Readings – Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 105:1-6,37-45; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20: 1-16
“It’s not supposed to be like this.” It is a familiar thought for many of us as we journey through life. “It’s not supposed to be like this”, said the ancient Hebrews after their flight from Egypt. Moses, did you bring “us out [of Egypt] into this wilderness [the Sinai] to kill this whole assembly with hunger”? And so, the murmuring, the grumbling, the complaining grew from the worry, from the anxiety, from the fear; it always does. The ancient Hebrews were experiencing anxiety; as our collect says, they were “anxious about earthly things”. They had forgotten “to love things heavenly… [and] to hold fast to those that shall endure”.
As our reading from the book of Exodus proclaims, in the morning God provided for them manna from heaven, “a fine flakey substance, as fine as frost on the ground” that they were able to bake into their daily bread. In the evening quail flew into their camp to provide for their supper.
The Psalmist expands on how God provided for the ancient Hebrews. …a cloud for a covering and a fire to give light in the night season …opened the rock and water flowed…
While they still complained, please note God gave them what they needed rather than what they desired.
We need to recognize the truth in those words God gave them what they needed rather than what they desired.
A story about my daughter Ashley and me at Dorney Park in Allentown. She was 12 and just tall enough to go on their wooden roller coaster. John, her twin brother, was not interested, nor was Leigh, her mother. Ashley really wanted to go, so guess who got to ride along? Even sixty-two years ago they were not my favorite thing, but on we went. Up and down, around curves and under tunnels, and, did I mention this was at night! So, we got on, and I gripped the seat bar with a grip that left my fingerprints on that bar to this day. And I kept my eyes closed most of the time. Ashley loved it and wanted to go back and get on it again, but unfortunately, the park was closing for the night. I did smile as I got off.
While I am sure you may not have ridden on a roller coaster at night out of love for another, I am sure we all have done things we would not have done otherwise for the love of another, for a father or mother, for a sister or brother, for a child or for a grandchild, or for a dear friend. Out of love, we have pushed through our own fears, our own anxieties. We push through our own fears, and our own anxieties to bring joy to someone we love. Out of love, we see beyond the current challenge to a future joy for another. We “hold fast to those that shall endure”.
I am sure you saw this coming. Life can be a roller coaster, especially as we age, yet we are called to push through the challenges rather than complain. Like the Psalmist we are called to remember, and to hold onto the good stuff, the good times during those rapid descents, and those dark tunnels, and those teeth-rattling twists and turns.
And as the ancient Hebrews discovered, God is with us every moment of the journey. At every moment of the journey God will provide us, not what we expect, not what we desire, but more importantly, God will provide us what we need!
And that is where true joy is to be found, to know that God is with us, leading us to green pastures, leading us to still waters, restoring our very souls, even when walking through dark valleys where all seems to be lost.
In everyone’s lifetime, we will have moments when we know “it is not supposed to be like this”. Rather than complain in our anxiety, let us “hold fast to those [things]that shall endure”, let us “love things heavenly”, and let us know that God is with us.
God is journeying with us, preparing a table for us where our cups will be overflowing.