The following guest sermon was submitted by ULC Minister Karl J Bernhardt. All members of the ULC community are invited to contribute their own sermons for consideration/publication. To submit a sermon, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Exodus 16: 13-21 and John 6: 1-15)
Manna comes to all people throughout their lives. It comes in many forms. To Moses and the Israelites, it appeared as bread. The manna was given as sustenance in a barren time, a tide over until the Israelites could produce the food that they needed.
The manna was provided freely and with love. Yet in accepting it there was one stipulation: “Take the measured amount each person in your household needs and no more." The request made by God was that all the Israelites not hoard the manna but share equally in its bounty. In much the same way, Jesus, when preaching at the Sea of Galilee, performed a miracle by encouraging all who were able to bring food to share with those next to them. The five thousand were fed not so much by the hand of Jesus, as they were by the spiritual bond between strangers that comes from freely giving to each other. Again the quiet askance was made to not hoard one's bounty for one's self and family, but to share with those also in need of sustenance.
Today, we are challenged on multiple fronts to practice the gift of manna, bread, and fish. In recent months, social distancing and the shut down of businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19 has required each of us to exercise greater patience, greater understanding of mankind at all levels of society and a greater need to give what we can of ourselves to help all meet their basic needs. Also, recent events have once again put social and economic disparities at the forefront of social and legal discourse, in a very violent and public manner. These disparities, hundreds of years in the making, remind us that the sharing of manna, bread, and fish is not just about food for the body, but also encompasses sustenance for the minds, the hearts and the spirits of those so held back by the long followed societal structures and legal norms of American society.
At the sea of Galilee, Jesus asked the disciples to gather the scraps of bread and fish from those who brought them, then distribute the scraps to those with no food. At best, over many generations and much talk, those in the most downtrodden levels of society have been given scraps for survival if that much. Jesus today might ask, “You have two loaves and two fish, will you give a whole loaf and fish to they who are your neighbors to help them lift themselves up?”
We have have reached a point in our collective history when we must pursue where our true strength lies, many different peoples acting together not only to form a nation unto itself, but also with a global outlook. Our current struggle within our own borders was framed by the elite of American society in 1788 when they ratified the US Constitution with the beginning words “We the People, of the United States of America...”. “We the People” was not all inclusive then, and we are still struggling to make it so over 230 years later.
The manna as described in the Bible appears to be for just basic physical sustenance. The loaves and the fishes on the surface seem to represent the same. But if each of us looks deeper, its not about the one time giving of manna, bread, or fish, it is about effecting real and permanent change in personal and societal outlooks and behaviors that lead to the uplifting of all concerned.