Sunday, September 18, 2011


Scripture: Exodus 16 & Matthew 20 (Manna & Day Laborers Year A) 9/18/11 

Mail time is always exciting at our house. . . when we moved into the parsonage, our dogs, Maggie, the hound, and Cole, the minuature schnauzer, had some adjusting to do from life in the country. Maggie has taken up the role of guard dog and is determined to protect us from the evil wiles of the…Mail Man.

   In her first few weeks in the house, she gave her best efforts to eating the fingers of the Mail Man as he dropped our mail thru the slot. Desperately she tried to get her long narrow snout into the mail slot just as he was dropping in the mail. Her determination was something to see!
   Finally, she decided that what the Mail Man drops into the slot must be evil too and we were reading our mail in between teeth marks.

The Stewards approved the installation of an exterior Mail Box, but that has only increased Maggie and now Cole's frustration with the Mail Man's daily visit. They both run from picture window down to the door and back again as soon as they hear his mail truck on the street. They bark and howl and carry on a fierce 2-toned chorus of complaint.

   We have worked hard at the word, “NO” and "No Barking" - to no avail. We've grabbed their collars and made them sit. None of it stops their mission to protect us from the surely evil influence of the Mail Man. .

Melody has especially been working with little Cole, an older dog, because he didn't used to bark at all. She can almost get him to calm down – - against his will & newly found passion, and he sometimes listens to her-

  But he's not quite convinced. After being told 'No' and "quiet down"' Cole, can't quite hold in his objection to the Mail Man and he comes out with a little growl/whine combo just under full howl. – as if he's trying to suppress his own bark and can't quite manage it.

Melody calls it " Grumping'" --- “Stop grumpin, Cole” --- is the standard rebuke in our house.

 I think we have all done our share of grumpin. It's that low human growl-- a moan. It's a not-quite-under-our-breath registration of our dissatisfaction, that if encouraged can grow into a full-blown complaint. - GRUMPIN

Feasting quote: As our scriptures indicate, God's people have been doing it for a very long time. . . We ask the equivalent of, “What was God thinking?” We wonder what kind of God would put an 'evil Mail Man' into our lives or whatever is our current equivalent of Cole and Maggie's nemesis.

Kathryn Blanchard says, “Hard-working, “good” people have always [listened to the stories like that of the day laborers] and asked, “What kind of God would offer the same reward to those who have earned it [by good hard work] as to those who have not?”

Human 'grumping' dates all the way back to the pivotal story for Christians and Jews; the Exodus.

I'm no Cecil B. DeMille, but I still picture the Exodus as a motion picture.
-The rugged terrain, not complete sandy desert, but with so little vegetation that most animals can't survive-
-A huge population of escaped slaves, living in tents and mostly exposed to the elements of sun and wind
-And whenever I picture the scene, I reach for a glass of water because I know it had to be dry.
It's no wonder that the Israelites started grumping.

How quickly the memory of freedom fades when you get hungry. The truth is
other side of fence always looks better even if you hated it when you were there. “present anxiety distorts the memory of the recent past” says Brueggemann, the OT scholar. The oppression in Egypt was forgotten by the hungry Israelites. Slave memories were suppressed by the remembrance of full stomachs.

Another truth is that God's people aren't suffer-free. Salvation, doesn't mean we get everything we want. The Israelites were suffering when they were  enslaved and well-fed and they suffered as free people, with no food. They didn't get EVERYTHING they wanted.

 There is a key lesson woven thru these great biblical stories,
Suffering demands that we live in trust, fully relying on God for each day's needs. This story of God's people in the wilderness is the paradigmatic metaphor for asking God to give us Daily Bread. (the Lord's prayer is an direct reminder of God's people's pivotal experience in the wilderness.)

And what a lesson they learned. The emotion of traversing the distance from complaint to joy is a roller coaster ride. First up: when Moses has Aaron tell the people, “God has heard your grumbling - Go out in the morning God will rain down bread from heaven.”

Then down: the mistrust that caused some to take more manna than others, and
Up again:  the quick discovery that no one had too much – yet everyone had enough.
The sheer  joy, of waking up to have the dew lift and again the white flaky manna is there for the taking. Then the mistrust that has some try to hoard manna for the following day, only to find it full of maggots and rotted. Joy again, as the manna is there the NEXT morning, and even quail, all around the camp, there for the taking. But on the 6th day, they take twice as much manna and cook it all so that no one will labor on the 7ths day. Because even God rests on the 7th day - it's SABBATH and there will be NO BREAD. Yet some go out anyway and are disappointed to find no bread.  How is it that a people, so favored by God, so listened to by God, still can't follow instructions?
. . .
But then, how different are we?

God still wants us to learn dependence - unlike the typical modern parent. Our 'apron strings' to God need to remain strongly tied. Rugged individualism has no place in God's kingdom.

What can we expect when we are entirely dependent on & TRUSTING in God for each day?
We get to trust God to give us what is fair and just ---
No matter what time of day we are asked to go work in God's vineyard.
No matter how few hours we have worked, (even if we only get to work and hour) we
 rest secure knowing and TRUSTING that God will treat us fairly- or better yet,
rather than getting what we deserve, -- God gives us UNDESERVED GRACE;
And God intends for everyone to have enough, . . .JUST enough,
just what we need AND no more.

In God's Ideal Kingdom, there's enough to go around each day as it arrives. There's no extra to store and no extra to spoil, & not enough to save, hoard or gather interest, --or insects- but just enough.

. .Until the next day comes around and we must turn back to God in full dependence - and trust. . . . It's a hard lesson to learn, back then in the wilderness and today in a world where some have everything and others have nothing.

We know God's priorities and needn't act like ignorant people wandering in the wilderness. We know what God intends. .and I suspect we can each find a place where we fit into these stories.

We may wake up to find maggots in the manna we've stashed away.
We may head out on the Sabbath to find God has rested that day - and we should have too.
We may be workers standing around, hoping to be hired so we can feed our family a little bit- from the minimum wage we might earn. . .
or -- are we so full of quail and manna that we naturally assume WE were the workers hired early in the morning?
 Do we miss the message that grace is a gift FOR EVERYONE and instead look at all the part=time, hourly workers who got paid the same as we did?

Does our real complaint against God sound like the full-day workers,
      “But you have made THEM equal to US!”?

Perhaps, when we've found ourselves in God's story,
         when we've given thanks for waking each day in God's grace,
               our biggest challenge is to care less about how God is taking care of everyone else. . . and
Stop grumpin.
 Kathryn D. Blanchard Feasting On The Word – Year A Theological (Louisville: WJK, 2011) p. 94
 Walter Brueggemann NIB Vol 1 Exodus (Nashville: Abingdon, 1994) p. 812

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