On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt the whole company of Israel moved to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. And they were complaining against Moses and Aaron about wanting to be back in Egypt sitting beside fleshpots and eating their fill of bread.
Now God heard their complaints and told Moses to tell them that they would be able to have meat and bread and so they would realize who their God was. And sure enough that evening a quail flew in and covered the camp and in the morning there was dew on the ground that looked like frost.
Moses told them, “It’s the bread God has given you to eat. And these are God’s instructions “Gather enough for each person, about two quarts per person; gather enough for everyone in your tent.”
God opened the doors of heaven and rained down manna, the bread of angels, as some have called it. But this gift had strings attached, instructions of what to do and not do.” Gather enough for each person. Do not hoard. Provide for everyone in your tent.”
And most important trust that God will provide, will provide enough. This was difficult for the Israelites and it is difficult for us to. In the Wilderness of Sin it is easier to remember the good ol’ days of slavery when food was abundant than to trust a God who says I will give you enough for you and those in your tent. “Trust me. I am your God.”
But we don’t trust. We didn’t then and we have difficulty now. We choose our future with our stomachs, our appetites, and our ambitions. We want fast food for the soul not the bread of life. We want big homes, fast cars, luxuries. We want “fleshpots” even if it costs us our freedom. We want to be filled, not living on just enough.
And why must we provide for those in our tent? Can’t they get their own food? Well, ok, if they are family members or members of our tribe but what if they are not? What if they are our neighbors? What if they speak another language or have another culture or religion? What if they are refugees or asylum seekers? What if they want what we have? What if we want what they have?
Is our tent big enough for them too?
This Exodus story brings up all these questions. And they are as important for us as they were for the newly freed Hebrew slaves. Some preach this text as a reminder to trust in a God who will literally provide, feed us. Some preach it as a reminder to tell everyone to share what you have for it will be enough.
But I would like to invite you this morning to think about the tent you live in and who is in it. I would like to invite you to imagine how you will share with those who live in other tents too.
I invite you to examine in your heart of hearts if you really believe there is enough for all, enough to go around, enough for tomorrow.
For those of you who have had the good fortune to go to a Palestinian home for dinner I invite you to reflect on the mounds of food you were offered by your humble hosts, the choicest meat cut and offered to you. I invite you to reflect on what it was like to be the honored guest in their tent.
Catholic Worker Dorothy Day in speaking about the breaking of bread says, “We know him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread…Heaven is a banquet too even with a crust where there is companionship.”
I invite you to remember a time when you shared your crust of bread; where you were and who you were with.
The story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes begins with a small boy gathering up pieces of bread. Jesus’ miracle is dependent upon that first action, to gather the crumbs. From there he multiplies the five loaves to feed five thousand. Some say it is not a miracle that happened but simply that everyone shared what they had and it was enough to go around. Maybe sharing is the real miracle.
Our lectionary pairs Moses’ feeding story with Jesus saying he is the bread of life. Like Moses he wants his followers to see that it is God who provides the bread from heaven but that this time He is the bread that has come down and is giving life to the world.
The bread of life will make you hunger no more. It will feed your body and your soul or it will make you hungry for the living word and thirsty for the living water.
Now this is where the sermon could end and I imagine for some of you this would be enough. But I feel the need to come back to the issue of who gets or deserves to be fed and how do we live into that line from the Lord’s prayer, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” And finally, does God always provide?
My daughter who works for a fair trade coalition in the United States reminded me that the issue around food is not only one of security, feeding the hungry, but of food sovereignty, the right of people to grow and feed themselves with food not contaminated with pesticides or GMOs.
How are we creating a world where farmers can work and live off the food they grow and harvest? How does what we eat undermine or support them able to feed themselves or their families? Are they not simply asking to “Give us this day our daily bread?”
This week was a difficult week for many here. It was colored by stabbings after the Gay Pride March last Sunday and then followed by another arson fire set by Jewish settlers that left a family severely burned and a baby dead. And then this was followed Friday by two more youths killed in clashes and many more injured. In the midst of all this violence coming across my face book feed I saw a picture of a field of wheat set on fire, a harvest gone up in smoke, a family now not able to literally feed itself or take its wheat to the market to sell.
Like you these events bring up profound feelings of pain and outrage and I wonder like Job, “Where are you God?
You want us to trust you in the Wilderness of Sin but what food are you providing for that farmer who lost his crop? What consolation do you have to offer? Where are you?
What comfort are you offering those marchers and their families who were stabbed for being who they are and expressing their sexual preference in a society that prides itself on being a democracy? Where are you?
What kind of assurance are you providing that family whose baby was burned alive?
What assurance are you providing a people who see their young burned alive, shot or imprisoned? Where are you?
Fires of hate are literally burning up the land and now people. The hot summer temperatures are nothing compared to the heat of so much hatred unleashed.
So what kind of bread, real or spiritual, can possibly fill us to extinguish these flames? What kind of bread can feed these parents grieving with such loss? What kind of bread can feed us so we can endure?
God of hope
open the doors of heaven
and rain down manna.
Feed us with your Son
who also knew hatred
whose life was broken for us
God of hope
in such dark times as these
give us enough
love and outrage
to put out the fires
to fill our baskets
Loren McGrail serves with the YWCA of Palestine. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciple’s Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission and your special gifts.