First Congregational Church UCC
220 West Lyon Avenue
Lake City, Minnesota 55041
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 SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2023

Good Morning!  

Road trips are biblical. 
They're even epic.

One of those road trips is famous.

The behaviors are memorable.

They teach us a lesson. 

It's a lesson about the road of life.

-Pastor David
(Psalm 63:3,4)


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First Congregational Church UCC
114 North Oak Street
Lake City, MN  55041
Here Is Today's Message

"Will You Focus On The Water Or Whine?"
A message from
Rev. David S. Badgley

March 12, 2023

      Nearly every summer of my childhood and into my teenage years, our family would make an annual vacation by car. 
     My dad loved to drive and for a number of years he was driving a spacious 1961 Cadillac DeVille with my mom in the front seat and three of us kids in the back seat. 
     Our trips would take us from Southern California to Saskatchewan, Canada to visit my mom’s side of the family, or to Washington State to visit my dad’s side of the family. 
     With my dad doing the driving that meant we would arrive in as few days as possible, traveling long distances each day.  It wasn’t until I was old enough to drive that I realized how much road endurance my father had. 
     Day one of our trips to Washington State began in Redlands, California and ended in Mt. Shasta, California.  Google Maps says that’s a driving distance of 668 miles taking 10 hours 51 minutes without stops. 
     Add another two or three hours for gasoline, food and restroom breaks to calculate a 13 to 14 hour travel day. 
     Our second day took us from Mt. Shasta to my Dad’s hometown in Washington State, which was a distance of 521 miles and only about one hour less than the day before.
     Despite the incredible distances for three kids in a back seat, I have fond memories of those trips.  It was the time before electronic games and music devices except for the car radio tuned mostly to A.M. stations that made static noises whenever there was a lightning storm in the area. 
     Mom prepared a bag of tricks and each day we would be given a comic book or a craft project, like lacing together a wallet or other stuff from the Tandy Corporation before it was called Radio Shack.  
     We had travel bingo cards to keep us occupied and stopping at gas stations meant a few hops on the hose that made the bell ring inside the station. 
     Remarkably, I don’t remember much complaining or quarreling, except for the traumatic time when we were caught behind a caravan of 25 or 30 silver colored Air Stream trailers on a two-lane road and dad complained a lot. 
     I’m sure there were times when patience was thin, and kids were unruly, but that’s not part of my memory. 
     That’s not the case with other families and their trips when the memory of complaining and quarreling is strong.  That’s the case in a famous road trip, which was so full of complaining and quarreling that the story was written down for everyone to read.  It’s found in the book of Exodus.
     It all started just after the Hebrew people had crossed the Red Sea and escaped from the Egyptians.  They were free to head in a new direction and experience a new life. 
     As Moses and the people travel into the wilderness, however, they lack something essential to life: water.  For three days they searched and found no life-giving refreshment. (Exodus 15:22)
     At last they come to a place called Marah where water was found.  Their initial joy and relief quickly dissolved when they put this life-giving water to their lips and found it was tainted, bitter to taste and undrinkable. 
     Now it made sense the place was called Marah, which in Hebrew translates to “bitterness.”
     Water wasn’t the only thing that was bitter.  So was the mood.  The people were frustrated with this whole experience, an experience that they held Moses responsible for. 
     “You’re the one who led us on this journey.  What are we going to drink?” they complained to Moses. (Exodus 15:24) 
     The people weren’t being unreasonable in their request.  They needed water.   And the people were discovering that Moses didn’t know this arid country any more than they did.  
     “Where’s the next exit?” 
     “I don’t know.” 
     “Where’s the next gas station or food stop?” 
     “I don’t know.” 
     “Where’s the next restroom because the kids gotta go?” 
     “I told you, I don’t know!”  
     Still at Marah, Moses cried to God for help. God directed Moses to pick up a piece of wood, which Moses threw into the water.  It acted as some kind of primitive purifier and the water became sweet to drink.  The people were able to drink filtered water. (Exodus 15:25)
     Soon they moved on from that bittersweet place and found a true oasis in the wilderness. 
     The place was called Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. (Exodus 15:27)  There was shade and some water slides and a mini-golf course and the kids were happy.  They camped there by the water and it was a good place to be.
     Presumably there were folks so satisfied that they said, “Let’s just stay.  We’re content to spend our vacation here.  Why do we have to go anywhere else?” 
     Like a dad on a mission, Moses needed to get in the car and get on the highway again, even though he didn’t know where he was headed. 
