Aloha Friday Message – May 19, 2013 – Bread and Sand

1319AFC051013 – Bread in the Wilderness

Read it online here, please.

Exodus 16:14-16 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’”

John 6:29-36Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.’

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I am baffled and saddened when people turn down the Bread from Heaven so they can chew on the sand in the Wilderness. In the passage from Exodus, the Israelites had been on their trek for about six weeks. They were hungry, tired, and pretty cranky. The exultant nation – just starting to get itself together – was already out of patience, and also out of the corn they had brought with them. They were beginning to wonder if following this guy, Moses, was such a good idea after all. I can imagine some of the conversation:

“What do you think of this man Moses, Gershon?”
“Well, Mishael, I am wondering if we made a mistake following him.”
“So, do you think we should talk to him?”
“Couldn’t hurt.”
“Go ahead then and let me know what he says.”
“Me? What happened to ‘we’?”
“Well, one of us has to be left to tell the tale, yes?”

The sojourn of Israel in the wilderness is something that has fascinated me for decades – ever since I heard of it in Mrs. Wright’s class, I think, I have wondered where they got all the wood for all those fires they had to build. Think of what it takes to keep going a sacrificial altar like the one described in Exodus 27:1-8. It was 7-8 feet square and nearly 5 feet high. It was made of acacia wood which was overlaid in brass and had a brass grill inside to hold the burning wood and sacrifices. Where did they get all this wood, brass, gold, and thousands of animals?

Well, scholars estimate that Moses took with him 2.5 to 4.5 million people with all their livestock, plus the Egyptians gave them clothes, jewelry, additional livestock, actually just about anything to make them go away. Of course, Pharaoh regretted it later and tried to chase them down to bring them back – that didn’t work out so well for him – but think about it. That’s about half of the total population of Egypt at the time. A pretty significant event! So the Exodus from Egypt wasn’t something that lasted less than twenty minutes like in the movies. It must have taken days to get (taking an average) 3,500,000 men, women, and children and perhaps 10 times that number of animals (thirty-five million) outside the borders of Egypt.

As we read through the books of Exodus and Numbers, we see that the Israelites are constantly grumbling about lack of food, about being thirsty, about being tired and complained to Moses about everything happening to them. So how could they be starving with all that livestock around them? We don’t know. Scripture says nothing about it. Maybe – after living in Egypt for 400 years, they picked up some of the Egyptian lifestyle and thought of those animals as the Egyptians did – sacred. Maybe they realized that if they ate all of their animals along the way, they’d arrive in the Promised Land destitute – worse off than they had been in Egypt (or so they imagined). They distrusted Moses, and were perhaps suspicious of his claims that God had a place ready for them. But, they complained so much that God extended their journey to 40 years because of their disobedience (Numbers 14:26–35). Yet even in this, God dealt with them with tremendous mercy and grace. He fed them. He gave them manna, and they ate it for all 40 years! Please, read the passage in Numbers from the link above. There were also quail, but that’s for another time. Today we focus on manna – bread.

 

GatherMannaThere is evidence in traditional Midrashim (Jewish Rabbinical literature written to assist in the interpretation of complicated or unclear passages in the Scriptures) that the Messiah would confirm his authority by providing “Bread from Heaven” as the ultimate redeemer just as Moses had – through his intercessions – “brought” manna to Israel. There are phenomena similar the production and gathering of manna even today, but the manna, the miraculous food was beyond anything “natural.” It was a very long miracle! As such, it gives us a template for an even longer miracle – Eternal Life.

This chapter of John has a lot of potent stuff. Some of it is just as confusing to people today as it was when Jesus lived. How can we eat his flesh and drink his blood? We’re not cannibals! How can his flesh be true (perfect) food and his blood be true (perfect) drink? Perfect food and drink never “expire.” They don’t die. Jesus had just fed 5000 people. Now he was talking about food that never expires. The people wanted some of that thinking it was like the food they’d just eaten! He tells them not to work for, not to live for, food that perishes, but “food that endures for eternal life” which he alone can give them. They want to have this food now and ask how to receive it, how to do the works of God. He says, “The work of God is to believe.” In verse 35 he says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes [as a believer] to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” How can the Eucharist be the Real Presence of Christ? It doesn’t look or taste like meat of blood.” The keyword then is BELIEVE. BUT IN WHAT, IN WHOM? The people to whom Jesus spoke had a hard time swallowing this message. They grumbled just as their ancestors had done because they failed to see that God’s plans are not based on human precepts. They did not understand why Jesus was in their midst.

Why did Jesus come here? What is the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus accomplishing in you and in me this very moment? What do we believe? We should believe that it was his Father’s will that everyone who looks upon Jesus and believes in him will have eternal life and will be raised up on the last day. (Verse 40) In verse 47 he says, “Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.” The food that does not perish is the eternal food, the Christ of God! That is why for thousands of years Christians have proclaimed:

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

Believing is how we internalize the power of the Resurrection. Just as we internalize food and beverages by eating and drinking, we internalize the sacrifice of Jesus’ body broken for our sins and Jesus’ blood poured out for our salvation by eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Eating and drinking mean believing. How can we find the faith to truly believe?

Jesus himself tells us the answer and then provides the answer in verse 63: Life is spiritual. Your physical existence doesn’t contribute to that life. The words that I have spoken to you are spiritual. They are life. If you try to understand the power of Communion by using worldly parameters, it makes no sense. You walk away grumbling, as did Jesus’ contemporaries and just as the Israelites did in the desert. The Perfect Food that preserved their lives for a whole generation was right outside their door every morning. The perfect food that brings eternal life is right at the door of our hearts every moment. Even after forty years of manna, manna, manna, Israel lived on manna and the word of God through faith, trust, and obedience. Who among us would prefer to chew on sand and sticks and rocks and roots rather have the manna of the Body and Blood of Christ?

Do you have manna, manna, manna every day? Then you should be happy, happy, happy every day! Come on, sing along with me! Manna in the morning, noon, and night is a wonderful miracle! The joy of sharing in the Eucharist, Holy Communion, is an even greater joy!! Opening the Word and devouring it every day? Fantabulous!! What do you think? Manna, manna, manna? How about

MA-NA-MA-NAH! Doot-doo-di-doo-doot!!

➡ Now that’s happy!!

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved!

😉 chick

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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