Recently I was watching my grandson play. He was walking around the room with the television remote in his hand, pointing it at the television. Meanwhile my daughter-in-law was talking on her cell phone. Times have really changed. We didn’t have remotes when I was a child and cell phones were unheard of.
When I grew up life seemed much simpler. You only had two or three channels on television to watch. People stayed home more. Everything was less expensive. I don’t believe I could raise a child in these times. Everyone seems to live in the fast lane, always on the go. No one knows their neighbors. What happened to the good ole days?
The Israelites were complaining to Moses about the good ole days. “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” they cried. They remembered how good they had it back in Egypt, eating meat and exotic vegetables. They also remembered that the fish they ate was free. Now all they have to eat is manna. “Yuck!” they cried. They wanted to go back in time when the food they had to eat was far superior to what they had now.
It was more than just food, however that they missed. Now they were nomads, no longer living in captivity, dependent on the Egyptians for their survival. They were bored and uncertain if they would ever reach the promise land that God had told them about.
The people complained to Moses and he was overwhelmed and felt burdened by their laments. They threatened to kill him, so he was anxious about his own skin. He whined to God and said “Why me?” Moses was driven to a point of total despair. At his lowest point he turned to God and asked for help. God promised, again as God has in the past to provide for them. But, God also reminded them that they have forgotten that life in Egypt was also a life of bondage. They may have had superior food but they weren’t free.
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When we lament about the good ole days we often forget how difficult it was. In the fifties we had no air-conditioning, no color television. Our telephone was a party line which meant you had to wait for someone else to get off the phone before you could use it. Traveling was slow and household chores were time consuming. There were no microwaves, automatic dishwashers or programmable thermostats.
In my childhood days we lived under the threat of a nuclear war. We were certain that Communism would take over the world. Most women stayed at home and few had opportunities for a career. Community colleges didn’t exist which prevented many of my friends from acquiring an education. Were things then really better than they are now?
The Israelites remembered the meat they had to eat and who doesn’t remember grandma’s apple pie or mom’s homemade beef stew? They said they missed the “meat,” but I believe it was much more than that. They also missed the security they had. Although they were in bondage and not free, they were totally dependent on the Egyptians for their well-being. Generations of slavery had conditioned them to the point that they had no goals, no challenges, and a lack of community. Now that they were in the wilderness life confronted them with new demands, especially the need to live in faith.
In other words, they were forced to live within a new paradigm. A paradigm is a set of rules and expected norms. We adjust our lives to a particular pattern and system of beliefs, practices and attitudes. To live in a new paradigm means we have to change and adjust to a new life system. For example: Our Association Church Development Committee visited a church in Cincinnati which is wanting desperately to grow. But they are struggling and finding it difficult to afford a full time pastor. We did an evaluation of their facility which is sufficient but needs some updating. Their greatest obstacle, however, is the fact that they have no parking except for a few spots on the street. They own land to one side but have never converted it into a parking lot. We concluded that to grow parking was essential.
We live in a time when people want the places they go to, to be accessible. Without adequate parking people would not go to shopping malls. That’s why they have replaced the downtowns in most communities. Now that everyone likes the freedom of having their own automobiles they will drive great distances for food, shopping and entertainment. I used to take the bus to downtown Dayton when I was a youth. But, youth don’t do that anymore. Our cars give us independence and we don’t have to mix with people we don’t know.
To help Moses and the Israelites, God had to establish a new paradigm. Moses could no longer lead the people by himself. Instead, God told Moses to gather seventy elders for a meeting. God then distributed the leadership amongst them to take the pressure off Moses. Now the people would be led by a team of elders who would have authority. In the future the needs of the people would be met because they would no longer look to a single leader for all their needs.
We have experienced a similar situation here at St. Paul’s Church. This summer our leadership decided to eliminate the position of Christian Education Director. In the process many new and different people have come forth and volunteered to share in the duties of Christian Education. There is a new spirit amongst the people since so many people have the opportunity to participate and be included in the decisions and teaching of our children. This new “mana” has required some adjustments and created a new paradigm. For some, it is testing their faith. Nevertheless, many are experiencing a sense of community and a new found hope.
When God introduces changes we don’t always accept them with open arms. Instead we lament over the good ole days when we felt more secure. Freedom opens the door for new possibilities and requires us to live in faith. The new manna that God supplies us with may not be to our liking at first, but it will sustain us on our life’s journey.