Sunday, March 23, 2014

quenching our thirst

**Wow, this is my 100th post! Thank you so much for reading and supporting me on my journey! In looking back at my posts over the past few years, I am reminded of the many thin places I have been blessed to experience. While the scenery has been incredible, I am beginning to think that perhaps "thin places" is a misnomer; I have found that it's often the people I meet along the way that make thin places so holy. Thank you for being one of them!**  

Lent 3, Year A, 2014
All Saints’ Church

May the words I speak and the words you hear be God’s alone. Amen.

The reading from Exodus tells of the Israelites’ journey through the desert following their dramatic escape from slavery in Egypt. Previously, the Israelites complain to Moses because they are hungry, so God provides them with manna--bread from heaven--and quails to eat. Their hunger satisfied, the Israelites are now demanding water, questioning God’s motive for bringing them out of Egypt as well as God’s presence among them at all, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7). God instructs Moses to strike a certain rock with his staff, and fresh water comes forth to quench the Israelite’s thirst. 

Have you ever been thirsty? I don’t mean that you could just use a sip of water, I mean parched mouth, cracked lips, can’t swallow kind of thirsty?

The summer before I began seminary one of my friends and I traveled to the Grand Canyon. We saw many incredible things there in addition to the breathtaking view of the canyon itself, including one of those yellow diamond signs that warn you of deer crossings--except instead of a deer, the sign had a mountain lion. We set up our tent, made dinner, and tried to go to sleep (I swear I heard that mountain lion breathing right outside our tent). The next morning, my friend and I decided to go down one of the trails and explore the canyon. At the beginning of the trail, we saw a sign that read, “Could You Run the Boston Marathon?” Since both of us were runners, we were intrigued, and stepped closer to see what the sign was about. We were surprised to read the story of a 24 year-old marathoner--a woman in excellent health--who had ventured down the canyon but had not brought enough supplies and sadly died of dehydration. Our eyes widened at this sobering tale, but we were determined to continue on our journey. 

We slowly made our way down the trail, taking lots of breaks to rest, drink water, and eat snacks; we wouldn’t make the same mistakes that the woman had made. It was early July and the sun was bright but the occasional breeze made the weather bearable.   After we had been on the trail for about an hour or so, we sat down on some rocks for another rest break. I looked down to find my legs shaking from exertion; if we hadn’t taken a break, we wouldn’t have noticed how hard our bodies had been working, and easily could’ve overworked ourselves. I realized how easy it would be to misjudge how much energy it would take to walk down the canyon, and just how bad things could be without enough water. 

I got a better taste of this last May, when I attended a young adult conference on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. One of the afternoon sessions offered was to take a hike through the badlands. So a group of us went on the hike, eager to enjoy the sunny weather and the stark, beautiful scenery. The hike was only supposed to take an hour or two, tops, so when two hours came around and we were still hiking in the same direction, some people turned around and headed back. My friends and I continued, assured that there was something really awesome just a little bit further away. Well, our guides never found this place, but since it was starting to get late, we turned back so that we didn’t miss dinner. We made our way quickly, racing the disappearing sunlight. The longer we walked, the thirstier I became, and I soon ran out of water--about halfway  back to our campsite. We finally made it back, parched and with chapped lips, grateful for safety, dinner, and mostly for fresh, cool water. 

When Jesus begins his ministry, he spreads the message of God’s love to people far and wide. He journeys by boat, but mostly on foot, often traveling great distances. On one such occasion, Jesus takes a break at a well while his disciples go look for food. Parched from a long day of walking, he asks a Samaritan woman to give him something to drink. So begins a conversation about water, but Jesus is talking about more than just H₂O. He helps the woman understand that her soul needs nourishment as much as her body does, in order to stay strong.

We all go through periods of time where we, too, find ourselves spiritually parched. Times where, like the Israelites, we feel adrift, or abandoned. Times when we aren’t getting enough of what we need to keep us alive spiritually. Just as, in the case of the marathoner, our bodies cannot survive if we don’t drink enough water, we have to remember to prepare ourselves so that we don’t drain our spiritual well dry. We need to find ways to refresh our souls along the journey.

Lent is a great season for discovering ways to help us stay spiritually hydrated. A season of reflection and intention, Lent gives us space to explore what parts of us are in need of living water. Our Lenten disciplines can include developing spiritual practices that make us aware of God’s presence in our lives. Making time for a daily spiritual practice can also strengthen our souls. Worshiping in community, where we kneel beside one another in prayer, give each other the sign of peace, and receive the body and blood of Christ, reconnects us with God and each other, and gives us strength for the journey beyond these doors.  

Like our bodies, our souls need nourishment, too. May we find this nourishment for our souls, and be refreshed by the living water. 

me at the Grand Canyon, July 2009

hiking down one of the trails at the Grand Canyon, July 2009

sign in front of the trail we went down

badlands, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota
May 2013

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