Lent 4 Sermon
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
When the Israelites were brought out of Egypt into the wilderness, it is likely that they had no idea that they would spend 40 years out there in that tough transitional time. Did God, or Moses, let them know how long the journey would be…? Most likely not, and one can hardly blame them that they got kinda gripy along the way, even though the story doesn’t give them the benefit of the doubt.
I remember well, my first field trip as a student teacher. We were going from suburban Washington up to Baltimore to the Art Museum and the middle schoolers started griping. A more experienced teacher taught me the “fifteen minute” rule. Whenever a student would ask, “how much longer, Mr. Jones?” he would say, “fifteen minutes” because, the student would most likely find something to do and get distracted from their impatience, at least for 20-30 minutes until they’d ask again! I’m not sure, however, if this rule would work when stuck in the wilderness of transition for 40 years.
The people spoke against God and Moses, and thought they wanted to be back in Egypt. However they were suffering from forgetfulness. They had forgotten God in their lives, they had forgotten that God is the one who saves, and that God works in mysterious ways. “Your ways are not my ways says the Lord.” So the Lord found this strange way to remind the people that God, himself, was the one who saves, and was the one on whom trust and faith should be placed. God sent poisonous snakes and then gave Moses the means to save the people when they looked at the bronze snake on a pole. The story shows the people that God is the one who saves, and also the one who sent them into the wilderness, and ultimately, will bring them to the land of promise.
It can be hard to give thanks while in the liminal state of transition, it can be hard to cultivate prayerful remembrance of God’s power in our lives, but this is our prayer. “Give thanks, his mercy endures forever, they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he healed them…” “Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.” (Ps 107.22)
In our own time of transition here at Emmanuel, the urge will be for some to move quickly to the Promised Land, however, the time of transition the time of wilderness may be the time in which we really experience and remember that God saves, not us. There may be an urge to not fully live into this fruitful time of reflection, prayer, examination and love for one another. This is a time that we should, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6.2
Our reading from Ephesians reminds us that “you were dead, but God is rich in mercy” and that “by grace you have been saved through faith” and that this is a “gift of God,” not a result of our works. God is the one who gives, and who saves, and who loves us, even in our time of need, even in our time of wilderness, even in our time of transition.
Lord knows many of us do not like change, but change is life. Lord knows many of us do not like transition, especially when things are not in our control, but transition is life. God will provide for us, just as God provided for his people in the wilderness, and we should pray to have eyes to see, and ears to hear the ways that God is speaking to us and providing for us. God provides, and sometimes in creative ways and in ways that we do not expect. God saves us, in creative and unexpected ways.
There was a man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town. And that all the residents should evacuate their homes. But the man said, “I’m religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.
The waters rose up. A guy in a row boat came along and he shouted, “Hey, hey you! You in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety.” But the man shouted back, “I’m religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.”
A helicopter was hovering overhead. And a guy with a megaphone shouted, “Hey you, you down there. The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I’ll take you to safety.” But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God will take him to safety.
Well... the man drowned. And standing at the gates of St. Peter, he demanded an audience with God. “Lord,” he said, “I’m a religious man, I pray. I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?” God said, “I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?
God provides, and God saves. God has given the true bread, and lives in us so that we might live in him. Remember God. Remember Christ in our lives. “God did not send the son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saves through him,” so be open to the work of God, and expect that God may appear as a guy in a row boat, or shouting from a megaphone, for the Lord works in mysterious and unexpected ways. And he is with us, and he is in