‘A Rock and a Hard Place’ (Rev Fiona Winn, 15 March 2020)

Lent 3


Exodus 17: 1-7 – Water from the rock

John 4: 5-29 – The woman at the well.

Porosity and permeability. Two fantastic words!

Two fantastic words from the science of hydrology: the branch of science concerned with the properties of the earth`s water, and especially its movement s in relation to land.

Water and rocks are intimately connected

We think of the fluidity of water. Words like flowing, rippling, gushing, limpid pools…

And we think of the rigidity of rock.

Hard. Solid. Ungiving. Unyielding. Unforgiving.

In our stories today, rocks and hard places are broken open to offer life giving water, streams fo living water to unhappy, miserable people.

It could be a word for us today.

The people of Israel are at the end of themselves – and they`ve still a long way to go. They haven`t yet received the Ten Commandments. Their journey is not over.

They`ve already been through so much:

slavery in Egypt, the plagues visited on Pharaoh, the terror of Passover night when the angel of the Lord passed over the firstborn son of each household where the blood of the sacrificed lamb had been sprinkled on the doorposts…the Egyptian army`s pursuit of them as they fled Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea…

They`ve been through so much. And now they`re on their way to freedom and the Promised Land.

They seem to have forgotten they are free already.

God has been faithful.

God has provided manna, quail, sweet water.

And now again they are thirsty.

No one thinks `God has been so faithful. God has taken care of us up to this point. God is still God – no matter what. Let`s see what He`s going to do now.`


In their anxiety, panic, fear

They turn on their leader.

They turn on Moses.

They forget God.

What does it mean to see people queue and queue and queue at CostCo?

What does it mean that people are hoarding essentials to the detriment of others – especially the vulnerable in society?

Anxiety. Panic. Fear.

And with these – suspicion, distrust, anger, greed. So ugly.

In times of severe stress ad extreme circumstances we find out who we really are. It`s all there – just below the surface.

People of Israel. People of Australia. People of the world.

Even Moses! He`s tense and edgy and wondering himself. The people complain to him and he complains to God.

`What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’

Divine intervention. God steps in…There is a way forward.

There is always a way forward.

An unbelievable act of God turns the situation around.

Water from the rock.

God can do amazing things with rocks and hard places.

Matthew 3: 9

Jesus speaking `…for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise children of Abraham`.

Luke 19: 40

Jesus again…`I tell you, if these (the disciples) were silent, the stones would shout out.`

God can do amazing things with rocks and hard places.

God is God.

God is still God – even, especially, when everything is falling apart, crumbling around us.

`Is the Lord among us or not?`

Climate change. Donald Trump. COVID-19. Financial markets tumbling.

Panic buying. No toilet rolls!

`Is the Lord among us or not?`

That`s the question. What`s our answer?

If He is – what`s the panic?

If he`s not – then He never was and it`s all hocus-pocus, mumbo-jumbo, a fairy tale, a grim fairy tale – and we of all people are most to be pitied.

`Is the Lord among us or not?`

The question resounds down through, across the millennia – through unimagineable terror and suffering – and especially, especially for the Jews.

The pervasive ever present spectre of anti-Semitism…the pogroms and persecutions…the Nazi death camps…the Holocaust…

If any people can ask that question, the Jewish people can.

What do the stories, what does the story of the people of Israel, tell us?

Whatever you go through, no matter what – the answer is – YES.

In good times and bad…happy…sad…

When we`re messed up. And when we have messed up.

When life is messy.

When it`s all going wrong and we don`t know how to sort it out – or even if it can be sorted out…

Like the woman at the well.

We find out how messy her life is, how messed up she is.

It`s another wonderful interaction and encounter – like that with Nicodemus.

(John 3)

She`s curious and intrigued by Jesus` approach and she`s brazen/brave enough to point this out to Him.

John 4: 9 `How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?`

He`s a man, a strange man, a strange Jewish man.

She`s a woman, an unholy, immoral woman, an unholy, immoral, Samaritan woman.

And so begins a deep conversation about religion, true religion – which is true worship.

They talk about eh importance and the unimportance of race.

They talk about what constitutes a true worshipper – no the morally, racially or ethically pure – as if such people exist, as if such is desirable.

John 4: 23

`…true worshippers ` Jesus says `worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship Him.`

This is radical stuff! The outsider…the alien…the stranger.

The foreign woman whose life and lifestyle have made her a pariah in her own community.

Spirit and truth…what does this mean for us in Lent 2020 as the World and global community groans under the stress and strain of COVID-19?

When you`re in the wilderness, when you`re lost and messed up, when you`re between a rock and a hard place, when you`re dying of thirst – when you`re dying…

When you`re panicked and frightened and afraid

Of an unknown future and a threatening present – remember the past. Remember the past.

Remember the stories, remember the story of God`s mercy, love and faithfulness.

Remember God`s promises – especially in Jesus Christ.

Bring them, bind them to your heart and life.

Bring Him, bind Him to your heart and life.

If you can`t remember them – read them…We`re going to have plenty of time to read…

Encounter Jesus.

Spirit and truth.

The children of Israel, the woman of Samaria are set free, liberated in and from their mess.

`Is the Lord among us or not?`

She asks `He cannot be the Christ, can He?`

Amen and thanks be to God