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Sunday, 08 October 2017

October 8, 2017



October 8, 2017

Exodus 16:1-18


I lived in a dorm for two years in college. It was an interesting experience.  Because I lived in the dorm, I got to eat in a dining hall.  I loved it . . . at first.


I remember the first couple of weeks.  I thought the food was great and there was so much of it. At home we never had a really great selection of food. Both my parents worked and my brothers and I had limited cooking ability.  Eating was for sustenance not enjoyment.  And, with two brothers, you could never really eat as much as you wanted.  Even beverages, basically one small glass of orange juice in the morning and one glass of milk at night, were limited.


In the dining hall there were a number of choices at every meal.  It was all you can eat and drink.  They never cut off your orange juice supply.


I had a number of friends in the dorm and we often ate together, especially at suppertime. We had fun.


Then there were the female students.  They tried to impress people the first few weeks.  They wore their best clothes.  They were careful with their hair and make-up.  It made for great scenery.


But then something happened.  After the food menu began to repeat itself again and again and again, the all you can eat thing didn’t really matter.  I didn’t really want any of it.  My friends sometimes got annoying.  And the female students seemed to stop caring what they wore or how they looked.  I couldn’t wait until summer.


After a summer of fighting over food with my brothers and eating bologna sandwiches for lunch with a bunch of old men in a paper mill locker room, the dining hall was heaven again . . . but only for a while.


So what was the problem? Was it the dining hall or me?  Was it what was being offered or how I received it?


One month. The Israelites had been freed from slavery in Egypt for one month.  By the time today’s lesson takes place they had already complained about their living conditions three times.


The Bible is not consistent with information on how long the Israelites were in Egypt.  It could have been anywhere between 215 to 430 years.  Even 215 years would have been a long time.  It was a miserable life.  They had no freedom. Their lives were totally in the hands of their captors.


God set them free.  God sent Moses and his brother Aaron to lead them out.  After ten plagues and the death of thousands of Egyptian children, they were on their way to the Promised Land.


The trip was not easy.  Walking through the desert was not fun.  Every day they put up their tents at night. Every day they took them down in the morning.  They had breakfast. They walked all day.  They had supper and went to sleep. In less than a month they were complaining.


Some people who are released from prison can’t wait to get back in.  Prisons are not nice places to be, but life on the outside can get tough, too.  There are too many things that can happen you can’t control.  Life is so often difficult.  In prison you always know what is going to happen and when it is going to happen. People get comfortable with what is familiar . . . even bad stuff.


“Why didn’t we just die? We had better food in Egypt!”  God had worked miracles in setting them free but the Israelites forgot what they had been given and focused on what they didn’t have.  Does that sound familiar?


God gave them “What is it?”, in Hebrew, “Manna”.  Every evening God sent quails into their camp and they had meat to eat.  They paid nothing.  All they had to do was take what they needed for the day and they were all set.  It was what they needed, but it wasn’t always what they wanted.


Manna and quails.  Manna and quails.  I think I would get tired of those things, too.  God does that.  He gives us what we need but so often we want so much more.


  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever . . .”John 6:51


Those are the words of Jesus. He is our manna.  We need forgiveness. He died so that we can be set free from sin. We need the promise of life after this life. He was raised from the dead to give us that guarantee.  In a world where we face judgement and rejection, Jesus gives us the promise we are now and always in God’s loving care.  Is that good enough? Isn’t that all we really need?


Some religious people will tell you that, if you live just the right way and believe the right things, God will give you all the things you really want.  They say God wants everyone to be healthy and wealthy.  They say God wants “good people” to be able to enjoy life and won’t let bad things happen.  I don’t know where they get that, but it’s not from the Bible.


We are on our way to the Promised Land.  We will find peace and completeness there.  But we’re still traveling.  God will give us what we need.  In fact, he already has . . . forgiveness, life and never ending love. Is that enough, or will we complain?  Will we look for something more that the manna of Jesus, or will we thank God for him and share the manna or life with others, too. God does give us our daily bread and he gives enough to share. AMEN