Sunday, March 27, 2022

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent - Laetare - Ex 16:2-21


Lent 4

                                                                                      Ex 16:2-21



          Research has shown that people eat more food when offered larger portions. If it’s there, we are inclined to eat it. Do this on a regular basis, and you will, of course, gain weight.  Now avoiding putting on extra weight – and seeking to lose some – is something that many of us are concerned about.

          One of the most basic things that can be done in working toward this is portion control.  You don’t deny yourself what’s being served, but instead, watch how much you actually put on your plate.  There are various methods that have been suggested to gauge how much food you are taking.  The Mayo Clinic even suggests that using smaller dinnerware can be helpful since there is evidence that the size of the plate unconsciously influences how much food we eat.  Naturally, going back for seconds is not helpful. And when it comes to snacking, we are told not to each straight from the container.  Instead eating a prepackaged amount, or putting it in an appropriately sized bowl helps to avoid overeating.

          In our Old Testament lesson for today, we learn that “portion control” is not a new idea.  In fact, that is exactly how God dealt with Israel as he gave them manna.  However, in the case of Israel the portion control was not tied to concerns about weight.  Instead, it was about trusting in Yahweh to provide each day.

          Our text tells us of events that took place immediately after the exodus.  Yahweh had sent the ten plagues on Egypt. In the final one, the Passover, he had killed the firstborn of Egypt while sparing the Israelites.  Pharoah told them to leave.  However when he changed his mind and sent his army after them, God had parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could pass through it on dry ground. The Egyptians went in after them in pursuit, and Yahweh drowned the Egyptians as he returned the waters to their normal place.  In the previous chapter, Moses and the people sang a song of praise about Yahweh: "I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.” 

          The verse before our text says that it was the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.  After a month and a half, any food the people had brought with them was gone.  They were now in the wilderness where there was no ready supply of food.  And we learn in our text that the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

          The people grumbled.  They grumbled against Moses and Aaron. But Moses told them, “Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”  The grumbling of the people found its source in a lack of trust in Yahweh. After all, he was the One who had just rescued them from slavery in Egypt by mighty acts of power.

          Israel is not the only one who grumbles.  We do too. We grumble because we don’t think what God has given to us is enough or good enough.  We covet what others have.  We look at the size of their house, the car they drive, the gadgets they own, the time when they were able to retire, the trips they take, and wonder why we don’t have that.  God promises daily bread – the things that we need to support this body and life. And we think that he should be doing better than that.

          In response to the people’s grumbling, Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you.” Then Moses and Aaron announced to the people: “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?”

          Then the glory of Yahweh appeared in a cloud in the wilderness and he said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’” That evening quail came upon the camp, and the people were able to catch them for meat.  In the morning when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people asked what it was Moses said, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”

          The people called it manna, and God gave Moses instructions about how they were to gather and eat it. They were to gather one omer per person each day.  They were not to save it overnight.  On the sixth day they were to gather twice as much, because they were to rest on the sabbath and there would be no manna. These commands were to lead Israel in trusting that God would provide them with daily bread – that he would provide what they needed day by day.

          God fed Israel with manna – the bread from heaven – all during their journey in the wilderness until they entered into the promised land.  In our Gospel lesson, we see Jesus perform a miracle with bread as he shows that he is the presence of God who delivers his people.  He uses five loaves of bread and two fish to feed a crowd that numbers more than five thousand people.  In fact, he provides such an abundance that twelves baskets of left overs remain.

          Yahweh provides manna to the people.  But the real purpose of this was so that Israel would know that Yahweh was their God who had rescued them.  Jesus provides a miraculous feeding.  But the real purpose of this was to make known that he was God in the flesh bringing salvation to the world.

          The day after Jesus performed the miracle, people sought him out.  Jesus told them that the work of God was to believe in him whom God had sent. Incredibly, after Jesus had just performed the miraculous feeding, they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

          Jesus corrected them as he said that it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven. Instead, the Father gives the true bread from heaven.  Jesus said, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” When the people asked for this bread, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

          Our Lord describes himself as the bread of life. He is the bread of God who came down from heaven in the incarnation as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  Our Lord, the Son of God, came into the world to give us life.  He came to give us life that overcomes sin and death.  He came to give us eternal life.

          Jesus went on to say, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

          The Son of God became flesh in order for that flesh to be nailed to a cross. He came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  We prepare during Lent to remember the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, for by his death he has given us the forgiveness of sins. 

          On Friday of Holy Week, the dead flesh of Christ was buried in a tomb. Yet Holy Week leads us to the first day of a new week – to the beginning of the new creation.  On the first day of the week – on Easter – God raised Jesus from the dead. That is why Jesus could say, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

          In the Old Testament lesson, the glory of Yahweh appeared to Israel in a cloud out in the wilderness.  But before that happened, Moses told Israel, “and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD.” He was, of course, referring to the manna that they were about to receive – the bread from heaven. In the gift of the manna, Israel would see God’s glory.

          We continue to see God’s glory in bread.  Like the manna, this bread is no ordinary bread.  In the Sacrament of the Altar, the risen Lord uses bread and wine to give us his true body and blood, given and shed for us.  Jesus said, “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  He went on to say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

          In the Sacrament of the Altar Jesus gives us the forgiveness and life that he won through his death and resurrection.  He puts into your mouth the very price he paid for your salvation. He applies it to you as an individual. He leaves no doubt that his body and blood were given and shed for you.

          And at the same time, it is the body and blood of the risen Lord that you receive into your body.  He gives you what the early Church called the “medicine of immortality.”  As our Lord has promised, bodies that receive the body and blood of the risen Lord will be raised on the Last Day. The Lord who comes to you in his body and blood in the miracle of the Sacrament is the same Lord who will come in glory on the Last Day.

          In the Old Testament lesson, God gives manna to Israel. He gives them this food to keep them alive as they journey to the promised land.  Our Lord Jesus does the same thing with the Sacrament of the Altar.  He gives us this food for the new man to sustain us in faith during our pilgrimage of life. 

We believe in our crucified and risen Lord, and so we know that we have life that will never end.  Jesus the bread of life feeds us through his Word.  He feeds us through his Sacrament.  Our Lord said, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." 























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