BY REV DR JOHN FRAUENFELDER
What is this? Just about every parent has heard that whine: Something new, something different, is served for dinner.
The child is suspicious of the colour, the shape, the smell. The child looks up at the parent and, with a voice that could curl the dining room wallpaper, cries: WHAT IS THIS? The parent would like to throttle the child with the copy of Masterchef in which she found the recipe.
During the Exodus, the Israelites whined the same way to Moses: Why did we leave Egypt? We were slaves there but at least there was food. Now we’re in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat. We’re going to die out here. Moses’ approval numbers quickly sank.
So God provided Moses and his fellow travellers “manna” to eat. Scripture describes manna “as a fine, white flake-like thing.” Early each day, Israelite families would gather some manna and grind it to bake into cakes. As the sun rose higher in the sky as the day wore on, the remaining manna would evaporate.
Some scientists think that these “flakes” were formed from honeydew secreted by a certain insect that fed on the sap of tamarisk trees. In the dry desert air, most of the moisture in the honeydew quickly evaporated, leaving sticky droplets of the stuff on plants and the ground.
Since the Exodus, manna became the living symbol of God’s providence and love for the Jewish people.
Incidentally, the word manna comes from Hebrew and literally means What is this?
Manna is both the question and the answer: What is this? Manna is the manifestation of God in our midst.
Manna is generosity and kindness; manna is consolation and support; manna is the constant, unconditional love of family and friends. Manna is food for our journeys to God.
God sends us manna in many forms every day of our lives; the challenge of faith is to trust in God enough to look for manna, to collect it before it disappears, and to consume it and be consumed by it.
May we find the manna that God rains down lovingly each morning of our lives; may Christ, the new manna, be our bread and drink on our own exoduses to the dwelling place of God.