Sunday, September 21, 2014

“Cheese, Please” (Exodus 16:2-15)

I have to admit that I have enjoyed being a grandparent since the arrival of the granddaughters into my life.  Grandchildren make life so much richer . . . so much more fun . . . and, I get to send them home at the end of the day when I am done corrupting them.  Grandchildren are a joy . . . most of the time.  There are times when they remind me that children can be a real hassle and not a whole lot of fun to be dealing with . . . just like most of us in the human race.  From time to time though, they remind me of something I had forgotten . . . hungry kids are grumpy kids . . . whiny kids . . .complaining kids . . . or what the writers of the Bible like to refer to as lamenting sorts of kids.  In fact, I think most people are pretty much that way when they are hungry.

At least that seems to be the case in our scripture reading for this morning . . . the Israelites are hungry.  As the story from last week continues, the Israelites have quickly packed up and hightailed it out of Egypt when given the chance.  They have survived the frantic attempt of Pharaoh to recapture them or to wipe them out at the Red Sea when Moses, through God, split the sea for the people to escape.  Thus far it has been a pretty hectic and wild adventure with very little planning on the part of Moses . . . the goal is just to escape toward freedom. 

Having packed up and left in a hurry the Israelites did not plan on what they were going to do for nourishment . . . did not think about how they were going to feed themselves.  After a while what little food they had ran out . . . people started to get hungry.  Hungry people get grumpy.  Hungry people complain.  The Israelites were hungry and so they began to whine.
“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Let’s see . . . Moses, through God, has secured the people’s freedom from a cruel oppressor.  The people now are a free people.  Moses, through God, got the people out of the sticky situation at the Red Sea when it looked like certain doom would happen.  And, now this is the “thanks” that Moses gets in return . . . a bunch of complaining?  I am surprised that Moses didn’t just ask the people if they would like a little cheese with that whine.

Poor Moses . . . he is just the scapegoat in all of this.  He’s taking the heat for all of this as we all know that it is actually God running the show.  Moses knows it.  God knows it.  Moses tells the people: “. . . he has heard your grumbling.  Who are we?  You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”  But, what do the people care . . . they are hungry.  At this point they would take cheese with their whine.

Something is not right in this age that we are living in.  In the world around us we see great discontent . . . people are not happy . . . people are oppressed . . . people are whining as represented by the great upheaval we are witnessing across the globe.  There is a great hungry that is sweeping across the world today and it is getting nasty in its violence against one another. 

We see it in our own nation as our leaders in government cannot seem to tolerate one another . . . cannot even seem to stand in the same room with one another without pointing fingers and complaining . . . there is lots of division and animosity in our nation . . . lots of whining from everyone.  There is a hunger that is sweeping across our nation . . . our communities . . . our lives.

We see it in the “church”—the body of Christ—as the “old” complains about the “new” and the “new” complains about the “old”.  We see it as the mainline and established denominations—both liberal and conservative—struggle to exist.  We see it in the division of the body of Christ where the faithful point fingers at one another and complain about things that they don’t like the other representing.  There is a lot of whining going on that represents a hunger within the “church”.

Across the holy domain of God’s creation there is a hunger . . . a cry to be feed.  All of God’s creation whines.  All of God’s children want to be fed . . . bring on the cheese!
And, that is what God does.  God feeds the people.  God provides the meat.  God provides the manna.  God has come into their midst once again . . . made God’s presence known to the people . . . and fed them.  For the people this is to be a sign—once again, that God is with them.  For the time being, the whining stops as the people are fed through the presence of God.

Though the world’s hunger is not a physical hunger it is still a cry out to be fed . . . it is a deeper hunger that the world and its people are crying about . . . a spiritual hunger.  A hunger for acknowledgement.  A hunger for purpose and meaning.  A hunger for relationship . . . a hunger for relationship for it is truly relationships that bring life to all of us.  It is a hunger to be loved and to love.  Looking at the world today in its disastrous condition I think that the world does not love itself much . . . after all we love the way we love ourselves.

The hunger that the world . . . and humanity . . . whines about can only be eliminated through what our Lord and Savior told us to be about—relationships.  Remember how he affirmed the lawyer’s answer that the purpose of life was to love the Lord wholly and completely . . . to love one’s neighbor as one’s self?  Remember how Jesus said that these two commandments fulfilled all the law and words of the prophets?  Remember how he told the lawyer—and ultimately, all of us, to go out and do likewise?  It comes down to relationships between us and God, us and others . . . it comes down to radical accepting love.  That is the manna that feds us . . . that is the cheese that takes away the whining.

That is what we all want . . . to be full of the life that God offers to each us of through an intimate and holy relationship with God.  We want to be loved . . . we want to be acknowledged . . . we want to have a purpose and meaning . . . we want to be. 
     In this time of respite in our lives this morning from the crazy busyness of the lives we live . . . let us consider the whining we do in our lives . . . let us acknowledge our hunger . . . let us ask what it is that we truly need and want that will satisfy this hunger that is trashing our souls . . . killing our hearts.  In this time of pausing for worship and fellowship, let us lift up our deepest hope that our hunger will be feed . . . that our lives will receive the manna—the bread of life.  In this time of quiet reflection let us step into the presence of God . . . let us embrace the love and grace of God . . . and, let us enter into the intimacy of our relationship with God and others.  It is here that we will find what we need.  It is here that we will be fed.

God said to the people: “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”  So it will be for us.  Amen.

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