A Lent Reflection for Saturday, March 11
By Pastor Sally Carlson
Lectionary reading:Psalm 95; Exodus 16:27-35; John 4:1-6
Selected passage: Exodus 16:27-35
Exodus 16:27-35 New International Version
27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you[a] refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
31 The people of Israel called the bread manna.[b] It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”
33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”
34 As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved. 35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.
Are you tired? I’m tired. I come to this reflection - and this Lenten season - feeling much like Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring. “I feel thin, sort of stretched… Like butter spread over too much bread.” I’m not feeling stretched because of some fantastical ring, but because of the product of my own choices - what I say ‘yes’ to and what I say ‘no’ to. I say ‘yes’ to too many things and then I live with the consequences later. It is so easy to get caught up in all the activity of the day and not create space and margin for the Spirit to work in and through me. The desire to say ‘yes’ all the time and fill my days is really a desire for control and to be needed and important - and to do it all by myself.
We are always trying to do things ourselves. Trusting in others and God to care for us in ways that we can’t care for ourselves is a challenge. How can we be sure that what we need (or what we think we need!) will be provided? It’s so hard for me! Just as I have disappointed others, others have done the same to me - we’re human! And certainly God has provided - just not always in the ways that I wanted or thought that I was promised. I am in a deep season of grief over some of the things that I trusted God to provide (because I needed wanted them!) and I’m disappointed. Like the people of Israel I am grumbling!
In the verses prior to this passage, they were complaining that life had been better in Egypt. The words, ‘if only…’ were on their minds and hearts. Now they are wandering in the wilderness, feeling abandoned, and so God provides for their needs by promising manna and quail. They were told to gather only what they needed. Those who gathered too much and those who gathered too little all received just what they needed. Any extra got all full of maggots. Gross. With this literal gift raining down from heaven they were reminded to gather extra so that they could rest on the Sabbath. Even with these explicit instructions they still didn’t get it and some went out on the Sabbath morning and found nothing. Verse 28 says, “The Lord says to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath…’”
God provided the people of Israel the Sabbath as an opposite way of life that they had lived in Egypt. There they lived to work - they were forced to. In Egypt there was no rest, and their food came at the whim of the empire. In the wilderness, they had to trust in God in a whole new way and adjust to a new rhythm of dependence on God. In this season I am finding it hard to turn from the constant busyness and work in an attempt to feel in control - even as I sometimes feel I am stumbling around in the wilderness. In the midst of grief and doubt, I find myself saying both, ‘if only’ about my current situation and also trying to store up the manna God is sending me rather than engaging in Sabbath rest and connection. What does it look like to gather God’s provision for today and not try to control tomorrow? How do we slow down to listen to the Spirit and see God at work in the moment, even in the midst of the wilderness? Lent is an opportunity to pause in the remote wilderness and allow God’s provision to rain down upon us and give us what we need - particularly when we are stretched thin.
We grumble when we get caught up in the past (which we can’t change) and the future (which we can’t control). Take a moment to be still and take in where you are today - in this moment. What do you need to hear from God today? What sorts of provision do you need from Him today? Do you need rest? Fellowship? A conversation? Watch for the ways that God offers you provision for today.
Gracious God, may we be able to recognize you at work in the everyday. So often we are caught up in the moment, in the grief, in the busy, and we can miss what you are doing. Open our eyes to the movement of your Spirit in our lives and in our world. Help us to find both purpose and rest in You, who gives us all that we need. Amen
About the Author
Sally Carlson serves as associate pastor at Shoreline Covenant Church in Shoreline, WA. She loves reading, the outdoors, hotdish (she’s from MN!) and a good cup of coffee! Sally especially loves walking with people as they walk with Jesus. Sally lives in Shoreline, WA with her husband, Daniel.