Last Sunday (9/20), the Scripture passage that I chose was Exodus. I choose the Scriptures and titles several months in advance so that the music folks can coordinate. It's fun for me to see how the lectionary choices weave into daily life.
Exodus 16:2-15 was no exception. As we continue to live through a pandemic, as we have other things going on in life, as we are gearing up for a national election, the theme of God providing and how folks respond to that provision was time appropriate.
Whether what is shared meets anyone else where they are on their journey or not, I do not always know. From time to time I get a glimpse from someone, somewhere, that I have listened and obeyed in sharing the message, as it has been received.
I continue to do what I do for an Audience of One, recognizing that the One is who matters most. It's not always easy to have that perspective, but that is my goal. The word that comes through me is not lost on me. It works in me too. That's what I enjoy about the living word of Christ-- it continues to work its way in us and through us.
Below you will find the transcript, the entire service from YouTube and the SoundCloud audio link. There was a glitch on FB premiere last week. Things froze during the sermon and then went back to the beginning. It wasn't on our end technologically because the YouTube video was doing just fine. Well, until visual froze and audio kept going. The social media platforms have had some glitches during the pandemic and we haven't really figured those things out.
That's okay too. We do what we are able to do. We have a SUPER tech "team" of primarily one person that puts the service together. Several of us do our parts and send it in and then the magic happens.
I'm grateful for each and every person who continues to give of their time, talents, and efforts to keep us connected as a faith community.
It's not easy.
Yet, we continue to experience provision. How do we respond?
“Responding to God’s Provision”
Exodus 16:2-15 (CEB)
September 20, 2020 (16th Sunday after Pentecost)
St. Elmo UMC (FB Live)
Exodus 16:2-15 (CEB-Common English Bible)
2 The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. 3 The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. 5 On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 7 And in the morning you will see the Lord’s glorious presence, because your complaints against the Lord have been heard. Who are we? Why blame us?” 8 Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning because the Lord heard the complaints you made against him. Who are we? Your complaints aren’t against us but against the Lord.”
9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community, ‘Come near to the Lord, because he’s heard your complaints.’” 10 As Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned to look toward the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud.
11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I’ve heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat. And in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”
13 In the evening a flock of quail flew down and covered the camp. And in the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the desert surface were thin flakes, as thin as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” They didn’t know what it was.
Moses said to them, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
THIS IS THE WORD OF LIFE FOR GOD’S PEOPLE.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
As we begin to look at today’s passage, think for a moment: what stood out to you in the reading and hearing of it? If we were to allow this passage to read us via lectio divina, sacred reading, we would read over it a few more times, listening intentionally for those words or phrases.
Having had the advantage of spending significant time on the passage, one thing that stood out to me was the theme of complaining. The word in one of its forms is found 6x in the Common English here. The opposite of complaining is gratitude, so that came to mind. Then, looking at the entire passage, God’s provision for the people is evident, as is their response.
Let’s dive into today’s passage.
The wilderness journey is NOT easy.
Traversing a desert in the best of circumstances would not be easy. But, here we have a people who had to leave their homeland, flee their homeland to save their very lives. As they found themselves in the wilderness, they began to second guess their situation. They began to complain. They even began to want to go back. (verse 3)
What made them want to go back? The thought of “pots cooking meat” and the opportunity to “eat [their] fill of bread”. What were they forgetting about going back? The reason they left and moved forward. The reason they sought out change and transformation. They left for freedom. Freedom, change, and transformation come at a price.
The people here had forgotten the God’s provision of freedom in the moment and were caught up in the moment of their immediate needs and frustrations. They could no longer see clearly.
We understand that, don’t we?!?!
Have we ever been in the middle of a wilderness journey and lost sight of the promise?
Or we have become so discouraged in the moment by circumstances and a myriad of voices that we can no longer hear or see God’s provision?
When the two leaders Moses and Aaron came before the Lord with the complaints of the people, the Lord heard and responded. The Lord had the people look to the desert in verse 10 and the presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud and the Lord spoke to Moses in verse 11, telling him what to say to the people.
The people had to stop their complaining, take a moment to look and listen, to “be still and know”. In that moment, they heard from Moses that meat and bread were coming their way and it would once again be a reminder that they would know God.
We need reminders, don’t we?!?!
