Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

IS THE LORD WITH US?

Exodus 17:1-7


Well, here we are again this morning… wondering in the wilderness with the Israelites. Don't you wonder about these folks… obediently following Moses around through the desert? But then… I suppose they were used to being told what to do by someone else. After all… they had been slaves in Egypt and were probably not accustomed to having a mind of their own. How in the world are we to relate to this strange group of people… wondering aimlessly… following a man who claimed to have talked with God. Sounds a little bit like some of the cults of our day, doesn't it? Well, we certainly couldn't be taken in by some such person… could we? It's only the miserable… and dissatisfied… lost souls who follow the likes of Jim Jones… or David Koresh… or Moses. Yea… I'd say that it's pretty difficult to identify with this… or any other group of people who blindly follow someone claiming to represent God! On the other hand… though… I think I could safely say that we are being lead around by the noses most of the time. We are constantly being told by TV commercials that we are not completely happy… because we don't yet have their product… which, of course, will make us more masculine or feminine… more beautiful or handsome… more popular… more important… more desirable… thinner… the list goes on and on. Have you seen the new Dodge commercial that touts being "different?" We are a society that has more stuff… and less satisfaction… than any other nation on earth. What we have is never enough… because the Jones next door have more… and, of course, we must keep up with the Jones at any cost. Now maybe you think you don't fall into that category… but would you be willing to give up anything you have? Of course not! After all… you worked long and hard for everything you own. You're not going to give it up to anybody… and some of you may even have a gun in the house to back you up… just in case anyone tries! Think about it this week. Look around. Is there anything you would be willing to part with? Or are we too held captive... like the Hebrews of old. Are we too wondering around in a wilderness… unhappy and dissatisfied… grumbling because some things are out of our reach? Think about it! The Hebrews blamed Moses for their situation. After all… he's the one who claimed to know what God wanted for them. He's the one who told them what to do. He's the one who took them out into this wilderness. And for what? To wonder aimlessly around… and die of thirst? It's beginning to look like there might be a rebellion… and Moses knows who will get the worst end of the deal. He rushes back to God… and says, "I think they are about to kill me! What should I do?" The Hebrews did not understand that they were to relate to God on a much more personal basis… that it was God they needed to turn to… that Moses was only a temporary go between until they matured in faith. Yes, Moses was their God-appointed leader… someone who related personally to God… someone who could lead them as long as they needed to be lead. But Moses was also a model… someone they could immolate as they grew in faith… a model of how they could each personally relate to God. It was a very long time before the Hebrews fully understood this concept… that God wanted a personal relationship with each of them. Actually, I think there are still many people today who do not understand this. Don't you know a lot of people who think they need a go-between… someone to whom they can confess… someone who can forgive sins… someone who can assure them of eternal life? Doesn't that sound like Jesus Christ our Lord? By God's grace… this has all been done for us once and for all. But the Hebrews held Moses responsible for their salvation. "This is all your fault, Moses. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to get us what we need… or are you going to let us perish here in the desert?" And Moses responded, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?" In my study Bible the footnote here suggests that it's not the Lord who is failing a test… but rather the Hebrew people. What test were they failing… you ask. Well… not only were they blaming Moses for their situation… and failing to address God directly… they were also being impatient about their wants and needs. They did not understand that God was at work in their lives. They did not know how to wait upon the Lord… how to trust in God's purpose and mercy. They became impatient and began to grumble. Well… we can certainly identify with that, can't we? I know I can. I want what I want when I want it… and I have the charge account balances to prove it! How about you? Ever get impatient? Maybe you don't use your charge card as freely as I have in the past… but I'll bet, if you're honest with yourself… you will have to admit that you are just as much a victim of our instant gratification society as I am. So… here we are… in the same boat with the Hebrews… who wanted water… and they wanted it now. In two weeks we will be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of this congregation… and I suspect that you might be wondering why God hasn't blessed us with more members. We were better off in the past, weren't we. The glory days are gone. Anyone here feel like grumble about that? You might be tempted to quarrel with me and say, "Shirley, why don't you go out and get some new members? If you don't do something soon, this church will surely die!" You might even be tempted to ask, "Is the Lord with us?" Yes… it's true… I am your shepherd (that's the meaning of the word pastor) in this particular time and place. Yes… it's true… my job is to touch each of you… like Moses touched the rock… and encourage you to let your creative gifts run free to water and nourish this congregation. I sincerely hope you can trust God for that. But the Old Testament emphasis is clearly on the daily walk and the need to wait on the Lord and His providential care. The "new Moses"… whom we follow… is none other than Jesus Christ. He is the one who has truly set us free. The one who leads us day-by-day. He is our model… and unless we emulate him in the power of the Holy Spirit, we labor in vain to build this church. Please notice that I said "we" because each of us is called to follow personally and corporately. I learned this past week that most organizations have a life span of about 40 years. At that point they need to do something different if they are going to survive for another 40 years. The Lord has kept us alive and well for the past 40 years. Can we trust him to do the same in the next 40 years? Can we trust him enough to let go of some of accumulated stuff… and follow where he leads us? Can we trust him to do a new thing within and among us? Amen.


A Sermon Preached on September 26, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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