Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” – Exodus 16:32
What a joy it is to see so many of you returning to worship and other activities on the Bethany campus in recent weeks! This new novelty of seeing groups of people in person has many of us hopeful that the worst days of the pandemic are fully behind us and we can begin life as normal once again. I too am hopeful about what is ahead, but as I begin to start back up my old routines and enjoy this newfound freedom I sense God calling me to pause and remember what he has taught me over these past 15 months.
When the people of Israel were wandering in the dessert after being delivered out of Egypt, God used that time as a formational season to shape them and mold them into his covenant people. God provided bread from heaven for them to gather and eat. He gave them just enough for one day at a time, except for the day before the Sabbath, when twice as much was provided (to allow them a true Sabbath day of rest). God spent 40 years teaching his people to trust in him and him alone for what they needed each day and he did not want what they learned to disappear once they got to the promised land. To help the Israelites remember this, he instructs Moses to save some of the manna to be kept in the tabernacle. As the people continue life in the promised land, they would see the jar of manna in the tabernacle and be able to look back and remember how God taught them to rely on his daily provision during the dessert years. The hope is that they would trust God just as much when they had plenty as they did when they needed a miracle every day.
These last 15 months have felt like a dessert time for many of us. Seeing the world open back up and regaining our freedom to be around people and restart our old routines feels like coming into the promised land. It is good to celebrate that we are coming into the promised land! But it is also important for us to remember what God has shown us in this past year. God has a way of using the most difficult times in life to teach us more about him, about how to trust, and how to be his faithful people. Each of us could probably point to a number of things we have learned and ways God has shaped us in this past year. I wonder, what did God show you this past year?
One of the biggest things God kept showing me during the pandemic is that a slower pace of life is an opportunity to deepen my relationship with God and with others. As I am enjoying the experience of re-entry into a less restrictive world, God is also calling me to not forget how important it is for me to slow down and rest. Even when I am not working, God is working. God keeps the world going. That is enough for me.
I wonder what God has shown you during this past year that he wants to make sure you remember. If you had to narrow down what God showed you during the pandemic to one thing, what would it be? How can you make sure to remember what God showed you, even as the world tries to pull you back into all of your old routines? How is God inviting you to live differently this year than 2019?
Rev. Thomas Johnson