Go, Share (Exodus 16:1-18)Joan MacPherson, October 8, 2017
Part of the Sunday series, preached at a Sunday Morning service
Download AudioGo, Share.
One of the many things I cherish about our pumpkin patch is the chance I get to chat with folks as they are selling pumpkins. Add on the weather of last week and I was drawn out there a lot. One of those visits allowed me to chat for a bit with two moms who are incredibly caring, capable, loving parents. Our conversation was fluid covering all sorts of things. We got to the place of talking about the car rides when melt down happens with the kids in the back seat. When that melt down energy takes over all the air in the car. When the volume of the distressed voices pierce hearts and crumble thoughts. When feet kick into the seat back and jostle equanimity and frazzle calm.
This melt down energy is what I am feeling as I think about the Israelites traveling in the wilderness. Scared. Tired. Hungry. Now thats a combination for trouble right? A group of people traveling and they are sacred, tired and hungry. What do you imagine happening out there? Maybe you think of some of your own experiences traveling with a car full of kids?
Forty five days they have been free from slavery. Forty fives days ago they were in bondage. Now everything is totally different. They are on their way to a promised land where they will be able to live freely and provide food for their families. Traveling through wilderness. A whole community of people with a wide range of prior life experiences. Moses and Aaron guiding them along.
It starts to fall apart. A group of people that are scared and uncertain express their fears as complaints. They want to turn back time. They want to return to what they had known before. They had been enslaved. They had been oppressed but they knew what to expect. They knew how each day would go. But this current situation? They are weary. They are hungry. There is no estimated time of arrival. As they consider the future it is quite literally a desert. Take us back Moses. Stop this pain Aaron. The melt down energy is escalating.
But we remember that it was God (the deity formerly known as I am) who instructed Moses to get the people out of Egypt. God called Moses and God promised to provide what was needed. Since it was God who started this whole thing and God is true to the holy promises offered and spoken we need not join the melt down energy right? We can trust. We can breathe in deeply and seek to silence the craziness from the back seat and pay attention to the voice of love, the presence of light, the certainty of future, the way of hope which is the way of our God and which all around us and will never leave. We can do that. That is life giving. That’s what we will do.
Then the shout from the back seat get louder. Or unsettlingly quieter. The melt down energy is expanding. We don’t know where its going. We know we are desperate to find our way through and that this melt down energy needs to be redirected and transformed. Likely in that moment we aren’t thinking, oh wait, remember when the Israelites were melting down and shouting at Moses and Aaron? Remember that part of our sacred story? They were tired, hungry, scared, acting out, complaining and God responded. Its hard to keep track o fthat story in the frenzy but this is our sacred story - God is in this chaos car with us and we need only to open to God and it will be ok.
So we can work to remember what happened out there when they were complaining. Oh yes, that’s it. We remember. The Israelites were melting down and shouting out their fears and physical needs and God responded with unfamiliar, flaky white substance covering the ground. The Israelites were anxious and needing help and God responded with abundant provision that was enough for every person. It looked nothing like what they were asking for. It was nothing like what they wanted. It didn’t melt in their mouths like Hodgies. It didn’t fill their nostrils like Flatbread. It didn’t keep in the diaper bag like a ziplock of Cheerios. It was an unfamiliar, delicate thing that could not be hoarded and of which there was enough for everyone. Our sacred story names it Manna. Manna was the food that God provided in the wilderness. Manna was the way to address the deep and very real hunger of the people. It was shared. Manna was infinite, accessible and would sustain them through the very real struggles and long, long time of wilderness living. It wasn’t what they had asked for. It was what would sustain and maintain life.
We are deeply in the midst of current melt down energy and wilderness angst. We have needed to develop language and words to define which mass shooting we are speaking about. Add that on to an opioid epidemic, hurricanes, earth quake, international tensions, racial fracture. We are deeply in the midst of melt down energy and wilderness angst. Just as God was present and providing for the Israelites as we read in our sacred story, God is present and providing for us today. Just as they struggled with how God fed them, we struggle with what God gives us to thrive and survive in our wilderness. God gives us love. It can feel as tenuous and unfamiliar as their manna. Love doesn’t give us a solid door to slam shut. Love doesn’t give us a bullet proof vest to wear in the world. Love doesn’t turn us around and send us back to a more familiar/safer time. Love does just the opposite. It opens doors, makes our hearts and whole lives vulnerable and creates a new tomorrow. It is so different from our cultural norms and responses to the wilderness and challenges of life.
The church is different. God is different. Our way of being is different. Given the world around us now different is needed, desperately. Love is the different that God provides and hope is what love enables. God is always calling us forward. God is always providing all that is needed for life. It’s love. Given to us to give us life. Given so that all may have life. Go, share. Amen.
Main Street Congregational UCC
October 8, 2017
Note: This manuscript was prepared for oral delivery only.
It contains excerpted material not properly cited.
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16:1 They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of 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 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” 8 And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”
9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” 10 And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
13 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” 17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. (ESV)