Sunday, 23 March 2014

Sermon: Complaining and Testing: Life-giving Water

Exodus 17: 1-7 

Desert Wilderness (photo from Holy Land 2008 JMW)

The memory is a wondrous thing don’t you think?
It can take a terrible situation and let the passage of time and the passing of a generation change it to a time of peace and tranquillity...
It is so easy to look at the past with rose tinted spectacles: your schooldays – the best days of your life?
Your childhood: always sunny in the summer, always good snow in the winter; everyone always happy, no one ever ill....
And we know, that even if that’s how we remember it, it really isn’t true: we apply a filter and remember the good times and forget the bad.

Thus it is with this Israelite Community: thousands of them!
They have wandered and followed Moses; they were rescued from slavery, from oppression: they begged God to rescue them
The begged God to save them from the oppressive rule of Egypt; yet now, here they are, out in the wilderness, and all they can focus on is that when they were in Egypt they had a roof over their heads and food and water to hand:  they do not remember the misery which drove them to beg God for release.

They had been hungry: God arranged for manna and quail to feed them; and now they are thirsty, and I am sure, they could have asked nicely rather than moaning and whingeing... but, they did not.

The trouble is; and we all know this; when you are in a situation it is so difficult to get outside it and think rationally
Our humanity gets in the way
Our frailty
Our dependence on others, and eventually we remember our dependence on God

Moses was in the very lucky position of being in constant contact with God
He did not know the whole plan, but he trusted that God did, and that was good enough for him

But the people relied on others to remind them
To take them to God
Their faith was vulnerable and wandering in the desert they felt vulnerable too

In my mind’s eye I can imagine Moses each night unrolling his parchment and recording the day’s trek; the week’s progress: creating a map of their travels, and at each point the halted and set up camp for a while recording a name for that place according to the mood of the camp...

My name is Julie – and I have a vague notion that I was named after a friend of my mother’s – I am sure I was told the story once; but now it is lost somewhere in the mists of time. When we name our children we take the names of family members and good friends and pass them on to our children: my oldest son is named after my grandfather; my second son after his grandfathers on both sides... and my third boy is named for two very dear friends who were very influential on my faith journey...

Some of you will have the same name as your father or mother; there may be several generations of George, or William or Margaret in your family. And thus it is, as it has aye been.

But consider choosing names for the time or the place or the circumstances:
Harper Seven...
Ok – maybe the Beckhams knew what they were doing?!!

Moses map was full of places and names: Massah: to complain
Meribah: to test – imagine the conversation when one of the elders came to look at it... 

(taken from the Spill the Beans resource)

Did you have to call it that?
Moses: What?
Voice A: “Argue and Test.” It’s not a very nice name.
Moses: It wasn’t very nice behaviour.
Voice B: But we don’t need reminded of that every time we go back there.
Voice A: You’ve got us all squirming. It’s… uncomfortable… embarrassing!
Moses: Maybe you do need reminded. Maybe I should have made you squirm a long time ago. Maybe that’s what I did wrong.
Voice A: What?
Moses: Yep, I wonder why it took me so long to name what you’ve been doing. You’re suddenly having a proper look at yourselves.
Voice B: Well OK, we kind of complained a bit, and weren’t very trusting, but you didn’t have to paint it up in bold letters!
Moses: Can I show you something?
A & B: What?
Moses: (pulling out a chart) Here is the map I’ve been keeping of our journey. I made some notes of other names along the way, not that I painted them up in bold anywhere. Let’s go right back to day one. Here - just past the Red Sea…
Voice B: (Looking at chart) “Bickering”.
Voice A: Let me see! (Looking at chart) Oh no, a bit further along the road you’ve got “Fracas”…
Voice B: …and not long after that comes “Petty Pouting”.
Voice A: What’s this in the foothills?
Voice B: “Headache.”
Voice A: And halfway along to the next wadi…
Voice B: Looks like “Discord.”
Voice A: Aw Moses! (pointing at chart) What have you got here?
Voice B: (Looking) But he’s right! I remember that campsite on the plain – “Tantrums Common” – we deserve it!
Voice A: What’s this bit you’ve scored out?
Moses: Couldn’t decide between “Little Grumbles” or “Lesser Whinings.”
Voice A: Have we been that bad?
Voice B: We’ve probably been worse!
What’s this other list in the corner here?Moses: Oh, those are the names I’m still looking forward to using.
Voice A: Let me guess… “Greater Gripes”? …or “Fullscale Fallout”?
Voice B: No… look! There’s “Harmony Junction”.
Voice A: Ah… well, we’ve not earned that one yet.
Voice B: “Reconciled.”
Voice A: Hmm. Sometimes we get about halfway there.
Voice B: “Trusting.”
Voice A: Long way to go!
Moses: But we’ll get there. We’ll get there.
Voice B: You really think so? Then maybe we should name this place…
“High Hopes”.

Think about our names: and the names we might give our homes; our lives
Are we complainers?
Or moaners, or gossips?
Or are we optimists, faithful, hopeful?
Think about it
And in the silence be honest with yourself: because God knows the names we hold in our hearts
God knows our names and like water, suddenly appearing in the desert God also can refresh and invigorate us:
Ask God what is my given name and my heart name?
That heart name can give us new life, new hope new joy:  and we can choose

Praise God! 

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