What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Sunday, October 10, 2021
Pastor Arne Bergland
When was the last time you walked through a desert? They can be isolated and quiet places. As such the desert may be a place of no distraction and a place where one might find clarity about something in your life. Deserts can also be places of difficult if not threatening terrain offering barriers, obstructions, and hard challenges. When was the last time you walked through a desert. What have been the deserts in your life?
Our reading today tells us about the Israelites escaping enslavement in Egypt. God had done marvelous things for them. Rescued from Pharaohs army, on the shore of the Red Sea, they sang and danced, celebrating how God had rescued them. They left their lives behind and came to the desert It was not a happy trip. The Israelites had no idea as to where they were, where they were going, how they would get there, how long the journey would last, or what life would be like when they got there. All they knew is that they were hungry and there was nothing to eat.
They became increasingly unhappy and were actively whining about it to Moses and Aaron. “Sure, you got us out the whole slavery thing but what have you done for us lately?” Israel was doing what it did best, moaning and groaning about the day forgetting the miracle that God had provided for them not just once but many times.
I love how Exodos tells the story of their complaining. They said, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Already they had forgotten what it was like to be a slave. They sugarcoated the reality of where they have been in light of the challenges they faced in the desert. What a bunch of ungrateful babies!
We talk about being between a rock and a hard place. The wilderness stories of Israel reflect a people stuck between promise and fulfillment. This is not just a place but a state of mind. What happens to Israel is not specific to them. We don’t know where God is leading us or what the days ahead hold for us. We may murmur and complain and question and doubt as well because there is nothing else we can do. The story of Israel in the desert gives us the idea that Gods’ provision may be found as much in the struggle as in the redemption from it. Israel spent 40 years in the desert learning how to recognize and live out the promises that God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is a story of God’s provision for Israel in their time of need. God fed them in the desert. What might we find in this story that feeds our relationship with God?
The Israelites left their lives in Egypt behind and went out into the desert. They were hungry, God responded by providing manna to fall from the sky that they might not starve. Having adequate food to eat is one thing. Trusting God and making the connection between the manna and Gods’ will is another.
Would there be enough, or would there be too little? Remember the mad rush for toilet paper, masks, and hand sanitizer at the start of Covid? If there was enough, no problem. If not, then what? We all made the mad rush to be sure we had enough, and the shelves were emptied. Would there be enough Manna? The people found that if they hoarded it, the manna become rotten. If they trusted God’s instructions, it was enough.
God provided for the Israelites. God provided manna. God provided fresh water. God provided Quail. The message could not be clearer. God hears the cries of the people and God responds; God provides.
There were instructions given to receive God’s provision.
They were to gather manna every day.
Living into Gods promise is a daily relationship. Notice, they were to gather every day except on the sabbath, the day of rest. The New Testament speaks of Jesus as the true bread from heaven. Our faith is nourished through our daily relationship with Christ.
They gathered in the morning
Everyone got as much as they needed. Every morning they experienced God’s provision.
The manna was easy to find
We may come boldly before God. God knows our need and hears our cries. Gods provides for all people.
The manna gave them everything they needed
Not only was their enough manna it was sufficient for their need.
The manna was a daily reminder of the things to come!
Later in Exodus 16 we find that the manna tasted like wafers made with honey. It is a foreshadowing of what is to come.The Apostle Paul says, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face to face, now I know in part; then I shall know even as I am fully known.” The best is yet to come, the promised land flowing with milk and honey.
The people of Israel could rest easy in their tents and night confident that in the morning there would be good things to eat. They knew that their hunger would be satisfied. They knew that all would be provided for, each of them having what they needed for the day. As they made their way in the wilderness they came to see the connection between what they had and how God had provided for them.
As God provided for them they learned that there was room to respond to God goodness. The manna was God’s love made visible in the world. To respond to the goodness of God means to make love visible to the world. Where there is need we are called to respond from what we have first received. Where love has been made visible to us, we are called to make it visible to a world in need.
Let me tell you a story. It is about the desert my brother walked through. He had a lifetime of struggle with drugs and alcohol. When he was a student at Luther College he woke up in Mexico City and had no idea how he got there. He had been blacked out for weeks. Rolf was in and out of treatment centers at least four times. There were periods of years where we had no idea where he was. I contacted police in four different cities to see if he had shown up dead. He moved back to the Twin Cities with nothing except a ratty old minivan. More than likely he was on the run from someone. He had burned all his bridges and had nowhere else to turn. the Union Gospel mission offered him a bed. They had expectations and he had no choice except to do what they said. He went to meetings. They encouraged him to find his biological family, which he was able to do. That filled a hole in his soul he didn’t know he had. He reconnected with us as well. He got a job at Menard’s, and he did some painting on the side. The Gospel Mission walked with him, and he was able to get an apartment. He was 63 years old when he took a job painting a house. He fell off a ladder and died. The last five or so years were his best years. He found peace with his family and with himself.
The Union Gospel mission is one of Augustana’s mission partners. One of the ways that we make love visible in the world. As a congregation we help them do their important work.
We didn’t know one another when the Union Gospel Mission worked with my brother, but we do know each other now. My family is forever grateful. Your ministry gave my brother a life he could not have found in any other way. You helped him in the desert. Your benevolence made a difference. Your giving changes lives. It is manna in the desert and love made visible. I hope you understand that. Your commitment to the ministry of this place is more than important, it is life changing.
When you think about that response to God’s love remember what God has done for you lately and remember God is good all the time.