Lenton Devotional on Exodus 17:1-7
By Rev. Sara Baron

This story strikes as one of the authentic memories of the people.  I don't know if it happened exactly this way, but this story is real to how people act.

The people were in the wilderness, and when the Bible says "wilderness" or desert" it means "a place where there aren't enough resources to sustain life without God's intervention."  The people were in the wilderness, and there wasn't enough water.

There is very little as threatening to human life as a lack of potable, clean water.  That's why we have to advocate for people to have affordable access to potable, clean water in every circumstance where it is lacking.

I'm not super impressed with Moses in this story, he doesn't seem to understand the people's panic.  Perhaps we're supposed to assume that he already trusted God to provide, but if so, he hasn't done a good job of helping the people trust too.

Why does Moses think of it as quarreling when the people ask for what they need to live?  And worse, when do we respond to human need like that?  When do we fail to hear the urgency that people express?

However unsympathetic Moses was, he did at least convey the concern to God, and God immediately acted to fulfill the people's needs.

The story ends with place being named, "Is God with us, or not?"

In the midst of life threatening realities, that is a very real and honest question.  As I'm writing this, COVID-19 is expanding across the globe and within the United States.  It is terrifying to some, and life threatening to others.  There is a lot uncertainty, and a lot of fear.  It seems likely that some people are going to die, and even "some" is too many.

This seems like a time when people might ask, "Is God with us, or not?"  There will be some who say that this was God's plan (argh!) or punishment (argh!).  But more people will wonder if God cares.

Yes, dear ones, God cares.  God is with the people who are infected, and the people who are dying, the people who are grieving, the people who are caregiving, and the people who are living in uncertainty.  God is the one who responds to the people in the desert by making sure they got access to enough clean, potable water.  Apparently, we can do our part in this even if we are a little cranky and indifferent, like Moses.  Even better, we can do it with grace and compassion.  May we find the ways to care for the struggling and share peace in the world, which is so desperate for it.

God is with us in the good, and the bad, and the indifferent, and the confusing.  And, hopefully, we as justice-seeks are able to be signs of God's care and goodness in all of those circumstances too.

Rev. Sara Baron serves as the Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Schenectady in Schenectady, NY.  FUMC of Schenectady is a Justice Seeking Community.