The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat!” – Numbers 11:4 (NRSV)
Those who lead groups of people, or who spend time with groups of people, know how just one person can have a huge impact on a gathering. Committee chairs know that a well-placed comment can change the course of a meeting for good or ill. Hosts know that a single party-pooper or high-spirited guest can break or make an event. Any minister worth her salt has mastered the tricks of raising or lowering the energy of worship through voice and presence and, sometimes, sheer force of will.
In today’s passage, the Israelites have begun their wanderings in the desert. God has provided them with manna, both delicious and nutritious. Apparently rather boring, though, at least for some. Some “rabble” begin to complain; soon everyone has joined in the whole thing goes kaflooey. Before it’s all over, God and Moses are snapping at each other, a whole new administrative system has to be set up, great piles of quails get slaughtered, and a plague sweeps through the camp. All because of those first complainers. A few bad apples…
What groups of people will you be a part of today? Will your presence make the party or break it, build it up or tear it down? What kind of group member will you choose to be?
God, guide me in every community in which I find myself today, and make me a force for the building up of your people wherever I gather with them. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.