Back in the Day: Our Daily Bread
I have a question for you: Do people have it easier or harder today than 50-60 years ago?
If you answer was easier, then you may be thinking something like:
- We have air conditioning. Back in the day air conditioning meant opening a window.
- We have cell phones. Back in the day we had to be good at hollerin’. We even had contests to see who could holler the best.
- Today we have GPS. Back in the day GPS meant a compass and a paper map.
- Today we have spell check and auto-correct. Back in the day we had white out.
- Today we have a room in our house for everything we do. Back in the day playrooms, gamerooms, entertainment rooms meant going outside.
- Today we lock our home doors from miles away and monitor them with our smart phones. Back in the day, home security meant having a guard dog.
- Today we ca send a message to someone on the other side of the world in seconds. Back in the day a text message was using a pencil to write a message on a piece of paper, putting it in an envelope, mailing it, and waiting weeks for it to get to the other side of the world.
- Today we can make a telephone call hands free while we are driving. Back in the day we had to stop at a rest area or gas station and use this thing called a pay phone…the best ones were not just outside, they were in this tiny glass room called a phone booth.
Today we have social media and everyone of our friends is right within reach through a phone, tablet or computer. Back in the day social media and networking meant meeting up at the park after school, Facebook was a yearbook, Instagram was a Polaroid camera, Snapchat meant drawing on paper and passing notes in class.
On the other hand, if you might have answered harder. In that case you might be thinking that it is harder today because back in the day…
- Kids played outside without fear or worry.
- Flying was quick and painless.
- Remote controls only had like 6 buttons.
- You didn’t have to worry so much about kids watching violence on TV.
- Quiet family dinners were a real thing.
- You had many less bills to pay – no cell phone bill, no cable bill, no internet bill, there were no toll roads in NC…
- Back in the day, things were easier, simpler and cheaper. You could buy a piece of gum for a nickel, chew it all day, stick it on the bedpost at night and keep chewing it all week long!
Well, the ancient Israelites had some similar things to say. After leaving Egypt and beginning their journey to the promised land, they looked back and believed their lives in Egypt had been easier. Now keep in mind in Egypt they were slaves, forced into hard labor and worked long days with little to no rest. Honestly, it kinda sounds like they looked back and forget just how bad it used to be because their presence in the desert was so harsh. However it really was, the Israelites looked back and God taught them a lesson.
In Exodus 16 the Israelites had just left Egypt. They were traveling through the desert and it was rough. And scripture says this:
The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The 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.”
Then 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. ….”
So 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. And 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?” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning…”
In 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. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the desert surface were thin flakes, as thin as frost on the ground. When 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. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Collect as much of it as each of you can eat, one omer per person. You may collect for the number of people in your household.’” The Israelites did as Moses said, some collecting more, some less. But when they measured it out…, the ones who had collected more had nothing left over, and the ones who had collected less had no shortage. Everyone collected just as much as they could eat. Moses said to them, “Don’t keep any of it until morning.” But they didn’t listen to Moses. Some kept part of it until morning, but it became infested with worms and stank. Moses got angry with them. Every morning they gathered it, as much as each person could eat. But when the sun grew hot, it melted away. (Exodus 16 selected verses)
Despite God delivering the Israelites from slavery and captivity, the people looked back and complained about the present: Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just left us back in Egypt where we had plenty of food and at least a little rest. Instead, here we are starving in the desert.
Do you ever feel like that? Asking why did things have to change? Why can’t today be like yesterday? Why does life have to be so hard today? Why can’t things just be simpler, easier, and better. Why can’t life be like it used to be?
Growing up I had everything I could want. We ate potluck meals and the food never ran out! We always seemed to have time to spare. We played outside had tons of face to face friends. Life was good.
Today there is so much going on we barely have time to sit down and eat at all. It seems like we throw more food away than we actually consume. We have thousands of Facebook friends, but few really good face to face friends. And there seem to be more threats to our lives than ever before.
The Israelites felt the like this. And God had something to teach them. Something about life. Something about the past, the present and the future. Something about what you need and what you don’t need. Something about attitude and perspective. Something about God and faith and being present with God through faith.
