The following sermon was preached by Niveen Sarras, LSTC student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, November 19, 2009.
RS Deuteronomy 8:1 ¶ This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors.
NRS Deuteronomy 8:2 Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.
NRS Deuteronomy 8:3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
The writer of Deuteronomy is retelling the story of the ancestors of the Israelites and how they experienced God in the wilderness. The writer emphasizes on observing the Law and the commandments of the Lord in order to live in the land that God promised him to give. The writer wants to be sure that the Israelites, who are standing on the East Bank and preparing themselves to go to the West Bank, do not act as their ancestors who did not obey God and died in the Wilderness.
One of their experiences of God was with the manna; they were fed with manna and lacked nothing during 40 years in the wilderness. The writer or the redactor of Deuteronomy is taking the Israelites to a higher level of experience and understanding of God by emphasizing the spiritual relationship with God. He says in v. 8 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that human does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
The writer emphasizes that the world of God is more important than food. It is the Word of God that gives us life, not the food. The source of our life is the word of God. Jesus asks, according to our reading today from Matthew 6:25-26
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Is not life more important than food, and the body more than clothing? Jesus is taking our spiritual life and our perspective on life to a deeper sense. Yes the word of God is more important than food and clothing.
Unfortunately, today, we do not recognize this truth. We think that food and clothing are the most important. In countries that suffer from various kinds of oppression, like Palestine, Sudan, Iraq and The Democratic Republic of Congo, the people suffer from lack of food and clothing; they are suffering from lack of Manna, and the world keeps giving those countries humanitarian aid -- food, clothes and medicine-- as if these items will solve their problems.
Those who are under oppression do not need humanitarian aid. These things are important but will never solve the problem. The people who are oppressed in Africa, Palestine and Mexico need more than food and clothes. They need to be treated as partners rather than Humanitarian problems. Humanitarian aids does not solve the problem, partnerships of equality and mutual respect do.
Humans do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.
Dignity and honor is more important than all humanitarian aid, being perceived and treated as partners not as victims is more important than humanitarian aid. Give the oppressed freedom and dignity and they will depend on themselves to provide for themselves the food and the clothes. Give them dignity and freedom in order to be independent, not dependent on international aid to help them.
I remember in April 2002 when the Israeli military destroyed Jenin’s refugee camp and killed thousands of Palestinians. The people were helpless and in much need of humanitarian aid. When the Palestinians received humanitarian aid from some of the countries that support Israel, we declared in the media that we do not need their humanitarian aid. I was very proud of my people in Jenin when they refused the humanitarian aid because human beings do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. If the international society treats The people in Africa, Iraq, Mexico and other countries under oppression as partners, changes would happen in those society.
If we think that giving humanitarian aid to those people is enough, or going to the church and praying for them is enough, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But to be active for justice and translate our word into action, life is going to be different. I used to hear in the seminaries that I attended that the church is not the building but the group of faithful people. But what if I say that the church does not stop on this definition and the church should be defined as Christ in Action, what is our action going to be, what will it look like?
Let us reconsider the status of the oppressed in those countries; let us treat them as partners and not as victims who need humanitarian aid. The word of God requires justice and righteousness, requires love and peace, requires to treat everybody equally, requires dignity to those whom we think that all what they need in their life is food and clothes.