Monday, March 31, 2014

Crazy Theories

Someone asked me if the missing Malaysian flight 370 is a sign of the rapture.
I think it was kind of meant to be a joke, but I hear a lot of crazy theories about the rapture in my line of work.
I think people think this way because they want to try and make sense out of the world.
They want there to be answers to crazy things that happen.
We live in a crazy world; it is often hard to make sense out of it all.
It doesn’t make sense that in a world where you we are being videotaped all the time, when you can go to Google earth right now and see a live picture of this Church from space, that we somehow lost an airplane and have no idea what happened.
We want to make sense of it.
We want to understand how a routine flight goes wrong.

I believe that we feel out of control a lot of times in life.
Often times it feels like we are in the wilderness groping about trying to find the Promised Land.
It is a difficult journey.
Lots of things that could and do go wrong.
There are the wild animals, the fighting amongst people, the harsh weather.
In the Bible if you are in the wilderness it is not a good place to be.
It means that you are about to die.
I sense that this is how lots of people live life, always thinking that this is it.
That we are just a couple of bad steps away from something really horrible happening.
And in some cases it seems like calamity will and can strike.
We feel like we are in the wilderness wandering, lost, and on the verge of dying from thirst.
What can we do?
Where can we turn?

One of the possible solutions to this problem is to leave the wilderness and go back to Egypt.
You see in Egypt things might have been bad, but at least they were secured.
You had some safety.
Yes, you were a slave, but at least you knew that after a lot of work you would have a place to sleep, food, and water.
Egypt is much better than the wilderness.
Lots of us seek security in the stuff we have accumulated, the homes we built, the cars we drive, the 401k we have amassed.
Sure we are slaves to those things, they end up owning us, but at least we are sure where we will sleep, when we will eat, and what we will drink.

But if we need to see the falsity of this assumption all we have to do is see how people react when something goes wrong.
Like flight 370, or the millions of stories that populate the news about the top calamity of the day.
We are shocked when a small suburban “safe” neighborhood experiences a horrible tragedy.
We are shocked, because we are supposed to be safe from such things.
We have moved as far away as we can think of from the wilderness.

But more needs to be said, because even with all of our possessions and nice safe suburban living we are still not in good shape.
We still feel unfulfilled, we still feel not worthy, we have lots of negative thoughts about ourselves, about our neighbors, and about our world.
Egypt seems so nice, but we forget that we were slaves there.

And here is the other thing that we forget is that in the wilderness we are not alone.
God who has led us there is there with us.
One of the most shocking things about today’s story is how quickly the people forget what God has done for them.
Before this story the people had complained that they had no food so God made manna rain down from the heavens.
Even that is not good enough and they complain that they don’t have meat, so God gives them meat.
And now they are complaining about water.
Next they are going to complain because they really wanted lemonade!
What they forget is that it was God who rescued them from Egypt.
It was God who sent the plagues against Pharaoh.
It was God who parted the Red Sea so they could safely pass, and God who closed it so Pharaoh’s army was drowned.
They forget the goodness of God.

And perhaps we sometimes forget too.
We ask the same question that the people ask wandering in the desert, "Is the Lord among us or not?"
We have forgotten all the things that God has done.
The most important thing for us is that God sent his son to be with us, to walk among us, to show how much God cares for us, and ultimately his Son dies to show that death has no power, that love wins the day.
And yet we sit here now and wonder is the Lord among us or not?
We get upset over the smallest part of life that goes wrong.
We worry too much about things we can’t control.
And we sit and complain that we are thirsty.

We are only thirsty because we have forgotten that the well is not dry.
That we have living water that means we can never be thirsty again.
But none of that seems to matter because we want to know what God has done for us lately?
Sure God once upon a time made water come from a rock, but what has God done for me today.
That takes all the power out of the stories.
We tell these stories not merely to say something that was once true, but to remind ourselves of what God will do for us today.
These stories of God’s people and God are also our story, because we too are often in the wilderness.
We feel lost and abandoned, and what we are hoping for is a miracle.
Instead what we should be longing for is a relationship with the living God who lives with us, we want the stick that will bring water from the rock.
It is not the stick that brings water from the rock, it is not Moses, it is God.
God is the one who brings real life into our lives.
But we try to find real life not in God, but in finite things.

Jesus tells us that we are looking in the wrong places.
It won’t be about the physical things, but the spiritual things.
There we will find true freedom, security, safety, and release from the lives that feel dry and empty.
This is what the woman at the well experiences with Jesus.
This is what we experience with Jesus too.
It is a life never dried up, never used up, a life filled with endless water and true life.
And that is what lent is for to bring back the water into our lives, to help us live again in that relationship with Jesus.
It is to prepare us for Jesus death, but also his resurrection.
To prepare us for our resurrection, to bring us out of the desert, out of lives that feel dry into new life.

This is why lent can be helpful to us, not so that we can think about all the bad stuff we have done, but so we can think about and give thanks for all the great things God has done for us.
To think about all the ways that God has been there for us in the middle of the noonday sun, as we feel lonely and beat down by life, God comes and speaks with us and offers us cool water to drink drawn from the well of spiritual coolness.
Otherwise we end up the like the Israelites wandering in the dessert.
We forget what God has done for us, and therefore what God is doing.
We end up wondering if God cares at all.
We end up wondering if God is there at all.

This morning I tell you that God is here, God does care.
And so we don’t need any crazy theories to explain what is going on in our lives.
We just need to remember that God is with you even in the desert, even when you feel used up, and dried up.
God is there to the end, and beyond.
God is the true water that never goes dry and leaves us invigorated wanting to share with the rest of the town what God has done.

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