Friday, February 15, 2008

Trust Fund

So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for generations to come” (Exodus 16:33).

I’m trust impaired. My beliefs are built on terra firma, anchored by two degrees from a seminary and a decent grasp of biblical theology. Raised with the sights and sounds and songs of the Church as a natural habitat, believing comes fairly easily. But trusting is a different matter. Honestly, there are times when I wish I didn’t have to trust God – or that I could at least pass enough trust-tests to graduate, putting the struggle to trust behind me. But that’s not going to happen.

If we look at the story of the Exodus with a wide angle lens we’ll begin to see that trusting God is never an accomplishment; God’s people never seem to master the simple act of trusting. When God rains manna from heaven the shower falls after the repeated demonstrations of power in the plagues. The people grumble after the parting of the Red Sea. They go out to gather the daily bread after God has turned the bitter waters to sweet at a place called Marah. They’ve been well schooled in God’s sufficiency. Still they are slow to learn. Even after the gift of manna and quail they will grumble again – this time about what they’ll drink. They’ve walked a long way, but they haven’t come very far. Not where it really counts.

The apostle Paul made a statement in his letter to the Philippians that suggests that believing is a gift. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29). Belief is granted to us; it is a gift. But trust is learned. Every day presents us with moments and circumstances and events that confront us with a basic question: can God be trusted? Every day gives us a new chance to answer the question. Last year’s answer doesn’t carry over to this moment. We practice trust continually. Hopefully, from year to year, we’re learning how to trust God more. God is a patient teacher.

Moses told Aaron to keep a jar of manna. Typically, canned manna would rot – but not this time. This handful of heaven’s bread would be kept for generations to come. It would remind the people of how God provided, of how God came through when they thought they would starve, of how God showed mercy when they grumbled. This jar of manna would be an object lesson in teaching trust, long after the wilderness journey was over and Moses and Aaron and every desert pilgrim was gone.

That’s not a bad idea, keeping a jar filled with the memory of God’s faithfulness. Maybe your jar isn’t glass or pottery, just a collection of stories and memories that you keep and pass on to the next generation. What kinds of stories do you tell to show your children and grandchildren that God can be trusted? Every such experience that you treasure up and pass on is a kind of trust fund. A reservoir of trust and faith. What are you passing on to the generations to come?

Faithful God, the question comes to us again today: will we trust you? We give you thanks that you know even now where we struggle to trust. You know what we fear, what we desperately try to manage. We also thank you for patiently teaching us that you can be trusted. Help us to rest in you with the details of this coming day. We will remember your faithfulness and tell it to the generations to come. Amen.

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