9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ 10And 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. 11The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12“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.’“
13In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When 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. 16This 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.’“ 17The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. 18But 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.
Manna, Manna, Everywhere!
Thousands of years before milkmen delivered to your porch, mailmen put letters in your box, UPS brought packages to your door, and drones dropped pizza in your backyard, God delivered manna. In the most mysterious and miraculous delivery of all time, God fed over 600,000 nomads for 40 years – by doing nothing less that dropping it at their feet! What was manna?
That’s what the wanderers ask when they saw it? They said, in Hebrew, “Man, hu?” or “What is it?” And so, “Man, hu?” or “manna” became its name. What was it? A plant? A fungus? The secretion of desert insects? Scientists and archeologists still puzzle over this manna. In Exodus, it is described as “a fine, flake-like thing, like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” The Book of Numbers claims that the flakes or seeds could be ground in mills or beaten in mortars, then boiled and made into cakes. Together, with the equally mysterious delivery of quail, manna was a diet that apparently satisfied and nourished the Israelites –not just for a few days or weeks, but for 40 years!
The story has been told and retold among Jews and Christians at Passover and other holy days. To me, the story of manna is the ultimate example and reminder of God’s great provision for his people – then and now.
Today is a day of thanksgiving and celebration here at First Pres! A little over a year ago, we said goodbye to W.D. and Phyllis Hasty whose long tenure here had been very effective. There were tears at that last service, and questions. and anxiety about the future of this congregation – on your part and mine! Like our Israelite ancestors—we became nomads of a sort –wandering into the unknown, not sure where we were going and how long the journey would take. I’m sure you had qualms about your temporary leadership (I know I did!). Would we lose momentum? Would we lose members? What would keep us from starving out in the desert?
Now, when we look back, we see – with grateful hearts– how far we have come and how bountifully God has fed us! In the past twelve months, blessings, pressed down and running over, have been dropped at our feet like manna. And so we dedicate this day to praising God for all that God has given us! For me, those blessings from God have been delivered through you. You!
You have come to me, one at a time, and said, “I have great passion for Christian mission; I will step outside my comfort zone and chair that committee.” And like the Israelites, I have said “Man, hu? What is this?”
You have come to me and said, “I will clean up the abandoned third floor – aproject that has become legendary as the Great Grand Cleanup.” And I have said, “Man, hu? What is this?”
You have come to me and said, “I will dress up in a costume and be a disciple for Maundy Thursday service.” (An occasion memorable especially for Jim Harvey). And I have said, “Wow, more manna.”
One of you came to me and said, “I want to renovate our narthex restroom.” Another said, “I volunteered to lay tile and do the plumbing.” — more Manna.
You have come to me and said, “I will teach children’s Sunday School;” “I will coordinate our Wednesday Food and Friends. In fact, I will coordinate everything that you do not have time to get to!” (God bless you, Ethel!) “I will serve on Session, Deacons, or PNC;” “I will sing a solo;” “I will give a concert;” “I will train to be a worship leader;” “I will keep the nursery;” “I will fill Christmas shoeboxes – not one but a half dozen;” “I will donate money for flood victims; pack food for Hunger Challenge, take flowers to shut-ins.” “I will catalog our video library.” “I will help pay for new technology, for new appliances, for air conditioning repair!” “I will plant flowers in Maggie’s courtyard.” “I will pull weeds.” “What is this?” I ask myself. “ Manna, manna, and more manna!”
In the past year, God has laid it on your hearts to step up and commit more deeply than, perhaps, ever before to the ministry of this church. God may even have led you to realize talents that you did not know you had, were afraid to share – OR had never realized could be applied to God’s work here. In particular, I think of someone who recently sang a solo for the first time. I think of a half-dozen people who are brilliant at cleaning and organizing, and have made such a difference in this building. I think of a young man who, this morning, used his gift for public speaking to read our psalm. I think of those who volunteer their financial know-how to manage the church’s stewardship. I think of some folks who have leveraged their artistic skills to beautify our stage and bulletin boards. I think of all the folks who showed up to have a voice in our Mission Study. What is this? Manna, manna, manna.
If you have answered God’s call by serving in any capacity in this church – (and I have barely scraped the surface– whether it was assisting with the building, the programs, the finances, the people, or the mission of this church—I would like you to stand up and stay up for a moment. If you are not able to stand, simply raise your hand. I hope I have thanked each of you personally for your work, but today, we are thanking God. Please join me in giving God a huge round of applause. Our generous and gracious God has fed us, continues to feed us, through his Word, the Holy Spirit, and through the gifts each of us brings. (be seated)
Just over a year ago, W.D. preached his last sermon from this pulpit. In it, he reminded us to remember who we are. I believe we have done that. And in the process, I would suggest that we have become more reliant on God, more confident in God’s leading, and more grateful for God’s presence.
1 Peter speaks of the holy priesthood of believers, God’s own people set apart to proclaim the mighty acts of God who called you out of darkness. We are, all of us priests, all of us ministers, all of us pastors, and God has abundantly provided our daily manna.
While I hope that we will not be wanderers for 40 years, I would also pray that the manna will continue long after we arrive at the promised land of a new pastor. In fact, I pray that the manna will continue, unhindered, for as long as God sees fit to use this congregation to His glory. Can I have an Amen? AMEN.