Wafers Made with Honey

Jesus said, “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will rule over all. (Gospel of Thomas 2:1-4, SV)

This post is the fourth in a series. This series explores how we might leave Egypt –the American Empire and travel to the Promised Land—the Beloved Community of All Peoples where peace and plenty prevail. (To read the full series, start with Becoming a Wilderness People.)

Once we cross the river beyond worldly life and those temptations that would bring us back, we must learn to trust in that which compelled us to leave. But we cannot see God, so how can we, who have learned to orient via our senses and intellect, find our way forward?

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.” (Exodus 16: 4 NRSV)

During this time of traveling in the wilderness, we inch forward, learning to live by that which God provides daily, trusting that the little we get is sufficient.

…Those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. (Exodus 16:18b-20a)

When we gather too much, wanting to believe that we can provide for ourselves, believing that now we have found the way, we will realize that we’re lost—our manna moldy and full of worms. This is our discipline, to live by daily bread. To believe that what God provides each day is enough. Through this practice alone we are shaped into instruments for the Divine.

Paul, like the Israelites, left behind a way of life to spread the Word of God. He turned his back on the Roman Empire and his prior understanding of God. Through an encounter with Christ, he was able to see beyond the reality created by the Roman Empire and the religious practices of his day. After some time in the wilderness, he became fully open to and trusted in God’s provision. He, like the story of the Exodus, persuades us to trust God fully so that we might live a truly meaningful life. Paul says,

“Don’t allow the seductive power of corruption to reign over your earthly life inducing you to submit to worldly desires. Don’t put any part of your body at the disposal of that power as an instrument for doing wrong, but put yourselves at God’s disposal as people who have been brought to life from the dead and present your bodies to God as instruments for doing right.” (Romans 6:12-13, SV)

and…

So, I appeal to you, friends, as recipients of the wondrous mercy of God, to dedicate every fiber of your being to a life that is consecrated and pleasing to God, which is what enlightened worship ought to be. Don’t accept the life of this age as your model, but let yourselves be remodeled by the recovery of your true mind, so that you can discern what is consistent with God’s purposes –what is good, worthwhile, and completely genuine. (Romans 12:1-2, SV)

While the way toward the Promised Land is dark, every morning God provides fresh bread.

And the family of Israel called the name of it manna; which was like coriander seed, but white, and the taste of it like wafers with honey. (Exodus 16:31, QB)

Let us gather and share it. Through the transformation of our hearts and minds, we will come to trust the God of Israel who frees the captives. May we come to receive the grace we need to become a Church filled with lives empowered and sustained by manna.

God’s Love

Baklava.
Surrounding us,
Shining like morning dew.

But don’t get fat.
Take only what you need;
Trusting that One is All.

Join us.
Just beyond the river;
Lilies swaying in a field.

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Blessed Wanting

There’s a pen and ink drawing of an old building I saw a decade ago that I would like to have. I’m not going to identify it more specifically, for fear that someone will get it for me. Wanting – and not getting it – is one of the touchstones of my life.

What is my right relationship with the material things of this world? Ubiquitous advertising and social norms would say that things define me. I had a close friend who talked of engaging in contests predicated on the basis of, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” I didn’t say it to him, but I wanted to add “what?” to the end of that phrase.

Materialism is as pervasive and unquestioned in our world as racism was in the 1800’s. I use that comparison deliberately, because materialism and racism both produce similar benefits and costs. Some people get more because others get less.

The links were easy to see with slavery. The plantation mansion was built on the backs of unpaid labor.

The links today are less obvious, but still pervasive. Our contemporary connectedness lets me see globally, if I choose to do so. A simple yardstick has been around for a long time. “Live simply that others may simply live.” That’s a straightforward message that is utterly counter-cultural and extremely difficult for me to live up to.

More than a billion people in the world are hungry. Millions of malnourished children die each year. I live in a house heaped with things I don’t need and struggle continually not to gain more weight.

The antithesis of my lifestyle would perhaps be those monks who own nothing and wander about with begging bowls. If those around them feel they are worthy, the monks will be fed. But they go through life with no assurances past the present moment. And need none.

I on the other hand pile up wealth and possessions to guard against any conceivable contingency. In the process, I also leave little room for what could be the most important aspect of life – the presence of God.

It simply is not true that I own anything. Everything is a gift of God. Moreover, the things in my possession also own me. Much of our contemporary lives are spent taking care of, protecting and being preoccupied by things we have accumulated.

I have come to see that love is the only thing worthwhile in these lives of ours. Love of God, family and all those around us. Spending time and helping others – exercising our compassion – produces lasting happiness.

“Things” are tools that assist us in being compassionate. They are also burdens, using up the limited resources of our lives.

All of this is however difficult to remember. For whatever reason, I’ve always liked watches. When I pass a display of them in a store, they draw my eyes. A beautiful car, warm coat or new toy all might be fun to own. How am I to live rightly when confronted by temptation? Particularly when I’m bombarded with media messages encouraging consumption.

Wanting – and not getting – is thus a necessary exercise for me, a reminder of who I am and what I’m here for. I know I’m having a good day when I can walk through a mall and think, “There is nothing here that would make my life more wonderful.”

Which is not to say that I can maintain that level of awareness. For some reason, I was drawn recently to begin playing the banjo. First I had to pay for one (even an inexpensive model was a great deal of money when compared to people living on a dollar a day). It’s tempting now to go on the internet and shop for music. Why not? I have the money to pay for it.

But should I use the gifts God has given me for such a purpose? And so I again begin an internal debate, time consuming but necessary if I am going to stay on my spiritual path.