Sermon: Tensions in the Wilderness


This past week there was a lot of talk about the end of the world that was supposed to happen on the 23rd of September.  Well, according to my calendar, today is September 24th, and we are all still here, so I guess they were wrong. The problem with that is since I thought the world was coming to an end on Saturday, I did not prepare a sermon for today and had to throw something together at the last minute, well that is not exactly correct.  Why do we seem to be so hung up on the end of the world?  For generations, people have been trying to “read the signs” to determine when the world is going to end.  But we read in Matthew 24:36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” “Only the Father!”  Jesus is telling us that he does not even know when the end will come, only the Father knows, and he’s not telling.

So here is what I do not get. Nowhere in Scripture can I find a passage that says I need to worry about tomorrow or what will happen in the end. I do find lots of scripture about loving our neighbor and trying to make the place we live a better place and to bring a little bit of heaven right here. But some folks are so willing to follow anyone that they fall for this every single time. Jesus tells us, also in Matthew 24:5 “For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” We are so desperate that we even look to world leaders as the savior and the fixer of all our problems when scripture tells us in Psalm 146:3 “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.”

But it is not just us that do not trust in God look at the people of Israel that we heard about in today’s Scripture lesson.  Moses has led them out of bondage. They had been enslaved by the Egyptians for generations, and finally one has come to lead them out.  Great signs were performed in the name of God to convince Pharaoh to let them leave, and he finally does, the people finally have their freedom and what do we find, they are whinny, ungrateful, little children.

Scripture tells us that “whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron.” This is not just a few folk this is everyone, there was a rebellion brewing here. There were complaining that they did not have enough to eat. They mention the pots of meat they used to have when they were slaves, but now that they have been set free they have no food, they have their freedom but no food, so they complain.  Here is your freedom, but we have no food!

So Moses spoke to God, and God provided. He told them exactly what to do, take just what you need, no more, no less.  Some did, and they had all that they wanted, some took more, and it spoiled.  The problem was, they had no faith.

I think I have shared this story with you before. There was a storm coming, and a man was sitting in his house watching the weather, and the weather people were telling him to evacuate, the man says, God will save me. The government folks say to leave, the man says, God will save me. The rainwater comes, and the water rises so high he is on the second floor of his house, and a man comes by in a boat and says, come on, get in, and I will bring you to dry land, and the man says, God will save me.  The water continues to rise, and the man has to cut a hole in his roof, and he is now on his roof, and the water is still rising. A helicopter comes and drops a rope, and a man yells down, take the rope and tie it around you, and I will lift you up to safety, and dry land and the man says, God will save me. Well, the man dies and is standing at the pearly gates, and God is there, and the man says to God, I trusted that you would save me and here I am. And God looks at him and says, I sent a weatherman, a government guy, a man with a boat, and a helicopter what more do you need?  Apparently, he needed more faith.

We are like the people of Israel at this present time. They were going through a transition, and we are going through a transition. The future is bright but also a little scary we do not know what it will hold. We are standing at the opening of the door but we cannot see past the threshold, and that makes us nervous.  We are people who like to be in control and looking into the future, with no end in sight, makes us nervous and we are not sure how to act. God is saying, it will be okay, I will send you what you need, and we need to have faith that he will do just that very thing. But we have to trust that all will be well.  Will it be easy, nope, it sure was not easy for the people of Israel out there in the wilderness, but they survived.  They got angry and lost faith, but in the end, their faith was restored, once they discovered who their faith needed to be in, not Moses or Aaron, but God.

You all know that one of my favorite passages of Scripture is the story of Peter stepping out of the boat. When I am looking for guidance for one thing or another, I come back to that Scripture, and I think about it and meditate on it. The boat, the water, the storm, they are all metaphors for life, and Jesus is calling us to make bold moves and take steps in faith, and as long as we keep our eyes on Him, all will be well. Peter stepped out and was able to do something that he was not able to do before, walk on water, but the second he took his eyes off of Jesus, the second he started to doubt God’s word, he began to sink. But the story did not end there, even though he doubted, even though he lost faith, Jesus was still there and gave him his hand and raised him up.

Jesus is calling each of us to step out of the boat, get away from what we think is comfortable, throw our foot over the side and do something we have never done before. He is calling us in faith, not by anything that we can do, but to have faith in God, and even if we stumble, and I am sure we will, Jesus will be there to lift us back up. But we need faith and the willingness to throw ourselves over the side of the boat, and take that first step.

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