Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

03/27/11 Sermon

Exodus 17: 1-7
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen
Have you ever been thirsty before? I mean really thirsty?
I can recall playing football growing up in Osceola, AR and we would have 2 a day practices in the late summer heat.------needless to say, it would get brutally hot. And in those days you couldn’t just go get water whenever you pleased.  Instead they’d give you salt tablets. Nowadays of course the coaches and schools would be sued. But back then, water was withheld from you and used to toughen you up---coaches used water as a motivational tool or to punish you.
I can still recall how kids would take desperate measures to sneak to get water- risking extra running to get some water.
When you’re desperately thirsty, you’ll risk punishment in order to get some water.
In our scripture today we see the story of Moses and the desperate Israelites in the desert. They are dying of thirst. They’ve been wandering in the desert and they come upon a place called Rephidim.  A supposed oasis… But when they arrive there’s no water. So they start quarrelling with Moses and they say, Moses: “Give us water to drink”.
What we see is basically an ultimatum.
And we see that Moses responds by saying “Look, when you are questioning me, you’re questioning God, because I’m just doing what God has told us to do.”
Of course, Moses’ reply doesn’t do much for them. They’re looking for someone to blame and Moses is the likely scapegoat.
Forget that Moses led them out of Egypt and took them thru the Red Sea:  “It’s what have you done for me lately”.
They’re ready to kill him; completely out of control in their desperation.
Now we can look at these folks and say this is pretty ridiculous. After all, Moses’ obedience to God has delivered them from bondage, and rescued them and taken them on the journey to the Promised Land.  Of course many wondered whether Egypt wasn’t better. They grumbled and complained to Moses and sarcastically asked “Why’d you lead us out here in the middle of nowhere Moses? So that we and our kids and livestock could all die out here of thirst?”
They have such short memories when their thirst begins to get the best of them. But we can’t be too critical of them----Wouldn’t we either say or think the same thing? 
And really, is it too much to ask that the God couldn’t provide them some water??? I mean for Pete’s sakes, shouldn’t their faith, their following Moses count for something like a little water.
Why does God want to make them suffer? Why make it hard on them? Doesn’t God know he can get sued???
You know, the tension of this scripture puts us in a situation where we need to ask how we might react ourselves. I mean if we were dying of thirst like them, how would we respond?
Would we be grumblers and complainers? Would we be desperate, ready to lynch Moses too?
Of course it’s hard to answer that question unless you’re really there; unless you’re really dying of thirst.  I mean none of us here today are dying of thirst are we?  We’ve got access to water everywhere…………
But then again, maybe we need to ask if there are other ways of being thirsty? Maybe there other ways that we find ourselves desperate right now?
Perhaps we’re asking where God is and why he’s not responding in some other ways.
I’m sure today in this congregation; there are those who are thirsting for something.
Maybe you’re thirsty for a meaningful relationship--- you’re desperately lonely for companionship---maybe you’re grieving the loss of a loved one…
Maybe you’re thirsty for a better marriage. Things aren’t what they should be and you’re frustrated and dejected.
Maybe you’re thirsty for job security or financial security.
Perhaps you’re thirsty for justice for something that’s happened.
Maybe you’re thirsty for a healing, for your self or a family member.
Or perhaps you’re thirsty for peace and healing in your life that’s become so chaotic and out of control.
Ask yourself today,----   “Where am I thirsty”?
Of course our thirst can be for more than just ourselves…..We can be thirsty as a community----we thirst for an answer to the drug and alcohol problem that’s plaguing our community.  Someone recently told me that Lincoln County has the biggest drug and alcohol problem in the state.
We can also thirst as a people longing for peace in the world instead of using bombs and force that do nothing but lead to more violence (when will we ever learn?)
We can thirst for the day when there will be no more tragedies and disasters such as what happened to Haiti or Japan……………..
As human beings, both individually and collectively we can find ourselves with a desperate need to quench our thirst and we ask “where is God, where’s the water?”
Even people of faith go thru these times-----I mean wasn’t Moses thirsty too? Besides his own need for water wasn’t he thirsty for his own safety from an angry mob…….
The question we have before us this morning, is how do we handle those times of thirst in our lives? They’re going to come, so how do we deal with them? Do we become gripers and complainers, negative and pessimistic?
Or do we become skeptics of God or blame God?
I mean, how does our faith as Christians help us and make a difference when we find ourselves in these desperately anxious times?
Well when we look at out scripture today, one of the first things that we see that can help us in our times of desperation is simply the awareness that there will be times of thirst.
You see, “Thirst is part of the journey”
Difficulties are going to come. The world in which we live is a dangerous desert. At times it is harsh and callous and cruel. It is a fallen world that is not what God intended.
Paul wrote in Romans 8 that due to the fall of humanity, all of creation cries out as in birth pangs. This place that we find ourselves in is not heaven. It’s not the Promised Land.
You and I are on a journey of the in between. As Christians we’ve found freedom from the chains of bondage, of guilt or pessimism and hopelessness. We’re marching to Zion, to the Promised Land.
But the journey is difficult.  The wilderness is a place that is both barren and dangerous while also beautiful and fruitful because God has also had a hand in its creation.
In our life, because we’re in the in-between, it is quite natural that we would face both ups and downs.
