Carissa Herold, PW marketing associate, offers these thoughts for Lesson 5.
With all due respect to all who do, I do not consider myself a collector. I do not seek out exotic stamps, or autographs from famous folk. I am not the curator of each first edition by my favorite author. Although I like these things, I do not search high and low for dancing resin raisins, nostalgic toys, comic books, trading cards, pottery or hymnals. And yet, despite my protestations to the contrary, I have amassed a lot of things. In fact, a quick glance to my windowsill and I see one collector’s tin, a dozen or so animal figurines, an angel, a smiling tear-shaped yellow doll (just give it a good pinch and it laughs!), a candle, a piggybank, and a basket bursting with greeting cards. Not a collector, indeed. In my defense, most of my happy collection is because people care about me and express their goodwill with cards and itsy bitsy glass and wooden creatures and coffee cups. But as I ponder my plenty, which goes well beyond my windowsill, I consider anew those who live as refugees in camps in faraway lands or, just three short blocks away, the men, women and children who have no place to call home except a shelter from 7 until 7. My ponderings on plenty and scarcity bring me to lesson five.
Lesson five begins with such an understated, quietly humorous, paragraph: “The last lesson ended with the single greatest event in the Hebrew people’s history: passing through the sea waters to safety under God’s power and guidance. Now we see that the people were barely past this experience when they began to complain.” (Let’s be honest, who among us cannot relate to the occasional lapse into petulance or dissatisfaction even during the rosiest of times?!) But when these newly freed people, who had probably experienced very few rosy days, complained of bitter water, God did not respond in anger but instead gave them sweetened water. And when the people fondly remembered the “fleshpots” and bread (Ex. 16:3) they were provided by their enslavers, while perhaps not fully allowing themselves to remember the true price they paid for these filling foods, God responded once again not with anger but with just enough food, not just for one day but just enough (and twice as much for the Sabbath!) for every day, day after day after day.
I had never connected the dots between Exodus’ manna story and the words “give us this day our daily bread” from the Lord’s Prayer until I read this lesson. “For Christians, the image of ‘bread from heaven’ (16:4) has remained a meaningful part of our tradition. For example, in the Lord’s Prayer, when we pray that God will ‘give us this day our daily bread’ (Mt. 6:11), we remember and re-experience God’s gracious gift of manna in the wilderness. We remember and celebrate that God provides for the physical and spiritual needs of the community of faith—and we trust that God will provide for us.” (page 49)
But a closer read of the scripture yields something very surprising to this blogger: God discourages hoarding and storing by turning sour any surplus manna. That must’ve been quite a lesson for these ancient people and, let’s face it, perhaps quite a lesson for us in this new world of ever so much stuff.
My takeaway is that we are to trust that God will provide sufficiently today and craving more than enough is not part of God’s plan for us or, let’s face it, our planet. “Give us this day our daily bread.” And although I like my things and do live in this place and time where the U.S. economy depends on things, for better or for worse, I trust that we can trust God’s astonishing benevolence in ensuring that there really is enough for everyone. Perhaps our job as people of faith is to remember those without access to partake of God’s intended abundance for everyone, while always staying mindful that hoarding and storing was discouraged in the wilderness.
Until next time,