All are welcome

Moving Forward

Moving Forward……

Ex 17:1-7

From the wilderness, the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the God commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Yahweh?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Creator said to 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.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested God, saying, “Is God among us or not?”

[whining child voice] How much further? When are we going to stop? When are we going to get there? How much longer? Can we stop yet?

Have any of you experienced this?

The journey just got a little too long. The once excited back seat, strapped-in child is no longer eager and excited to be on the adventure. The boredom of home is starting to look a whole lot better than the unending travel strapped into the back seat with the stale cheerios and coloring books. Complaining to the parents – the leaders of this journey — makes perfect sense.

The journey, the once hoped for and dreamed for adventure to a new world, a new life, a new way of being treated, new experiences, following God’s call – well – the journey to freedom may not be the easy twist top of a cold bottle of Cheerwine that we thought it would or should be.

You see the Israelites in our story only knew Egypt and they only knew slavery. It was their home and as comfortable as can be when you don’t know anything else. And so, it makes perfect sense to me that when the journey gets long and hard that they would start talking about going back. At least in Egypt they knew there would be food and water and shelter. Sure, they were slaves – sometimes beaten, expected to deliver a daily quota of bricks, expected to work for another group of people with no hope of escaping the bondage – but at least it was known.

This promised land of milk and honey – freedom – no one telling me how many bricks I have to make today – well, when will we get there Moses? Moses, how much longer do we have to travel in this wilderness?

This journey to freedom wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Long, hard, exhausting, moving, continually moving . . . Moses, where are you taking us?

Ever been on a long journey without an abundance of readily available resources?

The decision your group or community made was full of promise, excitement, adventure, it was going to be wonderful – the new job, the new town, the new family, the new relationship, the new project, the new commitment, the new baby, the new organization, THE NEW LIFE – This is it! It’s going to be wonderful. This is exactly what I have been longing for – praying about – Oh Yahweh has answered MY prayers. We are on the way.

Sure, we are willing to give up yeast bread for the journey to freedom. We will eat unleavened bread. Just give us freedom. And they are off . . . the Israelites – Yahweh’s chosen people begin the journey to freedom. Moses takes his staff – his walking stick and stretches it out over the sea — as per Yahweh’s command — and the sea parts. They all escape the pursuing Egyptian army going through the parted sea on dry land. No muddy shoes for them. No mud caked to their calves or their garments. They are off – set off for the adventure of their lives because Yahweh has called them.

Preparations for Hurricane Ike a few years ago were met with adrenaline and excitement. The challenge was set before us to be prepared for the worst. The storm offered opportunities for adventure – surviving without the normal comforts of electricity, air conditioning, water or flushing toilets. People moved in – people I didn’t know – we ballooned from 2 to 9 overnight two days before the storm. There was a buzz in the air. The unknown before us was exciting. It was a chance to provide shelter and sustenance. It was an opportunity to trust in God’s call to be a blessing to those in need.

During the days after Ike, living without electricity can be a challenge. On Sunday night after we had been without power for over 24 hours, we had just fed between 15-18 folks. I don’t know how many, they just kept coming in the back gate and the screened porch was full of people eating. A meeting was held among deb’s work group. They were being told, “Go find electricity. It could be days or weeks before we get it back here.”

I think at that point I got it. This might not continue to be a fun time of adventure. How long would we have to live without an easy means to keep our food from spoiling? And, how long would I have to host people in my house whom I had never met before last Wednesday? How long would I have to live keeping tabs on the flashlight and the matches for the candles?

I wonder if this is where any of you are? What sounded great is now beginning to lack an accessible water source. Notice that the text doesn’t say that they were out of water; only that there was no easy source of water present.

The vision that we believe God is calling us to here at High Country United Church – to make a positive impact – to widen our welcome to anyone who happens into our door……

It sounds good. Look around the room at our foundation. Remember the stories that lie behind these events. Tell these stories. Did you taste the living sustaining water it provided within them or was it just hard work?

So far we have $13,000 in the bank for the Solar Project. How amazingly exciting!!! Now, we only need about $25,000 more. We are two-thirds there – already.

We have capable people and resources. Sure, this call fits directly into our vision and mission statements. And now that we need folks to commit, to stay on this journey, to engage with this ministry, now we will see how strong our foundation really is.

Maybe, your present journey is a bit more global. You are all about this extravagant welcome thing and believe that it should be far reaching. Sure you can come across our borders, into our country, but you really need to learn our language and adhere to our customs and culture. We will hire you because we don’t have to pay you as much as our neighbor. Sure, you are welcome here – anytime.

Where did the adventure go? It all sounded so good – before we actually had to live into what an extravagant welcome might demand.

This isn’t what we bargained for Yahweh – Jehovah God. Freedom! It’s supposed to be the whipped cream with a cherry on top. It’s supposed to be ALL we ever dreamed it would be . . . bright colors, clean, without struggle, without work, smooth, orderly, flowing milk and honey – answering your call, saying Yes to follow you on the journey should bring glory and the sustaining water – it should be accessible at all times.

Sue Monk Kidd, the former editor of Guideposts wrote in her book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter,

There had been so many things I hadn’t allowed myself to see, because if I fully woke to the truth then what would I do? How would I be able to reconcile myself to it? The truth may set you free, but first it will shatter the safe, sweet way you live.” (5)

Cleaning up after the shattering, I’m a bit thirsty.

“Moses, we need a source of living, sustaining water. The journey is longer than we knew it would be. We think we want to go back to our old lives. We would rather be in bondage to the Egyptians rather than free with Yahweh. The responsibility is too great.”

And so we ask for water – unfortunately we do this often by pointing our finger at the ones who we believe should be responsible. Hear this soon to be “HCUCC teenagers” as we celebrate our 13th Anniversary – we are responsible for our own choices. We are response-able. We can point the finger toward someone else – just remember, that there are 3 pointing back at us.

And still Yahweh responds, “I will provide water for you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Take a few more steps. The water is up ahead.

And that water – well – it’s not going to come from a gorgeous crystal clear flowing stream, nor a bubbling spring, that’s not the current reality here on your journey to freedom.

No, your life saving water will gush forth from a rock — a rock that is densely compressed matter — a rock that can be used to stone and kill or a rock that can be used to build a shelter, a road or a dam or an altar. Rocks are formed by pressure whether they are igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic. Rocks form over hundreds or thousands of years of intense pressure.

Here, on your journey to freedom, here from the pressure formed rock is where you will find your living water. Not at the oasis with palm trees and sand. Not at the mountaintop with the spectacular views. Not at the Jordan River which is the finish line.

Nope, your living water that will quench your thirst will be found on your journey, from using the resources I have provided you – Moses’ staff that has already parted the sea, the leaders, and the challenges that are offered and provided for you. Here, on the journey, moving forward as Yahweh beckons, here is where the water will flow gushing from the rock. Look for it. I will be in front of the rock.

Go on up the trail. The rock is up ahead.