(Exodus 17:1-7; John 4:5-42)
As I stand in this empty church recording this sermon, I am reflecting with you on how this past week has been so extraordinary in lives of all who live in this world. There have been seismic shifts in the way we live because of the unknown and the potential harm of the coronavirus. So many things are shut down. Our children and our people are learning about online meetings and school. Social distancing is now a term in our everyday language. And the reactions and emotions that go along with such a massive and sudden worldwide change run the gamut from anger to skepticism to thoughtful concern to downright panic and despair.
We are the people of the Exodus, wandering in a desert and our water is running out. We have a tremendously uncertain future and emotions are flaring. I was talking to my daughter Sadie, who is one of those who had to come home from college, and I told her that this was going to be one of those epic events that her generation is going to have to live through. All generations seem to be impacted by at least one world-wide event, some more deadly than others, but all have the same effect. The lives of people across the globe are turned upside down by something outside their control. And it is during this time that we are especially called to respond and to live as people of faith. Faith in God our creator, and faith in Jesus, our savior and Lord.
Before this time in our desert, when I read the story of the Israelites panicking over their lack of water, I have to admit that I have been kind of hard on the Israelites. Me and others would say they were acting like sheeple — a panicked crowd, falling into a mob mentality. I therefore have sometimes expressed disdain for how quickly they forgot their God, who had saved them from Egypt. The one whose power was so visibly present to them. Light and thunder and clouds. A God with the power to control the wind, who could part the Red Sea.
And so I wondered about the seismic shift of their generation. Life in Egypt was tough. They were slaves, but they had homes and families and food. They were “the Hebrews.” They were different from the Egyptians, and they were the people of Abraham, but I wonder how many of them knew God and who he is. I would have to guess not many, because up to this point in the life of this nation, there was no law, yet, there were no festivals, yet. They may have heard the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but in their everyday life, what did God mean to them? How did God impact them?
Then came Moses, with his miracles and his call for freedom, and he confronts Pharaoh. That first Passover night, all the families then have their own first encounter with God, as the angel of death passes over their families, while the firstborn sons in all of Egypt die. And so the next day, they leave their homes, running out before their bread can rise, taking everything they can pack with them. And then the next day, they walk by through the Red Sea on dry land. And then, on the next days, the Lord their God begins to shower them daily with manna and quail, providing for them each day. So in a very short time, a manner of weeks, their entire way of life has been turned upside down. But freedom is sweet, and a source of joy and song.
But then calamity hits, an event that could wipe out their world. They start to run out of water. The young and the old and the frail would have been the first ones to go. They are the ones who cannot take the heat and dehydration. And so the people begin to worry. And then their worry turns to anger, and anger to panic. And in their panic they forget about the power and provision of God.
As I reflected on the Israelites, I realized that we are going through the same thing today. We are worried about our frail ones, young and old. For those of us who are strong, the ones in the middle, we can take it. We can take being a little thirsty, a little dehydrated. Or in the terms of the coronavirus, we can handle a little cough, a little fever. But our children, our elder mothers and fathers, and our grannies and our big daddies — they cannot. And so whether we agree or not, the world has shut down. In a matter of weeks our entire way of life has been turned upside-down, and we are in the desert running out of water. But thanks be to God, Jesus meets us at the well.
In our gospel, Jesus reminds us he is the living water that we need to draw upon. He will fill our hearts with his spirit of mercy, love and peace. He will fill our souls with a heavenly perspective. Like the Samarian woman at the well, look to and know that He is our Lord. Ask Him to walk through this time with you. He knows how you feel, and he knows exactly who you are. He knows your dark secrets, but he also knows your potential. Sit by your well and talk to him. Just you and He. Because he will cleanse your soul and wipe off your darkness. He will ease your worry, your anger, or your panic. Get right with Him, your Lord and your Messiah and your Savior. Take a big long drink of His Living Water, His Holy Spirit and His Word. And then from there, from that place of peace and enlightenment, and forever love, go and find your neighbor (your family member or a friend) and do your part to be a true and loving neighbor to all.
Share that living water with all whose lives God is asking you to touch today, whether by physical care or words or prayer. Because life is going on, so try to take it day by day, one day at a time. Do not let fear of the future rule your heart or your mind or the way you live this day. May we all look to Jesus as we walk through this desert together, sustained by his Living Water.
Post Script: There are ways to volunteer if you are able. You can serve at a feeding site, or you can back grocery bags at St. Mary’s Food Bank. Go to WACF.org for a link to signup.com to choose an opportunity. Also, check on your neighbors, especially the young and the elderly, and see if they need help. Lots of our people have transportation issues, so see if they need a bag of groceries or other assistance. Blessings and peace, The Rev. Robin H. Hinkle