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Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

September 24, 2017

Exodus 16:2-21


It had been a month and a half since Moses led the Israelites in their desperate flight from Egypt.  A month and a half since the waters parted and they crossed through the sea.  A month and a half since Pharaoh’s pursuing armies were washed away.

It had been a month and a half of wandering in the wilderness.  And the people were getting tired.  Maybe they thought the going would be easier than it turned out to be.  Maybe they thought they would be entering straight into the promised land of milk and honey, and they hadn’t counted on these wilderness wanderings.  Maybe their hunger and thirst got the best of them.  Maybe it was just hard to leave everything they had ever known behind, even if everything they had ever known was pretty terrible, and exchange that for an uncertain journey through uncharted territory.

So they started to turn on their leader.  You’ve seen this happen, right?  When a plan goes south, when people are disappointed, when hardship sets in, it is our human nature to look for someone to blame.  And so the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron.  “It would have been better to have died in Egypt,” they said, “for you have brought us out into the wilderness to starve us all to death.”  And Moses and Aaron, in turn, turned to God.

God heard.  Just as God had done in Egypt, God knew the people’s sufferings, and God responded.  “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you,” God proclaimed.  “Each day, the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.”  And so God did; and so the people did.  Those who had large families, or those who had big appetites, gathered more manna.  Those who had smaller families, or those whose metabolisms were slower, gathered less.  And everyone had what they needed.  Everyone could eat their fill.

There was always enough.  Nothing less—and nothing more.  When that old feeling of scarcity set in and the people were afraid that there wouldn’t actually be more the next day, they tried to hoard the manna for their uncertain future.  But it spoiled.  Anxious grasping had no place in the new community God was building in their midst.  Morning by morning, there was always a new layer of manna to be gathered, always enough to provide for everyone’s needs for that day.

On the sixth day of the week, they went out to gather as usual.  When they measured what they had brought back, they discovered that they had twice as much as on the other days.  That day, the leftovers did not spoil, and so, on the seventh day, they rested.  No manna appeared on the ground, for none was needed.  Even God rested.  On the sabbath they ate well, and enjoyed one another’s company, and gave thanks.

They went on this way for a long time.  This was the rhythm of their days and weeks for the remainder of their 40-year wilderness sojourn.  They subsisted on manna all the way to the end of their journey, all the way to the border of the land of Canaan.  And in the process, they learned a thing or two.

They learned about freedom.  That it’s not enough to know who or what you’re free from.  You have to know who or what you’re free for.  That they could now live into the fullness of their identity as God’s people, called for a purpose holy and high, blessed by God to be a blessing to the world.

They learned about abundance.  That it was possible to receive gifts beyond their wildest imaginings.  That they didn’t need to grasp fearfully at anything they could reach, to make sure that they got theirs before someone else took it first.  That God gave to them not because they deserved it, not because they had earned it, but because abundance and generosity are at the very heart of God’s own nature—because that’s just who God is.

They learned about enough.  That if they gathered more than they needed, the food went to waste.  That if they worked when it was time to rest, their effort went to waste.  That they could do their part, and let their neighbors do their neighbors’ part, and let God do God’s part, and all would be well.


Can you imagine, dear ones?  Can you imagine, children of God?  Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all learned such lessons?  Can you imagine what the world would be like if we actually lived as if we believed that this story could be true for us, too?

There would be no rich and poor, no haves and have nots, for all would gather what they needed—just enough, nothing more.

There would be no hoarding of wealth or property out of fear for what might come, for we would actually trust that there was enough for everyone.

There would be no hungry people, because people who are assured of God’s abundant provision are not afraid to share.

There would be no systems of oppression, no leveraging of power to keep yourself up and others down, for all would know ourselves to be equals in the face of God’s humbling love.

There would be joy—joy in the mutual giving and receiving that are the hallmark of life in God’s family.

There would be hope—hope in God’s promises of a blessed future for God’s people.

There would be purpose—purpose in God’s calling to be a blessing to others and to the world.

Can you imagine, dear ones, children of God?  Can you imagine what the world would be like if we actually lived as if we believed that this story could be true for us, too?

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a life I’d like to lead, a world I’d like to be part of.

May it be so.


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