(Lent 3A Exodus 17:1-7)
We're coming to the end of the transition at the church I am serving, and I've noticed an uptick in the number of people who are saying how much they like me and how much I will be missed. And although I appreciate that, I'm afraid it also points up how much I will miss them and makes me a little sad. I can contain that feeling, because I need to, and I can work it out appropriately in the right settings, but I can feel that it's time for all of us to move into a last little phase of cranky anxiety with one another. And the difference is, as it was in the beginning, that they are allowed to exhibit theirs.
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD 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 LORD?"
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 to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me."
(Exodus 17:1-4, NRSV)
That's where we don't want to go: no stonings, please! But there is no question that fear of what lies ahead, simply because it is unknown, can lead us to feel cranky and can drive us to question authority and can inspire us to turn on the very one(s) who most want to help us.
I'm thinking about thirst and how it feels compared to being quenched. If you've had enough water to drink, you feel settled. Your brain works better. You remain cool instead of overheating. Your mouth just feels right.
But if you're dehydrated, watch out! You make bad choices if you can't or won't get water, and of course it's more likely the latter in this era of bottled water everywhere and in a region where the water supply is plentiful and delicious.
Thirst is a downward spiral. Your mouth and your mind and your spirit dry up, sink inward, regress and shrink.
In a congregation thirsty for news of what's next, there is pressure on those who know what's going on, and there is pressure of a different kind on those who don't.
What's my job in the midst of this?
The LORD 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. (Exodus 17:5-6)
I believe it's my task to strike the rock. It's my job to keep things flowing, to reassure the people that God is in the process, to keep the focus on God's presence. It's my job to be sure they get enough to drink.