The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost E. Bevan Stanley
September 20, 2020
Proper 15, Year A
From Exodus: “The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “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.’” In the Name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen.
I do not know about you, but I am thoroughly sick of this pandemic. I want to go to a movie. I want to eat inside at a restaurant. I want to visit my daughters. I want to see all of you here at church and catch up with you at coffee hour. I find I am grumbling a lot, at least to myself if not out loud. And yet my life is very good compared to many. I am not sick nor do any of my family or friends have the virus. Today’s reading from Exodus is about grumbling. The Israelites had more reason than I. They had been slaves in Egypt, condemned to unremitting hard labor, and living under the threat of genocide. Then Moses shows up and he and is siblings, Aaron and Miriam, confront Pharaoh and lead them out of Egypt. At the Red Sea God rescues them from the pursuing Egyptian Army. That was wonderful. But now they are in the wilderness, and they are getting hungry. More importantly they are getting scared. They do not know how long it will take to cross this wilderness. They have no idea how they will get food. They fear they will die of thirst and starvation. They grumble against Moses and say, “At least in Egypt we got fed. Why have you brought us out here where we will all die?”
God hears the grumbling and sends bread from heaven. It comes down during the night like dew, and in the morning it can be collected. Because it is strange and new to them, they say “What is it?” In Hebrew that is ,“man hu,” so they name in manna. It is alright, but it gets tiresome day after day. Besides you cannot help wondering each night whether it will be there again tomorrow. What if it runs out? We are totally dependent on this unlikely supply of food. Besides it is kind of wimpy food. What about some real food. They are scared, and grouchy, and fed up with Moses, and with God. I want to play you a song based on this story. It was recorded in 1977 by Michael Kelly Blanchard.
We grumble and God supplies what we need and even more. We know we do not deserve this generosity. The result in the song is that we bow down to God in worship. We acknowledge our dependence on God and God’s infinite goodness towards us. Every day when we wake up to a new day, we can gather the manna that God has showered upon us for this day. Every event, every conversation, every task, is bread from heaven. Then in the evening the quail come. We feast on the meat of our days experiences of God’s goodness. We chew on the food of another day of the journey. And we bow down in gratitude and worship.
This is of fear about our health, fear about our country, of pain about our racism, and of bitterness about the gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us. It is a time for us to grumble. Like the Israelites, we have good reason. And like the Israelites, God hears us. God sends us our daily bread. And in the evening, the quail come.