Were you watching “The Amazing Race Canada” over the summer?
The winners of the race, revealed last week, were very interesting characters: Mickey and Pete – best friends, “best buds,” from Muskoka.
Long-haired, grungy and easy-going, Mickey and Pete were not hard to like.
The thing about them, for me, was they had this uncanny ability to remain calm, cool and collected while completing the challenges throughout the race.
Whether it was bungee jumping, sky diving, figuring out puzzles, or relying on memory to complete memory-type games, Mickey and Pete seemed to breeze through these challenges in an unruffled manner.
While the other teams stressing out, yelling at each other, arguing and blaming while racing and completing tasks, Mickey and Pete would be calmly carrying on – sharing words of encouragement to each other, smiling, laughing at themselves, with a self-deprecating, mild-mannered humor.
Maintaining a calm exterior, even in the most pressured moments.
Now, we all admire people like that, people who – on the surface, publicly – appear “calm, cool and collected”, right?
It’s cool to be cool. We admire “cool-ness” in parents, in community leaders, in the entertainment and business leaders of society.
But the truth is: deep down inside, we all know those feelings of worry, anxiety, stress and doubt.
We’re all the same that way. Some of us are just better able to cover it up, to hide it!
Even the seemingly unflappable Mickey and Pete, I’d dare say, were dealing with a few inner twinges of fear and anxiety at least once in a while, something they were able to cover up so well.
The Israelites perhaps were more honest and transparent about being stressed out and anxious.
Their anxiety was on full display, as we read in the Exodus passage!
They’re frustrated because of their thirst, as they wander through the desert wilderness.
And they complain, whine, and blame Moses, their leader.
Essentially, they’ve lost all trust – trust in Moses, trust in a good God.
This, even after witnessing the most incredible acts of God to save them from slavery in Egypt –
- the ten plagues to discourage and beat down Pharaoh,
- the dividing of the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to escape unharmed.This, even just after God provides for the Israelites “manna” in the wilderness.And Just two chapters prior to this passage, in Exodus 15:27, we read about how the Israelites camp at a site in the wilderness called “Elim.”
And this campsite has, not one, but twelve springs of water.
They camp beside abundant, overflowing water, in the middle of the desert wilderness!
God is good!
After all of this, the Israelites forget, and complain, and focus instead on the discomfort of their thirst, their doubt and anxiety of the present moment.
Like all of us, they forget God’s goodness and grace, forget the larger picture of God’s overall abiding care and love.
But regardless, without hesitation, God provides the water the Israelites need.
God instructs Moses to go to the rock of Mt Sinai, and after striking the rock with his staff, water gushes out from behind the rock.
It’s a powerful image: the water was always there, under the ground, behind the rock, flowing in quiet streams under their feet.
God’s goodness and grace is ever present, always with us, even though we may not momentarily see it.
Something for us to remember:
At times in our lives – and sometimes these times may seem terribly long — when nothing but the desert wilderness of … illness, … or worry, … or boredom, … or disappointment, … or stress … seem to fill our minds and vision, …
…When we panic or complain like the Israelites did, we need to remember the grace and goodness of God’s presence, quietly flowing beneath our feet, in the ground, behind the rock, always surrounding us.
And, just like the Israelites, we keep moving forward.
Putting one step in front of the other.
Continuing our journey.
Walking forward, into the future.
Aware of God’s every-present goodness and grace, we then are freed to do what we can, freed into action.
Mickey and Pete in the Amazing Race did what they could to keep their team going and strong: even little things like saying words of encouragement to each other, being committed to the task at hand, not giving up, offering frequent smiles to each other and the other teams – those little things – even a smile – can make such a big difference!
Our actions – not merely what we say or not say, feel or not feel – but our actions, what we do, is what ultimately matters in the eyes of God.
As the parable of the two sons in the Gospel reading today tells us: it’s the son who actually goes to work in the vineyard, who acts on his intentions, it is that son who does the will of God.
The wind can be blowing, but if we don’t raise the sail, we won’t go far.
We can be surrounded by oxygen, but if we don’t take that breath, it won’t do us any good.
In the month of March, the sap in a maple tree can be flowing, but if we don’t tap the tree, we won’t get any maple syrup.
You may’ve been hearing about “Out of the Cold” which has been in the news recently.
Area churches which had been participating in past years, are no longer able to do so, for many different reasons.
Here at St Matthews we’re, as of this point, still aiming to keep our doors open this winter on Wednesday nights for those in our downtown who are homeless and in need of a warm bed and good meal.
We’re immensely grateful to the volunteers from St Matthews and the wider community who express willingness to carry on, despite the challenges.
Church programs like “Out of the Cold” are entirely volunteer driven and dependent. They are the ones who decide.
We don’t know how long we may still be able to do this, but at least for now, for this coming winter, we’re intending to carry on, and do what little we can to help those of low income and special needs.
And while we hope other, better strategies for helping the needy in our midst come about – for example establishing more affordable housing, and assisted-care living arrangements – we, at least for the coming winter, plan do our little bit to help, to serve, to care, in the name of Jesus.
Just as Mickey and Pete kept putting one step forward in the race, and kept doing the “little” things that kept their friendship and racing strong,
… so too we keep putting one step forward,
…and doing that which Christ calls us to do—to love, to serve, to care.