I admit that during my time as a pastor, I have switched between preaching lectionary and preaching series. Of course, there are times in which the lectionary unfolds in such a way that the passages string together in a series-like manner. The Old Testament lessons during this Season after Pentecost are one of those times. Not only does it hit the highlights of the Israelites’ journey from slavery to the Promised Land, but it seems strangely relevant to our current situation. While no analogy is perfect, journeying in unknown space to an indeterminate future with stress shared with both leader and congregation seems an apt description of where we are in 2020.
The lectionary reading for this Sunday, Exodus 16:2-15 is an important episode – both for the Israelites and those who find themselves in similar situations. It begins with the reality that it’s hard to journey towards an unknown destination. Remember, the Israelites whom Moses was leading had never seen the land to which they were going. Moreover, the people are keenly aware that they are not adequately equipped for the journey. They lack the provisions and capacity to complete the trek on their own power. Though over-generalizations tend to be hazardous, I don’t think I’m too far off in saying that people are most comfortable when they feel they have a large degree of control in their life.
Let’s face it, living by God’s grace is unnerving. It is unsettling not to have the resources ready at hand to meet the needs of the day. It is difficult to both lead and follow in trust. Yet, what the Israelites failed to remember in their time of crisis is that God consistently provided grace necessary to meet the impending threat. In the absence of memory about God’s faithfulness, despair filled the void.
Despite their complaining and forgetfulness, God still rose to the occasion and supplied their needs. For meat, God provided through the environment (though providentially and miraculously) and gave them quail. However, for their bread, God’s creative provision was so novel they named it, “What is it.” What is important to note is that God provided. God heard the cries of need and God acted in ways that opened the people towards their future.
There have been times when I have prepared sermons that though I could easily see how a text applied to the congregation, I failed to take the lesson into my own thoughts. I hope that as you read this text, you will find hope and comfort during our journey through a pandemic-stricken world. As we face our own fears and uncertainties and experience the concerns and anxieties of our congregations, we should not forget God’s providential work within our lives and the histories of our churches. Sometimes the resources or break through will come through the environment of the community. Other times, we will marvel at God’s exceptional creativity in meeting the need. The key is to live in trust that God will provide.
If you would like to view past editions of Moments with Mike, follow this link: https://corridordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/