- Sunday, March 19, 2017
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
So we have all had the experience at one point or another of leaving home. We have all experienced moving house and with that, often employment as well. This is essentially what the Israelites are experiencing in today’s reading from Exodus. They are leaving home. They are leaving Egypt and all that they know behind; employment, housing and the familiarity that comes with home. They are leaving and enter into the Wilderness and the desert. Now it seems to be an altogether common occurrence that whenever the Israelites enter the Wilderness it is often to highlight how ungrateful they are and how far they have strayed from God. The Wilderness brings out their worst for all to see.
But then again, whenever we are in the midst of a move, we are often not at our best either. Moving is frustrating, expensive and often annoying, even if it is a good and positive move that holds the promise of a better job and lifestyle. Inevitably no matter how good the reason for the move, there comes the point where we wonder why we are doing this. Why move? Why now? Do we have to? How many more boxes do we need? Despite the sorting and downsizing the stuff that remains is so much and overwhelming. The house we are leaving and the new house are both in a state of disorder and chaos. So inevitably it can mean yet another night of beer and pizza.
For the Israelites this is a good move. They are leaving the land of slavery. The road ahead leads to the Promised Land. A land that brings a much better lifestyle where they can live as free people, no longer in Egypt and under the Pharaoh’s rule. So yay! Oh happy day one would think. They are on the road carrying with them everything they possibly can and heading with Moses to the Promised Land. But the novelty of the journey has worn off. Fatigue and frustration begins to set in and they complain. They complain because the road is long. They complain because it seems as they are heading further and further into the desert with no end in sight. They complain most of all because they are running out of food and water. The desert is harsh, the road is long and they are tired hungry and thirsty.
A good move for sure. But a move that now poses some real threats. Water being essential to life is in short supply. They have no idea how much longer they are going to be in the desert so they let Moses know that they are less than amused and want him to do something about it. Funny isn’t it, whenever things go sideways, we somehow are experts at blaming others for our trouble and want someone else to deal with it. For the Israelites, they blame God for abandoning them and they want Moses to fix the problem. Surely a more constructive approach is to recognize the problem and then offer how we can help resolve it would be better.
But we shouldn’t minimize their complaints. They have a real issue. Water is running out and without it, no matter how good this move is, it won’t matter because they will not survive the desert to see the Promised Land. We often underestimate and take for granted the resources that we have in abundance and that are essential to life. Water being one the most essential.
Living in the year 2017 and in Canada we have the luxury of being surrounded by water; water that is healthy, abundant, convenient, cheap and safe to drink. We forget that there are many cities and countries where water is in very short supply. Countries where people have to travel across town to fill buckets with water. Often this water still needs to be boiled before it can be used for cooking or drinking.
With climate change and the unequal distribution and access to water our water supply is threatened. It is hard to imagine for us living in North Vancouver to be in a position where we do not have enough water or safe water for our daily needs. We get a very small taste of this each summer when there are water restrictions about when we can water our gardens . . . Oh how fortunate we are not to be in a position where our whole day is preoccupied with making sure we get enough water to make it another day. Patricia Tull points out in her commentary on this text that perhaps the next war, should there be one, will not be over oil but rather water supply.
So the Israelites have a valid concern that they need taken seriously. Moses goes and talks to God. At first glance whenever the Israelites are in the desert it seems that they are always under the wrath of God. God has them in this barren place to teach them a lesson of one kind or another. But we need to pay attention to what God actually does in these situations. In today’s reading God has Moses go on ahead with some of the elders to the rock at Horeb. When they arrive at the rock, God provides water; water to quench the thirst and restore hope in the People of God.
In this text we meet the vulnerability of people and the scarcity of resources. We are reminded of the resources that we have and often take for granted. We meet a gracious and generous God who provides for the People of God. Most of all we are invited to pray and advocate for our planet and her resources and to fight for justice for those who wake up each day wondering if they will have enough to get through one more day.