During this season of Lent, we are taking a deeper dive into our expressions of gratitude. In doing so, we are guided by the book Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass and companion content from The Work of the People.
As we wrestle in the current COVID-19 pandemic with how to relate with one another, we might consider this alongside our ongoing series on gratitude and the illustration of the table.
In this time of concern for one another, as we keep our distance, avoid crowds, cough into tissues or our sleeves, and constantly wash our hands, it can be overwhelming to wonder exactly how we’re supposed to relate with each other! Can we still go to the movies? Can we go out to eat? Can we meet with our therapist or our colleague or our friend?
As many in our country—indeed the world—are gripped by fear, how are we supposed to treat each other? What are our responsibilities? And in the midst of this fear, where do we see the light at the end of the tunnel? Where do we see hope? Where do we find God?
Exodus 16:2-15 (CEB)
2The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. 3The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.”
4Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. 5On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.” 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 7And in the morning you will see the Lord’s glorious presence, because your complaints against the Lord have been heard. Who are we? Why blame us?” 8Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning because the Lord heard the complaints you made against him. Who are we? Your complaints aren’t against us but against the Lord.”
9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community, ‘Come near to the Lord, because he’s heard your complaints.’” 10As Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned to look toward the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud.
11The Lord spoke to Moses, 12“I’ve heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat. And in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”
13In the evening a flock of quail flew down and covered the camp. And in the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the desert surface were thin flakes, as thin as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” They didn’t know what it was.
Moses said to them, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
John 6:1-15 (CEB)
1After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberias Sea). 2A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. 3Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. 4It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival.
5Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” 6Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do.
7Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.”
8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, 9“A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?”
10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. 11Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. 12When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” 13So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten.
14When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.” 15Jesus understood that they were about to come and force him to be their king, so he took refuge again, alone on a mountain.
Consider these questions:
- How would you define a “feast?”
- What sort of manners are automatically observed at a potluck?
Post-Worship Update on 3/17
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday was our last time worshiping in person as our citizens are urged to keep group gatherings to a minimum. Many in our congregation joined in worship online, and this worship option will remain in place as we are joined by the leaders and worshipers of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.
The Exodus text reminds us of the reality of the Israelite’s condition before they were freed. The realities of slavery were note as gentile as we sometimes make them out to be. Yes, the Hebrew people were surely compelled to work for no pay, but they were controlled at a far deeper level than we usually consider. But in the escape led by Moses and Aaron, God reminds the people that the Pharoah’s top-down scarcity are not God’s reality. God is gracious and abundant.
When the people living in and around Judea were under the rule of Rome and a renewed attempt at top-down scarcity, Jesus reminded the people that God is gracious and abundant.
Consider these questions:
- Diana Butler Bass comments that “Jesus is a channel of God’s fullest abundance.” What does this say to you?
- Bass also says “Even if you have the worst day possible, you have a gift because you’re alive.” How do you regard this as a ‘gift’? If you find that challenging, how might you shift your perspective in small ways?
- How can you think of gratitude as more than just a feeling?
- Why is Jesus remembered for you? What is Jesus’ greatest gift to us?
- What would a world with no first and no last – with no “pyramid” – look like to you?