Lectionary Text: Exodus 17: 1-7
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.” 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. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
The wilderness journey has begun. It all sounded so simple: Just lead them across the wilderness to the Promised Land. But things are not going well. There are rumblings of discontent. The people are questioning the vision and direction of their leader. And, to top everything off, they are thirsty. Aaaaggghhh! QUIT COMPLAINING! (You know that’s what Moses wanted to say!) But he didn’t. He listened. And then, the text says, he cried out to the Lord. The truth was, they were thirsty. People get downright beligerant when they are hungry or thirsty. And the waters came–thirst-quenching waters.
You know, sometimes we hear responses that we don’t want to hear. And all of us know that it would have been a whole lot easier for Moses to just go on by himself (and a whole lot quieter!). Today, I’ve sat through several interviews by our conference’s Board of Ministry. They are interviews for ordination candidates at which the board ascertains whether or not the candidate is doing effective ministry. What exactly is effectiveness? Like I said, sometimes it would be a whole lot easier to just go off by yourself, to just pray that the problems or the problem people go away. But that’s not the way this faith journey works. Sometimes the faith journey includes quarreling and testing. Sometimes it includes a whole lot of complaining. But always, always it includes more grace than any of us can handle. And the waters came–thirst-quenching waters.
In one of the interview rooms, I saw a hand-printed sign (as in off of someone’s computer–no one knows what “handwritten” is anymore, I suppose!). It was actually for a children’s choir, but I think it works beyond that. The sign said “Listen louder than you sing.” That’s what Moses did. That’s what this journey is. It’s about realizing that you’re part of a bigger picture, that you cannot just go off by yourself and leave everyone behind. It’s about letting God lead you. It’s about listening louder than you sing (or complain or quarrel or anything else). It’s about knowing that the waters will come–thirst-quenching waters.
So on this Lenten journey, listen louder than you sing!
Grace and Peace,