Sermon for September 2, 2012

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; James 1:17-27, and Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

According to recent surveys on religion, people in the United States are more spiritual than ever. But the old forms of religion are no longer used by many to express the spiritual side of life. In fact, the fastest growing religious group in America is called the SBNR’s (Spiritual but Not Religious.) God, Jesus, and spiritual living seem to matter a great deal. But people are not interested in organized religion or traditional forms of religious expression.
As organized religion declines and spirituality seems to flourish, more and more people are constructing their own faith, hammering out their own convictions, building meaning as they see it, and developing their own spiritual practices. Traditional religious expressions, denominations, structures, and processes no longer speak to perhaps a majority of people.
So despite a high level of interest in spiritual things, religion in America is actually on the decline, especially in denominations like the ELCA, our denomination. The ELCA, has lost about ¾ of a million members in the last thirty years. The Lutheran decline is part of a general decline that seems to affect all groups regardless of their positions, politics, or faith.
Perhaps a parable would illustrate the situation in which the church finds itself. Let’s say that the church was in the business of baking and selling cookies. And let’s say that the Lutheran Church especially was very good at baking and selling its cookies in the stores where people bought cookies. Lutherans produced the best store bought cookies anyone could buy, full of the best ingredients and made with extreme care by bakers trained for centuries in excellent cookie production. People bought Lutheran cookies with confidence and pride for years, and looked for them on the shelves of the grocery store.
Then rather suddenly, the buying habits of cookie consumers shifted and the market changed. The quality of the cookies did not change, but nobody was interested in buying store bought cookies anymore. It was now the rage to bake your own cookies at home. Home baked was better than store bought. People made their own cookies out of their own ingredients and with their own recipes. People were eating more cookies than ever, but the sale of Lutheran cookies in the stores plummeted along with all the other pre-baked cookies on the shelves.
Soon the Lutheran bakery was laying off bakers and closing ovens in an attempt to stay afloat. But some in the Lutheran bakery realized how this shift in the market required fresh thinking, and began to make some changes at the bakery.
Oh, the bakery would still produce cookies for sell in stores. That line of the business would continue. But the emphasis of the business would shift. Lutheran bakeries would use their long standing experience, their connections with suppliers, their expertise in equipment and processes, to offer the home baker access to high quality ingredients, outstanding home equipment, and a series of resources and recipes to assist the home baker in making their own baked goods.
As the new set of products developed, there was of course stress in all Lutheran bakeries, but there was also a renewed vigor as the bakery became a supplier of baking resources, equipment and materials. Lutheran bakers began to sense the possibilities in this new way of providing cookies in a home baking business climate.
In the United States, at this point in the twenty-first century, we are in this time of renewed vigor as we no longer stress adopting the prepackaged Lutheran faith, and instead figure out how to assist those who are constructing their own faith, building their own meaning, hammering out what it means to be a good human being in this time and place.
SBNR’s (and all of us really in the process of considering faith or reconsidering it) no longer use ancient dogmas to define what we believe. Yet the construction of a functional personal spiritual life that will stand the tests of time is challenging. In building the faith we need, we will find ourselves turning to ancient wisdoms and rituals because they provide insights, direction, purpose and frameworks we can use to construct our own faith.
In today’s lessons from the Bible we sense one essential recipe of faith, or at least some of the ingredients that are helpful in holding our cookies together as we go through life.
If today you are working on constructing a faith that works for you, if you are trying to construct a workable meaning for life and values for living based on your own spirituality, these three lessons today may assist you in that project, deepening some insight you already have.
In Deuteronomy we have two of the basic ingredients of a good spiritual life. The author of the ancient passage points to two things for which the people are God are to be remembered. One is the importance of workable and just guidelines, rules or ordinances which remind us to pray, which help us all get along, which build up the common good, and which help us build a just and good society. This is the point of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy and Exodus.
We need guidelines to help us shape everything from prayer, to our court system, to how we treat our family, friends, and the strangers among us. Without this ethical sense life disintegrates. Actually all of the lessons today point to rules that are important. James contains many guidelines for living well. Even the rule that Jesus seems to break in the gospel lesson is not a bad rule: wash your hands before you eat. The ancient truth behind this rule, he says, eventually got out of hand. If you are constructing a faith, it will need some ethical principles and some guidelines for living.
However, there is a second thing about the ancient faith in Deuteronomy. Rules alone will never lift the spirit, and will never draw us close to God. Deuteronomy says a faith also is founded on a relationship with God. God relates to the people. In our relationship with the divine, in our encounter perhaps daily in prayer, song, praise, lament, shared meals, and meditation: in all of these ways our relationship with God deepens and our faith is nourished. If  you are constructing a spiritual life, it would be good to consider not only the rules for a good life, but the best ways to build a relationship with the sacred, ways to feel the presence of God active in your life, ways to rejoice with, complain to, and celebrate with the God who loves you.
Rules and relationship with God matter in the construction of the cookies of faith. But James, the second lesson today, lifts up an underlying principle. All faith construction is helped along by or even based on an underlying principle. We have one of them here at the end of the passage. True religion is not necessarily organized religion. True religion is not a set of dogmas or beliefs or even an ethical system in James. True religion is the showing of compassion to the widow and orphan. True religion is founded on the principle of compassion. To have compassion is a foundational principle for faith construction.
Jesus embodies this principle of compassion in Mark when he says it is far more important than following any religious system or rules. Human compassion, mirroring the compassion of God, is the foundation for Christian faith building. But this principle is also the cornerstone of many other of the major faith traditions of the world.
If one is building one’s faith, one will need every day guidance and guidelines, one will spend time relating to God, and one will begin to build a life on a foundational principle such as compassion. But there is one more thing offered by Jesus this morning. In the important task of baking faith’s cookie, it is important to remember that it is what goes on inside of us that matters rather than all the stuff going on around us. We can be so focused on the world and the problems we face, we forget that what’s inside of us is very important. Our souls matter long before we go to heaven.  If you want to be your own spiritual person, what will matter most is finding the way of God in your own heart. That seems simple at first, but we all know that caring for, nurturing and sustaining the inner life is a difficult thing. Along the way we will need friends, both contemporary and ancient to help us find our path.
No matter how you feel about organized religion, if you are constructing your faith today, these ancient lessons call us to develop the ethics we need to live together with justice and peace, to strengthen our relationship with God, to build on the founding principle of compassion, and to attend to our inner life so that our outer life may reflect the light within. Jesus, a long time ago when he was building a faith said something like, “love God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Gift to the Emergency Fund

