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Exodus 17:1-7, Quote by Anne Lamott, and Quote by Margaret Atwood from The Penelopiad

Sunday, March 12th, 2023

By: Rev. Jackie Hibbard

Exodus 17:1-7

17:1 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.

17:2 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?"

17:3 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?"

17:4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me."

17:5 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.

17:6 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.

17:7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

I love water. I always have. When I was a child our family had a cottage on a river a short walk down the driveway from our home. A well known family tale is that one day my dog Dutchess and I disappeared when I was 4 years old and they found me sitting with the dog at my side just looking at the water. That spot is still one of my favorite places on this planet. On my recent vacation I sat by the Ocean looking and listening and meditating every day. I love sitting by Colorado streams and rivers, I love visiting Lake Ontario and Silver Lake when I’m back in Western New York. I love hot showers, sitting in hot springs, kayaking, swimming, and in my younger days water skiing. I drink a lot of water every day. Water soothes me, centers me - the sounds, the smell, the feeling of it on my skin.

And as those of us who lived through the 2013 floods here in Boulder County or any other disaster involving floods or rain, we know that water can be dangerous and destructive. Both - and.

I realize all of this is very privileged. There are people all over the world who do not have access to clean water. And the water we do have is rapidly depleting and being polluted. Even in Mexico, I could see water every day, but we had to buy filtered water because the water was not safe to drink.

Water is essential for life, this is not news to any of us in this room and many would say we are at a crisis point. As with anything in the news today, that can lead us down the rabbit hole of depression, helplessness, anger, worry, anxiety, or despair. It must be what the Israelites felt like as they walked in the desert - “Is the Lord among us or not!” They cried and complained. Have you ever felt like that? Wondered where God is as you look around with everything going on?

The Israelites were tired and thirsty and felt desperate. They lashed out at Moses and God for not caring for their basic needs. Moses felt overwhelmed and asked God what to do and God responded by saying - Gather up the elders, the leaders, and go ahead and take your staff with you. What a novel idea - not doing things by yourself and thinking you have to have all the answers or the solution. Gather up your people and go!

Now the story doesn’t say this, but what I make up as I fill in the blanks is that Moses and those elders talked and prayed along the way and together they shared some ideas and possible solutions. And then God led them to the spot where water could be found. Water flowed out of rocks after Moses struck it with his staff tapping the natural flow of water in that rock formation. What they needed was there and their thirst was quenched.

Moses didn’t need to “figure it out” all on his own. How tempting it is sometimes to think we have to have all the answers all by ourselves. Instead, what about having some companions on the journey to help you out? Perhaps then by collaborating with one another and God, we can co-create some solution or answer or program or response to a problem.

Some of you may know this already but I know many don’t. Our own Susan Marine has been busy as always this legislative season helping to write and advocate for mental health and suicide prevention bills. For some people the thought of turning grief, anger, and despair into action to help support those having a crisis of some kind and to prevent suicide would never occur to them. It’s equivalent to saying Where is the Lord among us and what can be done?

But Susan channels her energy and faith into action by gathering like-minded people together to write bills, lobby legislators and testify before our elected officials. She doesn’t do this alone and her passion is fueled by her thirst for adequate mental health support for everyone so that they get the help they need and not only live but live a thriving life. The water of life might look like a law now on the books in Colorado, thanks to Susan and others, to place the crisis line phone number on college id cards so that when a crisis happens, a desperate student thirsting for help has the phone number at their fingertips to reach the help they need.

What wilderness or desert are you wandering in? What is it that you thirst for?

Maybe, like Susan, you have endured tragedy and have a vision that you are thirsty to turn into reality. Maybe you feel called to a new vocation and you thirst to move in that direction. Maybe you are in a season of life where you sense change is upon you and you thirst for direction, answers, or meaning. Maybe you see an injustice that needs to be addressed and you thirst for a change. Maybe you feel called to do something about climate change, gun violence, poverty, homophobia, transphobia or some other issue because you thirst for love, equality and enough for all.

Are you going to stand around and say Where is the Lord around us and why isn’t God doing something? We could do that and stay stuck, fighting, lost or wandering.

What if, instead, you gather your people, pray together, ask for guidance from God, listen, brainstorm and take some action? Even if it’s one step today. Change doesn’t happen overnight and just like water, one step today can lead to another, to another, to another until the landscape changes. Susan isn’t stopping with a phone # on college id cards - she is already gathering energy and support to go further next year.

I’m reminded about Sociologist Margaret Mead’s quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” And I would add, that change happens with God’s help.

Water means and leads to life. Without it, we can not live and thrive. We could keep quarreling and testing God and one another, or what if we came together instead? Drops, puddles, glasses, streams, rivers, lakes, oceans …

What if we co-create with God and our people to bring life-giving water to a thirsty world in whatever way you feel called whether it’s small or really big? What if we help find that water in hidden and maybe unlikely places as well as the ones in plain sight? I think God is inviting us to quench our thirst and the world’s thirst in literal and metaphorical ways.

Thirst no more. That water Moses tapped with God’s help, wasn’t just for a few - it was for everyone. Whatever you thirst for, gather your people, pray and go forth. God is inviting each of us to find and drink life-giving water and offer it in unique ways to create beloved community so that no one is thirsty and everyone can live and thrive.

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