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What Shall I do with This People?

What Shall I do with This People?

written by Lahoma Howard

Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

 

I have developed a bad habit during this pandemic scrolling endlessly through my Facebook feed, my favorite news channels, YouTube, and other social media, trying to see what the next terrible thing to happen might be. I am not alone in this habit, and a lot of us have been doing this for the last 6 months pretty much day and night. Psychologists call it “doomscrolling,” and they say it’s terrible for our mental health and wellbeing. Honestly, though, I am just looking for something positive in the morass of negative posts. Searching for a glimmer of light, and I would prefer to call it “Hopescrolling.”  I was really kind of surprised to find a tiny bit of hope in a post by a friend of mine who is a fiery and very vocal activist. He posted a meme that was a picture of a group of people protesting mask mandates. The caption on the photo was “What will we do with these people when we win the election?”  I had just finished reading the scriptures for this week and immediately the image of Moses crying out to the Lord while they were camped at Rephidim came to my mind. The people were hungry, tired, they didn’t have enough provisions for their children, everyone was desperately thirsty and there was not enough water to go around. Everyone had just had enough; they were totally over it. They were complaining bitterly against Moses, and he did not know what to do. He called upon God and asks: “What am I to do with this people? 

I am sure you can imagine for yourself what most responses to this image were. You have seen them, read, them, maybe posted some of them out of anger, frustration, and fear yourself. But there was one post that I wasn’t expecting to see there. One woman posted back, “We will give them healthcare, and food assistance, and good education for their children”. 

I stopped scrolling.

I posted back.

YES. YES, THIS.

This is what we will do. Because this is the very thing, we are fighting for isn’t it? For every person to have healthcare, for every person to have education, for every person to be given some dignity and respect as a child of God. I think it is what Jesus would do, and I know it is what so many people in our society would do, and DO work towards doing every day, regardless of political affiliation. The binary us vs. them antagonism doesn’t really exist in most parts of our daily lives, but with the pandemic contracting our social circles to just those we live with, and reducing our travels out in the world to the bare minimums, we spend an awful lot of time “doomscrolling” and we mistakenly believe that is the whole world. However there are realms of our common lives where we still work together, and where we try to make sure that even the ones who are complaining the most bitterly about the situation that they are in, get the things that they need. A good example of this is the way that public schools in a great many places around the country have stepped up and provided breakfast and lunch boxes for students and families who need them. Doctors and nurses are working overtime to care for everyone, janitors and housekeeping services in our public spaces are cleaning and sanitizing things to help ensure that we can be safe. None of these people ask your political affiliation when you make use of their services. They may ask that you engage in safe health practices, but they aren’t going to deny you for being a lefty or a righty. 

As a teacher for many years I learned that you cannot progress the class along based upon the needs of those who are at the very head of the class, it is always necessary to make sure that those who are the furthest behind get what they need to catch up. And often the very best thing that those who are far ahead in the class can do, is stop, turn around, and offer help and assistance to those who are lagging. If we make it part of our everyday lives, and our children grow up with the idea that helping those who need help, can move us all along, and that there are great lessons to be learned from the helping, then we will all be just that much closer to creating beloved community, and God’s “Kin-dom”. I would argue that if we do not do this, and not just in our own communities, but on a global scale, that the community we create just cannot endure. This may be one of the lessons that we here in the United States need to learn in a more intimate way, because our “good lives” often come at the expense of poor people globally, and leaving them behind is also not an option. 

So, as we move into election season this year, keep this in mind: “Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink”. However, when that water comes,  the water is for all the people, and we can’t ask who deserves the water. We must be more just in our distribution of it. In the giving of the water we can say “Is the Lord among us or not?”

 

Lahoma Howard is a Master’s of Divinity Student at Pacific School of Religion, has a Master’s Degree in Sociology, and works as a pastoral Intern for Congregational Church of Sunnyvale, United Church of Christ in Sunnyvale, CA.  She has been teaching sociology at Colorado State University for 8 years, and also works as a substitute teacher for multiple districts in California. Her greatest loves are teaching, learning, and spreading the good news of God’s love for all his children. 

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Sharon Varner

Love will gets us all through. It is the only way forward and I truly appreciate the message given in this reflection.
Maybe we have to look a bit harder or longer for the comments that will give us hope. I am so glad that Ms. Howard took the time and shared it with the rest of us.

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