31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
October 25, 2020
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
After years of being slaves in Egypt, after years of oppression and hard labor, injustice and cruel treatment, God’s people were finally free. The Israelites were finally on their way back home to the Promised Land. Through the wilderness and not the shortcut; however, God was clearly leading them – with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
They were free. Problem solved – or so they thought……. until they got to the Red Sea and saw the Egyptians in pursuit behind them. Here they were a rag tag group of refugees, carrying their children and their meager possessions, and there was Pharaoh’s army over six hundred chariots strong in pursuit of them. Here was a battle they could not win. Here was a challenge they could not overcome. Here was a problem! A really big problem!
And the Israelites cried out. They worried. They complained, saying to Moses “What? Were there no graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to die?” “We told you back in Egypt that we were happy serving the Egyptians.” “It would have been better for us to remain slaves than to follow God out into this wilderness.”
In the face of Pharaoh’s army, the people forgot about God’s deliverance and faithfulness. They forgot all about God guiding them. They forgot that God had a plan.
Moses remembers and tells the Israelites to not be afraid. Just as God freed them from slavery in Egypt, God will again deliver them from the Egyptians. God will fight for them, and they have only to keep still.
And it is exactly as Moses says. God saves the Israelites. Pharaoh and his army are vanquished. Problem solved.
Until…..the Israelites find themselves days into the wilderness with no water. Finally, they come to a place with water, but there is yet another problem. The water is bitter and undrinkable. “And [again] the people complained against Moses, saying ‘What shall we drink?’” (Exodus 15:24)
And again, God delivers the people of Israel and provides them with clean, sweet water. Problem solved. Until….they run out of food. And guess what? God again delivers them, providing manna, bread from heaven.
For forty years, the people of God journeyed through the wilderness, journeyed through challenges and hardships, and every time they encountered a problem, they worried and complained and completely forgot about all of the times when God had delivered them, when God had carried them through.
In the midst of challenge and problems, we, too, can forget that God delivers us, that God faithfully leads us, that God has a plan. And that is why, especially right now, it is so important to remember. To remember and tell the stories of all of the times before this one where God has delivered us, where God has faithfully led us, where God has had a plan that was so much better than anything we could have thought of, and God solved the problem and everything was awesome.
It is hard to trust in God’s plan, to remember God’s faithfulness when we are stressed and afraid. Those emotions live in different places in our brains. In a foot race between trust and fear, the primitive reptilian section of our brain wins the sprint every time. It doesn’t have to win the marathon though – if we remember, if we tell each other the story, the stories of all of the times when God has delivered us, when God has faithfully led us through the ups and downs, the hills and valleys of life.
Throughout the fall, we have heard the stories of different pilgrims on their journeys. Their journeys have all had amazing transformational moments and their journeys have all had challenges. And that is life. There will be problems, and there will be problems solved, and there will be moments that everything is awesome and then there will be problems again. That is the journey of life. That is the journey of faith.
And the way we walk this journey, the way we get through -is to remember, to remember all of the times when God delivered those who came before us, to remember all of the times when God delivered us.
The way we get through is to remember that God led Abraham and Sarah through the desert to the Promised land. That despite their unfaithfulness, despite their complaining and yearning to go back to Egypt and slavery, still God safely led the Israelites through. That God was with Jesus’ disciples, Paul, and countless other pilgrims as they walked a journey of faith into an unknown future.
The way we get through is to remember the stories of how God has led this community of faith – how God was with those first settlers of New Cambridge, which in time became Bristol. How God led them to build this historic meeting house, how God led future generations to improve this historic facility that all might be welcomed, how God has led us to think beyond this building in terms of welcome and worship and service to our community.
When I doubt if we will make it through this pandemic, I remember the night in 2016 when the construction company told the building committee that the elevator renovation was going to cost double what we had raised. Double the extremely generous and faithful amount that people had pledged and already given to the project. I went home and got on the treadmill for almost two hours to deal with my stress. I kid you not. I was worried. I was afraid. I wondered how God could have led us this far only for this project to die in the wilderness.
God was leading us though. God had a plan, and the safety and accessibility renovation was built – not without challenges, not without problems, however in the end, it’s awesome.
When I have those same doubts and fears as we learn this new way of doing worship, when I worry about how to meet the spiritual needs of this diverse community of God’s people, I remember that story. And I remember stories from my own life, of times when I could not see a way through, of times when I did believe I would get through, and yet God led me; God carried me; God delivered me.
On this journey of life, on this journey of faith, what are your stories of how God has led you? How God has delivered you? How God has faithfully carried you through?
Remember those stories. Tell those stories – right now even, in the comment section. And take heart that wherever our journeys lead, God is always loving us and leading us through.