     So after listening to a sales pitch about owning a time-share at the resort, the people left and went out into the wilderness again. 
     After the good time they had at Elim, travel seemed even more of a drag.  It wasn’t long before the people were getting hungry and complained to Moses that there was nothing to eat. 
     Moses found a roadside diner where the special of the day was something called “Manna”.  
     The scriptures say, “When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was.” (Exodus 16:15)  
      No one had ever heard of it or seen anything like it, which is exactly where it got its name.  “Manna” in Hebrew means, “What is it?” 
      It’s a common reaction to food served at roadside diners and truck stops, but everyone went ahead and ordered the daily special anyway because it was cheap.
     After eating manna the people moved on to a new place called Rephidim. The scriptures say,
They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.
Exodus 17:1 (NRSV)  
     You can see that there’s a pattern here.  Moses continues to stop in these places that make no sense.  This is not exactly building trust in the leadership of Moses. 
     The scriptures say,
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?”
Exodus 17:3 (NRSV) 
     Well, by this time, Moses is just tired of the complaints.  He’s tired of whining kids in the back seat.  So, Moses goes to God for help, only this time he doesn’t ask for water.  He doesn’t tell God, “Hey, everyone is thirsty, especially after that manna.  What can you do for us?” 
     Instead, Moses says to God,
“What am I going to do with these unruly people?  They’re ready to kill me!”
Exodus 17:4 (NRSV)
     Moses is feeling the pressure of leadership, driving the entire family in the car up and down the highway without a clue where they’re headed, flying by the seat of his pants and making up some itinerary as they go along. 
    Plus, the people are getting only a minimal minimum daily requirement of water to drink and something to eat.
     God reads between the lines of Moses’ request.  God decides to satisfy the thirst of the people as well as provide some positive P.R. for Moses, which he can desperately use right now. 
     So, God tells 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. 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.”
Exodus 17: 5-6 (NRSV)
     All goes as planned.  There’s water to drink.  The people are satisfied. 
     But Moses is not satisfied.
     Even though God has come through again, and the people are content again, and Moses is God’s leader again, Moses is clearly fed up with all the flack that he’s been receiving. 
     His ego has been bruised.  He’s tired of the backseat drivers.  So, he’s going to give a new name to this place. 
     “I want everyone to remember this bad road trip,” he says.  He calls the place Massah.  Better yet, he’ll give it two names: Massah and Meribah.  In Hebrew that means “test” and “quarrel”. (Exodus 17:7)
     Moses wanted to remember this terrible family vacation.
     What Moses seemed to forget, however, were the times that God provided life-giving water to everyone.  Moses names this place without any reference to what God has done. 
     This trip is not remembered for the water, but for the whining.  This journey is not remembered for the times God offered care, but for the times of fear and uncertainty.  This road trip has a lesson for us on our road trip of life.
      We have a habit of focusing on whining instead of the water.  We can get so focused on our needs, on our fears, on our lack of trust that we begin to name the journey accordingly. 
     We call it bitter.  We focus on our disappointments and the pain we experience in our life journey, losing sight of God’s activity among us. 
     Rather than naming the places that God was there to help us, we enshrine the quarrels and complaints.
     It’s unavoidable to test and quarrel and complain as we make our way through life, especially when we find ourselves in foreign wilderness places.  “I’m hungry.  I’m thirsty.  I’m scared.  I don’t know where I’m headed.” 
     No one would expect the people under Moses’ leadership to remain quiet and complacent, particularly in a matter of life and death.  As people of faith, however, we believe that God is somehow working among us, even as we fret and complain. 
     God is bringing people into our lives at the right time in the right place to help us find our way. 
     God is providing some experience that assures us that God is looking out for us. 
     God continues to bring us life-giving spiritual water out of the rock- hard places of life. 
     And when it happens, our challenge is to remember the water.  Our task is to name life according to God’s providence rather than naming life from the difficulties we experience.
   Traveling twelve hundred miles in two days with three kids in the back seat likely meant some bitterness, thirst, hunger and impatience. 
     It also meant sweetness, quenched tongues, satisfied tummies and love.
     What remains in my memory is the water not the whine. 
     That is our choice on the road of life.
     Will we focus on the ways God works among us, or focus on the quarrels and bitterness? 
     We will focus on the water or the whine?

-Pastor David
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