the one about manna...
August 6, 2018, 12:00 AM

Sermon from August 5, 2018

Text: Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, our first reading this morning centers on those Israelites once again. If we’re not careful, we look at that reading and say, “Oh y’all… grumbling again.” For it is an interesting beginning to this reading, especially when you read around that text.

You see, the Israelites have been redeemed and taken out of Egypt. No longer are they slaves to Pharaoh and his people. They are free. But, their freedom is a little different than what they had expected. Sure, they don’t have anyone telling them what to do or forcing them to work, but they aren’t really relaxed, and they don’t feel ‘fed and nourished.’ It’s hard work being the people of God! I mean, they’re still walking everywhere – they haven’t even made it ‘home’ yet! Surely, being in Egypt under oppression wasn’t that bad. It definitely wasn’t like this…

I read this text – I hear the cry of the nation of Israel – and I have to catch myself. Because, before I kind of scoff at their neediness, I have to realize I am – and we are – very similar indeed. How many times have we been given new opportunities or looked longingly to the greener grass on the other side of the fence, and when we have been able to seize those moments, do we ‘complain’ that life is a little hard, that it is different from what we remember?

Last week I was blessed to be at Lutheridge with my family – and it was a great time. And I still had to catch myself from thinking (and saying), “Back in my day as a counselor…we did it this way, or referred to them that way, or sang this song…” Where we would say, “What is this song? What is this food? Who are these people?” We pined for the old, without realizing the gifts of the present.

How often do we look back on the past with rose colored glasses and think – ‘why can’t we just go back to the way it was?’ Why can’t it be the way I remember it to be?

Many still look back pining for the days of yore where it was ‘easier,’ without realizing the difficulties of all people back then.

In spite of the grousing and complaining, the Lord God hears the cries of Israel – the cry to be fed – and God provides. God sends meat and bread to the people. And, they are perplexed.

They literally say, “What is this?” Manna?” For that is what manna means in Hebrew – what is this?

They looked at this substance on the ground and didn’t know what it was. Where did it come from, how did it get here, what do we do with it? What is this? Manna?

Moses’ response is simple yet profound, ‘this is the bread the Lord said would be provided. It has been given to you; eat it.’

The Lord has heard, the Lord has provided.

Now, I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty certain that this ‘provision’ by God isn’t exactly what the Israelites had in mind. Sure, they got bread, but it wasn’t quite like they were used to. No smell of the baking bread in ovens wafting over the whole community. No warm ‘sponginess’ of the bread to make sure it was fresh. None of that.

Yet, every morning the Israelites would wake up and there would be food to eat, enough to fill their bellies for another day’s journey as they continued walking toward home.

I’ve always noticed that when we pray and ask for God’s help, it mostly comes to us in ways that we wouldn’t expect.

Life may be a struggle for us – for you. Days filled with stress, sleepless nights, anxiety, or fear.

Those questions that gnaw at us – are we doing the right thing? Am I where I’m supposed to be? Is there something better I could be doing?

It doesn’t help that the world slides right into those thoughts with advertisements and gimmicks that say, “You probably aren’t, and you probably could be better – with just this…” Of course, every new product we consume doesn’t fill that hole that we might be feeling.

I know I go through those days. Where I too wish to be – to feel – like I used to. Even if those days weren’t necessarily the best. When you ‘pine for the old,’ you can easily ignor those red flags of the past and look past the fortunes you currently have.

And when God provides to help us better care for ourselves, we can sort of scoff – ‘what is this?’ Manna?

God provides through the gifts of others. The presence and love of God bursting through the community surrounding you. God provides through means you wouldn’t expect – through silence, through rain, through laughter, through pets, through doctors and medication, and talking, and love. And so much more. God provides that which sustains us through means we wouldn’t expect.

It reminds me of a joke, that I know I’ve told before and many have hard before. Where a man in the midst of rising flood waters prays for God to save him.

Sure enough, as the waters begin to rise people in trucks, boats, and helicopters come to rescue him. Yet each time, as he climbs higher and higher to drier land upon his house, he declines their help stating, “I’ve prayed, and surely God will save me.”

Alas, the waters consume him and when he does get to speak to God he says, “Why didn’t you save me Lord?” God replies, “What do you mean? I sent a truck, a boat, and a helicopter to save you!”

God provides for us and delivers salvation through means that we wouldn’t expect. God blesses our lives with love through family and friends, we are provided a community to be a part of and to serve with and for others. We get to live into what God has provided every day so that others and all might know of God’s great love for the world.

It is never what we expect. Yet, it is how God provides.

So, too do we see that in our Lord Jesus – the one who proclaims himself to be the Bread of Life. The people hear that and through the next few weeks in our Gospel readings, we will hear them essentially say, “What is this? Manna?”

God indeed has redeemed us and brought us to salvation. It is nothing that we have done on our own – for we cannot do it on our own. In fact, there is not one thing that we can do to usher in our own salvation. That isn’t how it works. Yet, our God has provided.

God has heard our cries – God continues to hear our grumbles – just as God always has. A new way has been provided, a feast has been shared, we have been invited to the table. To feast, to drink, to consume that bread that ends the hunger of ‘what is this.’ It ends the questions of – am I loved? Am I worth it? Am I a part of something?

We are given just a little bit of bread, a little taste of wine – and we know that this meal provides fully and deeply. God has given us this, to remind us that Jesus is the life and the way. The one who welcomes us fully, completely, and without reservation. The meal that fills that gnawing hole.

In this meal, know that you are loved. You are forgiven. You are not alone. Amen.

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