Overwhelming Abundance

California quail by malfet
“California Quail” by malfet on flickr.com

Numbers 11:4-9, 18-20, 31-32 (New Revised Standard Version)

The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color was like the color of gum resin. The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna would fall with it.

18…Say to the people: Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wailed in the hearing of the Lord, saying, ‘If only we had meat to eat! Surely it was better for us in Egypt.’ Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat not only one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you—because you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’”

31 Then a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quails from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, about two cubits deep on the ground. 32 So the people worked all that day and night and all the next day, gathering the quails; the least anyone gathered was ten homers; and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

  1. What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?

It challenges me that the people of God spent so much time complaining.  Aren’t they the ones who were chosen by God, created by God to be God’s holy people?  How can those whom God calls holy be such a mess?  I think sometimes we think that making a new commitment to Christ means that we will become more than human, super human, perfect.  Perfectly obedient.  Perfectly sinless.  Perfectly holy.  But that’s not reality, is it?  In Romans 3:23, Paul writes that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Belief is not a magic pill.  Turning over a new leaf doesn’t mean that our humanity will be stripped away.  It is normal, even expected, to have doubts, and fears, and times when we think we know better than God.  The good news?  God loves us messy people, and gives us even more that we can possibly ask or imagine.

  1. What delights me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why?

My favorite part of this text has always been when God says that he will give the people so much of the meat that they crave that it will come out of their nostrils.  The image reminds me of a time in Kindergarten when I laughed while eating tomato soup, and it came out my nose.  Grossed out yet?  It is gross (and it did hurt), but the idea that sometimes God answers our prayers with what WE think we need with even more that we can possibly take is reassuring to me.  Sometimes, I spend so much time worrying about what I do not have, about having more than enough, that I forget to look around me and be thankful for what I do have.  God was already providing manna and clean water for the people as a gift, six days per week.  How could they possibly want more?  And yet, they do.  And so, God provides.

  1. What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? How does this story connect to the story of my life?

This story reminds me of the summer that I spent in Norway.  Before I left, someone told me that if I were going overseas for any length of time, that I should bring a jar of peanut butter with me.  To be clear, I didn’t even like peanut butter at that time in my life, but I decided bringing it with me couldn’t hurt, so I did.  Everyday, I ate Norwegian food in homes of family friends and the school I attended.  And most days, I enjoyed the experience.  It was new, and novel, and fun to try to live in a way that we foreign to my own experience.  Then, the Fourth of July came and went, with no celebration, no fireworks, no s’mores.  And I started to long for the familiar food, faces, and language of home.  And I went back to my dorm room, and dug out that jar of unused peanut butter, got a pack of crackers, and ate and ate and ate.  And it tasted like home.  What tastes like home for you?  What do you long for?  What gift has God given you that reminds you of home?

  1. What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?

For the next month, we will be in the “Bread of Life” section of the Gospel of John.  By the end of the month, it just might feel like Jesus’ words about bread will be coming out our nostrils.  We may be rolling our eyes, and shaking our heads, and not-so-quietly commenting that we can’t wait until it’s over for another three years.  But what if we took a new tact?  What if we sank deeply into God’s abundance, and abided there awhile.  What if we slowed down, and listened, tasted and savored? What if we thanked God for all the abundance, rather than complaining about excess?  What if Jesus as the bread of life became the good news that we could not live without?  I look forward to Dwelling in this Word with you this month.

In Christ,
Pastor Breen Marie Sipes
Tri-Saints Lutheran Parish
Byron and Hardy, Nebraska

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