The Wilderness Journey
The Rev. Fran Holliday
Sunday September 28, 2014
So here we are again,confronted with the whiny Israelites. Their complaints that we just heard began last Sunday when we read that the Israelites were finding the trek into the wilderness difficult; so much so that they began to rethink their newfound freedom.
“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Following this- the Lord heard their complaint and gave them their fill of bread.
But now they need water and instead of recalling that God had just fed them in their time of need, they become afraid and angry once again. The people thirsted for water and complained against Moses and said “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”
Why would the Israelites mistrust Moses? Why would they not feel that God was with them now just as God been there with them through so many other tribulations?
Most especially after their dramatic deliverance from slavery as they passed through the red sea waters onto dry land as the Egyptians pursued them. How could they now question the motivation of Moses? How after all this how could they feel that God had abandon them? In their distress the Israelites quarreled bitterly with Moses.“Is the Lord among us or not?” they demanded.
Now I have to admit I can relate to the Israelites very well. It is easy to feel that God is with us when things are going well or perhaps after we have come through some difficulty and made it to the other side beyond hopelessness and despair.But then when we are thrown back into the struggles of life and times are tough it is hard not to question God or ask ourselves. Is God among us or not?
To be fair to the Israelites they were faced with a pretty harsh situation. Not having any water to drink – their very lives were at stake once again. I think on some level we can all relate to the Israelites. We are often thrust into the wilderness of life and no matter how many times we have made it through before we ask “Why has God done this” “Where is God?" Or we may ask "Does God really care or really exist?"
These questions are all too human. When we lose a job. When we find out our child has learning disabilities and we can’t find the help they need at the school. When friends or family die. When we feel adrift without goals or a purpose. When we are in the throws of depression. When we feel unhappy in a relationship. When the money gets tight. When illness strikes and puts our entire future into question.It is not uncommon to ask Is God among us or not? Why did God lead us to this dead end?
The story of the Israelites journeying through the wilderness is our story as well. We all have our own wilderness journey. And with it comes those all too human questions and doubts. Why God? Where are you? What are you thinking now? Are you there at all? This story in particular invites us to understand that doubting, questioning and arguing with God or expressing an all out disbelief in God is part of our human condition. It is a part of our journey that we must just come to embrace.
This story however invites us as well into another role, if you will. Yes, we are all travelers on the wilderness road however, sometimes and perhaps more often than not we are also called to be the one to lead others out of the wilderness and to provide the living water. Even as we stumble around in our own wilderness and grapple with our own doubts we are called to reassure others that there is a light at the endof the tunnel.
Take a look at Moses, this man who we regard as one of the greatest biblical leaders. Yet he too was lost in his own wilderness even as he led. Moses had his own hardships, lets not forget that when God called him he was hiding out tending sheep in Midian and living on the edge after having murdered an Egyptian. Pharaoh was looking for him to have him killed. Not exactly the kind of trouble free upstanding life that we want from our leaders.
After he risked his own life and led the Israelites out of Egypt he too was thrust out again into wilderness and now he was the object of everyone’s anger and mistrust. After parting the red sea on God’s command and leading the people out of bondage he is now the enemy of the people. Moses cried out to God, “What shall I do? The people Are ready to stone me!” This is wilderness I would not want to find myself in. But none the less, despite his own troubles and journey, Moses continued on and he faithfully led the people to the living water that God provided.
There are many times in life that we are called upon to point the way--even as we ourselves struggle. Our spiritual task in life to realize that we are called to be hope to one another despite of all the struggles and doubts of our own wilderness journey. God did not call Moses after he got his life together. He called him from the wilderness he was in. And God is calling each one of us as we are from whatever wilderness we find ourselves, to reach out to others on the journey and to help point they way.
Sister Joan Chittister a Benedictine nun, speaker and author writes, “Our role in life is to bring the light of our souls to the dim places around us.” There are many dim places around us and we often get so lost in the muck and mire of own lives, that we forget that the wilderness of our problems, doubts and worries, do not define us. While all of this may be part of who we are we also have light and hope to offer. Our call to light the path for others is also part of the journey through the wilderness.
Over the past 5 years that I have served here as the Associate Rector, I have certainly witnessed so many of you lighting the path, holding out hope and being a life giving presence to one another. I know that when I first started here at All Saints’ my sister died and that was a wilderness journey that I was in no way prepared to take. So many of you were there with your presence, sharing your own experiences of loss and reaching out to me. It was life giving water indeed, and I am grateful for your presence to me.
This church has lots of new people coming here all the time. They all are seeking something. They all have their own wilderness journey and you are called to light the way. Continue to reach out, continue to welcome, continue to light the dim path that is all around us. It is easy to get caught up in our doubts and fears. It is common place for us to get so busy and overwhelmed with our own issues.
It is human for us to think that God could not possibly call us or use us in the state we are in. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Even in the midst of our wilderness journey God is calling us. This is a journey we are all on together.