About 14 months ago, I joined with members of my church youth group from back in the late 70s and early 80s for a reunion. It was a powerful experience for me and for many others who came. I wrote about it here.
This weekend, I witnessed another, similar reunion. My current church family hosted a reunion of members of this church's youth choir, called the Chapel Choir, from the last 25 years. I was not a part of the reunion, although my son was. I heard about it from him as it progressed through the weekend, and then I witnessed its climax as the Reunion Choir sang several selections during this morning's worship service.
I was struck once again by the reality of the experience with Christ and His love that I had as a youth even as I heard and saw these young (and some not-so-young) folks reliving their experience. It was manna for me, and it was manna for them. (To give credit where credit is due, I am taking off on the theme of the sermon that Rev. Eric Howell, one of the reunion participants and a fine pastor, delivered in the service.) "Manna," of course, is Hebrew for "What is it?" As youth, we did not always have a name or even an understanding for what was happening to us. If we had stopped to think about it and try to analyze it, we probably would have asked, "What is it?" It was, in fact, the bread of life being provided to us by God... it was manna. The truth is that we middle-aged adults often cannot name what is going on in our lives when God is providing - whether we are too jaded or just too lazy to see the work of God, we tend to look around at blessings that literally fall around for us to pick up and ask "what is this?"
Fourteen months ago, so many of my friends were experiencing great tragedy, but fourteen months of experience with the Giver of manna teach us much. One friend, whose husband and son had been killed the year before by a drunk driver in a senseless accident, was suffering. Yesterday, her birthday, she and I talked about her new husband and the joy that is in her life. Another dear friend missed the reunion altogether because she was in the throes of an addiction that had grabbed a hold of her life. Today, on the other side of rehabilitation, she works every day to maintain what we call (because we don't have a better word for it) recovery. Yet another friend spoke during that reunion from her wheelchair. Last week, she wrote, "We just continue to press forward and into the Grace of God. All the little and big things He continues to do to show us he loves us."
Make no mistake. The first will never replace her son and will always miss her husband, the second has to fight demons every day that I will never understand, and the third is still in her wheelchair. I am not pretending that their problems magically disappeared.
But I can just as quickly say that none of the three of them could see, fourteen months ago, where they would be today. They all exhibit great faith in God, but faith is not sight, and they could not see then how God would bless them. They are all receiving manna, daily.
Now, other people who were in my youth group have had tragedies strike during these fourteen months. Mothers have died. Jobs are in trouble. The recession hits Christian youth-group-veterans just like it hits everyone else. We cannot see how God will bless us over the coming fourteen months, or fourteen minutes. When God does bless, we may not be able to put our finger on it. But the manna will still come. It always does. Remember, God's mercies are new every morning.
This weekend, I saw about seventy former members of a choir in which I never sang show up for a reunion. I heard them sing several songs that my youth choir did not sing, and I was struck how God works differently in different lives.
But then, at the end of this morning's service, this Reunion Choir sang "In This Very Room." They sang the very same arrangement that my youth choir used to sing. The words are simple: "In this very room, there's quite enough love, joy, hope, and power for all the world, for Jesus, Lord Jesus, is in this very room."
Suddenly, it was not about how God works differently in different lives. It was about the ties that bind us. It was about the very best of what we know as church. It was about a bunch of kids separated by years and miles and events and histories who nonetheless experienced and understood precisely the same thing because they - we - serve the very same God, and His blessings are new for all of us every morning.
Same song. Same Jesus. He was in the room with them while He was in the room with us. He's here with me now and with you as you read. That's manna. That's the bread of life.