Manna in the desert, except on Saturday
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 11th: Exodus 16:27-35; Psalm 95; and John 4:1-6. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
I was reading an article the other day and it was listing some of the anxiety-causing consequences of taking a vacation. One of them was the amount of work waiting for you when you returned from vacation. It does not seem like a fair definition of vacation if you are expected to do all the work that you missed while you were supposed to be on vacation and away from work. If you need to do extra work in order to leave and then need to do the same to catch up when you return, where’s the vacation?
In today’s Exodus passage, there is reference to the manna collected in the wilderness during Israel’s Exodus. It appeared miraculously six days a week, but God rested on the seventh and it was not there. And the people were surprised, even though they had been forewarned. If they collected too much Sunday through Thursday and tried to stockpile the surplus manna, it became foul. This carries a message against greed. You take what you need and nothing more. In a land today of billionaires and families that cannot afford milk, in a time where the careless consumption of natural, limited resources threatens life everywhere, there may be more revelation found here than a millennia-old story about miraculous manna in the desert.
Then on Friday the Israelites were to collect two-days’ worth of manna so that they could keep the freshly received Sinai commandment to rest on the Sabbath. Again, however, the people disregarded this instruction. They went out on Saturday morning, the Sabbath, and were surprised that there was nothing there. They are carrying the stone tablets around with them in their wanderings. They are kept in the sanctuary at the center of their encampment wherever they stop. The Law-giver Moses walks among them. God is acting without the cover of ordinary blessings. And yet, the people have forgotten the Sabbath commandment.
The other morning on NPR they were talking about the new model of work from home. The employer insisted and the employee agreed that if there was to be work at home so that during normal working hours employees could attend a child’s baseball game or take a parent to a doctor’s appointment or have lunch with friends on someone’s birthday, then if the employer had an emergency in the middle of the night the employee was expected to respond immediately.
I imagine many will disagree with me and feel free to let me know, but I think there is merit to this. If the employee enjoys the option of non-traditional work hours so as to have the freedom to choose when to work, it sounds reasonable that the employer does as well. (Take this with a grain of salt since I work in the weirdest sense of that word.)
In this emerging, boundaryless work-scape, Sabbath-rest becomes even more of a revelation. One of the joys I experienced working a time-clock job was that when I clocked-out I was done. In this emerging work environment, however, a conscious effort needs to be invoked to make sure that there is time for a Sabbath-recharging. Studies prove that we need time to rest for our brains to work well, and we need time to contemplate so that our attention span is not limited by TicTok durations so that we can exercise our brain to think beyond simple. punctuated. scattered. mental ramblings.
I, personally, so just me and not necessarily you, find the thought of setting aside a Sabbath day as too daunting. It would become like the vacationless-vacation I mentioned above, but time set aside for more than work, more than proverbially going out and picking manna, is essential however it is to be managed. I also realize that the current trend is to separate Sabbath from the act of corporate worship. I’m not sure about this. Sabbath is not only about rest; it’s about regeneration, recharging ourselves. Coming together as a worshipping community, in the presence of God, I feel (and I know that I may be different than others as someone who has chosen to be a church professional) is invigorating. I go to church on vacation. I don’t think it takes anything away from vacation. I enjoy the chance to rest in God.
In the spirit of the manna in the desert, amid the daily toil of doing everything we need to do to survive, I invite you to join with us tomorrow at worship. Not as an obligation. Not as another thing that must be done. Not as work. But as a blessed opportunity to be recharged.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Southern New England Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
Faith, love and chitchat.
Children Sunday School 9:30-10:30am
Nursery care available during worship
Make a single or recurring contribution by clicking here