The Space Between by Laura Gaffan – Sermon – 28 June 2020

Welcome from the Krings

Call to Worship

Psalm 63

1 O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
    and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.

6 I lie awake thinking of you,
    meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
    I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
    your strong right hand holds me securely.

Introduction

The desert is a dangerous place. There is little water there, so there is no way to grow food. People need food and water to live. The desert is a place of extreme heat during the day and cold at night. When the wind blows, it changes the shape of the desert and people can easily lose their way and get lost. When the wind blows, the sand stings your skin, so people in the desert need special clothes in order the protect themselves from the sand, heat and the cold. The desert is a dangerous place and people don’t go unless they have to.

I have been filming some online lessons for children (and a few adults too!) and I had repeated these words over the course of several weeks as I opened the lesson. For those of you without computers, I have some sand and am running my hand over it to change its’ shape as I spoke the above paragraph. The lessons were on the desert wanderings of the Israelite people. One day as I gently pushed the sand, I had the overwhelming sense that this time, this pandemic isolation, was my desert. That the shape of the sand had changed so profoundly, that unless I focused my eyes directly on God, I too, would be lost in what seemed like landscape that was changing daily.

Maybe you are in a desert season too. Deserts can look like many things; loss of health, loved ones, jobs. They can be physical, spiritual and mental. I am not sure where this moment finds you, but let’s take a peek at our friends, the Israelite people on their journey and see what treasures are held in the shifting sands of the desert.

Pastoral Prayer

Heavenly Father, we come to you in this moment with much. For many, it is much sorrow, worry, hopelessness, anxiety and stress. For others, it is much joy, celebration and hope. And some of us Lord, are somewhere in a space between. We bring it to You Father, Healer of hearts and minds, Comforter of souls. Help us to be still and know You. Today we bring to You those we know are grieving unfathomable loss. Hold them close and give them peace. May they feel Your presence.

We are thankful for the opportunity that our resources allow us to continue to meet together, not in person, but still in community, learning and sharing this space in time and focus of heart. We anticipate the time to come when we will be able to worship together and we pray that you ease our anxiety over what that will look like. More questions Lord, that we give to you and struggle not to take back and worry about.

We are thankful for Your Word and our ability to open it, read it, meditate on it and hear Your voice. Speak to us now Lord. May we hear with our hearts and live lives of obedience. Continue to transform us into Your people for Your purpose in this time.

Amen.

Message

We find ourselves in a place where many of us simply don’t know too much. Will we be opening soon? If so, when and how? Is a mask a really good idea? Where should I where it? Will there be a second wave of this virus? When will that happen? Will we close again? How long next time? I feel like an Israelite in the desert. I start out with simple questions, but this hint of complaining slowly creeps in, then it is just me grumbling over my situation. Yup, I need to look at the children of God over a space of 40 years of not knowing when or where they were going.

We find ourselves in this in between time or “liminal space”, a term Richard Rohr describes as a particular spiritual position where human beings hate to be, but where God is always leading them. 

The Latin root “limen” literally means “threshold”, referring to that transition of moving from one place or state of being to another. Liminal spaces usually create some sort of inner crisis; you have left “normal” or it has been taken from you and have not yet found a new normal to replace it with.  The bible is filled with stories of liminal space experiences; Mary having heard the words that she was carrying the long awaited Messiah, Jonah in the whale, the disciples hiding in the upper room, Daniel staring at lions, face to face in a pit or the Israelites in what looks like, 40 years of wandering around the desert.

The desert is the picture of something larger in the bible. It is a metaphor of suffering; yet it is also a place of refuge and God’s presence, protection and provision.

I think the Israelites liminal space can teach us much about ours. This time we find ourselves in between what was and what will be.

1. They weren’t wandering, they were being led!

Deuteronomy 8:2 “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

We often think that those poor Israelites were just wandering or lost, but the bible repeatedly uses the word led, far more often than wandering. Unfortunately, their disobedience and outright rebellion prevented them from completing their journey in the 11 days that it should have taken them. But God used even their struggles and suffering to shape their path; moulding them into the people He wanted them to be.  Whether as a pillar of cloud during the day, or a pillar of fire by night, His presence was there to lead them. (Exodus 13:21) God descended on Mount Sinai in a cloud of smoke and fire to meet with Moses and give him the 10 commandments, guidance for the best way to live. (Exodus 19:20).  They even knew when it was time to move based on whether the cloud had lifted from the Tabernacle.

I think about the shifting sand and the rocky, mountainous landscape of the desert and can’t imagine what the journey would be like. I get in my car and follow a road with countless signs that help me find my destination. I can set out on sidewalks and paths along the greenway and am able to see the way ahead of me. The Israelites would need to be led.  Shifting sand, rocky surfaces and treacherous mountains would not be easy to navigate without a GPS, but they had Someone far better! Leading, shaping and moulding them into the nation they were to become. Could it be, the path we find ourselves presently on, is to shape and mould us into the people God is wanting us to become? We may not get to see God physically, but He has promised us in His word that He is with us always. “No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.” John 14:8

Reflect:

How has God made His presence known to you in this season? Can you see where God may be transforming you? Are you allowing Him to lead you in this “liminal space”?

