17 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
Where do you look for God? Many people look for Him in nature - in the still quiet places. Away from the maddening crowds - and they find Him there.
Bliss Carmen's poem VESTIGIA continues to be popular because it speaks of this experience.
I took a day to search for God
and found him not. But as I trod
by rocky ledge, thru woods untamed,
Just where one scarlet lily flamed,
I saw his footprint in the sod.
Then suddenly, all unaware,
far off in the deep shadows
where a solitary hermit thrush
sang thru the holy twilight hush -
I heard his voice upon the air.
And even as I marvelled how God
gives us heaven here and now,
In a stir of wind that hardly shook
the popular leaves beside the brook,
His hand was light upon my brow.
At last with evening as I turned homeward,
and thought what I had learned
and all that there was still to probe -
I caught the glory of his robe,
Where the last fires of sunset burned.
Back to the world with quickening start
I looked and longed for any part
in making saving Beauty be...
And from that kindling ecstasy
I knew God dwelt within my heart.
Fully alive Christians know how to find God - they find Him and are refreshed by his presence because they do what Jesus did: - they slow down - they step back from the daily rush and take time apart - they go away for a while in prayer and contemplation - they read the word, they worship with their brothers and sisters they go up on the mountain and listen to the wind - they go to the ocean and feel the spray from the waves and then in faith they claim what they see and hear and experience and return to the daily bustle, renewed, and able to affirm one of the central truths of our faith, the truth that God dwells within our hearts.
But what about others? What about those who cannot get away from it all? What about those who are caught in the midst of stress, hunger and want, and who, if they have ever known God, cannot remember his grace and mercy?
How are they to find God? How are they to rediscover that he dwells within to will and work for his good pleasure?
Many Christians do not think enough about this issue. They do not consider that most other people do not experience what they experience or see what they see. They forget to share the power that is in their lives and to show others that it dwells within them as well. They judge others for their faith or lack of faith, rather than serving them, as Christ serves them.
In today's Old Testament reading we see that Moses walked the line in this regard.
When the people of Israel reached Rephidim during their wilderness wandering they were thirsty - and they quarrelled with Moses, saying: "Give us water to drink."
Moses replied to them in a manner that at first was not all that helpful, indeed it seems to me, no matter how accurate his perception of his people may of been, that he is hostile in his response:
Moses answers their request for water, not by helping them not by promising them that God will support them, but by saying: "Why do quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?"
Moses denies responsibility for the well being of his brothers and sisters and, not surprisingly, the people really become agitated, and they complain all the more against Moses, accusing him of bringing them out of Egypt to die of thirst.
And why shouldn't have they? Moses, after all, was the one who spoke for God before Pharaoh, Moses was the one who communicated God's law and love to them -it was through Moses that they knew God, yet in his response to them he seems not to care about their troubles - it seems that his God does not care about their troubles.
We, my friends, are ambassadors for Christ, It says in 2 Corinthians, 5, that God makes his appeal to others through us.
How can God do this if we deny any responsibility for others If we accuse, rather than help? If we blame, rather than care?
It is only after Moses cries out to God for help in dealing with people, and then in obedience to what God says to him gathers together the elders of Israel and takes them to the rock and strikes it with his staff that we see another side to the issue. We see water pour out from a rock.
And we see, all these centuries later - the people of Israel remembering this act, we see them remembering how God's power worked in and through Moses and celebrating the faithfulness of God in word and song, a song that they have taught to their children for over 3000 years: In the daytime God led us with a cloud, and all night long with a fiery light. He split rocks open in the wilderness, and gave us drink abundantly as from the deep. He made streams come out of the rock, and caused waters to flow down like rivers
Do we give two cents about what happens to others? Are we willing to trust the God that dwells within us, and to show that his loving power is in us by what we say and do?
Are we willing to show that the God we claim that is in us really cares about others?
That is the issue in all of today's scripture readings, from Moses showing and sharing the power of God that dwelt within him, to Jesus speaking about the authority by which he taught and healed and helped others.
God is in us- We have the power - We have the spirit - We have the promises - We have the way and the truth and the life - It is all ours....praise God!
