"Is There Enough"

Rev. Gusti Linnea Newquist

October 17, 2021

"Is There Enough"


Based on Exodus 16:13-21. Three Lessons From Wilderness School.

I am delighted to announce we have at least nine and perhaps more of our youth signed up for this year’s confirmation class. The curriculum for that class is Manna and Mercy: A Brief History of God’s Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe. [link: http://mannaandmercy.org]

Manna and Mercy is a 100-page hand-printed paraphrase from the Bible built around the twin themes of sharing and forgiveness. The curriculum is intended to, in the words of author Daniel Erlander, “help us to look at scripture with new eyes and rediscover how it can become a means of life and grace.”

Our Scripture Lesson for today forms the foundation of Manna and Mercy, which presents three “Lessons from Wilderness School” as the core teaching of the Scriptures, fleshed out over and over again through the rest of the Bible.

Lesson One in the Wilderness: in our fear and anxiety, when it seems there is not enough, manna rains down miraculously from heaven. Manna, the Hebrew word that translates “what is it?” Manna may not be the cakes and cookies of luxury. It may not be what we think we want. But, as the song says, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” This is the first lesson of Wilderness School, the foundation of everything that comes next in biblical economics. Even if it does not look like what we think we want, Gives Us Everything We Need.

Lesson Two in the Wilderness: it’s our job to share everything around so that everyone has enough – not too much, not too little. But in our fear and anxiety, when it seems there is not enough, we gorge on more than we need, leaving others high and dry. And then the manna turns to maggots. Yuck! This is the second lesson of Wilderness School, and a really hard truth of biblical economics. Hoarding Stinks!

Lesson Three in the Wilderness: in our fear and anxiety, when it seems there is not enough, some of us end up working on and on and on, while others live in the lap of luxury. But work is meant to be a gift. Our work helps God distribute manna equitably. It doesn’t take all day. Once the sun gets too hot, the manna melts, and the work day is done. And at the end of the week, on the seventh day, there is enough manna left over from the sixth day to take the entire day off. God gives us rest so that we can practice what life is all about: friendship with God, with one another, and with the earth. This is the third lesson of Wilderness School, and perhaps the hardest lesson of all. Take A Break!

Three Lessons from Wilderness School – God Gives Us Everything We Need; Hoarding Stinks; Take a Break – all to answer that anxious question, Is There Enough?

Is there enough, the ancient Israelites wonder, as Moses assures them God will feed their hunger and quench their thirst. Is there enough, we join them in wondering, in the midst of our never-ending COVID enforced wilderness?

And then raining bread starts to fall and quail crop up from the cracked and parched earth. And the ancient Israelites have enough to eat, and it is enough for everyone, no matter how rich or poor or young or old. No matter how able-bodied.

It is not five star dining, of course. It is not fried chicken and apple pie. But they have their daily bread. In a dry and weary land, when even Egypt seems like a better alternative, Moses has thundered, “God. Will. Provide!” And God does!

It is a question that is ever before us, is it not? Will God really provide? Jobs? Security? Peace? The basic structures of Democracy? These economic times—amid this global pandemic—have forced us all to reconsider our basic assumptions about money and savings and grace and providence.

The truth is, if we are really honest, we would be hard-pressed to find anyone among us who is not wandering in the wilderness when it comes to money. Plain talk about money in churches is, in many ways, more threatening to us than plain talk about sexuality. Money is a symbol of our ego, our security, our emotional rootedness.

The truth is, if we are really honest, we might rather believe God will just make it all better for us if we complain loudly enough, like the Israelites do with Moses. That bread really will rain from heaven or money really will grow on trees, so we just do not have to worry about it anymore.

But the biblical understanding of God’s provision for daily bread extends well beyond a campfire story of miraculous manna falling in the wilderness. The biblical understanding of God’s provision for daily bread more realistically includes an emphatic set of teachings for the community to live by once they have settled into the Land of Promise and Plenty.

