October 10, 2021
Exodus 16: 1-18
A lot has happened between last Sunday and today.
After the burning bush, Moses and Aaron went to Egypt … expended a lot of time and energy convincing the hard-hearted pharaoh to release the people who were enslaved … unleashing plague after plague upon Egypt before Pharaoh relented.
Then, the freed slaves made a dramatic exit from bondage … chased through the sea and into the unknown of the wilderness on the other side.
As they exited the sea, God seals the route behind them … killing their pursuers and leaving them with nowhere to go except forward into the unknown with Moses and Aaron in the lead.
There was no going back to their old way of life.
Just before today’s passage … as the congregation stands on the shores of the Red Sea … Moses and Miriam offer songs of praise for all the God had done for the people … the people sing of God’s redeeming love.
Then, as thirst grips the congregation, God transforms sour water into sweet, drinkable sustenance.
Now, two months after their escape, we find the people in the midst of their wilderness journey.
They don’t know where they are, they aren’t quite sure about the destination and with a scarcity of food in the wilderness, they are beginning to lose faith.
They want to go back … to return to a relationship that was both toxic and deadly … but it was at least familiar.
In their sense of scarcity, they begin to remember life in Egypt … when life was good and they could eat their fill of bread and live in more comfort than they could in the middle of the region of Sin.
You get the sense that the Israelites were misremembering … or having selective memories … about what life as a slave was actually like.
This text emphasizes nothing positive about the children of Israel, only that they were complainers who had a false remembrance of what it was like to live back in Egypt.
Two months and they’ve forgotten the intense slavery and conditions that led to death.
They only remember that they had food to eat and graves in which to be buried.
The Scripture is clear that they weren’t complaining about Moses and Aaron, but they were complaining about God (vs 7) and being away from their old lives.
I think it’s important to note that God doesn’t condemn or punish the Israelites for their faulty sense of nostalgia … for their doubts or their complaining.
Rather, God the deliverer becomes God the provider by serving up a reminder that God is still present with them … directing and nourishing the people along their journey into an unknown future.
God hears the people and responds with manna and quail. In a land marked by scarcity … God brings an abundance into the people’s daily life.
The people are instructed to gather just what they need for the day.
Manna … bread … especially in a time when there weren’t chemical preservatives … had a short shelf life. So, hoarding it would be wasting it and keeping its life-giving nourishment from others.
The only exception is the Sabbath.
Since they are expected to rest, the people are instructed to collect to enough food for two days on the day before the Sabbath.
God’s instructions to the people offer a wonderful example of God’s economy … an economy that we are called to practice … it has been called the “economy of sufficiency.”
This is in contrast to the Pharaoh’s economy or … in our time … the corporate economy.
In God’s economy there’s no hoarding … no scarcity … everyone is fed … all are nourished equally.
God’s abundance is to be shared with all … its life-giving abilities extended to each person.
The journey through the wilderness today shows that God remains active in the people’s lives … directing … sustaining and liberating.
Manna is a gift, and if god doesn’t give it, then people don’t have it. For each of us, manna is the grace we receive … the grace that we receive through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Through God’s actions we are nourished … and called to bring nourishment to others.
We can be nostalgic about the past, just like the Israelites in today’s passage.
Congregations across every denomination and faith community are facing the same uncertainty as the Israelites in the wilderness.
The route to the past is closed … sealed. The way forward is the only option
Our pandemic and post-pandemic steps can be uncertain … things don’t feel comfortable or familiar … we look at empty pews and less-than-plentiful resources and wonder what the future will look like … maybe even wondering if God is with us in our supposed scarcity.
Like the Israelites in today’s passage … we need reminders … that we are continually fed by grace in both in our life … and in our congregations’ life … during our respective journeys.
And through our service, we can serve as that reminder.
Like the Israelites … we need to trust that God is calling us to a place where … grace is shared … where love-abounds … and where people are fed.
Let us always give thanks for that gift.