A Sermon on "The Elim Text," Exodus 15.22-27
...and they came to Elim.
It just feels like home, doesn't it?
Because, like those Israelites that were lead through the Exodus,
you, too, came to Elim.
We... came to Elim.
Maybe you came to Elim from somewhere else.
Maybe your somewhere else is close by,
another side of town?
Or maybe your somewhere else is further away;
another region of the country,
a different country entirely,
a different continent entirely...
We all come from somewhere.
It might not even be a physical place that you came from,
what I mean is that everyone has a history,
has a journey.
And Elim is that place you came to.
You camp and you rest here.
So the question is,
how does Elim serve as your oasis?
In Bible Study this week,
we were talking about identity,
more specifically, the identity of Elim.
I posed the question, "Why did you come to Elim?"
and "What was your 'coming to Elim's experience?"
When Fern first came to Elim,
she sat down next to a complete stranger,
and that person immediately welcomed her,
and asked for her information.
This complete stranger made her feel like this was a place where people care about her,
like this is a place where you aren't going to get lose in the crowd.
Fern was so excited to tell this story,
the story of when she met Dorothy Heieie.
Ron and Hallie moved to this place as a couple and didn't know anyone.
Elim was the place where they met some of their best friends,
where they got the chance to connect with other couples their age,
where they found their community.
People come to church for all kinds of reasons.
And I don't mean, making the conscious decision to be religious or faithful.
I mean, that people decide to wake up early on their day off, get ready, and drive to church every week, for all sorts of reasons.
After I graduated high school, a lot of my friends left to go to college somewhere else.
I started college still living at home, taking advantage of a scholarship at the local community college.
Community colleges, though, don't exactly offer a whole lot of community.
Sure, it taught me to reach out and find relationships,
but that was eight years ago, and I haven't felt that lonely since.
Having a church to go to,
a place to call home,
was certainly my saving grace at that time.
Like I said, people go to church for all kinds of reasons.
Maybe you come to sing your favorite hymns.
Maybe you come because you connect with the sermons or the music.
Maybe you come because you need that spiritual spring board for the rest of the week.
At that time after high school,
I didn't go for any of those reasons.
In fact, my reason for going to church then,
had nothing to do with anything that happened in the sanctuary.
To be perfectly honest,
I could have gotten spiritual fulfillment from my Bible at that moment.
I could have connected with sermons on the TV or the internet.
But I desperately needed my church community.
Because, at that time, that's the way Christ was holding me up;
with hand shakes and hugs during fellowship in the lounge,
with a consistent set of faces who had been there for me, and loved me since I was very little, some who has been there at my baptism...
most of the same people that I'll see when I got home this weekend, actually,
who still hold me up without even being asked to.
The Lord took bitter water and made it sweet,
because that's the only way we could stomach it.
It's the only way we could take part in it,
it's the only way it could nourish us.
It's the sweet waters that created the oasis of Elim.
So I'll repeat the question;
How is Elim your oasis?
Hopefully throughout this year, as we talk about the history, present, and future of this place, you'll share those stories with one another.
I want to talk about, what seems to be, another group of people.
Not another, as in "other," but another as in, not here sitting in the pews right now.
It continues to amaze me just how many people walk through the doors of this building on days besides Sundays.
From the 12 step groups, to the Swedish Cultural Heritage Society, to those suffering from homelessness that we help to house during the coldest months, Elim is an oasis for more than just its members.
You know, that's so important that I'm going to repeat it,
Elim is an Oasis for more than just its members.
The Elim in the Exodus story didn't necessarily exist for the people who were already there, it existed for those who were coming there.
Whether looking for a place to receive support, or a place to celebrate,
Elim is an oasis for all looking for a place to camp.
But camping isn't permanent.
At the end of the day,
this physical place is brick walls, and glass windows, and wooden pews.
While this building is a gift and we do our best to use it as good stewards to our community,
The Oasis of Elim, isn't necessarily the physical place.
After all, when the seventeen charter members along with Rev. Lindholm,
opened the doors in 1891, this Oasis existed in the front section of the Lime and Fuel Company Feed Store, while their first church building was being built.
What I'm saying is, while the physical place helps us live out Christ's mission for this church, the Oasis the Israelites were given, was one where
God took care of them, where God provided nourishment.
And part of what we've been provided here is the building,
but we've also been provided love, and support, and grace...
a people you can come to and authentically you.
A place to ask some really difficult questions,
a place to mourn and grieve losses,
and a place to celebrate life.
If you're not in love with this place,
whether you're not there yet,
or you're not there now for some reason,
ask someone to help you get there,
because the Oasis of Elim is a place to love.