October 3, 2021 -“Provision in the Wilderness” (Psalm 105:37-45; Deuteronomy 2:7 )

I continue today with my sermon series “Lessons from the Sinai for a Church in Transition.” Today’s lesson is a reassurance of the Lord’s provision during the wilderness time. Just as the Lord provided everything the Israelites needed during their time in the Sinai, the Lord will provide everything you need as a church during this interim time for you.

Let me begin with a story.

One summer, long before marriage and children, I decided to go with a friend to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. We drove east from Seattle, where we were both living at the time. We stopped for lunch on the way and got out our map and noticed for the first time that there was a shortcut to Glacier through the Flathead Indian Reservation, so, wanting to save miles, time and gas, we took it. We were both talking to one another intently about something and not paying attention to much of anything else. When we got somewhere around the geographical center of the reservation, all of a sudden the engine in the back of my Volkswagen beetle went silent, and we coasted for a little while and then pulled over by the side of the road and parked it.

As I prepared to go through my mechanic’s checklist of possible causes of engine failure, the first thing I looked at was the gas gauge, and sure enough the needle was on empty. I completely lost track of our gas situation and ran out. My first thought was, “Lord, why did you let this happen?” And I imagined the Lord saying back to me, “Don’t look at me. You did this to yourself.”

We sat there and debated what to do, but there really weren't many options. It was the time before cell phones and GPS, so it was not as if we could call anyone for help or know exactly where we were. We were miles and miles from anything, so it was pointless to start walking. Neither of us could remember how far back the last gas station was. The only thing we knew to do was to pray to God for rescue and wait by the side of the road, holding up a white sheet of paper that said, "Out of gas."

The problem was that there was no one around, no one coming by, no traffic through the Indian reservation. Not one other person that day, apparently, had gotten the bright idea of taking the shortcut through the reservation. I had such a terrible feeling of powerlessness. There was nothing I could do. I couldn't help myself. I was totally dependent on God and on the kindness of a stranger who might stop by. A whole hour went by without us seeing even one car or one person. I remember during that hour of silent waiting conjuring up a rescue fantasy involving a Presbyterian truck driver coming through the Indian reservation in a big rig, a long gleaming silver gasoline tanker truck with a handy little nozzle in the back to fill me up, but no big rig came.

What came instead was a faded red, beat-up old pick-up. A lone Flathead Indian man got out and sized us up warily from a distance. Since he wasn’t coming over to us, I went to him and tried to chat him up a bit, but he wasn't very chatty. I did manage to tell him that we had run out of gas and needed help.

After a long uncomfortable silence, he told us that the only thing he had in the back of his truck was a gallon gas can full of chainsaw gas, a mixture of gas and oil, but, if we were willing to give it a try, he would sell us a cup of it for a dollar.

I didn’t jump at it. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Inside I was saying, “Lord, a cup of chain saw gas for a dollar? Is this really the best you can do?” Then I was suddenly alarmed at what a mixture of gas and oil in my gas tank might do to my engine. Never tried that before. I thought the oil might foul my spark plugs and then I’d have a second problem on my hands.