Sermon for September 20, 2020 16th After Pentecost “Manna”
I am convinced that we can all relate to having food placed before us and we look at it and ask ‘what is it?’. The people of Israel have been wondering through the desert for days and weeks and are hungry. The hunger leads to complaining and Moses bears the brunt of the complaints. Moses turns to God and God simply says ‘I will provide’.
In the morning there is a white flakey substance on the ground, it is gathered up and placed on the breakfast table. The resounding lament is ‘what is it?’ And mom says yes.
What they and we may not know is that Manna literally means ‘what is it’. Let me go back to the previous statement and it may make more sense. And we can see this spiraling into a ‘who’s on first’ sort of routine. God has promised to guide the people, not only those travelling to the promised land but the people for all ages. Within that there was the assurance that God would provide. My preparation meandering led me to ponder how do we celebrate a question?
It is the really good question that produces that most headway, learning and innovation. It is the hesitancy to ask that leaves us wondering. How often have you thought of a good question, thought it a bit dumb, someone else asks the same thing and gets accolades for a great question? Questions are what push us to be creative. Even the annoying oft asked questions spur creativity. Are we there yet? Eventually garners some interesting answers. Believe me I have travelled across Canada with two young children, and that was when parents were the entertainment systems in cars.
For today, as we are in the midst of harvest, the question what is it? May lead us to our understanding of food and how incredibly fortunate we are to live where we do. When Jennifer and Nicholas were younger we would do the grocery shopping together. I would encourage them to pick a food (mostly in the produce section) that we had not eaten before or one that looked interesting. We had a few ‘what is it’ moments and many that were yum that is a do-over.
I think the question can also apply to the times we are living in today and our response to these times. One thing that is for certain is that God’s generosity has not waned or changed. In the teaching of Jesus from the Gospel today we discover the generosity of God and the provision of ‘enough for today’. All the workers were hired and offered a day’s wage. It is the response of the workers that challenges the generosity of the vineyard owner. When the question begins with ‘how come’ or ‘that’s not fair’ we know that greed and entitlement are not far behind. A more recent expression is ‘the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.
I am sure that Jesus weeps as the people continue in a pattern of greed and miss opportunities to rejoice that God provides. Instead of experiencing the graciousness of God most of the workers grumbled and complained about the injustice of it all. There is a wonderful quote from Joan Chittister that says; “What breeds hopelessness is the failure to pursue the possible in the imperfect.” That sentiment fits well as we discover the wonder of the teaching of Jesus for today. It also works for the time we are in right now. I keep asking what is it that I am supposed to be open to in these days? The quote form Joan shifts my thinking to what is possible in these apparently imperfect times.
Manna, what is it; may it remind you that God will provide, that God is generous, that we live in a time that propels us to think and act on what is possible in these imperfect times. Then ‘what is it’ becomes hope.