$15,000 gift to the Emergency Fund: Through conversations with Hasan, our outreach worker, a family foundation in California and until now not affiliated with the congregation has given an anonymous designated gift of $15,000 to the St. Johns Emergency Fund. It is a wonderful gift and a tribute to Hasan’s and the congregation’s reputation for caring for those in need. It could not come at a better time for those who are really struggling here in Madison. In meeting with Hasan, we have decided to distribute an additional $1,000 each month to those in need for the next fifteen months.  Hasan and our staff will be working on the reporting as that distribution takes place. This funding will provide for highly needed additional care in a time of substantial hardship for many. Thank you all for your partnership in the gospel and your continued support of this vital ministry. Pastor Ken

 

Announcements for September 2, 2012

September 2, 2012

—–$15,000 gift to the Emergency Fund: Through conversations with Hasan, our outreach worker, a family foundation in California and until now not affiliated with the congregation has given an anonymous designated gift of $15,000 to the St. Johns Emergency Fund. It is a wonderful gift and a tribute to Hasan’s and the congregation’s reputation for caring for those in need. It could not come at a better time for those who are really struggling here in Madison. In meeting with Hasan, we have decided to distribute an additional $1,000 each month to those in need for the next fifteen months.  Thank you all for your partnership in the gospel and your continued support of this vital ministry. Pastor Ken

—–The Finance Committee begins budget planning for 2013 on Tuesday, September 4 at 5:30pm.

—–The Capital Campaign Committee is meeting Friday, September 7 at 3:00pm.

—–We’ve reserved the Shelter at Burrows Park for the Sunday after Labor Day, September 9. Worship at the shelter will begin at 10:00am that day and our potluck congregational picnic will follow worship. Please mark your calendars, bring a dish to pass and lawn chairs if you have them. There will be no worship in the sanctuary.