Even when we have been released from things that have us bound, even when we are traveling through the wilderness to a promised place, even when we know we are loved and beloved children of God, we still need reminders.
God understands. And, as we see in this passage, God is willing to provide us with reminders. These reminders might even come in the form of miraculous provision, as we see in verses 13-15.
As we reflect on this passage, how have you needed God to provide for you? What have you needed/wanted? Take a moment and think about that. Write it down. Either somewhere just for you or in the comments on FB, if you are willing.
Another question: how has God provided for you? Take a moment to write down at least one thing that you recognize as God’s provision for you. Again, you can write it down privately or in our FB comments.
Recognizing God’s provision for us is helpful, even crucial, when we find ourselves in moments of forgetfulness or complaining. If we begin to list in gratitude those things that God has provided, might we begin to realize that whatever the situation is, God will provide?
I’m not saying that God will provide exactly in the way or time we want/need/ask. However, I do believe and trust my Creator to take care of me, to take care of us.
Thinking about these people traveling through the wilderness—they were being changed and transformed. They left behind the known and were headed to the unknown. They were in the midst of the unknown.
Not unlike us today. We are still in the midst of a pandemic. There is much unknown. I have spoken about liminal space in past sermons, about not knowing. I understand the stress of these times. I also see the benefits. I have shared about how this is a time for us to allow ourselves to “be”, to listen, to grow, to change, to transform—individually and collectively. It truly IS a time for us to allow God guide us through the wilderness.
During this time, the nursery is being painted a brighter color. We are working on getting things fixed and taken care of in the building that need attention, such as the front doors and the roof.
We are continuing to meet the needs of the community through the food pantry during the week and the 2nd Saturday. I believe the number was 70 boxes given out that day. The homeless food ministry continues to feed people weekly. September 25th will be the next big meal and 15 people are needed to help with that. Contact Mike Rice and/or check our FB page for information on that.
We have MUCH to give gratitude for as a faith community!
Here are some of things for which I am grateful:
I am grateful for each of you, some of you I haven’t met. Many of you I haven’t seen in FOR-E-EVER, though through delivering palm branches and signs gave me some sightings. I am grateful for coffee visits, for hikes, for biking. The offer remains to hike, bike, have coffee and/or lunch. Contact me.
I am grateful for answered prayer.
I am grateful for the provision of the PPP.
I am grateful for the provision of food that allows us to give to others.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as your spiritual leader.
I encourage you to make a personal gratitude list. I also encourage you to make a gratitude list around our faith community. What about SEUMC causes you to be grateful? Think on that. If you are willing to share your list, you might encourage someone else as they are struggling in the wilderness. You might be someone’s provision, their “manna”.
Manna in today’s passage is the daily provision that offered sustenance to a people in need.
Sustenance is needed to survive, to thrive. Manna can come in many forms.
Today’s challenge on the calendar for the 30 days of anti-racism by the General Commission of Religion and Race is to send your tithe or offering to a Black church. My tithe was given to SEUMC. I chose to send my offering to Washington Hills UMC. You might remember Rev. Terryl James that came to speak here in February when we did a pulpit swap. She and I continue a conversation between us and our two congregations.
How are you growing on the wilderness journey?
Do you find yourself complaining or offering gratitude? Don’t be too harsh on yourself if the answer is complaining. However, start on that gratitude list. Be intentional to stop and look around. You might begin to recognize the presence of the Lord in the cloud and as you look and listen, the provision of the Lord for you will become evident.
Hear these words from Charles Campbell: “Out in the wilderness with Israel, God is creating a new people who will embody an alternative to the way of Egypt, the ways of domination and submission, rich and poor, powerful and powerless. Central to the formation of that people is the gift of manna.” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, page 93)
We are being formed, transformed as God’s children, into the image of Christ. This is what it means to be a follower of Christ. We don’t stay where we were. We move forward. We seek to live, love, and lead like Jesus. We seek to live out our baptismal vows: “resisting evil, injustice & oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”
Today’s passage reminds us that the journey is not easy, especially the journey through the wilderness, the unknown.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes sent out this on manna earlier this week:
that will get you through
the worst troubles
is not inner strength
but simple trust
that in every moment,
no matter how dire
there is grace enough
to get you through
the worst troubles.
even from dark clouds,
falling into the lowest places,
and though it may taste like ashes,
May we recognize God’s provision for us along the way and may we respond with gratitude.
Will you pray with me?