The Law, we call these teachings in English; Torah in Hebrew. And in the teachings of Torah, once the people have settled into abundant life across the Jordan, each tribal family is assigned sufficient land holdings to meet their basic needs for generations to come. Enough for everyone—rich, poor, young, old—to receive their daily bread from the abundance of the land they have been assigned.

Torah maintains a special concern for the most vulnerable among us: the widow and the orphan, to be precise in biblical language, but really anyone who has fallen into long term poverty. According to Torah, in fact, perpetual poverty should not even exist. That is what the Sabbatical Year is for: redistributing the wealth of the land to make sure it is shared equitably.

It is Basic Biblical Economics: 1) God has given us abundance; 2) We are required to share it; 3) Inequities must be reconciled over time.

We pray for these biblical economic principles in the Prayer of Jesus. We call forth, as Jesus did, the core of the teachings of Torah, the core of the tradition through which God has ensured God’s faithful provision for all of humanity, the core of the tradition Jesus comes to fulfill by his very presence among us. “Give us this day our daily bread,” we ask. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” we pray.

In fact, the resurrection of the teachings of Torah in The Way of Jesus is not really so different from the campfire story of miraculous manna falling in the wilderness. The miracle of the teachings of Torah resurrected in The Way of Jesus comes from the heartfelt human sharing of God’s abundance with everyone. Which is, given the human propensity for hoarding, perhaps the greater miracle.

By the time we get to first-century Judea, where Jesus starts sharing parables with his disciples about the equitable re-distribution of the wealth of the land, it has become far easier to believe manna will fall again from the sky than to believe the people will actually live by the teachings of Torah. I suppose we could say the same thing today.

Jesus says it can be different. Jesus demands it to be different!

God wants everyone to have our daily bread, Jesus insists, Moses insists. Period. And God knows this will not happen unless we all do our part to trust God has truly given us enough, to trust we can share it well, to trust we can find a way to reconcile inequalities, and then to do it.

Which is what our Stewardship Campaign for the 2022 SPC budget is really all about. In a truly tough year, we will have enough? The big joke among Pastors is to say to our congregations, “God has given us all the money we need to enact the ministry God wants us to enact. It’s just all in your pockets!”

While that sentiment is most certainly true, it is also true that folks really are struggling these days. Prices are rising, pay raises are iff-y, short term job security seems to be stabilizing, but our longer term economic outlook is murky at best, while our long term climate outlook is increasingly dire. It is hard to trust God has given us enough. It is even harder to trust we who are human have the political will to share God’s “Enough” equitably.

Which is exactly why God gives us community. This community, to be precise. We do not wander this wilderness alone, as isolated as we still may feel. In community we look out for each other. In community we check in on each other. In community we provide for one another, not as an act of charity but as a commitment of justice.

We at SPC have a small but significant way to practice the basic biblical economics of our Scripture lesson today. There are so many things we are called to do through the ministry of this congregation to resurrect the teachings of Torah through The Way of Jesus: maintaining and even strengthening our online worship presence; enabling hybrid ministries that can meet in the building AND engage folks at home through technological advances; strengthening our commitments to our mission partners; solidifying our social justice witness; expanding our ministries with children and youth – including NINE new confirmands this year, inviting new members into our fold, and baptizing a beautiful baby on Halloween Sunday!

What an amazing community in this wilderness! What an incredible joy to journey through this wilderness together! What an opportunity to discover enough. What a moment to practice it.

At the same time, we really are struggling. Times really are tough. As one of you shared with me last week, “It’s just a hard time to be a human right now.” And if that means you need to step back a bit from your standard pledge, I get it. That is what you need to do.

But if the campfire miracle of manna falling in the wilderness gives you a new perspective on your enough-ness, I promise you, at the end of the day, you really won’t miss that little bit extra you pledge to SPC. And it will go to such great good, you will be really glad you did it.

Friends, God really has given us everything we need to provide well for our shared ministry. We just have to trust God really has given us enough. And, through us, will continue to give enough for everyone!

Let the church say, Amen!