—–Martha Circle will be meeting on Tuesday, September 11 (the second Tuesday in September) at 5:30pm in the Oakwood Prairie Ridge dining room. Anyone who wants to come is welcome. Please let Charlene Caucutt know if you are planning to attend by September 10.

—–Back in the building on September 16, our worship will shift to setting one for the fall season, Sunday learning place and confirmation begin as well. Leaders will be installed and third grade Bibles presented during the worship service. An organizational meeting for high school youth follows worship as well.

—–Adult Forum begins on September 23: We’ll begin our fall series in Adult Forum on September 23 with two sessions on the ELCA draft social statement on criminal justice before we begin the October series by the Outreach team on anti-bullying.

—–Thursday Morning Bible Study begins on September 20: We’ll begin at 9:30 am in the gathering space, and continue our look at the letters of Paul in the order in which they were probably written. This fall we will be working in Corinthians.

—–Save the date: Saturday, September 29.  St. John’s is going to have a team for the Alzheimer’s Walk this year.  More information coming.

—–Friendship Raising Celebration October 13, 2012: Four years ago we began an ambitious program to renew our commitment to our mission and heritage through the renovation of our building. To date we have completed about two-thirds of our original renovation plan and raised over $960,000. On October 13, 2012 from 1:00 to 4:30, the Capitol Campaign Committee is planning a Friendship Raising Celebration to celebrate our accomplishments to this point by gathering over food and music. Before and after the music we are planning a “Time and Talent” sale.  We ask that you consider what time or talent you can contribute to the sale.  Are you an artist, a quilter or a woodworker? Can you provide a special meal or the use of a cabin?  What else can you offer? Would your business like to be a sponsor for this event? If you would like to help with food for the event, please contact Marcia Williamson. To contribute to the Time and Talent Sale, please contact Judy Nolde or Alice Gould. If your business would like to be a sponsor for this event, contact Bob Block. Mark your calendar and plan to bring a friend to join the celebration as we gather with friends to celebrate our accomplishments of the last 4 years and prepare for our mission together.

—–Banners: We’re looking for some creative thinkers who want to help design and create some banners for our church. If you are interested in helping to go through our current banners and join a St John’s Banner Committee, please let me know. I would like to have a team meeting in October if possible. If interested let me know or Email me at stjcs07@gmail.com  Thanks, Barb Meyer

Sermon for August 26, 2012

Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-59

     It was one of those wedding reception conversations that pastors occasionally find themselves locked into. Receptions are full of people you don’t know. As you settle into the room, you can have a wonderful time getting to know new people. And then sometimes there is work to do as someone wants to talk about something that has been bothering them for awhile. This was one of those wedding reception conversations that involved a bit of work.

     There were several discussions going on within earshot. Two of the bridesmaids were assessing their dresses. A couple of mothers were talking over how to relate to their teenage children who seemed to be doing fine, but did not share their values.

     But I was being cornered by someone who insisted by his body language that we talk. He was older than I and somehow was related to the groom’s family. He said he enjoyed the wedding service. He offered to buy me a drink. I declined. He had probably had enough for both of us, and I don’t like to drink until after I finish saying the table prayer. I’m still on duty. Anyway, he began to ask a question by telling a story.

     The question was about all the things that had changed over the years. What was he to do with that? And his story was the story of his life. It seemed to have gone well, he said, but things were not what he had expected. And in his voice there was a sense of disappointment, of wondering, of assessing his dreams and values as he talked. The things that seemed to matter so much, like church, holding down a good job, raising the kids the right way, the neighborhood, and the way the city, state, nation and planet were headed all seemed to be going downhill. Nobody seemed to believe, and work, and hang in there with each other through the hard times. People expected everything to be given to them. And as he filled out the details of the story of our times with the details of his life, the question emerged, “Do you think we are going to hell in a hand basket?”

     I decided not to answer the question, but to work a bit with a couple of the details in his story. The details opened into a deeper emptiness he was expressing. For despite the effects of perhaps one too many,  here was a man of commitment, a man willing to stand up and fight for the right, who was willing to reject those whose opinion was different from his own for the sake of the truth.  I sensed that his inner resolve was his strength. His commitment, fortitude, and ability to see the truth had seen him through many hard times. He had built a life on this solid foundation; on this thing he sometimes called integrity.

