Based on Exodus 17: 1-7
May the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings we hold in response to your Word for us from scripture be acceptable in your sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Is the Lord with us our not?”
This is a question worthy of our consideration each and every day living as we do in these challenging, chaotic, and uncertain times.
“Is the Lord with us our not?”, we wonder when a suspected terror attack happens in Edmonton, Alberta, or in Marseilles, France, or London, England.
“Is the Lord with us our not?” we wonder when wildfire rips through entire communities and people have to evacuate their homes,
“is the Lord with us or not?” we wonder when weather patterns decimate people’s livelihoods.
“Is the Lord with us or not?” we wonder when world leaders alienate and threaten nations one from the other and their very well being.
The question: “Is the Lord with us or not?” has echoed through the ages.
Its one also dating back to the time of Moses and the ancient Israelites as their wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula was drawing to its conclusion after 39 long years!
“Is the Lord with us or not?” is one of those questions posed in the context of deep fear, persistent frustration, and chronic disappointment.
“Is the Lord with us or not?” is the confrontational question God’s people bring to Moses, their leader at Massah and Meribah, near to Mt. Horeb.
Its posing is what motivates Moses, also full of fear, frustration, and fatigue from chronic disappointment to seek out God’s counsel with his own question
“What am I to do with these people?” he says.
And the God of Moses and of the ancient Israelites chooses to respond swiftly, with clarity, direction, and abundant compassion to both questions.
Instructing Moses to use the same tool he had used previously to help God’s people to flee the wrath of Pharoah in Egypt and the same tool he had used to help his people cross over the Red Sea, God tells Moses to strike the rock at the base of Mt. Horeb with his staff.
He also encourages Moses to bring along some of his key leaders so that they can bear witness to what happens when people follow God’s instructions. Even more important, he tells Moses that God will stand before him.
Miracle of miracles, when Moses strikes the rock at the base of Mt. Horeb, a spring of gushing water pours forth and the people’s thirst is quenched.
The question “Is the Lord with us or not?” is answered with a resounding ‘yes’ as the peoples’ needs are met once more.
God has made good on God’s promise to be with God’s people!!!
Once again, the people are fortified for their physical and for their faith journeys.
I love this story from our ancient texts!
It’s a story about liberation, promise, and trust.
Its also a story about fear and lament in a context of uncertainty, change, challenge, and potential chaos.
And, it’s a story about communities learning to ask for needs to be met and discovering that they will be, even in the most surprising ways.
Through unexpected leaders and quarrelsome followers, we find a relentlessly compassionate God actively at work.
All the people and their leaders need do is trust in that truth.
“Is the Lord with us or not?” is a question loaded with layers of expectation and distrust.
It’s a confrontational question that demands accountability and that expects truth. Its hearing makes us wonder: “Who is in charge-the people or God?”
In this story from Exodus, God chooses to answer this confrontational question in surprising, gracious, and compassionate ways
God answers it in ways that remind us who is actually in charge.
This is the nature of God’s character.
Our God, our Rock and our Redeemer, always keeps God’s promises.
Our work, then, as was the case for our faithful forebears, is to learn to trust in that reality.
Not easy and not fun when we are deeply fearful, persistently frustrated, and chronically disappointed.
Not easy and not fun in our current context of chaos and confusion, of challenge, and uncertainty.
Not easy and not fun any time, but I wonder: “Who said the Christian journey was meant to be free of conflict, fear, or doubt?”
“Who said there would be chocolate, champagne, and roses?”
Our relationship with God, our leaders, and each other is demanding and challenging but its also fulfilling and life giving if we can but stay open to the surprising ways God will manifest Godself to us.
After all, ‘one way or another, “God is going to make our lives more of an adventure of faith than not!”*
All we have to do is show up, ask for what we need, bear witness to God’s presence in our midst, and trust the process!
For this good news, I say thanks be to God and may it be so, amen.
*Attributed to Bishop Will Willoman’s lecture on “Being Christian in a Post-Christendom World” at Vancouver School of Theology, September 2017