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Monday, September 7, 2015

Today’s Reading | Exodus 16:1–18

The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “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.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him--what are we? Your complaining is not against us but” against the Lord.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’” The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. (NRSV)

Verse 3 catches my attention, because it speaks to me about the difficulty of change and transition: “The Israelites said to them, ‘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.’”

Moses and Aaron were leading this band of Israelites away from slavery to a land of freedom. The Israelites couldn’t see the future. The journey got really difficult. In the midst of their unknowing about what was next, they started romanticizing the past and complaining about Moses and Aaron. It’s as if they murmured, “Well, even when we were slaves and had no freedom, at least we were given food once in awhile. That was better than this.”

In my own journey, which has included various stages of change and growth, there have been those moments when the behavior or way of living or history I was leaving behind started sounding better than the unknown future I couldn’t imagine. Each time I was tempted and drawn to the old way (which often was constraining and limiting and sometimes damaging). Being in the middle of the change was a bit like being in the middle of the river. It seemed way too far to get to the river bank in front of me and the one I’d just left was too far behind me. I wondered if I would drown.

In the middle of these transitions we experience, whether they are personal, family, psychological, physical, or as a community of faith, it’s trust that God will pour out manna from heaven that allows us to keep going forward, one arduous step at a time. The punch line is grace.

Eternal and Faithful Presence, when the way in front of us seems so dark, help us to put our trust in you, so that we can let go of the constraining ways of the past and keep walking toward the freedom you call us toward. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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