“Through the Waters”

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Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

September 17, 2017

Exodus 14:19-31


Water was all around.  There were no heavens and earth yet, no sun and moon, no plants and animals—only darkness, only wind, only water.  And then, the story says, God said, “Let there be light,” and God made day and night; God divided the waters above from the waters beneath; God made the sky; God brought forth dry land.  And then vegetation, and birds and fish and cattle and wild animals, and humanity, too.  From the waters of chaos, God brought forth order; from nothingness, God brought forth life.

Water was all around.  The rains came down for 40 days and 40 nights, and everything was washed away.  Everything, that is, except for Noah and his family and the animals they had brought on board the ark, two by two, a pair of every kind of living creature that would otherwise have perished in the flood.  The waters rose, and rose, and rose, and the ark floated here and there across the floodwaters for a very long time.  Weeks turned into months, and there was nothing but water as far as the eye could see.  And then, the story says, the ark came to rest on the top of Mount Ararat, and Noah sent out the dove, and it returned with an olive branch in its hand, and God established a new covenant of love with the earth and all its inhabitants.  From the waters of fear, God brought forth hope; from a world gone wrong, God brought forth life.

Water was all around.  The Israelites were fleeing for their lives, trying to escape from Egypt, trying to leave behind generations of enslavement, abuse, mistreatment, and suffering.  Their way had led them out into the desert with Pharaoh’s army hot on their heels.  They had run as far as they could, and now here they were at the shore of the sea.  Fearsome battalions were behind them, and the sea was before them, and there was no way out.  And then, the story says, Moses held up his hand, and God parted the waters, and the Israelites passed through on dry ground, while their Egyptian pursuers were washed away when the waves came crashing back upon them.  From the waters of terror and oppression, God brought forth freedom; from certain death, God brought forth life.

Water was all around.  Jesus and his disciples had boarded a boat to sail across the Sea of Galilee.  It was nighttime, and a storm blew in.  The wind was whipping the waves into whitecaps, and the water was pouring over the gunwales, and the disciples, eyes wide and knees trembling, feared for their lives.  They turned to Jesus for help and found him fast asleep, snoring on a cushion in the stern.  They shook him awake, crying, “Master, we are perishing!”  And then, the story says, Jesus spoke, “Peace!  Be still!” and the wind ceased, and the waves grew calm.  From the waters of panic, God brought forth peace; from mortal peril, God brought forth life.


Over and over and over, in every time and place, when the waters of chaos, of fear, of terror, of oppression, of panic threaten to overwhelm, God is there to calm the storm, to make a way out of no way, to bring life from certain death.  God is there to overturn the ways of this world, to proclaim release to the captives and an end to all wars.  God is there to create a future of flourishing where now there is nothing but dead ends.

When a person suffering in addiction steps into a twelve-step meeting or a recovery clinic, God is there, parting the waters for that long walk to freedom.

When a person sets out to leave an abusive relationship, God is there, making a way to safety and holding pursuers at bay.

When a person who has been ill and suffering for far too long makes their final journey home, God is there, opening a path to peace and healing.

When a community is recovering from the devastation of a hurricane, God is there, strengthening courage, inspiring generosity, turning strangers into family.

When people protest systemic injustice and work to dismantle bigotry, God is there, lifting up the lowly and casting the mighty down from their thrones.

Whenever and wherever God’s people suffer, whenever and wherever God’s people groan under heavy yokes, whenever and wherever God’s people are mistreated by the powers that be, God is there, turning dead ends into new life.


So if you are up against the wall… if you are backed into a corner… if you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea… if the waves are rising and the boat is sinking and you don’t know what to do… know this:  God is with you, and God will make a way out of no way.  That’s who God is; that’s what God does.  From the beginning of creation, to the time of Noah’s ark, to Moses and the Israelites, to Jesus and the disciples, all the way to you, God stills storms and parts waters and leads God’s people through.

And if you are not, for now, in the midst of a storm… then know this:  God has a role for you to play.  God needs shipwrights and bridge-builders, negotiators and navigators, meteorologists and cooks, companions and advocates.  God can work with whatever skills you bring, and God will call forth skills you never knew you had.

Because God knows that these days in which we live are filled to bursting with stories like the one we are following in our lectionary readings this month.  The Exodus is not just long ago and far away, but here and now.  And God is sending you, me, all of us, to join together in the work of bringing liberation, and healing, and hope, and new life to all of God’s children and to all of creation.

May it be so.



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