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“Seeing Beyond Our Grumbling”

Opening Prayer:

Lord, who lifts us up, reside in our hearts today. Help us to listen closely for your word to us. Remind us that you are always with us, throughout all of our lives. Give us confidence in your presence, so that we may go into your world ready to witness to your love through our works and our deeds, for we pray these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Scripture: (Cindy Intschert is reading Psalm 105 and Deb Thrush is reading Exodus 16)

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

Exodus 16:2-15

Children’s Moment:

Have you ever been whiney to your parents or grandparents?  Have you said things like, “I don’t want to go?” when they tell you that you are going somewhere as a family or that you have to clean up? What about when you are having something you don’t really like for dinner? Have you ever grumbled, mumbled or complained?  All of those words mean about the same word in Hebrew.  That is what Moses is describing the people of Israel doing – grumbling, mumbling and complaining…just kind of being miserable.  The people of Israel wanted meat and bread.  They wanted things to be easier, they were frustrated, and probably scared because they didn’t know what to expect.  So, they were whining and complaining. 

Moses prayed, and God answered that he would help them.  Our God is a God of surprises though and surprised the people.  They never expected how God was going to answer their prayers by sending quail over their heads each night and waking up to this funky stuff on the ground that they named “what is it,” or manna as their bread.  God surprises us too.  Rarely does God answer our prayers in ways we expect.  When they wanted bread and meat, they didn’t quite expect what they got – and yet God gave them exactly what they needed.  This week I want you to look for God surprises and share them with your family, places where God gave you exactly what you needed, or answered a prayer in an unexpected way.  Be detectives and see where God is working where we aren’t expecting it. Let’s pray that we can see the places and spaces God is surprising us. 

Reflection: “Seeing Beyond Our Grumbling”

          Have you ever felt super whiney?  What about grumbly?  Maybe had a nice long complaining session?  You are in good company. The people of Israel had just escaped Pharaoh and were free.  Yet, they were not happy.  They were frustrated.  They complained about everything.  They kept asking Moses why did you bring us here to die when you could have left us there where at least they fed us?  They waxed eloquently about the fleshpots of Egypt….oh we had plenty of meat there…at least we weren’t hungry even if they killed our boy babies….We could have died by their hand instead of starvation.  They longed for what they knew because the unknown was so scary and unpredictable it felt worse, even if they were free.  The evil they knew seemed better than the unknown when they were living in the middle of the unknown.  Does that sound familiar at all?  The anxiety of the unknown is so scary you would rather look back and wish for the bad you had instead of being in the middle of the now?

          I have read this so many times thinking their request for meat and bread was reasonable, even if their whining was uncalled for.  They were hungry and tired and worried.  They had families to think of.  I empathized with them.  One of the commentaries I was working with reminded me to reread what they left Egypt with.  As I read about the livestock they left with, I came to the realization that they had meat – lots of it.  They didn’t want to use it though; it was like using up their savings account and they were too afraid to do that.  It was what they wanted to start over with.  They were so afraid they weren’t willing to invest themselves in their own freedom.  They had been used to the way it had always been as slaves and didn’t want change at some level, because it was uncomfortable. It wasn’t like it always was and people find comfort in doing things like they have always done them.  They were grumbling because it wasn’t how they expected things to go. 

The people of Israel had hopes and expectations on how freedom was going to happen and this was clearly not how freedom should happen in their minds.  They shouldn’t have to risk any more of their future, they were putting enough on the line, Moses needed to fix this quickly.  Have you ever felt that way?  Have you ever kept looking back because what you knew seems better and less risky than what is happening….but now your not investing in now?  Your not even noticing what God is doing right in front of your face like the manna because your so busy looking back?  Israel has a future in front of them full of possibility and they refuse to see it.  They are so caught up in what they think it should be what it ought to look like they are missing what God is giving them.  They won’t even invest in their own survival with the animals they have with them… 

          For the first time in my life I began wondering if Israel had to wander in the desert for forty years so they could figure out how to be the people God was calling them to be?  Maybe it wasn’t because they didn’t stop to ask for directions? Perhaps it wasn’t really because they were so horrible when Moses was on the mountain (we will get there in a bit), but because they were simply not ready.  It wasn’t the terribleness of the tribe, but they were not ready to risk their own assets for themselves or others.  They weren’t ready to own up the fact that they chose to follow Moses out of Egypt instead of facing one more day of slavery and now they are blaming Moses for the mess they find themselves in.  They weren’t ready to recognize the blessing of risk-free bread at their very feet in the morning because it didn’t look like they thought it should and didn’t meet their expectations.  They were so busy building lists of expectations that people were failing to meet that they were missing where God was working in their midst….  They simply weren’t ready to be the nation of God’s people yet. They needed to come to know God, trust God and come to know themselves and they weren’t ready yet.  They weren’t ready to embrace the future God had ready for them. 

          Are we like that now?  Are we so busy looking for places to complain we don’t see God working?  Are we looking for shortcuts instead of places where we can make an offering from what we have to help those around us?  Do we look to complain about our leaders or to look for what we can do to make a difference in the spaces we are in?  Do we look at a blessing in the face and sneer “what is it” when it could be the very thing that sustains us and gives us life? Are we ready for the future God has for us?  Perhaps we aren’t so very different from early Israel right at this moment.

Music “Let My People Seek Their Freedom” played by Mike Tyo, sung by Sue and Craig Gamet.

Prayers:

We praise your abiding guidance, O God, for you sent us Jesus, our Teacher and Messiah, to model for us the way of love for the whole universe.  We offer these prayers of love on behalf of ourselves and our neighbors, on behalf of your creation and our fellow creatures.

We pray for all those struggling with health concerns. We pray for all of our church families who are separated from loved ones or can’t see them due to the COVID outbreak, and we pray for an end to COVID.  We pray to the Lord.

Lord Hear our prayer.

We pray for all those who are struggling, especially those in abusive situations Lord.  We pray to the Lord.