I return to the Book of Exodus and to the “Journey of a Lifetime.” Today we look at the first part of the journey and the miraculous transformation of bitter water into sweet, of God’s guidance to a place of shade and comfort. Yet, we also see the seed of a bad spirit in the congregation of Israel that will continue to grow in the journey.
Grumbling (murmuring, complaining, “whining”) is a universal challenge for God’s people. Of course, we grumble about the weather. When it is summer we are ready for fall. When Autumn leaves are blown away by the first icy harbinger wind of winter, we long for that season we just left. “Human nature,” you say? Right. Exactly. And this shows up in especially self-defeating ways when we are following Jesus Christ as His disciples. I know quite a bit about this malady of the human condition—and not because I have conducted research into it! I live it. Everyday. I fight the urges to complain, to return to a way of life that I imagine I had “back in Egypt.” Our minds have a way of revising history to provide comfort to our present lives, despite the pain and even bondage that might have been there. And so we hear a sermon like this and we go forward. I join you. We follow God through the desert days of our lives, seeking God in the tension of our murmuring spirits and a desire to return to a life that was never there. And this is where Christ comes to us in the power of His Holy Spirit. This is where we remember that Jesus our Lord, immediately after His baptismal inauguration as a High Priest, by His cousin John, headed into the desert. He was tempted, just like the Hebrews. He was pushed to the limits, just like Moses. Yet, He prevailed. And angels ministered to Him in His weakened physical state. But in that experience of our Lord, we see the pattern of victory over “the devil, the flesh, and the world” (Book of Common Prayer) that will qualify Christ as the perfect One to whom we may look up and be saved. It is in this new life of trusting in the Christ who overcame (Christus Victor), releasing us from the old patterns of murmuring and unbelief.
We are still on the way. We are not there. But, by the life of Christ, we are now walking in the direction towards home.
Dr. Michael Milton, Transition Pastor