Year A - Proper 21 - September 28, 2014
I’m trying to think about what it would be like to wonder around in the desert for 40 years. It’s hard for us to think of… I’m sure that after just the first few days, we would be casting some serious doubt about why we were there and who we were following. We would be irritable, and hungry and angry… and like Sara called it last week, “hangry.”
I am convinced that it didn’t take 40 years for the Israelites to get out of Egypt. It took 40 years to get Egypt out of the Israelites. They were all in a process of formation and transformation…
We heard last week that God fed the people of Israel with manna and quail, providing just enough so that everyone got their fill and was satisfied. But today, the story picks up with the Israelites still in the wilderness, journeying by stages and setting up camp where they were instructed. They were in the desert, and there was no water for them to drink.
When in the wilderness, we should always remember the rule of threes… Which says that a human can survive up to 3 weeks without food (though that would be extremely difficult) – and even less in a harsh environment – but you can only survive 3 DAYS without water, or death is surely imminent.
Water is 65% percent of the human body and is essential to life. Water flows through the blood, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells and flushes waste out of our bodies. It cushions our joints and soft tissues. Without water as a routine part of our intake, we cannot digest or absorb food.
I spoke to a nutritionist the other day, and she told me that I should drink anywhere from 8 to 10 servings of water per day in order to be healthy. So it was an extremely difficult situation for the people of Israel that were wondering around in the desert – not to have any water and they were quarreling with one another and looking for someone to blame.
They were mad at the world, and not trusting God and the path that they were on – even though they had seen the providence of God that gave them the manna and quail. God once again provides for them, he instructs Moses to go to the rock at Mt. Horeb, and take with him some elders and strike the rock with the staff he used to strike the Nile.
Now the elders would remember what happened when Moses struck the Nile… When Moses struck the Nile, it turned to blood. So at this point, I can imagine that they were at least skeptical that this would produce anything at all. But when Moses struck the rock, there came a gush of water, so that everyone could have a drink…
God provided for them, so that they would know the power of God and be nourished for the next leg of their journey.
The problem with the whole situation was that the Israelites weren’t just famished from not having any water. They were questioning the presence of God among them… God, who promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. God who provided them with Manna, and Quail from heaven, and water from the rock.
I’m sure that some of the Israelites were thankful, or even recognized what a blessing this provision was… But I’m also sure that some were only temporarily pacified because they expected it and they grumbled and wined until they seemingly got their way.
The ones not recognizing the blessings that are being brought forth are sure to continue to grumble and quarrel and not be happy with what they have.
The situation hasn’t changed too much…
The chief priests and scribes come to Jesus, and challenge his authority. In this case, Jesus asked them a question about the baptism of John. A question that Jesus knew the Chief Priests and Scribes would not answer. A question that Jesus knew they could answer, but the answer would point them in the direction of self-preservation instead of living a life of faith and proclaiming the truth that they knew.
The chief priest were grumbling and quarreling because Jesus was humbly claiming his authority as the son of God, Jesus was always advocating for the poor and forgotten… those on the fringes - demonized by society and they couldn’t handle it.
The chief priests and scribes were not able to recognize the blessings that stood right in front of them because they were on the defensive, and then they were tied in knots by Jesus’ parable of the two sons. See the parable of the two sons is about recognizing the presence and power of God’s transformation of the world.
The first son who says that he will go work in the vineyard and doesn’t is like the Chief priest and scribes with a hard heart. They are first devoted to God and the tenants of the law, but they fail to see and accept the transforming power of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
The second son who says he won’t go work and then later does is like the tax collectors and prostitutes, who have a moldable heart, who have turned from the error of their ways and accepted God forgiveness and are being transformed.
The understanding and power of God came later to them and then they changed their ways and have received God’s forgiveness and salvation. They recognize their blessings.
Today we bring into the body, Quinn Zapata, one whom we will hopefully teach over the years to recognize the blessings that are around her. To recognize and act on the blessings and salvation of Jesus Christ freely given to her.
One who’s parents trust and understand the blessings (the provision and presence) of God and the salvation of Jesus Christ in their lives.
Our baptism, by water, that elixir so important to our physical health and wellbeing, becomes the vehicle for us through which we are made Christ’s own and the catalyst of our spiritual health and wellbeing.
We who have been baptized have nothing to grumble about. We have received a new life, and have been taught to recognize the blessings. The blessings that lead us to live a life in thanksgiving to God, for God’s mighty acts of provision, God’s restoration, and forgiveness.
In a few minutes we will stand together and reaffirm our baptismal vows as Quinn’s parents and Godparents take them on her behalf. As we listen to these readings and again proclaim our vows of commitment, we are able to once again discern and process in our own hearts and souls, the answer to the question, “What do we believe?”
What do we believe – and how do we live as a people who trust in God’s providence? As a people who don’t grumble against God and who are willing to be transformed into what Jesus wants us to be?
I think that living this life, this baptismal life in covenant with God, requires that our hearts be open to one another and with everyone we encounter in our lives. This doesn’t mean that we need to brow beat “evangelize” to everyone everywhere. But we should, as St. Francis, who is credited with saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
What do we believe?
What we believe should be shown in the way we live our lives and the way we relate to one another. Our faith should gush forth like the water from the rock, and be shown in our thoughts, words, and actions.