Worship for Sunday, August 1, 2021

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’ ”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 78:23-29

So God commanded the clouds above
and opened the doors of heaven,
raining down manna upon them to eat
  and giving them grain from heaven.
So mortals ate the bread of angels;
God provided for them food enough.
The LORD caused the east wind to blow in the heavens
  and powerfully led out the south wind,
raining down flesh upon them like dust
and flying birds like the sand of the seas,
letting them fall in the midst of the camp
  and round about the dwellings.
So the people ate and were well filled,
for God gave them what they craved. Amen.

Ephesians 4:1-16

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”

(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 6:24-35

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were [beside the sea,] they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Over the past 18 months of this Covid-19 pandemic – we have witnessed some truly beautiful – even awesome sacrifices for the greater good. Remember the doctors – nurses and hospital employees who worked day after day for months on the front lines of the pandemic? Remember the PPE shortages? Remember their exhausted – bruised faces? Remember how many of them couldn’t even safely go home for weeks? Remember how some of them gave their own lives in the fight against Covid-19?

And think of the grocery store employees? And the Amazon drivers? And the UPS employees? And the sanitation workers? And pharmacists? Or how about our faithful – devoted public health officials? What about those folks who kept our lights on and our water flowing? Very few of them stayed safely at home during the pandemic either.

Or have you already started to forget? Did you say thank you to these dedicated public servants? It isn’t too late. It is never too late to express gratitude and thanks.

They all blessed us. They all made huge sacrifices to keep us safe. And yet – we very quickly stopped thanking them. We very quickly stopped being impressed by the sacrifices they made for us. We moved on.

And yet – these folks are still faithfully serving us and making our lives better. They are still making our lives easier and smoother and safer. These folks are still blessing us.

I don’t know about you – but when I am honest – I am forced to admit I take some the greatest blessings in my life for granted.

It is easy to take the blessing of my family for granted. . .

And I am not alone in doing this. Just look at our reading from Exodus for this week. The people of Israel have been set free after years of slavery in Egypt.

So you would think they would be incredibly grateful. But instead – we see they are struggling with gratitude.

The people of Israel hadn’t always been slaves in Egypt. It had all started many generations before when Jacob – his 12 sons – and their families moved to Egypt to escape a deadly drought. They all liked Egypt so much they decided to stay.

As time passed their family grew so large the pharaoh feared they would try to overthrow his government. So the cruel pharaoh made the Hebrew people his slaves. He hoped lots of grueling work under the scorching sun would work as population control. It didn’t.

So the pharaoh had them work more. He gave them less food. He murdered their baby boys. He stopped giving them the building supplies they needed.

The pharaoh did everything he could think of to destroy and crush these people – but nothing worked. They were resilient and strong. They endured and thrived.

I took the ability to travel safely for granted . . . I hope am never so caviler again!

Eventually the people cried out to God for help. So God sent Moses to demand that pharaoh set them free. But – pharaoh refused to free his slaves. It took 10 horrible plagues and a disaster in the Red Sea – before pharaoh relented and set them free.

After they realized they were really and truly free – they had a huge celebration. They sang and danced and thanked God. With praises to God on their lips and in their hearts – the newly freed Chosen people set out on their journey to the Promised Land. And this is about the place where we pick up today with our first reading.

Nature and God’s creature and exploring – these are great and glorious blessings to me!

You likely expected to hear the Hebrew people singing God’s praises – but we didn’t. Instead – we heard complaining. In fact – they have decided they want to go back to Egypt. Yes – they want to go back to place where they were slaves!

It did not take the Hebrews long to take their freedom for granted.

But God doesn’t zap them for complaining. God doesn’t reject them or turn his back on them.

Instead God is loving and compassionate and quickly fixes the problem. God sends them manna from heaven every morning and fresh meat every evening. Certainly the Hebrew people will be happy now. After all – they are free – they have food – and they have God who loves and cares for them.

For years I took the joy – silliness and creativity of VBS for granted. I hope I never do that again . . .

But soon they are struggling again. This time they complain because they need more water. So God sends them water. Now they have freedom – food – water – and God who loves them.

Yet – before too long – they get tired of eating the same thing day after day and they start to complain about this too.

Time after time – God cares for them and provides for them – but they quickly take their blessings for granted and complain and demand more. They just can’t stay grateful for their blessings for long.

Gathered here today we wonder how these people could be so ungrateful. How could they take bread from heaven for granted? Psalm 78 calls it angel bread! Seriously – can you imagine getting tired of eating “angel bread?” How could they complain when the amazing blessings of God were right there in front of them? How could they not appreciate how blessed they were? Their lack of gratitude is shocking!?!

But before we judge the Hebrew people too harshly – let’s consider our own lives and examine our own hearts. Because we also receive God’s amazing and abundant blessings each and every day of our lives. And yet – aren’t there times when we don’t really appreciate those blessings?

Cars in the church parking lot . . . still feel like a blessing after seeing it empty for such a long time!

Do we ever take God’s blessings to us for granted?

Do we remember to thank God for his blessings to us? Do we thank God for the air we breathe – for the sun that shines – for the rain that falls – for our homes – our families – our jobs – and the food on our tables. For our church? For our eternal salvation? Do we thank God for giving us life?

It is so easy to take blessings for granted (and we ALL do it ALL the time). Or to think to ourselves – if God really loved me as much as he says he does he would give me better stuff – a better car – a nicer home – more money – and definitely a cooler cell phone!

We all tend to take our blessings for granted.

My church family!

So I encourage you to take time this week to reflect on your blessings from God and to thank God for all he has done for you. Take the time thank God for all of his blessings to you. We are blessed! AMEN.

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