How Thirsty Are You, Really?

Exodus 17:1-7 Matthew21:23-32

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On Friday afternoon it started. Wegman’s was opening in Montvale! People actually tried to camp out, to be the first ones in the door. The police quietly but firmly sent them home. People hung around, peering in the windows all weekend, as they had for weeks previously.

By 6:00 the morning of the opening, there were over 500 waiting. By the morning news, police were encouraging people to “car pool” to reduce the anticipated traffic congestion.

The crowd had a tremendous thirst for the bargain, the new, the trendy foods with odd sounding names. About a month ago we started getting flyers in the mail to pique our interest.

Sometimes we don’t know we want something until we see it! perhaps the promise of great door prizes will get people to endure a lot of discomfort to be there “on line and on time”. Yet, I suspect that even the most ardent of shoppers will agree; it wasn’t a matter of life or death! You weren’t going to die if you missed out on the “door crasher” specials. Wegmann’s will be there this week, and next, and the next after that.

The people of Israel, on the other hand, were in a life and death situation. They were exposed to the elements, and they were dying of thirst or hunger Last week, our lesson told us that they were provided “manna,” a strange flaky substance that appeared on the ground each morning. This, along with an occasional flock of quail (read “sparrow” remember?), is said to have sustained them for 40 years!

Today, as their story continues, it is water they need. Water Is a real  need. You will die without it. We are a water-rich country and we Americans often take it for granted. Water is vital. Just as the people in Puerto Rico.

The people of Israel were trying to live in a desert, the wilderness of Sin, named after the “moon goddess” worshiped by the peoples indigenous to the desert. People in deserts do die of thirst; the need for water is real. As the story tells us, God provided. Moses obeyed God’s command, struck the rock and water came pouring ot from the rock and the people’s thirst was quenched.

Was it a miracle? Apparently there are rock-like formations that are known to store water and hitting the rock to break it open and release the water is a skill developed by some desert dwellers. If this is true, does it make it any less of a sign they could depend on God?

You see, the slow, 40 year wilderness journey of the people of Israel is mostly about them undergoing a slow change from being a people enslaved by harsh taskmasters to a people who could rely on an follow the God who provided for them and called them to freedom and into relationship.

Last year, this Parish and our sister churches in District Nine got together to raise enough money to drill a well fora village in the Caribbean. We knew that giving a village a community well would change their lives for the better. Now in the aftermath of the recent storms, it may be what literally keeps that community alive

It seemed to us then, and it seems to me now that it is incumbent on us to preserve and safeguard the water that has been so generously supplied by the world in which we live.

This first Sunday in October is often called “Word-Wide Communion” Sunday across many Protestant denominations. It was started in the United States in 1933 as a way of giving hope and unity in a time of great poverty, divisiveness, hopelessness and unrest. While it is observed more in North America than elsewhere, it is still an opportunity for us to realize that we are part of a world-wide fellowship of people who gather and are nourished at the table of Jesus.

Some congregations use regular white bread cust into little cubes, like we do sometimes. Some use a common loaf and break off a piece for themselves or are given one. Some use wafers Today, in our two services, we will have used several “styles” of bread. We seem to have adapted very well to the variety. Trust me, it’s not whether we bake that matters to God; it’s how we feed the world with the bread we have

Some congregations use wine, while others use grape juice Some people receive in their seats and wait for everyone to partake together, and some come forward. Some, gather in a circle and share together, as we have done on occasion.

Despite the differences in style thee is more than enough that is similar in our worship to bring us together and remind us of our unity in Christ. If you are looking for communion to keep you from dying of physical starvation or thirst, you will probably be out of luck. BUT our faith tradition reminds us that we need more than physical food and water to survive, even when we have our physical needs satisfied in abundance.

Our human tendency seems to be to look at any cup, even this cup as half full, never quite enough for all the things we think we need. The people of Israel are certainly portrayed in this way We are challenged to look at that squarely. We have more than we need, more than enough.  As the poem puts it, “I’m drinking from my saucer, for my cup has overflowed!”

We are reminded, again and again, that we can rely on God to supply our needs and that God relies on us to help supply the needs of the least and the lost, the peoples of Appalachia and Mexico and Myanmar and across the world. We are challenged to the kind of living in which we can be God’s agents in a hurting, hungry and thirsty world. Someone has to go out and strike that rock!

We are recipients of God’s abundant grace. In gratitude, let us continue to be God’s people inside and outside these doors. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Diane L. Rhodes+



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