So what are we going to do with it? Are we going to be like Moses before he talked to God? Or like Moses after he talked to God?
Are we going to be like the son who told his father he would work in the vineyard, but did not - or like the son who told his father he would not work, but later repented and did his father's will?
I started by asking - how are others to find God? How are they who are living in the midst of stress and need, or they who have not experienced or who cannot remember the deeds of God, to discover that the power of God is for them, and indeed within them, to will and work for his good pleasure?
I think the answer lies in remembering how it is that God treats us; in remembering who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for us.
Those of you who know what it means to be born again, those of you who know in your hearts the meaning of the song "Amazing Grace" should know how to share the power of God - you should know how to show others the God who lives in you and who lies hidden within them.
You start by caring for and loving those around you without regard for how little or how much others may think that they deserve that love and care.
William H. Willimon, in his book "On A Wild And Windy Mountain" describes something of what it means to care when he tells the story of a woman whom he calls a saint. He writes:
I think of a woman who was my lay leader in North Myrtle Beach. She would hardly have qualified for the popular definition of 'saint'. Her methods were unorthodox, her theology was never apparent, her language was often sprinkled with words not often heard in church. But she knew about the world. She also had gotten the idea that God expected her to be busy in the world in his behalf. Feeling herself chosen, she acted this way.
One day she was cruising down Ocean Boulevard when a local policeman stopped the car of a youth in front of her. She had seen this tactic before. She knew that the city supported itself, in great part, on the fines of youthful tourists whom the police preyed upon to enrich the city coffers. She stopped her car behind that of the policeman.
"Can I help you, Miss Peggy?", asked the officer as he stepped from his car.
"Yes. Why did you stop that boy's car?" she asked.
"I stopped him because he was speeding," he replied. "It's really none of your business."
"Well, I'm making it my business," she snapped. "I am sick and tired of you people busting these kids for minor violations. If he was speeding, I was speeding. I was going the same speed as he was. You stopped him because he has long hair and an out of state license plate."
By this time the boy was out of his car with a confused look on his face. His presence exasperated the patrolman who was now shouting at Peggy. "Look, you had better stay out of this. This is none of your concern. I'm pulling this kid for a traffic violation and this is none of your business."
Peggy was undeterred. "I told you it is my business. It's not right and you know it. Let's just go down to the station and talk this over..."
"What's the trouble, officer?" the bewildered youth asked.
The policeman did not answer. He jumped into his patrol car, slammed the door while muttering something about "smart mouth women," and squealed off in anger.
"Son, be careful. Slow down and be careful," Peggy said as she started her car and drove on."
"This," Willimon concludes, "is how saints are made. Saints are made by listening to the call of God and saying, yes...".
A slightly unorthodox method of showing care - certainly, just as was the care Jesus showed unorthodox -but the important thing is: care was shown, and the youth involved discovered that grace exists - that it lives even in the hearts of strangers. He learned something about God in other words, about how God operates.
God is within us to will and work his good pleasure.
And God's pleasure is that all people would know him as love and that all people would care for one another as brothers and sisters.
When we have the mind of Christ in us, when we care to show his love to others rather than to judge them,
- when we are willing to do as he did and serve one another freely and without reserve or condition, then we will know his glory - the glory of who at whose name every knee shall bow, and we will rejoice, for we and those around us will have found the only God that matters.
We will have found not only the God who makes us feel good when we go up on a mountain to pray - we will have found the God who wills to bring water out of rock, and food from heaven - the God who provides for his people and calls all people unto him; the God of Abraham and of Sarah, of Moses and of Mary, the God who is in you and me - to will and to work his good pleasure.
O God, we give you thanks for your faithfulness to us and to all the generations of your people before us. We thank you for watching over us and for leading us from bondage into freedom. You are the source of our daily bread - you provide for us water from the rocks of this world and manna from the heavens. You have performed great deeds on our behalf. Your mercies are new every morning. Bless us, we pray, and grant that we might always remember the power of your outstretched hand and trust in your love for all that lies ahead of us. In Jesus’ name, amen.