A sermon preached online by David Patrick on 14th March 2021.
Today I would like to talk about journeys through the wilderness, and what journeys like that might mean for us today, during Lent, during a pandemic.
So, from today’s Old Testament reading from Numbers, we hear of the people brought out of Egypt into the wilderness, with no food or water and even poisonous serpents who bit the people, some of whom died. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?”, they said.
And from the Psalm today, we hear of the people who wandered in desert waste-lands, finding no way to an inhabited town; hungry and thirsty their soul fainted within them. The Lord led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town, and delivered them from their distress.
Do we recognise that now? In the midst of a pandemic, a feeling of being in a wilderness.
Are we on a journey, with the hope of light at the end of a tunnel in sight, like the inhabited town mentioned in the Psalm?
Today it is one whole year since we started doing our morning church services online.
It’s maybe not the journey that we expected to be on. It feels different, sometimes uncomfortable, and wearisome. We had hoped that things would get better for us sooner. We look forward to better times ahead.
How can we make the best of our time on the journey, even if the journey is hard, anticipating that there are better things to come – when we can meet again, our friends and families, our church community?
Do we choose to waste even one day, aware that we will never get that day back – once the day is gone, it is gone.
Or do we choose to make the best of each day – today, the week ahead?
Some of you know that I take a lot of photos, one a day. I like to think if I get to the end of the day with a good photo to look back at then I have had a good day, but if the best and only photo I have that day is a picture of a cup of coffee or something mundane like that, then maybe I didn’t make the best use of my time that day.
In the last 2 weeks I took a couple of photos of the sun rising over the river Thames, chasing the dog down the towpath in the misty morning.
Two very different experiences for me on two different days.
One day, I took a super photo of the sunrise but I moved on too quickly without pausing to appreciate the beauty. Maybe it was a bit cold, maybe I wanted to get home for breakfast. I thought afterwards, am I a human being, or a human doing – just ‘doing things’ rather than enjoying them? It was so beautiful but for some reason I chose to let the moment pass me by.
The second day, I stopped to watch the sun rise, took quite a while to watch it rise over the trees – it was very beautiful. I appreciated it and enjoyed the moment.
It may be that early morning photography in the cold may not be your favourite thing.
What would you choose to do on the journey we are on now, challenging as it is? – today and in the week ahead.
Perhaps you would want to appreciate something beautiful, have the perfect conversation, do something you have always wanted to do, a quiet moment, a good deed? Today is mothering Sunday. It’s for you to choose.
I’m sure that we all look forward to the end of our pandemic journey, and we hope for better things to come – the inhabited town.
But when we get to the end of this particular journey, who is to say that this will be the end of the journey. Will it not just be the end of one journey, with another one ahead of us.
Let us make the best use of our time. After today has passed, the day has gone, and we won’t get it back.