Summary: Holy Communion is better than manna because it's packed full of Vitamin F: forgiveness.
Teff. Kamut. Fonio. Freekeh. What are they? Islands in the South Pacific? Lesser known classical composers? Inuit words for various kinds of snow? The answer is none of the above. Gourmet cooks and health nuts will tell you that teff, kamut, fonio, and freekeh are ancient grains that are much better for you than wheat. A serving of teff, for example, has as much calcium as a cup of cooked spinach. And a half-cup of cooked kamut has more protein than an egg. It seems that it would be worth trying to incorporate these grains into your diet if you can get your hands on them and figure out how to cook them so the kids will eat them.
Chefs and nutritionists are always on the lookout for the next super food, but one such food they’ll never find again is manna. You remember what manna is don’t you? It’s that bread-like food that rained down from heaven for 40 years while the Israelites made their way to the Promised Land. It was a super food for many reasons. The people didn’t have to work to grow it. It just appeared on the ground six days a week. All the people had to do was gather it up. It was also super in terms of nutritional value because as far as we know the Israelites didn’t have access to fruits and vegetables while they were in the wilderness. And yet we don’t hear of them suffering from scurvy or other forms of malnutrition. Manna must have provided just about everything their bodies needed.
There was also spiritual value to manna. By telling the people to gather only that which they could eat for one day, God was training the Israelites to trust in him for their continuing sustenance. They were to believe God’s promise that there would be more manna the next day, and the day after that.
Manna hasn’t touched any lips for 3,500 years so don’t expect to find a bin of the stuff at Bulk Barn. But God has replaced manna with an even better super food: the bread and wine of Holy Communion. In answer to the question: “What are the blessings of Holy Communion?” Martin Luther wrote: “These words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,’ shows us that in the Sacrament, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” In our continuing sermon series on the sacrament of the altar, we want to find out how Holy Communion is better than manna. Listen to the words of our text from 1 Corinthians 10.
The Apostle Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians and us to remember just how blessed we are. Like the Israelites of old, we have experienced a dramatic rescue from slavery. While the Israelite rescue was accomplished through the waters of the Red Sea that parted for them and then dumped on the heads of the pursuing Egyptians, our rescue has been accomplished through the waters of baptism. Baptism has opened the doors to heaven by washing away any record of our sins.
And just as the Israelites were sustained by the “spiritual” food of manna, so are we sustained by the bread of Holy Communion. And what about the wine? Well that sustains us too. To appreciate how it can do this, consider closely these words of our text. Paul said of the Moses-era Israelites: “[They] drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). You should be familiar with this true story from the exodus because the painting in our fellowship hall depicts the event. Early in their journey to the Promised Land the Israelites ran out of water and complained to Moses. God directed Moses to strike a rock, which he did and from the rock poured forth enough water for two million people and their animals. The miracle was repeated again towards the end of their journey. Because of that a Jewish legend developed which says that a rock, the size of a well, rolled along with the Israelites wherever they went providing them with the water they needed. We have no biblical evidence that there was such a moving rock, but Paul does say that there was a rock that accompanied them: Christ. Paul isn’t suggesting that Jesus took the form of a rolling rock during the exodus. His point is that the one who was providing for the Israelites in a miraculous way in the wilderness was none other than the second person of the Trinity, God’s Son who would in time become Jesus.
This same Jesus is also your rock in this wilderness. He accompanies you, not just in Word and Spirit, but with his very body and blood. Holy Communion assures us of that. You can appreciate what a wonderful gift that is when you hear about wealthy children who have all the luxuries of life, but don’t have the one thing they really want: their parents’ attention. Mom and Dad are so busy with their careers that they can’t be there for birthdays or just to hang out at supper time. Instead they will throw money at their children thinking that this is a substitute for their love and attention. Well your Savior doesn’t treat you that way. He’s not so busy that he has to send an angel to announce his love. No, he gives you himself (and not just a “piece” of himself!) in Holy Communion.