Children’s Sermon: It’s Raining Manna
People of Israel had been wandering in the desert for two weeks
their stores of food and water had almost run out.
They cried out to God, feed us!! You should have left us in Egypt!
Then God said, “I will rain bread from heaven for you,
and each day the people shall gather enough for that day.”
And then do you know what happened? ( throw Little paper wafers with the cross on it—confetti !!!)
What is it?
Manna means, “what is it?”
Children, your job is to collect the manna, two per person in their family. (I go around and grab more than my share.)
Oh I am SOOOO glad I have ALL this manna!
Is that fair? Do you know what happened if the Israelites did that: the manna became a wormy mess
There is enough for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.
Same thing is true today. We use what we need, and give generously.
Otherwise, some go without and we have a stinky mess.
In college I was a religion major, and I studied all the major world religions.
I learned about a concept in Eastern religion called samsara
which translates, “the endless cycle of woe.”
It was meant to describe the futility of the human condition,
one day after another in constant struggle
and, in a religion where reincarnation was the model, one life after another—
until blessed relief! Nirvana! the end to the cycle, and peace and bliss for eternity.
Samsara was a purely intellectual concept for me at the time,
but I got a firsthand experience years later when I became a parent.
It was the laundry.
My mom had advised me upon the birth of my first child to do a load every day
“so it won’t pile up,” she said.
But I had a kid who projectile vomited every other day
and one load a day wasn’t cutting it.
In fact, every time I thought I had done all the laundry, another item would appear in the laundry basket
or worse, on the bedroom floor.
It’s samsara!! I cried. Release me from this endless cycle of laundry woe!!!
It’s a humorous story now, looking back on it.
But my desire for release from a Sisyphisian cycle clued me into a deeper human longing—
a longing for an end of toil and struggle
Like Sisyphus longing to be relieved from having to push the stone up the hill,
only to have it roll down again day after day,
I wished for an end to the futility of doing the same thing over and over again with no change.
It’s the kind of longing that the people of Israel were feeling, two weeks out in their wilderness journey.
Their stores of food were all gone, their rations of water non existent.
If they were able to find food for one meal,
their very next thought was, where will I get my next meal?
Their very existence was hanging in the balance
and every 3 or 4 hours, their stomachs grows reminded them of it.
It can be hard to relate to that kind of longing
The gospel of John uses the hunger for food
as a metaphor for a spiritual hunger that only God can fill
People understood the metaphor because physical hunger for these peasants
was a regular feature of their lives
But we in the modern middle class of the first world do not often experience real physical hunger
We have to think deeper to understand what God was offering the Israelites in the desert
and what Jesus was offering the Jews of his day.
The truth is that many in the world DO understand firsthand physical hunger
These passages speak directly to the experience of many people in the world.
Here’s how it breaks down calorie wise:
The FDA suggests that a healthy diet consists of 2500 a day.
The average American consumes 3600 calories a day.
A person in India, a country with a good food supply, consumes 2100.
And many people of the world, mostly women and children, consume under 1000 calories a day.
On a diet like that, hunger is a constant companion.
So what was God offering in the wilderness?
What was Jesus talking about when he said, I am the bread of life?
And can we who barely know what hunger is, receive what our Lord has to give?
In the wilderness, God gave the manna daily.
Everyone could collect enough for their needs that day.
It was a lesson in trust, because you really couldn’t make the opportunity to create a stock pile
no rainy day fund or insurance here—
just trust in God to provide.
It wasn’t easy for the people of Israel to trust—
think about what it would be like if you had to depend on the weather to eat
Is it going to rain manna today??
But as God provided the manna day by day, a relationship began to grow.
Like a newborn who gradually learns to trust that her needs will be met when she cries,
the people of Israel learned to trust and then love the God who fulfilled their needs.
Jesus took this lesson one step further.
He saw so many people mired in striving after the mere basics
Jesus had just performed the miracle with the loaves, multiplying the bread and feeding 5000.
The people wanted to perform the same work
figure out an end to the cycle of hunger
It wasn’t a bad idea—ending chronic hunger is a good thing
But Jesus wanted to give them something more than that
For one thing we know for sure as relatively affluent people
a full belly does not equal happiness
money can’t buy joy or even security
When it gets right down to it, living beyond fear is a spiritual issue
Freedom and joy comes not from having all your bases covered
but by trusting in God.
Perhaps you have stood at your laundry basket, or the dishes in the sink
or been confronted once again by the college degree that waits to be finished,
the dead end joy,
or the relationship that can never be changed.
Life can be samsara, an endless cycle of woe.
But God offers spiritual interventions.
God offered it in the manna in the wilderness.
God offered it in Jesus on the Judean hillside.
And God offers it today, in our world where some people have too much to eat
and some people have too little.
God offers the opportunity to step out of the cycle that keeps some people down
and holds other people up
God offers the way to end the systems that keep of us apart, whether rich or poor.
It’s around this table
where we take Jesus into ourselves
where we become bread, ready to be broken and shared.
It isn’t enough to simply eat the bread
It works in us to transform us
to create in us new and generous hearts
so that we work for the bread which satisfies.
The bread that truly satisfies
the bread that fills hungry bellies in the chicks we donated to families through LWR,
it is the veggies and TP that supply the homes in Newington
it is the meals we will make in partnership with Grace Ep. later this year when we launch FP,
a ministry to house and feed homeless families and get them back on their feet.
But it is also spiritual bread, which for us is Jesus.
It is the devotions many of us are reading in the daily prayer book, Jesus Calling (I have 2 more copies)
It is the worship we share in this place and Thursday nights
It is the prayer we offer for our neighbors and our world as we watch the nightly news
It is the quiet time we take at the beginning and end of the day to review all we have to be grateful for,
and invest in the relationship of trust we have with Jesus.
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger
and who believes in me shall never thirst.
Give us this bread always, Jesus.
Release us from an endless cycle of striving and getting.
Make us aware of the abundant gifts you have given us to share.