It’s God’s Plan---- Maxine Jordan
The scripture reading this week was from Exodus 14: 19-31
“God parts the sea for the Hebrews”
The divide between "faithful believer" and "critic or doubter" is always placed under pressure when biblical stories employ magic and miracle to convey their message. We could spend some time on the many questions that we probably have about the miracle involved in the sea parting. If we did, we would probably get bogged down in questions about all those dead Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea.
Some well-intentioned people might try to “logically” and “scientifically” explain the parting of the sea. But scientifically explaining miracles misses the point of the story. In such legends, impossible things happen, and the whole point is having people being able to say to themselves, “God is with us. We are a chosen people. The fact that we are here is a miracle. It’s God’s doing.”
So what do we learn from this story from long ago that will strengthen our faith, our trust in God today? We learn not to let our fear stop us from "stepping out in faith," as the saying goes.
In Exodus, the Israelites have finally escaped Egypt only to be chased down, eventually hemmed in between the sea and soldiers. It’s a terrifying situation. But all night long, God is working—a pillar of cloud defending them, and a wind blowing to divide the sea. Eventually, they are able to escape the scary situation via an unexpected route, the new path carved right through the middle of the sea. In a children’s book titled, Dark Night, a character named Felix finds himself in a scary situation. Awake in the dark night, he encounters terrifying creatures: wolves, tigers, and crocodiles. He is afraid. But then a rabbit comes along, and shows him an unexpected way out, and helps him scare away the terrifying creatures. We may find ourselves in scary situations, too. But we can trust the promise of Scripture, that God is working even in scary situations, and will provide a way out for us. I don’t know about you, but I have found that in the last six months I have been scared; that fear has overtaken me and that I have felt broken by what is happening around me. At times I have felt like Humpty Dumpty “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” We may smile at this little nursery rhyme; it’s among our earliest childhood memories. Some of us might even recall a picture book in which the artist’s rendering depicted Humpty Dumpty as a real character rather than make-believe. Whether or not the author and the artist intended for the nursery rhyme to convey a lesson about life is not known by me, but nonetheless it does speak to a few situations in which folks sometimes find themselves; broken, shattered, in pieces and we just have to try to put the pieces back together. I feel having the opportunity for us to come together today and start our “new Church normal” we have taken the first step.
In the world that we have been living in these last 6 months with self isolation and social distancing, on top of the usual illness, deaths, unemployment, mental health issues, poverty, violence; I feel that at times my faith has been “coming apart at the seams.” At times as I have been struggling to live out my life of faith, I have needed to remind myself that we have a God who knows us, knows our problems, knows our failures and knows our needs. We may all need the gentle reminder that God provides good news for whatever bad situations we are going through. Have you struggled at times finding that good news as we deal with the pandemic? Having some Fenelon Falls folks start up food banks on their front lawns, is that the good news? Having medical personnel isolate away from their families to allow them to take care of the sick, is that the good news? Having the local colleges open up their dorms for front line workers, is that the good news? Having people work from home and allowing for more family time, is that the good news?
Has the worldwide pandemic forced us to turn to the Lord in humility and ask Him to intervene in our situation, to heal our brokenness and to restore our hope? My hope has been restored when I read and hear so many heartwarming stories of humans helping others. Two young girls baking and selling cookies and all monies raised going to a local charity, a bridal shop setting up a social media contest for front /line workers to be nominated and a deserving bride to be receiving a dress giveaway, a pen pal letter writing program set up for elderly “shut ins” to receive some mail. These are just a few examples, but I am sure you are like me and have had your heart warmed by the many creative ways many folks have shared “the good” with others.