     But now, in these later stages of life, at a wedding, the kind of event that brings to the surface our deeper yearnings, he wondered about whether these things mattered anymore, as the people around him, both those he loved and those he did not know, seemed now to lead a different life to different tunes with far less commitment. 

     He was beginning to wonder: why should I be so committed to things that don’t seem to matter so much anymore? He was beginning to wonder about several things: should I take a stand or just say “whatever?” He himself was beginning to wonder: Do I have enough of the truth so that I can still reject those who disagree with me?

     Again, I tried not to answer the question, but started to wonder with him out loud about how our strength, our resolve, our commitment, our fortitude, and sense of the right, can also be our weakness.

     Sometimes we overplay our strength, especially in nuanced times such as these. Ecclesiastes, written in another cynical time long ago, says that sometimes it is important to be strong. Sometimes we need to share our vulnerable thoughts. Sometimes it is important to stand for the right by rejecting others and their opinions. Sometimes it is important to listen and welcome the views of another. Sometimes it is important to make a commitment and stick to it. And sometimes it is important to be flexible and change our minds. For as Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for every purpose under heaven. And the complex wisdom of the Bible calls us to be aware of the times and places in which we live. The great Christian story of crucifixion and resurrection is the story of how defeat is transformed into victory, how the humiliating execution of Jesus is victory over death.

     These lessons from Joshua, Ephesians, and John came at me this week like the man at the wedding reception. Joshua is a call to firm commitment in light of our past tradition. Choose! Ephesians is a call to stand firm, going to battle for the sake of the faith. John is writing about those who differ with him, and who do not want to emphasize Holy Communion as central to worship. Those who disagree he calls enemies and traitors as he stands firm for worship that is good and true.

     These three wonderful calls to resolve may be especially appealing in times like this when things seem to be slipping away, when it all feels mushy, when that deeper commitment upon which human life is built seems so fragile, and when so many things seem to be in decline.

     But precisely in such times, we must be careful with our resolve, our commitment, our sense of the right. For as our current politics remind us, insisting more and more on our own way does not build the center we need to solve our problems. To rebuild the fabric of our life together we will need not only our sense of right, but also the practical wisdom to listen to our neighbor, our children, our antagonists and the strangers at our door. We live in a time when it is not enough to know and stand for the truth. We live in a time when we need to learn more about the truth held dearly in the heart of our neighbor and the stranger with which we share this planet, so that we can build or rebuild something new in our homes, in our neighborhoods, our church, city, and state.

     Yes we are to be firm and strong. But part of that strength includes the weakness born of love and the wisdom to know when to speak, when to listen, and when to let the silence fill the room.

     You know, the man said, maybe I should listen to my wife more. You sound a lot like her. And then Judy and I sat down in our assigned seats next to the bridesmaids who in the meantime had decided that although their dresses were difficult to live with, they were not going to make an issue out of it. This was not the time for taking that kind of stand. And when the bride stopped by to give me a microphone for the prayer, the bridesmaids told her how wonderful their dresses were. While at the table next to us, the mothers were continuing their ageless conversation about the delicate balance between discipline and love in the raising of children.

Sermon for August 19, 2012

Proverbs 9:1-6, Ephesians 5:15-20, and John 6:52-58

     Bible passages today from Proverbs, Ephesians, and John call us to feast at the table of wisdom. But what does it mean to feast at such a table?  

     Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we are helping another person. That help we extend can be different things such as simply offering friendship to a neighbor or a coworker. The fabric of our community life has grown thin, and many feel isolated. People can live next door to each other or work next to each other for years, and not know each other very well.

     When we connect with another human being, offering a hand of friendship and compassion, we are feasting at the table of wisdom.

    Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we in such friendship assist someone in need. The economic forces of life have left many individuals and families in difficult straights. More people than ever are finding the need for meal programs, shelter assistance, housing relief, recovery from prison or addiction, and financial assistance with the everyday demands of life. As we care for those in need, we are setting the table not only for them but also for us to dine together at the feast of wisdom.

     Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we come to terms with our own faith. Often we don’t think about what matters in life, our basic principles, values, and beliefs. We sort of amble along with what we have been given, not thinking about it. But once in awhile, we are challenged by circumstances or events to think about what we believe, say, and do. What is the most important thing? How do we live our lives in relation to our principles and convictions? As we assemble and reassemble our vision of life, we dine at the feast of wisdom.

      Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we just go for it. We can live our lives so that it all becomes routine, one day just like the next, without any breaks in the long tedium of endless days and nights.

     At first we may simply try to amuse ourselves along the way, and for awhile that works. But eventually we will want to focus on how we are using our days, how we might not only endure the endless gray that life becomes, but also celebrate the basic gifts of life and health and wholeness. When we decide to just go for the deep joys of life, we dine at the feast of wisdom.

           Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we decide to forgive or to make amends or to at least mend fences, giving up on a burden of anger and pain that may have weighed us down for some time, and deciding that now is the time to move one step further along the path of forgiveness. When we do this we dine at the feast of wisdom.

      Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we quietly spend time with a member of our family or a friend. We lead such busy lives, that it is difficult for us to deeply enjoy the people in our lives. When we connect and spend time with our family and friends, we are dining at the feast of wisdom.

     Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we witness a milestone or a turning point in life: a graduation, baptism, wedding, birth, moving into an apartment, returning to school, death, finding a new home or leaving home. In such moments what matters comes to the surface, and we find ourselves dining at the feast of wisdom.

     Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we decide to stand for a cause that is just, when we advocate for the poor or those treated unfairly, when we stand in the way of violence, when we call ourselves and others to be and do better than we are or have been, when we call for the development of fair policies and the right of all to enjoy the fruits of peace. When we do that we are feasting at the table of wisdom.

     Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we make the decision to struggle against an addiction and work for our own recovery so that we can live a better life for ourselves and others. When we take the positive steps we need to heal, we are coming to the table of wisdom.

     Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we think creatively about an old problem and issue, and come up with a new solution. Entrapped by the same issues not really solved by the same old solutions, we need to try something creative and new. When we do so, we are feasting at the table of wisdom.

     Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we decide to stop trying to do everything alone and connect with others so that we are no longer constructing meaning in our own little box, but are part of something bigger than we ourselves could ever be. When we decide to connect with others again, we are feasting at the table of wisdom.

     Sometimes we feast at the table of wisdom when we let the rituals and liturgies of life move us into awe and mystery, when we gather around the font, and at the table of the Lord to witness the washing by water, the breaking of the bread of life, the pouring of the wine that is both suffering and joy, when we celebrate with ceremony the basic relationships of life and the purpose of it all. At such times and in such rituals we are feasting at the table of the Lord.

     For we feast at the table of the Lord whenever we draw near to the deeper purpose, meaning, and mystery of our own lives, the story of life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the lives of all creatures. We feast at the table of wisdom when we move from the tensions which trap us on the surface into the deeper places where things matter, where we find God waiting, and where we find out what we should do as human beings along life’s climbing road.

     As you lead your life this week, as you sense what needs to be said and done, come to this feast of wisdom. 

Sermon for August 5, 2012

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15, Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:24-35

It can be difficult to get a child to eat something new. Parents need a bit of ingenuity.  But no matter what our age, sometimes we just want our usual comfort food, the food upon which we have been raised, the food that gives us memories, and the food that we know from experience is good for us.

But sometimes new things are thrust into our lives, and we need to adapt, accept, and try something new. In the ancient story of Exodus, the people have been set free from slavery in Egypt. They are making their way now through the wilderness. There is a shortage of food, and that food crises leads to the whole congregation of the Israelites complaining against the leaders: Moses and Aaron.

In this famous story God sends manna to feed the people: a white substance that appears on the ground each morning that is some sort of food. What is this manna, this bread from heaven? It could be that this is a supernatural intervention by God. It could also be the case that this is the remembrance of the people of God learning to eat new things in the desert in order to survive.

What could manna have been? There are several theories based on the details of the story in Exodus and Numbers, the ecology of the desert and the meaning of the word manna in Egyptian, Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

Some suggest that manna was an Egyptian word for food referring to the resin of Tamarisk trees extensive throughout the region. The resin, mostly composed of sugar, is similar to wax, melts in the sun, is sweet, has a yellowish color, and can be compacted into cakes which do not last long.

