March 22, 2011

March 22: The Lord IS among us


By Ross Peterson-Veatch, associate academic dean and director of curriculum and faculty development for the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning
SCRIPTURE: Exodus 17:1-7 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

I was 15 years old hiking with my youth group to the summit of Cerro Pedernal, a flat-top butte-like mountain that lords over the desert plains of northern New Mexico. The journey to the summit was quite like wandering in the wilderness for us – and we recalled for our excursion leaders the stories of Moses leading the Israelites in the desert. Our leaders didn’t know us well, and we “quarreled” with them as they tried to reassure us that we would not starve or die of thirst. We complained bitterly about the August heat, the rocky trails and the surprise vertical climb just before making the summit. All they could say to us was “you’ll see… when we get to the top, you won’t want to say anything — you’ll just want to listen for God’s voice.”

We normally talked freely and loudly, teasing and joking, but as we reached the summit and set up camp, we became quiet — whispering, straining to hear what was carried on the wind. After dinner, darkness fell on us quickly, like a blanket tossed over our heads, and with hushed voices we waited to see the stars come out. The summer air was so dry that even on a moonless night the stars lit the valleys below so it never seemed to get dark. And when the early August meteor shower streaked across the sky, I lost count at 100 shooting stars. That night I felt the Holy Spirit bond us all as each one of us heard God’s voice in ways we could scarcely talk about the next morning at breakfast. But we did share, and we each told the group how we had known God’s presence on that mountain.

Pedernal means “flint” in Spanish and it is a place that sparked a deep sense of awe in me as if I, myself, were the flint on which God’s steel was struck. It is a place I carry with me wherever I go. Not only because of its stunning natural beauty, but also for the quiet drama that it recalls as the place I first felt wholly certain that the Lord IS among us.

SCRIPTURE: Exodus 17:1-7 (NRSV)
1From 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. 2The 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?” 3But 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?” 4So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5The 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. 6I 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. 7He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”



Comments (8)

  1. Ross, thanks for taking us with you on your climb up Cerro Perdenal. You evoke the quiet awesome presence of spirit on the summit so beautifully.

    Ann Hostetler March 22, 2011 |
  2. Thanks Ross for giving me this story that reminds us God is among us!!

    Vicky Kirkton March 22, 2011 |
  3. What a beautiful story.Reminds me of a mountain top experience that I had many years ago standing on top the Ozarks after a ice storm and the sun arose with out a cloud in the sky!Took breath away!.Be blessed and thanks for sharing.

    jennifer March 22, 2011 |
  4. When God wants to take us to a place of beauty and renewal, He frequently needs to remove us from the every day, take us through some tough stuff. It is at that time we can stop, soak in and reflect on where we’ve been. It is here, as our eyes are fixed on the Almighty that we can hear that still, small voice.

    Thank you for the reminder to stop and listen.

    Lil March 22, 2011 |
  5. Thanks for this beautiful story.

    Janice March 22, 2011 |
  6. Beautiful word picture, Ross. I’m amazed at the many ways God is present when I take the time to look and listen. Thanks for sharing.

    Betty March 22, 2011 |
  7. Thank you for that inspiring story. I also thank God for his Spirit that dwells within each of us to take us to that mountaintop of peace -no matter how rough or low or ugly life can get down here. Praise be to the maker of those mountains!!

    Betty March 22, 2011 |
  8. Ross,

    as an avid hiker, I’ve experienced similar moments.

    Judy Cannato’sRoss book, Radical Amazement, focuses on what some describe as G_d’s other book, the creation. You and she seem to be on a similar page.

    Ralph-Peter Kufeke March 24, 2011 |