Sunday, September 28, 2008

Miracles in the Desert

Is God here or not?

There is this story about some people of faith who are rescued by God. God gives them a way out of slavery and they take it – ending up on a journey to find a new beginning. Unfortunately, along the way, they discover they are not as ready for new life as they thought.

They are still holding on to the past, they cannot let go of the pain, they don’t really know what to do next... and so they have a little bit of trouble ending the journey. In fact, they spend a whole lot of time looking backwards.

This is the human condition isn’t it? If only I could repeat high school knowing what I know now (Youth is wasted on the young) If only I hadn’t of sold that house or taken that job, or made those choices... We spend a whole lot of our lives looking backwards – and it makes it pretty hard to go forwards.

Psychologists call it the immigrant problem... We think all of our problems will be solved if we can get away from here and try something new – but as soon as we get to the new place we think that it was better where we were. It applies to big and little changes, even the lane we choose for the toll booth.

Another way to put it is “The grass is always greener...”

So we live in this place – looking backwards – looking forwards – and stuck with the fact that most things don’t work out the way we expect them to.

We try and try to make things right – we complain about each thing that stands in our way – did you bring us out of Egypt to have us drown in the sea – to starve to death – to die of thirst? Every few days, as soon as one crisis is over, the people lose track, lose faith that they are doing the right thing and wonder if they should go back.

I am sure most of us can relate to this. Have you ever considered changing jobs, towns, careers? Have you ever left a relationship, or began one... When we find ourselves in a time of change we have doubts, we have questions, and we have fears. When sickness or tragedy strikes, when things seem too good to be true – we end up asking “Is God here or not?”

I think that the Israelites in the desert are essentially the same as us – we have faith; but when it comes right down to it and we are confronted with the harsh reality of life – we doubt God is real. In the desert moments of our own life we often think that we are facing it alone.

And Moses comes up with as many ways to say “yes” as the people come up with ways of asking the question. No matter what they say, no matter what the complaint – Moses turns it around and shows them that God is there. Can’t cross the ocean? God will part it. Can’t drink the water? God will purify it. Can’t find anything to eat? God will provide Quail. Can’t find water? God will make it pour forth from a rock.

I have never taken this literally. I have never known God to provide gasoline when my car reads “E” or a snack when I am feeling peckish – but figuratively, I have always found that God is there in my real day to day living... We forget sometimes and need reminding, that is what these stories are about.

Notice that the key to the whole water from the rock story is God’s statement: “I will go and stand on the rock – and then you will see the water.” It is a story about the very real presence of God.

I can’t help but throw in a Mount Royal church illustration. Everything in the world is changing at breakneck speed – and the churches in Moncton are changing.

Humphrey’s had a meeting last week to decide whether to “stay or go” ... Mountain View is having a meeting in 6 weeks to decide what they should do next...

We are beginning the very real and necessary step of taking the bull by the horns – so to speak and be proactive about our future. Because the truth is that God is here, standing on the rock, calling us to journey confidently into the future.

A couple of thousand years after Moses, Paul writes to the church in Philippi and quotes then what would have been a familiar hymn: which says my beloved church, with all your problems and worries – make my joy complete and believe that God is with you, was with you in Christ, is working in you now...

Listen to the end of this passage – “Work with fear and trembling to discover what it means to be saved – for it is God who is working from within to make all of this possible.”

That is what we are called to have faith in. We are called to understand that God is at work within our lives and our community to bring the world closer and closer to what it was meant to be. When we begin to let go of ourselves and see God in the equation – things that at one time seemed impossible are all of a sudden possible - which is one definition of a miracle.

In a very real sense this is what Jesus was all about. He lived as if he believed God was present – that the kingdom of God was “now!” to use his theology. Everything he did brought God’s way to the surface.

And when asked, “B y what authority are you doing this?” he did not even have to answer... Wasn’t God standing right there on the rock in front of them? Did they not recognize God’s will being done?

Do we?

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