste it. But because we know that God is with because God is marking our journey.
When Moses strikes the rock, he does so in the sight of the Elders. This is a sign of hope. A sign that the people of God are going to be transformed from generation to generation. God is showing the Elders how to find hope. This hope is going to live through the generations.
God shows us…
How to find life in ordinary objects
How to find hope in ordinary places
How to find nourishment in unexpected ways
People of God, We are Thirsty.
But we have been on this wilderness journey far too long to turn back now.
So for today, for the next week, maybe for the next month. However long. Let’s seek out our rock of life-giving water that God is leading us to and camp out for a while. Long enough to quench the thirst of today and give us nourishment for the journey ahead.
Water = Life
And we have water for today.
And thanks be to God.