Others suggest that manna refers to the Arabic word man which is a word for plant lice. Manna may have been the crystallized honeydew or excretion of scaled insects. In the desert, the insect excretions would dry rapidly and become a whitish sticky solid filled with nutrients, and considered a desert delicacy. Those of us accustomed to the land of cheese and brats may understand some confusion about how to eat insect manure.

Others suggest that manna refers to the thalli of lichens sometimes blowing in the desert wind, which could be caught and were used as a substitute for maze.

And others suggest that manna was a kind of a white fibrous mushroom that was a breeding ground for insects on the desert floor and has some of the characteristics of the manna described in the Bible.

Whatever it was, manna was something that came with the quail. To me, the manna and quail indicate that the people were learning to eat something new in order to survive in the desert. Long before it meant “bread from heaven,” manna in Aramaic, the language of the New Testament, is a question, “What is this stuff?” And it may be precisely the question that Israelites asked one another as they ate insect excretion, tree sap, fibers blowing in the desert wind, or insects mixed with mushrooms.

Some anthropologists think that these people were learning to become hunters and gatherers again. As part of the urban culture in Egypt supported by extensive agriculture, they had lost their ability to sustain themselves without the benefits of agriculture. They were learning a new desert way of survival and life.

Although there is less attention paid to the quail in the story, their presence indicates that hunting once again became a source of food and a way of life. If we were no longer able to obtain food at a grocery store, we too, would complain loudly to our leaders as we learned to hunt, gather, and farm again.

We may also sense in the process how food is not something we buy, but is something that is provided by God’s providence and requires our effort. For hunters and gatherers know that food is not something we simply consume as much as a blessing provided by the divine forces underlying all of life. We would learn about God as we hunted, gathered, and cultivated.

Eventually this ancient food memory assumed religious overtones. It took on the theme of bread of life. The sense of bread imparting spiritual as well as physical fullness continues into the Christian tradition.

The prayer of both Christians and Jews for centuries has been, “give us this day our daily bread,” sensing that food comes from God and that it is a temporary blessing needed on a daily basis.

The great feast of Hebrew independence, Passover, was celebrated with different foods including wine and bread. In the Passover meal they become symbols of the celebration, sacrifice, joy and memory of hastily preparing provisions for the spiritual journey ahead through the desert to someplace new.

Jesus takes this Passover Bread and on the night before his death says this is my body. Take and eat this bread of life.

The passage from John today continues this theme of the bread of life. Jesus today is remembered by John as the bread of life. And within this story is the reminder that we do not live by bread alone, but by the bread of life, the love of God grounded in the Word. Recalling the ancient food shortage in Exodus, John says, “for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

These stories lift up food and life. We must eat to survive, and that means many different things as we consider food today. We are called to do what we can to help the hungry and those in need. We sense that poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, and want are on the rise not only in our own nation, but also in the world. We are called not only to take and eat but also to give and share.

Since food and life are tied closely together, we are called by these stories to lift up all of those involved in the production of food and its distribution. Especially in Wisconsin, we are called to care for those who are involved in our agriculture.

We also are called not so much to have food for thought, but thoughts about our food. We are called to consider the importance of food consumed close to its source, to consider the importance of nutrition as we understand more about how different foods work with and against our well being, to consider the need to consume less food, to consider the resources used to produce food, to support efforts to eliminate cruelty in our food production processes, and to think about the corporate implications of agriculture as our world’s food needs will double by the year 2050.

The sharing of food resources is not only a physical thing, not only an economic thing, not only a call to consider what we eat, but also a spiritual thing. The hunger and thirst of the world cannot be filled by bread alone. We live in a famine of meaning, when it is difficult for people to find their way and faith, when things often do not make sense. In the meaningless of our time, we offer the bread of loving compassion in a parched land.

These stories also remind us that we too are a people in need of learning to do new things in a new land. Perhaps now as much as ever, the church is facing a time of great change, when we are required to express and extend the faith in ways not yet comfortable to us.  And what is true for our church may be even truer for our society and the world community. We want things to be the same; just the way they were when we were all back in Egypt. But as times change, as we follow God into a new land, we will need to eat differently and live differently and express the love of God in different ways.

And as the ancient ones discovered in this chapter of the Bible, it turns out that over the long run, tree sap and insects are healthier for us than a steady diet of Egyptian cornbread. The bread of life always calls us to eat something new. Amen