Lectionary Year A
September 26, 1999
Exodus 17:1-7

Contemporary Address


(JFC) A. DESCRIPTION OF AUDIENCE

If I were preaching from this text, it probably would be for the people in the congregation where I’m becoming a Parish Associate. Disabled from practicing a full time call, I enjoy worshiping with these people. They have excellent preaching and an outstanding variety of good music. The worshipers are well healed, articulate and involved in their nice community. They have joined with two other downtown congregations to resettle two Kosovar families – 4 adults and 4 children under the age of four years. Their visions might be raised to expect to find God amongst us.

(JFC) B. INTENDED GOALS FOR THE AUDIENCE

We can hope to answer the open-ended question that literarily, at least, ends the account of water from the rock. People want answers. We can live the question along with the ancient wanderers, to be sure. Then we can answer it from Scriptural witness without end. God is among us. That’s good news.

(JFC) C. ADDRESS

“Grumbling To God”

Introduction
Most of us are positivists. Few complain, really complain, especially to God. Moses accused the complaining wilderness wanderers of complaining to God when they complained to Moses. Do all complaints rise to the Almighty?

People In Need
It’s okay to complain. The children of (ancient) Israel did it. Naomi did it. Job did it. They all got away with it, too. Grumbling acknowledges that we discern that all is not as good as it might become. The nomads had real disappointments. Their comforts were being annihilated. Their survival was being threatened. Their prosperity was up for grabs. Theirs were no exaggerations. They really could have died in the waterless desert.
Water symbolizes survival and salvation. Egyptians believed sprinkling water on corpses assures life in the hereafter. Water refreshes, cleanses and renews life. Jesus calls water a symbol of welling up to eternal life in John’s Gospel, chapter 4.

Calling On God
Here, then, is where the text calls our names. Nomads longed for water. Water we’ve got. What we long for is spiritual refreshment, more spiritual sustenance, more spiritual renewal, cleansing and refurbishing. Moses might have had such needs. Let’s see. Let’s look, first at what he did not do. He did not go ballistic into rantings and ravings at the first hint of complaints. He refused to bicker, even debate with the bellyachers in the desert. No Mosaic agitations at their noisy disputations and inane quarelsomeness.
Rather, Moses calls out to God. Moses asks God for help in dealing with the recalcitrant complainers. Moses must have known Abraham’s willingness to take Isaac out to sacrifice him and God provided the appropriate victim. Surely, Moses knows God to be a Provider of the highest order. Moses remembers the escape through the sea and the quails and the manna in the wilderness. A Providing God could and would provide water for thirsty sojourners.

God’s Solutions
God hears Moses’ question. God hears the complaints and the question. God lets the criticizers vent and Moses question. God patiently hears our negativities and our queries, too.
God also anticipates the ultimate question in the text: “Is God among us or not?” God knows what it’s like at our work, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, even in politics. God says, “Yes, I know and I stand with you all along your rocky ways, Horeb or wherever.” God gave the ancient Israelites, also, the gift of faith. They began, as the history of their development continues, to become a faithful servant people.

Conclusion
Paul writes, “Oh, the depths of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God . . . unsearchable, inscrutable,” (sometimes, even) indetectible, always mysterious. Such a God we worship and serve.



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