The necessity of turning to God and trusting Him to heal our brokenness is a lesson learned by the Israelites the hard way and is applicable to us as to them. To initiate the process of restoration, however, we must first do what the Israelites did, see the great power of the Lord, be awed by it, and believe in Him. The degree of our faith in God is so often determined by the ebb and flow of circumstances. Do you agree with that statement? As long as there’s smooth sailing, we’re up, we are counting our blessings and giving thanks, but let there be the slightest hint of troubled waters, we’re down, asking God where he is and why is he doing this. I’ll give you an easy example of this. Our daughter, Nicole and family have lived in Saskatchewan for 10 years. I have prayed everyday for God to bring them back to Ontario. They finally put their house up for sale and had an Open House planned. My prayers were being answered and I’m giving thanks, things are going along smoothly……..until the pandemic hits the week the For Sale sign is put up on the front lawn, the Open House had to be cancelled and the selling of the house got put on hold. What was the good news now? My ordinary life was disturbed, things weren’t so smooth sailing now. I had to take time to remind myself that faith is predicated on trust, not understanding and even though I always don’t understand what God is doing, I must still trust His plan. Two vehicles full of the Jordan/Smith family from Saskatchewan pulled into our driveway 5 months later. A great reminder that we all need the strength to be courageous and have faith to know the things we are experiencing are part of God’s plan, even if we don’t like it or understand it at the time.
I also believe that the passage of the parting of the Red Sea testifies to our experiences of divine deliverance. An event that describes a way emerges almost out of nowhere, where previously no way was present. This passage made me stop and ponder moments where God was real in life changing ways and where grace delivered us from despair. What God changing moments have you experienced? God knew the problem Moses was facing and God knows the problems we are facing, and He knows how to solve the problems. May God open our eyes as He did Moses’ to see the solution. If only we could take the time to share with each other about what God is up to in our midst.
In verse 16 from the scripture this morning, the Lord commands the Israelites to move forward. The only problem was there was a large body of water blocking their path. This made me think of the many times in life that a problem or problems arose, and I have become anxious or angry or scared and that’s where and when I need to turn to my faith. The lyrics in a song called Do It Again reads “I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains And I believe, I’ll see You do it again. You made a way, where there was no way. And I believe, I’ll see You do it again.” When we have problems, removing it is not the only way that God makes a way. The truth in all of our lives is that sometimes God doesn’t remove it, but He always provides a way to get us around it, over it and through it.
We understand what the Israelites went through. We also know how they were able to survive their journey. In the third chapter of Exodus, when the Lord is speaking to Moses, God calls the Israelites, “God’s people.” They were God’s beloved. We, as individuals and as a congregation, know that we are God’s beloved, also. At our baptisms God came to us and proclaimed, “This is my child, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” As God’s beloved, the Israelites stepped forward, in faith, into the future. They trusted that God was with them and would accomplish God’s will through them. We too can do the same.
We have two choices today and everyday. We can complain and feel sorry for ourselves which I’m sure lots of us have been doing the last 6 months; we can give up and quit but if we do we will never see the glory of our God. So instead, we step forward into the future knowing that we are loved, and that God is with us. I am going to be totally honest here, sometimes I am challenged at always seeing the way God is with me especially when bad, sad, tragic things are happening. I know that life isn’t meant to be easy, that it’s meant to be lived sometimes happy other times not and that with every up and down you learn lessons that make you stronger. It is a good feeling to be reminded I am not alone, and that God is there and he cares even though his presence might not always be what I want or think it should be, I take comfort in knowing He is walking with me through things. Courage is whatever life throws at you you’ve got this, faith is whatever life throws at you God’s got you. I found this poem and since finding it I have read it so many times as it is helping me to discover what God is doing in me.
“I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong. I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve. I asked for prosperity and God gave be brawn and brains to work. I asked for courage and God gave me dangers to overcome. I asked for patience and God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait. I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help. I asked for favours and God gave me opportunities. I received nothing I wanted, and I received everything I needed. My prayers have all been answered.”
The story of the Israelites and the crossing of the Red Seas is a story of turning one’s back on the past, moving forward in uncertainty, while trusting that God will divide the sea, stand between us and those who seek our demise. As Covid-19 is still present, we are moving forward in uncertainty but we need to allow ourselves hope, to believe, to trust and ask for God to give us strength and faith so we can be courageous knowing that what we are going through today is part of His plan. Even though the world is in chaos right now, we can thank God that we have a roof over our head, food, water, warmth, and love. May we feel God’s presence, comfort, strength and hope in our lives right now as we are called to look forward, to see and lean into a future that is not defined by calamity of the pandemic but instead is shaped by hope, possibility and the grace of God. We have been blessed, and God calls for us to be a blessing to others. Let us give strength to each other so we can all be courageous as we share together in God’s plan. Thanks be to God.
FENELON FALLS UNITED CHURCH