Daily Office Readings for Friday, April 13, 2018:
Our reading from Exodus–the story of manna in the wilderness–reminds me just how fickle we are about “miracle foods.” Seems like we tend to bounce from one miracle food to another–whether it’s acai berries, quinoa, pomegranates–you name it. We’ve all seen the drill–something gets touted as the next miracle food–everyone rushes to eat as much of it as we can–and when it doesn’t seem to make our aches and pains go away, or fails to prevent us from anything from a heart attack to acne–we move on to the next miracle food. It’a a pattern that gets repeated far too often–past generations touted foods like gelatin, Spam, and Velveeta as miracle foods, and you can see just how low on the scale all those things are now.
Perhaps our story in Exodus is the index case of how that works. The Israelites were complaining; God provided them with manna…and as we will see as we follow these readings forward, it won’t take long before they’re back to complaining. By the account in Exodus, manna tasted pretty good. (Coriander and honey–can’t be bad, right?) Yet it will only be a matter of time before the Israelites refer to it as “this wretched food.”
What is it about human nature that we invariably, over time, devalue something that’s free or cheap?
We can only speculate why the Israelites soured on eating manna and went back to complaining. (Did they get tired of picking it up every day? Did they succumb to attempting to hoard it, whereupon it spoiled and stunk things up? Did they simply become weary of eating the same thing every day?) One also has to wonder if it was because as we saw in yesterday’s reading, manna was a response to complaining–and when we are stuck in the mindset of a complainer, we can’t seem to see grace in front of our noses.
The story of manna in the wilderness serves to remind us of two things–first, that the miracle foods in our daily lives might not, at first glance, look impressive. When I read the description of manna in this chapter, my mind’s eye thinks of something akin to instant mashed potato flakes–and admittedly, I have to confess that I would be hard pressed to believe there’s a miracle in a pile of drab little white potato flakes. Yet it is in the mundane and the banal that we often find the strongest evidence that God is working with us every day to be a part of the restoration of the world. For instance, those little white instant mashed potato flakes, when used to feed hungry people, might save us hours of time we would have spent in the kitchen, instead of interacting with the people we serve. We simply never know what common items in our world have value, and perhaps we won’t know at the time we are in the middle of them.
We also learn that these simple gifts are meant to be eaten and shared, rather than hoarded. Manna gets all wormy and stinky if hoarded till the next day, serving as a reminder in the story that God will provide us with the grace and love we need, and that grace and love are meant to be shared–daily–one day at a time.
When is a time you found a “miracle food” inside something, that, at first glance, looked trivial? How might you share it?
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri as Interim Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd and Chaplain of the Community of St. Brigid, both in Town and Country, MO.