Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).
By Lora East
At my first reading of this Scripture passage, my heart was really going out to Moses as a leader experiencing turmoil within his community. But as I continued to ponder this text, it was actually to the Israelites that I was feeling most connected. The Israelites are a people that have experienced trauma and are searching for a Promised Land of belonging and security. They are freed from slavery, yet wandering in a desert where they are tired, thirsty, and scared. Time and time again they act out of these fearful and desperate places and turn their exasperation onto Moses, who then turns to God crying for help. The behavior we observe by the Israelites is only too familiar. How often in the last few months have you felt hopeless? Fearful? Angry? How often have you found yourself asking the question: Is God among us or not?
As I write this devotion, I’m returning from a weekend celebrating the ordination of a friend and graduate of SFTS. As the preacher affirmed the call on my friend’s life and her gifts and preparedness to go and serve, she also said that she wished she could tell my friend it will be easy. She wished that these weren’t challenging times to serve Christ’s church. Our communities are experiencing change and challenge, discerning the presence of God and in many cases asking: Is the God among us or not?
While that is the question that ends our passage, it is not the end of the story. God leads Moses to the rock, commands him to strike it and for water to flow forth. From a seemingly dry place, from the last space we would ever go, comes the water of life. And Moses is not alone, for not only is God acting on his behalf, but this miracle occurs in the sight of the elders who are then able to go forth and proclaim what they have seen.
Where have you experienced God’s presence in these days of thirst and fear? Where have you witnessed God at work in yourself or others? Where do you find a Word of hope, a blessing, a shoulder on which to lean? When have you been surprised by God, finding water in unexpected places, healing flowing forth from dry places?
As we move through these days of turmoil and confusion, discernment and struggle, may we remember that we do not travel alone. We are in this together. We are not abandoned by God. God is among us, at work in ways known and unknown, seen and unseen, bringing us forth into a land where we thirst and fear no more. May our strength come from not only knowing this in our minds, but from feeling its truth in the air we breathe, in the beating of our hearts, and in every fiber of our being.
Lora East earned her master of divinty in 2016 from the San Francisco Theological Seminary.