Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 17:7
And he called the place Massah and Meribah because of the rebellion of the Israelites and because they tested the Lord saying, is the Lord in our midst or not?

             We have just heard God’s Word, just spoken with Him, our Rock and our redeemer (psalm -) asking His blessing on this sermon; but that last question, is the Lord with us or not? Those Israelites had left a land of slavery but also watermelons (Numbers 11:5), and now faced a thirsty death alongside a rock. When you look around, on your life, the temptations and ridicule of the world, the empty seats, and at the end of this season of Lent the death of your saviour; you too are faced with that same reality, death might be all we can see. So we ask, Where is God? What is He doing? Does He even care about us, about me?

            That woman at the well also came from a hard life, she too asked where is God; here on the mountain or in Jerusalem (John 4:20)? And Jesus answered, we will worship Him, serve, praise, and bow before Him, in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23). In Spirit, by the power of the Holy Spirit given you in Baptism, and in truth, according to God’s Word, His promise. And He has promised to be here; where ever two or three are gathered in my name there I am with them; I am with you always, to the end of this world; you are in me and I am in you (Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20; John 14:20). This is the truth, and moreso for those Israelites in the desert; ten plagues on their enemies, opening a dry way through the sea, bread from heaven, a pillar of fire, if we had all that here I reckon this place would be packed, even if only out of fear. But then these Israelites face death again and what do they do? Threaten to kill their leader and go back to their old ways. When it gets tough for you trying to walk God’s way, what do you do? Let’s say you’ve decided to start reading the Bible every night this Lent, if you get to bed worn out but have forgotten to open it up what do you do? When I bring up something from God’s Word that challenges the way you live and act, what do you do? Hopefully you won’t threaten to kill me, but do you give up, say God doesn’t care and go about your own way? Or do you ask God for help?

            Those Israelites faced death, but so did Moses; all these people including him, had been called out by God, promised that God will always be with them and now were in danger of death. So what did Moses do? He cried out to God, and God answered. From that barren, dry rock, an image of their bones if God didn’t help, from that rock came their salvation. Water burst out of its side and the people were saved. The Lord is here, and He cares for you, He listens to you and sustains you through the sufferings of this life. Moses turned to God, the Israelites turned away, but Jesus the Rock of our salvation died for us even when you were still sinners. He died on that cross, a corpse like that dry rock in the desert, but out of His side flowed water and blood, the living water and the blood that cleanses us. In His death He reconciled us to the Father, even when you sin rejecting God’s way, even when you try but fail, you are reconciled with Him and all Christians who are also joined with Him by baptism and Holy Communion. Death is not the end, even though it might be all we can see, a dying church, family rejecting Christ’s love, a collapse of community, the struggles of your own life, but death is not the end. We will die, our baptism foretells this truth, yet we will rise and enter the promised land; just as the Israelites did, just as Christ did and just as God has promised. Now as we live this side of death, with our Triune God here with us, the Holy Spirit walking alongside us, sustaining us, caring for us and guiding us, hold on to the truth, His promises, His way, and cry out to Him whenever you need help; He will save you.

            And as you call out, the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Joseph Graham.