Time after Pentecost #26 (A)
“Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”
These words are from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” – a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798. They describe the dilemma faced by the crew on a ship marooned in the middle of the ocean – there indeed was “water, water, everywhere” –water as far as they could see – and yet they were all dying of thirst.
Such seemed to be the situation faced by the Israelites in today’s first reading in Exodus. They had seen and experienced the power of God working for them again and again and again. God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt – God had miraculously brought them through the midst of the Red Sea and then had drowned the Egyptian army that was pursuing them. In last week’s reading, God had provided meat for them in the evening and also special bread called “Manna” for them to eat each morning. And always during the entire forty years of their time in the wilderness, God was with the Israelites in the midst of a “pillar of fire and cloud” that was never out of their sight.
Yes indeed, “God, God, everywhere…”And yet the Israelites in today’s first reading were still dying of thirst – just like the crew of the Ancient Mariner in Samuel Coleridge’s poem. “God, God, everywhere…”and yet the Israelites were still experiencing all kinds of troubles. As soon as one problem was resolved – like their need for food in last week’s reading – they faced another. And all of the problems, rather than God’s blessings, more and more became the focus of the Israelites’ attention.
In many ways, that is what it is like for us here today, isn’t it? We believe that God is with us – and that God is leading us. But often we don’t know exactly where God is leading us – let alone know how God is going to provide for us.
For example, think of all of the changes that we have been experiencing here in this community lately. When Carol and I came here almost nine years ago, the population of Sidney and of Richland County in general was in decline. I remember reading a Billings Gazette newspaper series about this area, which called us “The Land of the Rearview Mirror” because so many people seemed to be leaving and not coming back. I remember listening to a number of conversations in which the hope was expressed that maybe some day our community might start to grow again.
Well, as we know, that has certainly been happening lately! Now our roads are filled with all kinds of trucks and other traffic. Housing is at a premium – many newcomers can’t find a place to live, but have to stay in campers. Our community’s growth may be bringing about a number of blessings for our businesses and hope for our newcomers – but there certainly are also a lot of growing pains that we are also experiencing as well.
And I guess one of the most unsettling things is that none of us knows exactly where all of this is going to lead. In the midst of all this uncertainty, it is all too easy for us to focus upon the negatives – just like the Israelites in today’s first reading did.
The Israelites even started to yearn for the “good old days” when they were slaves back in Egypt! In last week’s text they remembered how they sat by the fleshpots and ate their fill of bread – and now they remember how they always had plenty of water to drink back in Egypt.
But the real problem was not the occasional lack of food and water that the Israelites were now experiencing. The bottom line problem was that they wanted God to be a “sugar-daddy” God who would give them whatever they wanted. And if God was not like that, then the Israelites were quick to conclude that he wasn’t really with them – and that he did not love and care for them.
But God’s relationship with his people was about much more than his providing them with material blessings. It was about whether or not they would be willing to love and trust him even in the midst of scarcity and change.
Through it all, God continued to provide for his people. Maybe not in the ways they envisioned, and maybe not in the amount they wanted – but God always gave them enough for their needs. He provided them with quails and manna to eat. And in today’s reading, he provided them with water to drink from a rock.
And so it is with us today. As we go through challenges and changes in our lives, God will give us what we need. But may we understand that at its deepest level, our relationship with God is about much more than that. It is about our trust in God’s promise to be with us and love us – even during those times when it is hard to see it.
“Water, water, everywhere” – and through our trust in Jesus Christ, we know that there will always be plenty of spiritual water to drink and satisfy the deepest needs of our souls. Even when the world around us may seem to be in the midst of chaos and change. Even when we may be facing trials in our own lives, and even when we face death itself – may we always know that God is with us.
“God, God, everywhere…” May God grant us eyes of faith to understand that he is with us and will love and care for us forever and ever. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
Pastor George Karres
418 W. Main St.
Sidney, MT 59270