10 Aug Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deacon Blaine Barclay
August 5, 2018
Jesus is our ‘Manna’. In the words of our Psalm today, ‘the bread of heaven’, ‘the bread of angels’. Just as God sustained the people of Israel during their sojourn in the desert with Manna, God sustains us with Jesus who says, ‘I Am the Bread of Life’.
What we have set before us today on the table of God’s word, is a small portion of what is called ‘the Bread of Life Discourse’, found in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John. A chapter that the Church has always understood as being about the Eucharist. It is instructive that as a way of helping us to unpack the meaning of Jesus’ Bread of Life teaching we are given the story of the giving of the Manna found in the book of Exodus.
The Book of Exodus, the story of the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, is like an interpretive key for unlocking, for understanding, the person, teaching, and mission of Jesus. The Exodus story is like a pair of reading glasses through which we can rightly interpret the subsequent history of the Jewish people, as well as the mission of Jesus and the Church. Without first putting on these ‘Exodus’ reading glasses there is a lot that we won’t understand about the rest of the Bible, of salvation history, the history of God’s on-going intervention and out-reach to save us. For example, all of the following New Testament ideas are taken directly out of themes found in the book of Exodus. Jesus is the new Moses, the giver of the New Law. Jesus is in the desert for 40 days just like Israel is in the desert for 40 years. Jesus is the Passover lamb that was sacrificed. Jesus is lifted up on the Cross just as Moses lifted up the Serpent in the wilderness. The Sacrament of Baptism was prefigured in the crossing of the Red Sea, Jesus is the Manna that appears new every morning, ‘like the dew fall’, that sustains us on our journey through the wilderness of life.
We may ask ourselves, how can our lives be compared to the 40 years the people of God wandered in the desert, the wilderness of Sinai? Just like the Israelites, we sometimes worry and complain, I know I do, about the hardships and difficulties that we experience on our journey to enter into God‘s promises. Listen to the people of Israel complain. ‘’If only we had died… in Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
We worry and complain about different things than the liberated slaves, a cancer, a sick child or grandchild, difficulties in a marriage, a growing plethora of aches and pains, acute loneliness, depression, worrying about our children, the future, etc., you can fill-in the blank. Let’s face it, life is a struggle, there are perhaps moments of ecstatic delight, of joy. To each of us a portion of happiness, perceived through a glass darkly. But we don’t need a pop song to remind us that ‘everybody hurts‘, or listen to lots of country ‘hurtin’ music, to know that the human condition has its share of anguish. Even our crucified saviour, is the Suffering Servant who experienced to the bottom the depth of human anguish.
So, what is the lesson of the story of the Manna in the desert, and of Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse? That God is there for us, that in the person and work of Jesus, ‘the Bread of Life‘, God will sustain us even in the middle of our experience of desert, of wilderness, even precisely in this experience and not without it. For how else could we wake up in the middle of things, to our own poverty, our littleness, our hunger for God? How does St. Augustine put it? ‘You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you‘. We are still a pilgrim people of the Exodus, with nomadic hearts, sustained in our wilderness by the Bread of God, Word and Sacrament, the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of Angels, the Bread of Life, Jesus our Manna in the desert.