Tom's Sermon: Septemebr 25, 2011

WATER FROM A ROCK

Tom Sawyer’s Meditation notes for Grace United, September 25th, 2011
Exodus 17:1-7;
Psalm 78; Philippians 2:1-3; Matthew 21:23-32

The Holy Land is a very different climate than this part of the world. At graveside committals the words from Revelation about “no scorching heat shall harm them” just don’t fit if the snow is moving horizontally and the temperature reads minus 35. When I think of wilderness if think of the days when I could stand at the back of the little church in Fort Nelson looking north realizing that, apart from cut lines, there was nothing but muskeg, forests, lakes and mountains for a thousand miles to the Beaufort Sea. One evening I was gassing up at Muncho Lake on my way to Watson Lake and the thermometer beside the pumps read -68o Fahrenheit.

For the Israelites wondering the Sinai after fleeing the Egyptians the problem was how to find water to survive in the heat. I have seen pictures taken by soldiers with Mike Pearson’s peace keepers sent to the Sinai in the 60’s showing dead soldiers still in their uniforms but their bodies completely mummified in the dry heat. Without water in the desert, life cannot be sustained. After Moses had fled Egypt because he had killed the Egyptian taskmaster, he lived for a generation in the wilderness and knew how live in the Sinai, including how to find water before he returned to lead the people out into the desert. They panicked for they could not imagine how they would find water. I have seen mineral rich hot springs in a warm climate where a thick crust of minerals has solidified over the water, a crust that can be broken to access the water underneath. It wouldn’t surprise me if a desert-wise Moses recognized such “rocks” and was able to break the crust to get at the water underneath. It doesn’t matter if that was the case or not. The point was that God provided the people with water in the desert at a critical time.

With the possible exception of Albertans living in the “Palliser Triangle” in dry years, we don’t know deserts, but many dry years have seen crops and pastures dry up and cattle suffer for lack of water.

Metaphorically, we all know about desert experiences, when life seems to be sapping us of energy, when nothing seems to be going our way, when relationships suffer, when work or finances are in a critical state, when our faith is weak, when we are about ready to give up and we don’t know where to turn. We wish that we could spy a water rock to strike and solve our spiritual dehydration in the deserts of our lives.

How do we find living water in the desert times of our lives? There are many answers just as there are many different people seeking the answers. To begin, we must work at our relationship with God. Any married couple know that it takes work to keep a relationship alive and positive. We cannot spend an hour with our spouse once or twice a month and assume that everything is fine, like we so often do in our relationship with God. It takes work – sometimes daily work to nurture a relationship. With God some people make sure of their daily prayers. For some it requires some quiet meditative time, whether it is in our room, in the great outdoors, by ourselves or with others. For still other people it requires interaction with people, talking about the spiritual desert we are passing through and seeking their help and suggestions. For still others it is seeking out the guidance of Scripture.

We have a duel challenge as a congregation. We have to continue to give spiritual water to those of our people present at worship on Sunday mornings while finding new ways of providing living waters to those who have given up on church for any of a variety of reasons. The same way of worship does not reach all. Just as some people find renewal of strength by being off by themselves in quiet retreat while others are energized by gathering with people, sharing thoughs and ideas, activities and outlooks, so meaningful worship takes different forms for different people.

Moses knew the dessert and was able to find water in non-traditional places. Sometimes we have to look for God and God’s will in non-traditional places as well as in the places and activities that have meant so much to so many for a lifetime of living. We are all one in the unity of Christ, but we are also very different parts of Christ’s body so we have to be open and accepting of those who view worship, service, and relationship to God in ways that are different than ours..

That is the legacy of our United Church of Canada, a legacy we offer to the people of Lloydminster and district as we move further into this third millennium of Christ’s Church. May God’s guidance be with us as we go.