Water and Stone

“and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” - 1 Corinthians 10:4, NASB

I’ve grown up with the Bible. Even as a child, I had a list of my favorite verses. This was not one of them. I liked “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2, NASB). I liked “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32, NASB). I liked “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NASB). Basically, if it fit on a t-shirt or a fortune cookie fortune, and if it was as straightforward as the instructions on a box of toothpicks, I was a fan.

A lot of people, myself included, have lived their lives on that basis. Sometimes there is comfort and even beauty in simplicity. Love and growth require depth, however. Thank God for those moments where, because of inspiration or desperation, we’re forced to dig deeper and look closer.

It’s said that the Bible is full of stumbling stones; events, characters, and situations that cannot be taken at face value. When we trip, we’re forced to reflect and explore. The stumbling stones keep us from reading Scripture as a history book or a novel. They bring the Bible to life for us and help us to grow.

Life is like that, too. In all kinds of ways, God has given us countless opportunities to move past the superficial. Let’s seize them. Let’s be the kind of people who look for meaning and engagement.

In Scripture, God speaks to people in all kinds of ways. Sometimes God appears in a dream, or through a burning bush. Sometimes God sends a messenger, or in one of my favorite passages, speaks in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:9-13). We know that God does not change. The reason for the variations in media is all about you and me. We get what we’re ready for. God speaks to us in whatever way we let ourselves hear, and to the degree that we’re open.

So let’s open up. When we read our Bibles, but also when we watch television, talk with our loved ones, or think about our problems, let’s seek out a message. Whatever’s going on, ask yourself this question:

What is God trying to tell me?

Find ways to be open to the answers that only that still, small voice in your heart can give. This is the key to everything. In our Bible passage, the Israelites drank spiritual water from a spiritual rock, which has to do with looking past face value and outer judgements. When we do that, we learn that this passage is about us.

When you look back at your life, you’ll see that there were times when something followed you, whether you knew it at the time or not. Something sustained you when, by outer appearances, there was no way you’d make it. But here you are. Thank God.

Paul reminding the Corinthians about the Israelites’ journey is not just about thanksgiving. He’s also telling them that they have to take action. The rock followed them. In order to be followed, you have to lead. In other words, it’s wonderful to know who you are and where your good comes from. But it’s even better to do something with that knowledge. It’s time to get moving.

We are here to make a living connection to Spiritual Truth in every area of our lives. We are here to look for God wherever we happen to find ourselves. That might seem tough sometimes; when we look around at the world or even at our own lives, it might be hard to see any kind of Spiritual connection.

As they say in poker, “look around the table. If you can’t see the Spiritual connection, you’re it.” I may have changed some of those words, but that’s the point. If you can’t see what you’re looking for, whatever it is, than what you’re looking for is you.

We are called to be the connection, right here and now, and wherever we are, because wherever we are, God is. Looking past appearances and beholding something beautiful and timeless, even insisting on it, is the essence of real love. It’s the beginning of Jesus Christ’s Great Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40). It’s the cornerstone of our church, and the reason we call ourselves Water and Stone.

Sometimes people decide to be blamethrowers. They say, for example, “I could be so centered if it weren’t for this job,” or “I’d be happy if it weren’t for this family,” and so on. That’s a little like Jesus saying “I’d be so spiritual if it weren’t for all these lepers.”

We are here to make a difference wherever we are. This church does not teach escape. We believe in engagement. We believe that spirituality is not about problem avoidance; it’s about problem solving. It’s not about blame, it’s about love.

In other words, the problem is not ever about the outer person, place, or thing. It’s about something in you. That’s good news, because while you can’t do much to force things to be different out in the world, you have sole dominion over what you let into your mind and heart. That’s where change starts, anyway.

The secret to making a difference in any situation is to show up for it. We know from the Bible that the Truth makes us free (John 8:32), and we know from experience that lies make us feel trapped. Can you share the Truth of your heart with the facts of your life? When you do, everything changes.

Sharing is the key. We believe that the health of a church or a life can be gauged by the ratio of bridges to walls. We are here to make and be the connection; we are here to build bridges. And love always tears down walls. We are all in this together. Everybody is welcome here.

This might feel like a new idea. For some people, religion is about walls, exclusion, and hierarchy. Sometimes people don’t want to go to church because they can’t believe in the idea of an angry man in the sky who loves us, but mostly hates us, who makes things difficult for people for no reason and who had better be appeased according to a very complicated set of rules or else. Honestly, I can’t believe in that idea either.

There are other options, though. Deciding not to believe in God just because that one, tiny, silly idea about Him doesn’t make sense is a little bit of a cheap shot. It’s a little like somebody saying that they don’t ever go to the movies because they didn’t like John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror.

That was a weird choice, and it was a bad movie. But there are other movies. Better ones. There are other ideas about God. Better ones.

I understand the desire to live according to proven data and hard facts. Nobody wants to look foolish. On the other hand, some of the best things in life happen when we’re not afraid to be outrageous. Besides, we never have as much data as we think we do. It takes faith to drive in traffic, or eat at a fast food restaurant, or to fall in love.

We love our kids. We are inspired by beauty and courage. We dance to our favorite songs. None of these things can be proven with chalk and a blackboard. None of them are matters of equations. And yet all of them matter far more than anything that has to do with data. Proof is important, but it’s not the goal. It’s a byproduct of something deeper. Truth is not proven, it’s known. Life works better when we find the things that we know, in the same way that we know we’re in love, and listen to what they’re trying to tell us.

Facts might keep us alive, but Truth is what we live for. Facts change. It was a fact that it was 1982. But we move on. It was a fact that you were shorter than you are now. You’re not a child any more. Facts are important; they can tell us a lot of things. But they can’t tell us who we really are. Truth, on the other hand, does not change. That’s the difference.

You can tell a lot about a person, or a church, by the ways in which they deal with facts and Truth. There is a spectrum of responses. Some people immerse themselves in superficiality. They go from quick fix to quick fix. The pattern is not unlike taking a medication that has side effects, and then taking a medication to deal with the side effects, and so on.

Some people spend their lives trying to escape. They aren’t interested in facts, and instead look for ways to get away.

Either way, there’s a big beautiful bunch of life that gets missed. We are children of God, and we have timeless Truth as our birthright and nature. But we’re also in a temporal moment here and now. In other words, what’s going on in our lives is really happening. It’s a fact. It’s just not everything. We can make a difference, learn and grow, change the world and change our lives when we find the Truth behind the facts.

Just as an experienced river guide can “read” the rapids and see where the rocks are, we try to see God working just below the surface. Our goal is to engage with our lives and to look at the world with such love and intensity that we see something Divine looking back at us.

Every moment of your life has been leading up to this one. When you look back at how you’ve gotten here, you’ll see that you’ve been followed by something wonderful. You’ve been fed and sustained and taken care of, to the degree that you’ve allowed it. You’ve been loved, just as much as you’ve let yourself be loved.

Let’s take that love and use it to make a difference. In peace and on purpose, let’s show up for all aspects of our lives, facts and Truth.

Water and Stone.