Wednesday, September 24, 2008

water, greed, word

Here's a bit of what has caught my attention this week:

Our text from Exodus is about the thirst of the people in the wilderness--and, as gracious relief, the goodness of the water God provides out of a rock. I wonder what this story has to say to our present time, as we struggle to figure out how we will distribute, care for, and regulate our water supply. I've been reading about struggles in the developing world, where World Bank policies have encouraged water supplies to be held by private corporations. In South Africa, for example, recent court rulings are seeking to determine the appropriateness of selling water only through pre-paid allotments in a number of poor areas.

Just like last week's passage, which emphasized the greed-proof qualities of un-hoard-able manna, our scriptures seem charged with the energies of our current economic climate.

God's work seems, again and again, to be on the side of making sure everyone has access to daily bread and adequate water.

God also seems to be less interested in creating a global structure than God is passionate about giving life in the places where there is hunger and thirst.

As our nation makes decisions about how to move forward in a time where the economic systems we've relied on are collapsing, I hope we will not forget to feed real people, and meet the thirst of people with refreshing water.

I also give thanks that our biblical stories seem increasingly relevant in times of struggle and change--our faith is not one meant for people who have it all together. Our Bible tells the stories of people trying to hang on through incredibly trying times.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

One of the many reasons I love the stories of the people of Israel who went through the wilderness with Moses is that they're so, well, human. Like me. This week's text talks about the complaints of the people, over and over. Seven times, the text uses the word for complain, complaining, or complaint.

There are things in the world worth complaint. Hunger for one: the people had been walking for a month and half since they left Egypt. I can't blame them for having a few items on their list of things to grumble about. That's a long time to be hungry.

Heck, I can get grouchy from hunger in WAY less time.

So, they complain. And God hears their complaining. And God loves them and provides graciously for them.

Manna, a mysterious, flaky substance, rains down on them each day, providing sustenance for that day. And, on the day before the Sabbath, they can get what they'll need for two days.

I wonder how this gift of nourishment was received. I wonder if they were just glad for the food, or if they were a little ticked off that they had to let go of their complaints? If they quickly shifted their attitudes because of the gift, or if they wanted to hold on to their old ways of doing things?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

through deep water

As we continue to follow Moses' journey in leadership this week, we get another dramatic story: he leads the people to the sea, God parts the waters, and the people of God walk across on dry land. Then, Pharaoh's army pursue them into the sea bed, get stuck in the mud, and are drowned by the sea.

Water, in the imagination of those who first told this story, often symbolized danger, chaos and potential destruction. It was the home of sea monsters and all other manner of mysteries of the deep. And here, for just long enough so the people of God could escape slavery, that mysterious deep becomes safe passage toward a future that's being revealed.

Sounds awfully good to me. A clear path forward and some dry ground to stand on, opened up in the very midst of the uncertainly and chaos of the deep--what grace.

And, that the forces of evil that followed--here, Pharaoh's army--were consumed in their pursuit sounds even better. Would that the things that threaten to keep us enslaved today could be so destroyed: our fears, addictions, greed, isolation, arrogance, hatred.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

reconciliation, remembrance, repeating

I like good wordplay, which begins to explain why I'm caught on all these "re-" words this week.

First, I was struck by the clear instructions--almost like the kind of ground rules you might make in covenant on the first day of church camp--Jesus gives to those who seek to follow him.  Clearly, he knows that we're going to have trouble with each other.  He gives us a way to work toward reconciliation with each other.  A high road, which opens a way for conflict to be transformed into right relationship.  Reconciliation in the best sense, as those involved come to a place where they can become part of the same team again.

 Then, I pondered how the story of the first Passover, as its woven into the plagues that God (through Moses) would unleash on Pharaoh and the Egyptians, from the very beginning is known as a way that the people of God will remember what God has done.  The last verses of the passage clarify how it will be repeated and shared through the generations to come.

Reconciliation, remembrance and repetition.  All these "re-" words make me think that time is at least as circular as it is linear; what we do in the present connects us back to what has been before.  

Which is, I suppose, one of the things I treasure about worship.  We're not gathering to create something new, but to authentically and meaningfully claim a story of salvation that's way older than any of us.  I love the challenge of imagining new ways to share the story.  (And I admit to pondering how we might use text messaging to share prayer concerns.)  What we don't have to invent, though, is the stuff that matters most.  It's already there.  As are the signs of God's ongoing presence--those reminders are all around us and all through our history.

Hmmm.  Reminders.  As if we're coming back to mindfulness.  Perhaps worship is a trick to help us turn our attention to the hope that's already been deep within each one of us.

join us this fall

Through this fall, we'll be reading a piece of the story of Moses and the people of Israel each week.  As we follow them on their journey through the wilderness, we just might find hope in the midst of our own times.  Please join us.

Every Sunday, we'll be in the Cove, on the first floor of the United Methodist Center at 9:30 a.m. for about and hour of worship together.  

Bring your friends and enemies.