We so often want to believe that everything should be nice and easy and smooth. And when it’s not we want to blame God or at least put it on God.
We can think that it’s because God is punishing us or that God is distant and doesn’t care.
But when we remember that the thirstiness is simply part of the journey, that we’re living in the in-between, that there is indeed a Promised Land and that God can be trusted, we can continue on in the journey even in our thirst.
When we see thirst as part of the journey, our perspective is changed and we see these desperate times as points of opportunity to grow in our faith and trust of God on our pilgrimage toward the Promised Land……..
Still---- we do need some water as we make the journey. We do need some help when times are dry.
And that leads us to the next point of how our faith can make a difference in our thirsty times.
Now in our scripture when we see that Moses is thirsting for safety and security he does something---- What does he do???
Well in the 4th verse, we see that Moses immediately goes to God and has a conversation; a prayer. He brings his time of distress to God.
Now is that what we do when we have our moments of desperation?  Do we immediately go to God or do we put it off?
Many of us might think, “Well God knows what’s going on and God will come along and give me some help eventually? In the meantime, I’m going to do some self-help---get on the internet or read a book or take matters into my own hands”. Well, the problem for us when we don’t go to God immediately is that we will often find ourselves anxious, depressed, desperate and pessimistic. And when that happens, everything else is affected. Our jobs, our families, our social life, our church life can all be affected when we decide to not go to God immediately in our times of need.
But God wants us to come to Him immediately, even though He knows our concerns.
God wants us to come to him because when we do, we’ll realize that God is there to help us.
God wants us to share our fears. God wants you to have a conversation about those worst case scenarios you go over in your mind.
That’s what Moses did. He says LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me”.
Moses saw the worst case scenario and discussed it with God. He gives it all to God and as he does, he’s now in a place to be able to receive assurance and direction from God.
Our faith in God, to go to God in prayer immediately in our times of need will make a difference in our desperately thirsty times.
God will give you a sense of peace and assurance when you go to Him because in prayer, we’re remembering those times when God has helped us in the past.
We remember when he freed us from our chains. In prayer, we remember when he opened the Red Sea for us to cross thru, we remember the bread from the sky.
In prayer we remember the attributes of our God who has never abandoned us and never forsaken us.
God has helped you in the past and he will help you again when you go to him in prayer.
Now the last way I want to talk about how our faith can make a difference in our times of thirstiness is seen in the 5th and 6th verse of our scripture. And what we see is that as Moses speaks with God, God responds by giving Moses some instructions. And those instructions were to go before the people, take the famous staff that God had given him, where he was to strike it on a rock so that water would come out for the people to drink.
So what we see is that God is calling Moses to ACT IN FAITH and in doing so, he will bring forth water to others.
You know so often we can be so consumed with our own thirst that we forget about the thirst of others.
We can have ourselves a pity party, everything is woe is me and we lose sight of God’s instructions that we’re to be about giving to others who are thirsty.
In the midst of our own thirstiness it is very easy to forget God’s purposes and plans. We forget about the bigger picture of the Kingdom of God. 
But when we move forward in trust, following God’s instructions to give water to others we will find that our own thirst will be quenched when we help others.
In our own thirstiness, we can find a drink of cool water when we look to help others especially in the areas of our thirst.
A lonely person at home decides to visit those at the nursing home.
A person with cancer or heart disease decides to help others who are going thru the same thing.
A person who was divorced decides to start a divorce recovery ministry.
A person who was grieving decides to be there for others who are currently grieving.
You know, our areas of thirst can seem like a hard rock to us. But when we put our faith in God and strike those places of hardness in our life, they can be a gusging of cool water for those who are in need.
Who better could provide water for those who are thirsting in pain than you who have journeyed thru it before?
This is what people of faith do. They help those who need a drink of water. And it’s not simply about their spiritual needs.
I like the quote in the bulletin from Clarence Jordan:
Clarence said that “Jesus expects from his followers a kind of life that identifies them (as Christians). I was thirsty and you knew how to respond."
Now this is the kind of thing the Christians, many times, seem to be so dumb about. When they see a man who's thirsty, they haven't got sense enough to give him water. They bring him a hymnal.
We Christians are called to be people who offer the drink of Jesus Christ to others. Jesus cares for the whole person. Jesus was a physical person. When he was resurrected, it was physical.
God calls us to care for people’s needs (physically, emotionally and spiritually).
When we give people water, even in our own thirst, we are being participants in the kingdom of God that will one day be here on earth as it is in heaven.
Our providing drink for others even in our own thirstiness is not a futile waste of time.  It’s instead a testimony of our faith that is ever hopeful; that is living in the Promised Land of which we are already citizens thru our faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ…………………………..
 Today---we’re being reminded that our faith journey is indeed a journey. It is an adventure thru the barren wilderness (the in-between time) and their will be times of desperate thirstiness.
But on this journey, there is an intimate loving God who is there to give us strength and encouragement in our thirst. He never abandons us; he wants to help us.
Today let us give ourselves in faith to the journey, let us put our trust in him in prayer, while also following his call to be givers of water to a thirsty world.
In a world that is so dry and full of danger and heartbreak. Jesus is the cold drink of water that satisfies all our thirsty desires….
Let us continue on in faith in the wilderness. And remember that there is nothing to fear, for we are citizens of the Promised Land. It is waiting up ahead.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen