A Sunday Devotional
Good morning, WBC friends and family,
Thank you for joining us this Sunday morning. This is a stressful and uncertain time that we live in, but even in days like today we can come together and worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who became one of us to draw us closer to him and to each other. Below you’ll find a devotion for your personal or family use. I encourage you to pray with each other the following prayers. Read together the scripture. Reflect on the poetry. And talk about any questions or thoughts you might have on the reflection. We’ll close by praying together for all who have been affected by the coronavirus, both in our city and around our world. This is the desperate need of our moment.
God in our midst! We come to you this morning searching for a bit of guidance and healing and peace in the midst of the fearfulness and uncertainty we have experienced this past week. Guide us, we ask, by your Word and your Holy Spirit, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will, we might truly discover peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped by Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 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?”
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?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 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. 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. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
“Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee” by Emily Brontë
Shall earth no more inspire thee,
Thou lonely dreamer now?
Since passion may not fire thee
Shall Nature cease to bow?
Thy mind is ever moving
In regions dark to thee;
Recall its useless roving —
Come back and dwell with me.
I know my mountain breezes
Enchant and soothe thee still —
I know my sunshine pleases
Despite thy wayward will.
When day with evening blending
Sinks from the summer sky,
I’ve seen thy spirit bending
In fond idolatry.
I’ve watched thee every hour;
I know my mighty sway,
I know my magic power
To drive thy griefs away.
Few hearts to mortals given
On earth so wildly pine;
Yet none would ask a heaven
More like this earth than thine.
Then let my winds caress thee;
Thy comrade let me be —
Since nought beside can bless thee,
Return and dwell with me.
My cousin had his wedding rehearsal Friday night out in the middle of nowhere. Think small, rolling hills covered ten months out of the year in white cotton and swaying wheat next to brown cows and even browner cow patties. I like to think I grew up here. Before the rehearsal started, I took a walk down to a nearby pond. The wind had picked up and on it I caught a hint of this old familiar smell of rain mixed with a certain kind of grass, a blend I believe unique to this place. The entire experience was, in Emily Brontë’s words, soothing and enchanting. I wanted to lie down, to breathe it in and breathe it out, to let that wind caress me.
Brontë gives voice to nature personified and its power to transport us out of our grief and suffering to a kind of magical heaven on earth. The Israelites’ journey through the wilderness in Exodus 17 also offers us a picture of heaven on earth where we might find the cool water of life to heal our suffering and still our wayward hearts. One line caught my eye that I can’t remember ever noticing before. God tells Moses to take his staff and to go out and look, for God was going to be “standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb.”
We know what happens at that rock. God makes water pour out of it like magic. But, the staying power of this picture — and its enduring moral — is the ready presence of God. The water from the rock was a reminder of who was already standing there, of who had earlier delivered the Israelites from slavery and suffering in Egypt, of who had promised to watch over them and take care of them in the first place — not Moses, but God. “Since nought beside can bless thee // Return and dwell with me.”
One explanation I’ve heard given by social psychologists for why we’ve stripped our shelves clean of toilet paper these past few days is because it gives us the feeling of power. “At least we can control that,” we say, as we toss on the counter a few more rolls. When we don’t know if there will be groceries next week or if we’re going to be quarantined for months in our homes, it’s nice to be certain about something in our lives, even if it’s just toilet paper.
The story of Moses drawing water from the rock at Horeb is a reminder that when we’re anxious and worried enough to try to control whatever we can, God is still standing there in front of us, reminding us to return and dwell with him. It’s not a call to apathy or blind faith, but a reminder that the real power to give life and peace, to enchant and to soothe, is found only in God. As Jesus once told a certain woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
This Sunday morning, as we find ourselves secluded in our homes and as we hear many more stories of infections and fears, Exodus 17 wants to remind us that the God of peace is with us and cares for us still.
Prayers for Our World
We are the Body of Christ in the world today, and one thing we can do during this time of seclusion is to pray with compassion for our neighbors and our strangers. So, let us pray that the same God who brought water from a rock and who died on a cross to heal body, soul, and mind, will give healing, wisdom, and peace to those in our church and our world who have been or will be impacted by the coronavirus. Please pray among yourselves for the following people…
- For the safety and healing of your neighbors on your street and your colleagues at work, who may be sick or have sick family members.
- For the physical health and mental anxiety of people across Cincinnati and Ohio, who may be sick or who may be especially susceptible to the coronavirus.
- For the wisdom and foresight of the leaders of our local, state, and national governments, who are tasked with making extremely difficult decisions that impact millions, if not billions, of people.
- For all who are tasked to lead during this time, whether in business, government, church, or elsewhere.
- For relief of the intense stress and fear of the unknown that has come upon so many otherwise affected by the coronavirus, especially those who are struggling and will continue to struggle with the reality of less work and less income and an uncertain future.
- For guidance and protection to be given to our health professionals, who are daily risking their own health for us.
- For the strength of our church and our fellow churches here in Wyoming and Cincinnati and across the world, who are called to be a source of hope and life to a hurting world.
- For protection and healing for all people and peoples around the world, especially for the most vulnerable who suffer without access to quality healthcare or the capability to self-quarantine.
- For all those who have died because of this virus, that God would receive them into his open arms of love.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — we remember this morning the words of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians: “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Strong and comforting God, be near to us and our world this morning. Hear our prayers. We ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.