Today, we are only one week into social distancing, avoiding public venues, and closing our churches. Can you believe that only one week has passed? With all these incredible changes, it feels like three weeks have gone by, not just one week.
As you know, I am posting little reflections every day. Some are stories, images, poems, reflections shared, which all contain a Godly message and which most often contain scripture. My daily reflections aim to provide spiritual guidance and comfort, focusing on God’s promises, Christ’s Presence, and the companionship of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve decided that every Sunday I will post a mini-sermon. I’ll mainly look at what our church Lectionary recommends for that Sunday. Just pretend that you’re in our church pews, and I’m delivering a sermon to you. Each Sunday’s message will strongly focus on God’s provision and Presence with us. I will focus on the strengthening of your faith and the uplifting of your soul. God is with us.
Last Sunday I had a sermon prepared to deliver, but I didn’t get a chance to preach because our doors were closed. My sermon was a conversational approach. I outline my theme and main points, paragraphs are partial sentences with words highlighted, but the sermon isn’t written like an essay. I deliver the message in a conversational way, running the script in my head.
So today, I am looking at my outline for last week’s sermon, and I will give you a written “essay-type” version of it:
Sermon: “Water from the Rock” Exodus 17: 1 – 7
Throughout the weeks of Lent, I wanted to focus on the “Closeness of God” as our theme. And when we look at our scripture reading today, we see how God provided. The Israelites wandered throughout the Sinai desert for 40 years we’re told! And God always provided. They left Egypt, slavery and Pharaoh behind them. Moses had come to release them. God the Great I Am told Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” And eventually after many plagues and disasters for Egypt, Pharaoh did let the Israelites go.
Now throughout the chapters in Exodus and right through the following books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – until we get to the book of Joshua! – we see these Israelites wandering around the Sinai Peninsula on a very long circuitous journey heading for the Promised Land which God promised for them. Many, many times on this journey they get disgruntled and often argue against Moses and God. They were better off in Egypt, they say! They rebel and want to go back. They were better off as slaves, they say! But God has a plan for them. God knows where God is leading them. And all the time, God provides and God stays close to them.
“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people,” Exodus 13: 21, 22, God provides God’s Presence to guide their way, never leaving their side. God provides manna (bread) and quails to eat (Exodus 16:13 -15). And in our scripture reading, we see how God provides water to drink. Moses is told to hit the rock at Horeb with his staff, and out pours abundant water enough to quench their thirst. God knew where that water was. God lead them to that rock and water was provided for all. In all of their wanderings, God was close. They may not have recognized it, they certainly complained when things weren’t going well, but all the time God was leading them, God was providing for them, and God kept close.
Now, you may say to me, Mary, this is all fine and dandy that God provided for the Israelites in these amazing ways, but that happened a long time ago and I don’t know if God works this way today. I don’t know if God even hears my troubles, or my dilemmas, or stays close to me. These are old stories. They aren’t relevant today.
When I walked the Camino de Santiago six years ago in Sept. 2014, my husband Terry and I were true pilgrims – we had all our provisions on our backs in a backpack. Our clothes, our water, our food, our sleeping bag, our wash cloth and very small towel, socks and everything, were all jammed into this backpack. You set out on your journey each day with all your belongings on your back, not knowing the trail, knowing where you were headed, but not knowing what was ahead on the path. It was a journey of the unknown. A little like the Israelites.
One afternoon, I didn’t have any snacks in my backpack. I was without food on the trail, and Terry didn’t have any snacks either. There are regular cafes and little villages along this very famous Camino walk which cater to the pilgrims, but you don’t know where they are, and on this particular stretch of road, it was deserted. We had been walking for a couple of hours, yes – I had water, but I suddenly started to feel that feeling that if you don’t eat something very soon, you’re going to be in trouble. Low blood sugar? I kept going, but I knew that I needed something to eat pretty quickly. And there were no signs of any café or village in sight.
I prayed. I said – “God of the Way,” (we often addressed God this way on our pilgrimage path), “God of the Way, I need help. I need food to keep going. I’m in trouble. Please help me. You can provide. Please get me food.” And we walked just a short distance, maybe five more minutes, up a little bend in the road, and there before us was an abandoned farm house. With a little barn. All boarded up. No-one had lived there for a long time. And beside the house was a courtyard. And in the courtyard were pear trees. With pears on them. We easily got into the courtyard where there were some stone seats to sit on, and I ate three pears. Yes, they had a few worms in them, but I could eat around those parts. And I needed that sugar and that nourishment. And – I thanked God. I was amazed at God’s provision for me. I needed help and God provided. God heard me. God was close.
I can’t tell you the number of times we prayed on that journey for help, and it came. I can’t tell you the number of times in my life when I’ve prayed and assistance has come. You must have your stories, too.
God is with us. God is close. God hears. God provides. It is an amazing reality. Can you believe that?
God looks at our world and cares. God is with us in this COVID-19 crisis. Like the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire, God isn’t moving from our side. “Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people,” Exodus 13: 22. God is at the front of the peoples of our world. God is going to get us through.