Water From the Rock of Our Salvation

A Homily for the Third Sunday in Lent

Texts: Exodus 17:1-7; St. John 4:5-42


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Fount of Living Water. Amen.

After years of slavery in Egypt, after ten horrifying plagues, after the Passover and the hurried escape, after passing on dry land through the sea while the pursuing army was drowned, the Hebrews have been liberated!

And their cry goes up: Ashira l’Adonai – now what?

Now they’re stuck in the desert. They have no food and no water. It doesn’t take long before the grumbling sets in. They go to Moses and complain, saying At least as slaves, we had beer and fleshpots (a wonderfully archaic word for a sort of communal vessel used to cook large amounts of meat).

Life was – well, not good. But at least they weren’t under threat of starvation.

Just prior to this morning’s reading, with their stomachs growling, they complained of their hunger, and the Lord sent manna, a miraculous bread as sweet as honey, enough that they could eat their fill every day before it was replenished the next morning – and on the sixth day, enough that they could eat and still have sufficient food left over for the Sabbath.

Their hunger abated, now they realize they have no water. They begin to ask Moses, have you rescued us from bondage under the Pharaoh only to die in such a desolate place? Or, as Bill Paxton so eloquently put it in Aliens:

That’s it… Game over, man. Game over…. What are we gonna do?

As the situation grows more dire and as tempers begin to flare, Moses complains to God, If I don’t fix this, they’ll kill me.

And in that dire moment, just as at the sea shore, with Pharaoh’s army closing in, the Lord provided. The Lord who commanded the waters of the deep to retreat now brings forth fresh water from a desert rock. Here, in the barren wilderness, issues forth a stream of living water.

The Lord provides. When all hope seems lost, the Lord provides. In the face of a crisis, the Lord provides. In our fears, the Lord provides. In times of pestilence and plague, the Lord provides. In the barren desert land, the Lord provides. As tears stream down our face, as wails of sorrow ascend, the Lord provides. Even in the pit of the grave, the Lord provides.

Sin and Death prowl, powers and principalities crumble, but in the end, the Lord will provide.

The Israelites asked, “Is the Lord among us or not?” and God provided for them, even in their doubt

Today, we have been advised to part ways for a time – earlier even than we had originally planned. The doors of our building, and many other congregations, are locked this very morning. These are difficult days. In this Lenten wilderness, we may ask, did we come to this desert place just to perish?

Know how difficult this decision has been, to give up communing with all of you. I pray that it is only for a few weeks, and even that is far too long a time. I pray that we may break bread together soon. But you have called me to be your pastor, a shepherd to this flock, and I will be here for you during these trying weeks.

But even more than that, know that even as we are physically separated today, the Lord is among us. Whether we meet in our old familiar pews, or over the phone, or on YouTube and Facebook, the Lord is among us. God is good and will provide! From the Baptismal Font, dry though it may be this day, issues forth a stream of living water, and in that water, we are united into the Body of Christ! It has become a spring of everlasting life. Trust that in these waters, we will remain united in the new life through our Lord Jesus; neither pandemic nor time nor space nor death itself can render us asunder.

Today, drink deeply of Christ’s grace. As you wash your hands, remember that you are baptized into Christ. As you dine, remember that Christ has given us his Body and Precious Blood as a feast-everlasting. Cling to the everlasting grace given to us in the Sacraments, and be nourished for the weeks ahead.

And while we are separated from each other physically, we shall still worship together in Spirit and in Truth.

Amen.

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