Third Sunday of Lent - A message from Rev. Melissa Drake

Third Sunday of Lent - A message from Rev. Melissa Drake

March 11, 2023

Lent waits for no one!

By: Rev. Melissa Drake
Superintendent, Aldersgate District

Read: Exodus 17:1-7

If you happen to be at my parent’s house on a Saturday morning when my niece and nephews are there, you have a 100% chance of getting “Oma’s Waffles” for breakfast. It’s the only thing the kids request for breakfast from my mother, because “Oma’s waffles” are the best waffles.

And once the first waffle is ready, you will also have a 100% chance of hearing, “It’s time! Waffles wait for no one!” It’s a streamlined, industrial process, churning out waffles at a rate at which hungry children can consume them. But woe unto the child who was not ready at the table, for they shall receive cold, mushy breakfast goods. Waffles wait for no one.

When I first started preaching at Hancock and Silver Creek churches, it felt like I was always the kid who heard the call, “waffles wait for no one!” but just barely got to the table in the nick of time. Those were rough years where I was barely keeping my nose above water from season to season. I could swear Lent started the Sunday after Epiphany and I hardly ever saw it coming.

I hated that feeling, of not being prepared enough, not being intentional enough, not being equipped enough. To this day my calendar is riddled with yearly reminders, starting in December, “Don’t forget Lent! Start planning NOW!”

As much as I hated that feeling, I also deeply appreciate that whether I am ready or not; whether I have prepared or not; whether I am intentional or not; whether I’m exhausted, or cranky or feeling the doom of another snowstorm in March: Lent waits for no one.

Lent is the season where God is leading God’s people always towards deliverance, even when they are not ready – they haven’t had time to pack! It’s a journey of salvation even when they are tired, thirsty, or convinced that the journey itself will kill them.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites have been on this journey of redemption for a while now. They have just experienced the provision of God’s love and care: there is manna to eat. There are quail. They have set aside a jar of manna to keep for generations to come so that everyone will remember how great God’s care has been in this journey from slavery to freedom. It’s been a feast that no one will ever forget.

At least until the water ran out. Which, might we remember, is not the first time this has happened on the journey – remember God turning the bitter water sweet? The Israelites have seen God’s provision, time after time, so I really understand Moses’ frustration with them, especially since it seems they want to stone him to death. But I can also appreciate the people’s lack of uncertainty – Yes God has shown up before, but what if that was the last time? What if God doesn’t hear us now to save us this time? And so they fuss and complain, as their bodies and minds start to shut down, weak from dehydration. They threaten to kill Moses for bringing them out here. They ask, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

And this time, it’s not just Moses who gets to see God standing on the rock at Horeb: God has commanded that the elders of the tribe also come ahead with Moses to see God standing there. To witness that Yes! Not only is the Lord among them, the Lord continues to save them!  Moses hits the rock as God commanded, and water springs out for the people to drink. There is enough now to get them through the next stage of the journey. And, ultimately, after a good long time, they will finally arrive at the promised land.

As we move through this season of Lent, I think it’s tempting to see these 40 days as something we just have to get through to get to our own promised land: Easter. As if the destination cancels out everything else that happens along the journey. As if the journey itself hasn’t already been crafting us, molding us, shaping us, so that we are actually ready to live in the promised land; so that we’re actually prepared to live as Resurrection people.

It has been a powerful discipline for me to dwell, like the Israelites out in the desert, in the ways have I already experienced God’s provision, redemption and salvation, even when I wasn’t ready for it. To get back down to the reality in my bones that at every stage of the journey towards freedom from slavery to sin and death, I am powerless to redeem my own self. That left to my own devices, I would continue to slide right back towards Egypt, except for the sustaining power of God who keeps me moving forwards.

In this season of disruption and disaffiliation, of dissatisfaction and dis-ease, of all the ways in which we continue to act like slaves to sin and death in The United Methodist Church, I continue to be grateful for our connection together. That even now, even while we might be naming our own place of “Massah and Meribah” our “Testing and Arguing” – we are on this Lenten journey together, where God continues to remind us that Lent waits for no one: our identity is rooted in being a church on the move, already and always experiencing God’s redemption.  I am grateful that we, like the Elders of the tribe of Israel, have seen God at work, and that it is our role to share that news with the rest of the community.

This, my friends, is the work of the Connection in the season of Lent – to witness to each other how God has sustained us in the past, and where God is working right now as we look forward to what God will do next.

As our Lenten practice this week, I challenge each one of us, once a day, to share with someone else how God has shown up. I challenge our churches to practice this sharing at Sunday service during Joys and Concerns: “Where has God saved us this week? Where has God’s provision gotten us through this week? Where is God leading us next?”

May we continue to live as people who have been and continue to be delivered. 
Prayer Hymn: O God, our Help in Ages Past UMH #117, vs. 4 (Words: Issac Watts, 1719 [Ps. 90]. Music: Attr. To William Croft, 1708; harm. By W. H. Monk, 1861)

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come; be thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home. Amen.