Monday, October 2, 2017

"God's Provisions" - Sermon, October 1, 2017

Community UMC, Quincy
“God’s Provisions”
Pastor Andrew Davis
October 1, 2017
Exodus 17: 1-7

            Some weeks, you think that you have a good sermon based on the text of the week, yet after chewing on the text and when it comes time to sit down and write, nothing happens.  I have to be honest that it’s been that kind of a week for me, one of those where I really need to rely on the Holy Spirit more than ever.  Then again, it might be God’s way of saying that my sermons of late have been too long, so today is more like a Communion meditation.
However, it seems appropriate on this World Communion Sunday, as we join in celebrating Holy Communion with churches around the world that we talk about the ways in which God provides for us.  Just looking at our altar display this morning, we see breads represented from around the world, in which you will be welcome to take some home after worship during coffee hour.  Like the many grains of wheat, rice, or corn that came together to make one loaf, tortilla, or cake, we too are gathered together as one, as the gathered body of Christ.  And what better way is there to come together than around food?  When we think about it, God provides for us this wonderful earth, entrusting us to work with the earth and to take care of the earth.  From the earth comes much of our food, reminding me of this silly little song we used to sing in elementary school called “Dirt Made My Lunch.” The grains that came together out of the earth to make the bread we see and a lot of what we eat and drink are all a part of God’s provisions for us, as this is one way to see how God provides for us.   
            Last week in our reading from Exodus, we came across Israel being led through the desert by Moses and Aaron after crossing through the bottom of the Red Sea; then in their hunger, the Israelites were provided manna and quail by God to sustain them through the long, sometimes unbearable desert journey.   In this morning’s lesson, Israel has now made it to Rephidim and once again grumbles to Moses that they are now thirsty, leaving poor Moses to the point of exasperation with all their complaining.  You would think that Israel would have learned to trust God after Moses threw a piece of wood into bitter water to make it drinkable in Marrah, then after God provided manna and quail.  However, Israel once again looks backwards, towards Egypt, accusing Moses of taking them out of Egypt to die in the desert from hunger and thirst.  Yet, even after all that God has provided for Israel the last couple times they complained, they still have a hard time trusting in the power that God has to provide for them in their basic essentials of food and water.   The Israelites are testing Moses, but also testing God.  And there are going to be times in our life and on our journey of faith that will make us wonder what is happening, asking, why, God? Why? As Rev. Dr. Dawn Chesser explains, “sometimes it feels like no matter how much faith we have, no matter how many promises we have heard, and no matter how many signs God has provided, still, most of us from time to time wonder if God has abandoned us. In other words, we have difficulty trusting.”[i] And that’s exactly what is happening on this journey through the desert, as Israel is learning to trust the hard way and while struggling. On the other hand, there will also be times when all we can do is trust God.
            However, it’s not like God doesn’t hear Israel’s complaints, nor has God abandoned the people amidst their complaining, as God sends Moses ahead of the people to do something about their predicament. This also means facing the people's anger and frustration as well, considering that the Israelites are about ready to stone Moses.  Of course, when we do get hungry, or excessively thirsty, we do get a little cranky or frustrated, especially the longer it goes on.  I know when I don’t practice good self-care and drink my water, I get a headache which in turn leads me to be more irritable and impatient than usual.  So, the Israelites’ response is normal. 
               Nonethless,Moses goes to the place that God instructs him to go in Horeb and strikes the rock with his staff, the same staff that he used to part the Red Sea; as he strikes the rock, water starts flowing out of the rock for Israel to drink.  When God provided the manna and quail in the desert, there was a catch, that the people could only take just enough of what God provided. Yet God once again provides, this time the life-giving water for the Israelites to drink, another means of trying to show the people to trust God.  As scholar Anathea Portier-Young at Duke Divinity School explains, “the provision of water from the rock follows from the assurance that God is indeed present with this people…God continues to ensure that this people will have what they need to live.”[ii] And when we do trust God, God can do the same for us, although it may look different than manna and quail or water from a rock.
            Although I have only been back in CA for a little over a year now, we have definitely felt what it is like to have a lack of water here.  The severe drought that hit us hard for a few years has sometimes made it feel like being in the midst of the journey through the desert, even though we have still been able to find water to drink, bathe, wash dishes, or do laundry.  However for the landscape around us, we see reminders everywhere of dead or dying trees, or a couple years ago, saw many of our lakes nearly empty, as well as dead lawns.  Yet amidst the drought, God seems to have heard our prayers this last year, as we got rain and A LOT of rain at that, along with record snowfall up on the higher elevations.  We were praying for rain each Sunday at this time last year, although I think we may have gotten to where we were ready to pray for less rain after all the flooding that was happening in January and February.  Nevertheless, God provided.  However, there are times we find ourselves in our own deserts and sometimes in moments where we aren’t sure if God is still listening, although God shows up and provides. Although with all that rain and snow, it’s been great for boating and fishing this summer!! 
            We also saw God provide for us in a big way just a couple months ago.  Those first couple weeks of August was a time where we really had to dig in our heels and trust God when we looked up towards Claremont Ridge and Boyle Ravine behind us and saw the smoke and flames of the Minerva Fire rising up into the sky.  I admit, with the high level of anxiety that many of us felt, myself included, in that moment, it may have felt easier said than done to trust God.  However, just as God provided manna and quail, and water from the rock, God provided the fire crews and the support.  Our county supervisor Lori Simpson and Sheriff Greg Hagwood’s office provided us constant updates, just as the Forest Service provided regular details, something I equate with some of many ways in which God provides.  And just like the support that we received in our time of anxiety and distress, God is providing for the people of Texas and Florida through our United Methodist Committee on Relief, who will be working there for many days to come and is also becoming involved in Puerto Rico and Mexico as we speak.  The health and cleaning kits many of us have made, or have donated money towards are another way God provides through us.  And anytime we have people in our church who are sick or injured, in the midst of loss and grief, we have the opportunity to be an extension of the ways that God provides when we are there for them, whether it is bringing meals, or just providing a means of comfort and moral support. 
            I could go on about the many, many, many other ways that God provides, which will look different for each of us.  However, it takes trusting God, even in the times when we may feel as if we we are deep in the desert without food and water like Israel was, or when it feels like God is silent.  As we come to the Communion table in a few minutes, I invite you think about the many ways in which God has provides for you.  And, I invite you think about how we can also be a means of God providing for others when we serve out in our community and greater world together. 
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let the church say, AMEN! 



[i] Ministries, Discipleship. 2017. "World Communion Sunday 2017 — Preaching Notes - Umcdiscipleship.Org". Umcdiscipleship.Org. Accessed September 30 2017. https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/seventeenth-sunday-after-pentecost-2017-preaching-notes.

[ii] "Commentary On Exodus 17:1-7 By Anathea Portier-Young". 2017. Workingpreacher.Org. Accessed September 30 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3432.

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