The Reverend Kathleen O’Toole Peters is a retired UCC clergywoman who divides her time between CT and Florida, is a grateful and joyful member of the First Congregational Church in Southington, Connecticut and an associate member of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Wildwood, Florida. In retirement she clowns around as her clown persona SweetCakes, volunteers as a chaplain and fundraiser for a local soup kitchen and pantry, and travels to be Nana to her granddaughter in California!
Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7 (NRSVU)
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do for this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Reflection: Is God among us or not?
Are we there yet? I'm hungry! I'm thirsty! She's touching me! He's looking at me funny! Any parent (or childhood memory!) knows that the cliche is true: road trips are hard. Even with iPads and movie screens in our vehicles, the whining comes.
Moses and God knew whining and boredom and distrust to the extreme during the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert. Even with the prospect of an exciting journey, the people/children soon want the assuredness of their known life; and the perils, uncertainty and discomfort of the road can become just too much. "It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:12b NRSVU) Back seat whining is usually a bit less dramatic, but the point is often the same. This trip is taking too long, it is too hard, and it is not going exactly as we want it to go.
In our own life's journeys as well, how often are we tempted to whine to God and demand to know when we are going to get "there," is it all going to go according to our plan and why do we need to suffer so much uncertainty and discomfort! We too can be tempted to ask: are you with me God or not? And we like the Israelites, especially when things are not going our way, can tend to forget God's abundant care and all the times in our lives when God's loving presence was beyond evident.
When this reflection is released, I will be on the Isle of Iona, Scotland, on my first ever pilgrimage. Our group's preparation has taught me that there is a difference between traveling and pilgrimage. Simply put, traveling often involves making sure one gets to and checks off all of the important sites on the journey (or on life's journey!). Pilgrimage focuses on the journey itself, letting go of trying to orchestrate/control the destination and most importantly a heightened openness to the presence of God in our very being. I often "travel" through life when I might be better served by leaning more towards "pilgrimage."
A life's journey is hopefully a very long road trip with lots of travel sites as well as pilgrimage moments.
Even if we do not "believe" in a micromanaging God, in moments of uncertainty and pain, we can call on our God to "make it all better." God knows that human part of us and hears that prayer. No prayer is wrong, yet the pilgrimage prayer song that echoes in my heart comes from the Rolling Stones: "You can't always get what you want. You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you'll find...You get what you need!"
God is indeed among us always if we dare to be open and to trust that God walks with us always providing us with what we need.
Holy One, open us each day to be more present to you and to what we are seeing, hearing, feeling and experiencing without moving so quickly to control the destination or check off the "sites." Open us to see the daily reminders of your love for us. Help us to trust in your care and your hopes for us and to live with some uncertainty so that we might dare to grow closer to you and see more clearly who we truly are and whom you have created us to be! Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at email@example.com.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war, as well as the many landscapes that are currently embroiled in conflicts.
- For those grieving or suffering due to the ~32,200 gun violence deaths that happened in the US since the start of the year.
- For those suffering from climate-related events.
- For all those who are suffering with dementia and for their caregivers
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
This Week in History:
October 2, 1967 (56 years ago): Thurgood Marshall, the architect and executor of the legal strategy that ended the era of official racial segregation, was sworn in as the first Black Supreme Court justice [History]
“Study the past if you would define the future.”