Here is a (mostly) unedited excerpt from the sermon I preached this past Sunday at West Groton Christian Union Church. I hope you find something here that grabs your attention, and turns your heart Godward, today.
(Exodus 16:2-16) This morning’s text is of course the famous story, as you might know, of manna…. which as we already noted, means “What is it?”
So I think it’s kinda funny that when we call this bread “manna,” we have named this bread, the “what is it?” bread! There’s a lot of great lessons about God’s grace to pull out of this story of manna, but I think the fact that it’s named after an expression of CONFUSION is perhaps the most interesting part of the story for me. What is interesting, is that after the people say, “manna?” to Moses, he explains it for them. “It’s bread, you goofs. It’s what you asked for. You see? God listened to you. God hasn’t forgotten about you.” Manna was their God-sign…. and you’d think it’d be a pretty obvious one, wouldn’t you? Yet they still looked at it and were dumbfounded! “What is this stuff?”
The truth is, that’s why we must look for God, because if we’re not looking, if we’re so wrapped up in ourselves, and our own problems, that we forget God, God’s mission, and God’s people, God’s creation…. we can even look at God’s care for us straight on, and still miss it completely.
So when we look for glimpses of God in our midst…. there’s another step we take…. so that what would be confusion, turns into MARVEL. We are AWE-struck. We are TAKEN IN by the beauty, the love, the sense of belonging, the compassion, the justice…. Just like Moses translates the scene for them, so that the Israelites look at this strange stuff on the ground, and stop seeing “stuff…..” they start seeing BREAD. LIFE. HOPE……so must we look for God in our lives, because when we do, it gives the ordinary, the new and challenging, and even the confusing, “stuff,” meaning…. we can find Bread. Life. Hope.
We can look at our stories of the past (where we’ve come), and LEARN, to MARVEL at God’s past care, and the sense that God is taking you somewhere that will really make a difference.
We can see ordinary trees and rivers and LEARN, to MARVEL at the Beauty of God’s creation, and consider His loving craftsmanship for all things, including ourselves…. seeing that as its said, “God doesn’t make junk.” Or we can overcome with the charge we’ve been given to be caretakers of the earth.
We can see love in our relationships, and LEARN, to MARVEL at the power of love to grab us, to change us, to make us better people. To see ourselves as deeply and fully loved, and worthy of love. To share that love with others, freely and selflessly.
We can encounter great music or art, and LEARN to MARVEL at the creativity that God has placed in every human being.
These are all acts of prayer, but of course we can, and should, also sit and pray, perhaps sit in the silence, and instead of praying a rote blessing, or praying “for” things we THINK we need, or saying lots of words, we can just sit… and LEARN to MARVEL at God Himself.
We are indeed “pilgrim people.” We all are on journey with God, not just as individuals, but as a community, together. And that journey goes through ebbs and flows, ups and downs, as all journeys do. But there is one who has “pilgrimed” before us. And in the thick, and thin, moments, we can see Him… sometimes clearly, sometimes as if through a haze, but he’s there. If we seek Him, in the ordinary, the everyday, in the “what is it?” moments, we will be able to see Him in the Big, life-changing moments, too. And if we as a church community, can LEARN TO MARVEL, together, as we step forward into uncharted territory… we will find ourselves to be exactly what we’re called to be… a community of hope. An oasis in a desert. The people of God.