What is the lesson? Well, it’s taught through the manna and quail. And we might best sum the lesson up through some words of Jesus hundreds of years later:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:25-34)
God’s message through manna and quail and through Jesus is about what you need for today. God is all about taking care of the present moment. As Psalm 118 says, “this is the day that the lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” God wants us to be glad and rejoice in this day. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. This day.
Gather what you need for this day, God commanded about the manna and quail. Gather more than you need for today and it will spoil. Don’t worry about tomorrow. There will be food and clothes for tomorrow. Trust that and don’t take more than you need because that is called greed. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will have its own troubles. Instead, seek the kingdom of God this day and rejoice and be glad in it.
Israel looked back longing to the past where things seemed better and easier and simpler. And God spent the next 40 years teaching them to pay attention to the present moment and be content and grateful.
God is trying to teach us to be present in this moment focused on building his kingdom and not ours.
Are you like Israel and stuck in some earthly kingdom of the past? Or are you caught up in the future trying to build a life – a kingdom – for yourself?
In the US the average middle class person struggles with a present day perspective. We are so worried about tomorrow. We fill bank accounts to plan for the future. We do things today in anticipation of what will come tomorrow. Every part of our life seems to be about building to the next thing, preparation to take the next step, planning for what might or will happen tomorrow or next year.
Think about your own life.
- Do you have trouble falling asleep? Is it because when you lay down a hundred thoughts fill your head and your mind is just going crazy buzzing with thoughts and activity?
- Do you find yourself always turning on music or radio in the car? Or turning on the tv at home? Or can you just be in the silence of the present moment where ever you are?
- Does you mind wander when you hear people tell stories or give lectures? Maybe your mind is wandering right now…thinking about something that happened yesterday or about where you will eat lunch or what football to watch this afternoon or what this coming week will hold at work.
Our brains work like this. We sometimes call it daydreaming. In fact, scientists have estimated that while we are awake we spend approximate 60 to 70 percent of the time we are awake daydreaming, that is, thinking about the past or anticipating the future.
I think this is part of why those mountain moment with God in some serene place where you can sense that God is right with you in the present are so powerful. It’s because our mind constantly pushes us to the past or future. And being in the present with yourself, with others, with God is the last thing your mind naturally wants to do. It’s hard, and you have to work at it.
Folks, I am not suggesting that you abandon the future or forsake the past. And the psalm didn’t say “this is the day the lord has made. Rejoice in it only.” I’m not suggesting that you rid yourself of your entire bank account and forsake your retirement plans. I am suggesting that we must balance our daily greed with our daily need.
You see our heart, mind, body and soul can be awfully greedy. They always want more. More of what happened in the past. More saving and planning for what might happen in the future. But neither the past nor the future are needed for the present moment you are in. You are here. God is here. Friends and family are here. And that is enough. That is all you need right now.
And that is a big part of what the manna and quail are about. Being present to this day. And balancing our daily greed with our daily need.
And that is also what our back in the day phrase for today is about (it’s on the bulletin cover): Back in the day you could buy a piece of gum for a nickel and chew it all week long. That is a mindset that balances greed with need. That is a manna and quail saying: Take only what you need for today. Tomorrow? Well, that piece of gum will be right there ready to chew again! Don’t worry about it. Don’t get more than you need. Just be present to what you have.
Can you place yourself in that mindset? Can you put your heart mind body and soul in this moment, right here, right now. Can you embrace this present moment? Can you sense the good and the peace of right now. Put away the news stories that have you anxious and worried. Let go of the decisions that await us all tomorrow and the next day. And simply be in this moment. Be with God. Be with one another in this family of faith. Be present through song, prayer, and listening right now. And feel the goodness of being together with God.
We are going to have some manna and quail today. No, not meat but we will have bread and juice. Communion is a reminder of the Passover but it is also a reminder of Manna and Quail. A reminder of focusing on what you need for today. Taking only what is needed for this moment. Ingesting that moment into your being through a wafer and juice. And being grateful. Being grateful not simply for what Christ did but for what Christ is doing right now for you.