There’s a Rolling Stones song lyric that came to mind as I read today’s lessons – You can’t always get what you want, But if you try sometime you find, You get what you need. The Israelites were angry and complaining about the situation they now found themselves in wandering the desert. They felt lost, hungry, frustrated, probably scared and wanting nothing more than to be back in Egypt eating lamb stew with plenty of bread. Who cares if they were enslaved. Change is hard and sometimes even the worst situation can feel better as we go through the struggle of changing. The Lord told Moses that he has heard the complaints and will give them what they need – bread and meat. He opened the doors of heaven and the people ate the bread of angels. In Exodus, the bread is described as being as fine as frost on the ground. The Lord continued to provide the manna needed to survive including enough so that they may rest on the Sabbath. Again, what they needed, not necessarily what they wanted. And, when a few people decided to take more than what was needed, the manna turned wormy and wasn’t eatable. God gave them what was needed. They craved more – so typical of us today. We have what we need but we crave more. We may even do what the Israelites did and try to hold on to extra food, possessions, money, whatever it may be trying to satisfy that craving for more. And, really, we don’t need more. When I look around my house that is filled with things I love, things I’ve collected, items that have been passed down from one generation to the next, I ask myself is this what I need? Or, is this what I want. They are possessions that if taken away today by some awful circumstance would it change how I am loved by God? Or, how I love others?
Jesus, as described in John’s gospel, gave the huge crowd that gathered bread and fish enough to satisfy their craving as they waited for him to lead and heal them through his words and touch. The disciples want more. They want to see manna fall from heaven as their ancestors did. And Jesus takes that image to teach them – and us – that it is the Father who gives us the true bread of life, food that will nourish us for all of our life. I like the way Eugene Peterson translates the passage – “Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go.”God gives us what we need – grace and love – and holds on to us. We can get our fill, and satisfy our craving by living in the light and love of Christ Jesus. Not, by filling our lives with possessions.
That is what Paul is writing to the Ephesians – each of us is given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. And, we are to live this life, this grace, with humility and gentleness, pouring ourselves out for each other in acts of love. We are given the gift of being apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. We are each one of these or all of these when we do this work of ministry. When we reach out in love to care for one another, when we support the school, feed the stranger, provide a shoulder to cry on, open the doors to provide a safe place for healing, we are speaking the truth in love, the truth of Christ. Christ in everything – flowing through us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, never be thirsty.” He gives us what we need – love and grace. And, really, isn’t that we want?