Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Old Testament: Exodus 16:2-15
2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’ 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?’ 8And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.’
9 Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” ’ 10And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
This past Sunday, I spent time talking about the anxiety that can permeate our lives. With the presence of COVID-19, the fires that have been raging with the resultant smoke and the uncertainties of both the election and replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s spot on the high court, it is easy to see why some of us might feel some anxiety.
Even though I try to keep clear of the drama (and avoid the pitfalls of anxiety and fear), I find I get “residual anxiety” from those around me.
So how do we negotiate the terrain of fear and anxiety? Or just deal with uncertainty in our lives?
And reminding others.
If you heard the sermon on Sunday, you will recall I mentioned two things.
First, we must remember that suffering is a part of life. No biblical hero ever got the easy treatment in this life,
Not even Jesus.
So why should we expect anything different?
This is not bad news. It is a reality check.
Why? Because of the second thing we must remember.
God has and continues to go before us.
The psalmist reminds the readers of the history of God’s care for them (who would have been the Jews at the time…remembering we read along in another’s story through the Psalms).
He led out his people with silver and gold; in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled. Egypt was glad of their going, because they were afraid of them. He spread out a cloud for a covering and a fire to give light in the night season. They asked, and quails appeared, and he satisfied them with bread from heaven. He opened the rock, and water flowed, so the river ran in the dry places. For God remembered his holy word and Abraham his servant.
God has cared through:
- His covenants (a map)
- Leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt with great wealth (Provision)
- A cloud by day (shade)
- A pillar of fire by night (light)
- Quail and manna in the wilderness (food)
- Water from a rock (water)
- Leading them through an unknown land (protection)
But this is Israel. What about you and me?
God didn’t provide water from a rock, birds falling from the sky and the mystery “what is it?” dish of manna.
So what about us?
How does God go before US?
The reality is that God has always been going before us.
The better question is how do we make ourselves available to see God’s goodness?
Paul reminds us in the epistle reading:
To me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Philippians 1:21-22
Paul reminds us that we must die to ourselves. After all, this is what Jesus said.
He says, we cannot be His disciple if:
- We do not follow Him.
- We do not deny ourselves and take up our cross.
- We do not give up our possessions.
- We do not hate mother, father, sister, brother, children.
- We are not willing to lose our life.
Basically Jesus says, you must be willing to give up the allegiances that are killing you (*Note* Jesus’ call to discipleship is harsh in that it asks for us to choose Jesus first, and these other things in the context of the that).
Paul knows this and lives this, which is why he can say this and, with some integrity, encourage others to do the same.
God calls us into the death of anxious, self-absorbed living into a new life.
And then He backs it up by empowering us to do just that.
What should be our response to the goodness of God? It is found in the rest of the Psalm from this past Sunday:
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him, and speak of all his marvelous works. Glory in his holy Name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders and the judgments of his mouth, That they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Hallelujah!
To sum this up, our response should be:
- Calling on God in our times of need.
- Reminding others of God’s goodness.
- Responding in worship and thanks of His goodness.
- Seeking Him when we find ourselves in the dark places.
- Following Jesus.
In the parable of the day laborer (from the Gospel reading), it is clear that Jesus is communicating that the Father is generously compassionate.
In the parable, laborers are hired at different points in the day but all are given the same pay rate (basically this is a pre-curser to the Gospel going out to the Gentiles, the Jews being the first hirelings in the story).
Why is all of this important?
God wishes to be found.
And care for His children.
And help us heal from our wounds.
And He wants us to remember that He is present.
During times of crisis.
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; Isaiah 55:6
Let us remind ourselves and others of this truth.