August 1, 2021
Rev. Scott Landis
The title for my sermon today came to me immediately after reading the scripture passages you heard just moments ago. But the more I thought about it, I realized this word – Enough – can be used in several different ways.
Perhaps you’ve heard yourself use the word with these differing emphases as well. Like when the waiter comes to offer you a dessert menu at your favorite restaurant and – and, even though you’ve seen the dessert cart go by several times during the meal – you realize, “Whew, I’ve had enough.”
Or when you’ve had one of “THOSE” days: the kids have been fighting nonstop, the dog is sick, you just received news from the IRS that you owe another $2,000 in taxes, and your spouse called informing you he can’t come home for another week – and you shout, “Enough!”
Or when you’ve invited some folks over to dinner whom you don’t know very well. You’ve worked hard to prepare a beautiful meal – but you don’t know their eating habits and they are not family so you worry, “Will there be enough?”
I wonder if this word was in the mind of Simone Biles this week when the pressure of unrealistic expectations forced her to pull out of the 2020 Olympics. She knew everyone expected her to win several gold medals – for her team and in her individual events. Was she thinking – how much is enough? How much more do they want from me? Will they ever get enough?
The word can be used to convey different meanings – all related to quantity – but the feeling in each instance is somewhat different. [Pause]
The Israelites found themselves in a very precarious position in the book of Exodus. They had experienced a miracle of sorts as Moses, their inspired leader, had stood up to Pharoah and led them from their captivity as slaves in Egypt into the wilderness as they headed toward the Promised Land. Initially, they were beside themselves with excitement. This is what they had longed for. They were finally going to be able to return home. It all seemed perfect. That is until the supplies ran out.
The journey took longer than expected. They were weary and some among them were even dying. Understandably, they began to doubt – and wonder whether this whole endeavor had been a big mistake. And so, they complained, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt. When we sat by the fleshpots – at least there we ate our fill of bread. But you, Moses, have brought us out into the wilderness to kill us with hunger!
Moses was no dummy. I’m sure he had some of those same thoughts and so he took it to God. “You’re making a fool of my here, Yahweh. You’ve got to do something. These people are angry. They’re gonna kill me.”
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.” God goes so far as to say, “In that way, I will test them, to see whether they will follow my instruction or not.” [Pause]
So, how DO we know whether we have enough? How do YOU know when you have “enough?” Or have HAD “enough?”
We had a lively discussion about this in our Wednesday Zoom meeting this past week. The topic really touched a nerve and some deep thought as folks ruminated over how much has changed in our personal lives, in our nation, and in our world as we have increasingly moved from a society that focuses more on our wants than on our needs.
Story after story was told of folks in our `ohana who grew up in families that had very little – some were quite poor. But each one recounted how there always seemed to be enough. One even recalled a pot of stew that was always on the stove – an invitation to anyone in need.
But it was clear that things have changed. Unsure of whether it was the result of credit cards offering instant gratification, or incessant advertising tapping into the desires we never knew we had, or simply our attempts to make life easier (better) for our children that opened a kind-of Pandora’s Box of an insatiable appetite that never ceases. When WILL we have enough? [Pause]
A friend of mine tells the story that, I think, beautifully illustrates the difference between needs and wants – or just how much IS enough. The story is of a woman he met on a trip he took to the Dominican Republic several years ago. They were on a self-tour when they came across a house that was pretty run down (by our standards). Kids were running around, and it was clear there was some kind-of business in operation there.
Ken noticed what appeared to be a rubber slab (about the size of a “welcome mat”) draped over the fence by the road. A woman appeared and, when he inquired, showed him how the slabs were made. She would go out each day and score a spiral ring around the bark of the rubber tree and attach a bottle to the bottom. When the jar was filled, she would spread the liquid rubber on a pan allowing it to solidify and then put one slab out on the fence.
Each day a buyer would come along and give her $5 for the slab.
Ken, puzzled, said to the woman, “You have a lot of rubber trees. You could easily make several slabs a day and make a lot more money. How come only one? That way you only get $5.
To which she responded, “But $5 is all I need.”
That was enough.
What a valuable lesson for each one of us to learn. It’s the exact same one God was teaching the Israelites. AND, the same one Jesus was trying to teach the crowds that kept coming back to him for more.
Enough! I will give you what you need. You will have enough for each day. Take only that.
My, how we have strayed from those instructions – and how fear and greed have given way to “taking only what you need,” a reality that we have justified by thinking (if not stating) “Well, everybody else is doing it. If we don’t, we will not have what we need.” That mentality is not only unsustainable – it’s not Christian.
A change is necessary for our world to survive, and as Gandhi once said, We must: “BE the change we want to see in the world.” We have to model what it means to live with “enough.” Ultimately, it’s the only way we can ALL survive.
As we come to the table today, let us remember, once again, we worship a God who promised to get us through the “wilderness” with exactly what we need – each day. That God reminds us that we will have enough – in fact, we already have enough. Taking more than that is robbing others of what they need. And it’s failing to trust in the promises of God.
I will close my manaʻo today with the same challenge I gave our Wednesday group. I hope you will take it to heart as well. I believe God invites us to “live simply – so others can simply live.”
If we do that – God will provide – enough.