2. Complaining is a lack of trust…and contagious!

Exodus 16: 

2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Sadly, this scene unfolds a whole 7 days after they experienced crossing over a riverbed that was covered with water deep enough to drown them! Here they grumbled against Moses, but it is God who they are really mad at. Somehow, they had forgotten how He had saved them from slavery and delivered them from Pharaoh’s army. In Egypt, they were beaten and enslaved for 400 years, but a week after an incredible miracle they saw with their own eyes, God peeling back water so they could safely cross to the other side to freedom, a demonstration of love and protection larger than life, they are wanting to return. I want to be dumbfounded by this, but I wonder how often God is stunned by my lack of insight over the fact that I too have been set free, but prefer to live in bondage; content to keep rules rather than fearlessly keeping my eyes on Him and my ears set on hearing His voice and ignoring the voices and noise around me that distract continually. Galatians 5:1 “Is is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” The Israelites had seen God work in miraculous ways, why not simply ask Him? He saw their need, He knew they were hungry. We too have that same option. Will we grumble or will we ask. There is an old Bedouin saying that goes like this, “You keep a path clear for the next generation by walking it.” Others are watching the steps we take on this path we are now on. Will we trust that there will be enough God to take another shaky step? Will I trust enough to walk the path ahead not knowing where it leads? Content that God does?  I want to be a Christ follower who doesn’t pray for a clear path, but feet to walk the hard one ahead.

Reflect:

Have you struggled to trust God with all the “unknowns”? Has your prayer time grown? Spend some time asking God to read you and tell you where you forgotten to go directly to Him instead of grumbling.

3. God provides and we need to be thankful!

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you.’”
– Exodus 16:4

“Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”
– Exodus 17:6

It is astounding to me the amount of amazing things God did before their eyes. At the very beginning of the journey, they stood on the edge of the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s army behind and a great body of water in front, mountains on either side. God told Moses to put his staff in the Sea and the water parted. They were hungry, God provided manna, bread from heaven that fell during the night to be gathered in the morning. They were thirsty, Moses was told to strike a rock and water gushed out. Heavens, Deuteronomy 8:4 tells us that their clothes didn’t wear out! For 40 years!  I always find it interesting that the manna was supplied for one day.  They weren’t to store it, the exception being an extra day in order to do no work on the Sabbath. One day. He supplies just what they need day by day. They were never in lack, each day they were cared for. In our economy of excess, it is challenging to think of not having a pantry with a million alternatives for each day. But His provision is there daily. We so often miss what He so freely offers, lost in our worry, stress, anxiety and do-it-yourself mentality, we don’t see the gifts in front of us. Staying close to His presence, we too experience His provision and best of all, grace.  Whether it has been a meal delivered with love, a kind text or a visit from a friend, He provides what we need when we need it. It may not fall from the sky or spring from a rock, but we need only look for all of the blessings He so generously provides.

Reflect:

How and what has God provided for you during this liminal space season? Have you seen some miraculous gifts that could have only come from Him? What everyday miracles have you focused on?

Closing Hymn

It’s funny, when I first began to write this, just over a week ago, some of the question I originally wrote have been answered. Others have changed slightly and some are completely new. In that short amount of time, the wind has blown and the sand has shifted the path yet again. God’s plan rarely aligns with ours. For our Israelite friends, an 11 week trip turned into a 40 year epic adventure, but God was there through it all, just as He is here in our all.

Abba Father
  there is a path I tread each day,
     through stress, grief, joy, each step unknown.
         often led by nothing more
            than comfort I long for.
               eyes distracted by the wind that blows
                  each moment to its knees.
Lord hold our hearts and remind us still,
Your voice still shouts, you’re free!
                   train our feet to trust Your path,
                each step assured Your presence.
              fix our eyes on You alone,
           The Only One Who matters.
         we give You hands that lift to help the hurting You hold close,
       Reminded of the One who died Whose hands hold scars
   We long to mirror in our own.

 

Benediction

May the first words you inhale each morning be

 Come
 Lord
 Jesus 

And may your exhale be

 Walk
 Before
 Me.

Amen

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Les Hodgkins

    This is a meaningful message. It gives us hope that we will get us out of this desert we are in. Les Hodgkins

  2. Avatar
    Derek McCracken

    This was a very meaningful message today. It’s hard to grasp what they must have felt being led through the desert for 40 years. It’s comforting to know that GOD is with us all the time even when we feel like we have no idea where we are heading and being led. All we can do is trust in the Lord that where we are being led and we end up is right where GOD wants us to be. As frustrating or confusing it may be, We have to trust in the Lord that is where he wants us. Thank you GOD for these humbling lessons you have brought before us.

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