Bitter Made Sweet

Scripture:  Exodus 15:22-27index
Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 He cried out to the LORD; and the LORD showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.

Observation:  This middle part of Exodus is all about the Hebrew people’s 40yr wilderness journey.  In reading these passages we read some etymology stories (as in vs 23 where we learned how the body of water “Marah” got its name).

We also get a sense of Israel’s constant complaining and God’s constant provision.  I always tell parents of little kids that God knows what you’re going through on that long car trip with the kids.  That was God’s experience with the Hebrew people in the wilderness.

Application: Last night my wife and I watched a film on the Camino de Santiago called “Footprints: The Path of Your Life.”  The film was about Spanish Catholic priest from Arizona walking the Camino with 12 guys from his parish.  All films about the Camino are different.  As you would expect, this one focused on the spiritual dimensions of the walk.  At the very beginning, we find out that the priest didn’t promise the guys they would finish.  He only promised them that they would suffer on the 576mi hike (by the way, they took the northern way).  And that is true, hiking for 576mi in just over a month will cause some pain – blisters, tendonitis, leg cramps, etc.  While I had tendonitis in my ankle, I was lucky when I did the Camino as I was the only one in our group that didn’t get a blister.

What struck me is that every day the group celebrated Mass and took Communion.  They even stopped at various holy sites of the Roman Catholic Church.  And, at one particular stop, they were able to touch (and kiss) the largest piece of Jesus’ cross which is located in Santo Toribio. Each stop along the way, each celebration of mass, helped the pilgrims realize God’s presence and helped to make the bitter moments of the Camino sweet.  It was these moments that helped them refocus on the journey ahead and gave them strength for the day.

The Camino is often described as being an example of life.  You have good times and hard times.  You have moments you feel you can walk forever, and you have moments (or days) when you just want to quit.  The cross of Christ helps to make these difficult moments a little more bearable (if not sweet).  To know that Christ has gone through worse – to know that God can overcome worse – helps us to push on.  To know that we are not alone gives us strength.  We have the company of other pilgrims along the way, and we have moments when we can experience God’s holy presence if we just take time to allow the encounter to happen.

Prayer:  Gracious God, thank you that you came to redeem even the bitter parts of life.  Thank you that your cross was able to touch our bitter waters, the bitterness did not overcome it.  Your light can break into our darkness and you will always overcome.  Through that promise, helps us to meet today.  Help us to walk through any bitterness that comes our way knowing that the sweetness of eternal life is waiting for us on the other side.  Amen

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