Is the Lord among us or not?
It is a question that has been asked throughout the ages. Is God with us here at this moment?
In those good times, when our blessings seem abundant, we need to give thanks for all that we received and yet too often we forget to do this nor do we remember that God is with us.
In those bad times, when we struggle with what is before us, we need to pray for strength to overcome even when wonder why God is silent or seems so far away because God is still with us.
For the Israelites, they thirsted on their journey. They were given quail and manna by God but now they had no water in the wilderness. They were an angry bunch and Moses got the brunt of it.
Instead of remembering the good times, instead of remembering that God fed them, instead of remembering God’s faithfulness, they quarreled and wondered if the God of their ancestors was still with them.
Again, God was faithful, and when Moses struck the rock, the people recieved water.
The God who liberated them from slavery in Egypt, the God who gave them manna and quail to fill their appetites, provides water to quench their thirst.
Indeed, the Lord was with them on their journey through the wilderness.
This has been a long lesson in humility and hope, wrote Mark Gwin just a few days ago. It is not a story of futility and despair, my family and I fled from our home on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 4, while a gentle dusting of ash fell and the sun glowed red overhead in the thick plume of smoke that covered the sky. Since that day I’ve known moments of grief, but have yet to be lost in it because in every instant I’ve been uplifted by the bravery and kindness of others.
“It makes it silly to feel sorry for myself, because the loss of our home pales in comparison to the outpouring of love. I can never give back even the half of all that has been given me, but I suppose that is the truth and the beauty of the human condition. Human kindness is grace made flesh.”
“I loved my home, perhaps too much or perhaps not enough. I built it with my own hands over the course of two years for my family. My sons were born there, their height at each birthday was marked on the cedar post in the center of the living room. So much is gone: my journals, the videotapes of the boys, the last letter my grandfather ever wrote me. But so much is left. In the Lord's Prayer, the only material thing we ask for is our daily bread. My family has been given that and so much more. So I offer thanks.”
Jesus, God made flesh, was confronted by the authorities over what he was saying and doing, and he returns their questions by asking them about John the Baptist, who they failed to believe. And then he tells them a parable:
A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, `I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first."
A seven-year-old girl came to Church School faithfully each week. Her parents would drop her off. They would return an hour later to pick her up or would arrange with a friend's family to bring her home. The Dad was vice president of sales for a local company and Mom was in real estate and was always juggling several deals. The couple's Saturday night parties were the stuff of legend in the community.
One Sunday morning, the pastor saw the daughter in church - and, to his shock, sitting next to her were her parents. The pastor spoke to them at coffee hour and welcomed them. The parents explained what had happened the night before at their party… "It got a little loud and out of hand... The noise woke up our daughter and she came downstairs to the third step. She saw that we were eating and drinking, and she said, 'Oh, can I say the blessing? God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food. Good night, everybody.' And she went back upstairs. Then people started to leave: 'Oh my, look at the hour, we've got to be going.' 'We've stayed way too long.' Within two minutes the room was empty."
We began cleaning up, picking up crumpled napkins and half-eaten food and gathering up the empty glasses and dirty dishes. And with two trays, we met on either side of the sink - and we said: "Where do we think we're going?" [From Craddock Stories by Fred B. Craddock.]
On good or bad days, in thirst or fire or even at a party, we need to give thanks to God for our blessings, live out those blessings through our words and actions and remember that God is always with us, even to the end of the ages. Amen.