For Lenten Wednesdays this year, the confirmation students and I came up with prayer stations that corresponded with the stories in the Moses cycle of stories from Exodus and Joshua. They were a very meaningful part of our parish’s journey through Lent, and I am excited to share them with you! One challenge that we face in our parish is that we have a lot of people who are not very mobile, so there cannot be a lot of physical activity involved. We did them in the context of Lenten midweek Evening Prayer, so they were a part of each service. Below, you will find the prayer, hymn, scripture, and explanation that goes with the prayer station.
This is a picture of the third prayer station:
Prayer of the Day (adapted from a prayer from Evening Prayer in Evangelical Lutheran Worship): O God, tonight we learn about how the Israelites learned to trust you for everything in their journey through the wilderness. You have also called us, your servants, to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn of the Day: “Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty” (#533 Evangelical Lutheran Worship)
Scripture Text: Exodus 15:22-27 & 16:1-5, 11-15, 19-31 (NRSV)
Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.
16:1The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”
11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.”20 But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’” 24 So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.”
27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. 28 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? 29 See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
31 The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
Highs and Lows/Sour and Sweet Prayer Experience (print in bulletin and read out loud)
Tonight our focus image has been a jug of water and flatbread, the symbols of the Israelites’ reliance on God in the wilderness. Tonight, we invite you into a prayer practice that the confirmation students engage in every week, called highs and lows. When we studied this story in class, we made sweet water by mixing lemon juice (our lows) and sugar (our highs) with water into lemonade. One student reflected, “The experience of the Israelites is like our experience of life; some things are sour, some things are sweet, and it’s all wrapped up in the water of baptism.” You will receive two cards, one yellow and one blue. You may write one of your highs on the yellow (sunny, happy) card, and a low on the blue (stormy, sad) card. The pastor and the confirmation students will pray over these things with you this week, and we will form them into a prayer wall at church next week.
At the end of the service, the confirmation students will offer little cups of water to remind us how much we rely on God.
How to do it: The focus image was a wooden platter with rice crackers and a pitcher of water (sweet water and manna). We provided cards cut from yellow and blue card stock and pencils for the experience. At the end of the service, the confirmation students handed out pre-filled dixie cups half-full of water and said “God provides for you.”
Here is a pic of the prayers on a bulletin board that I put together for the next week, so that the congregation could see and pray each other’s prayers: