Sunday, August 7, 2011

Homily for The Seventh Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 7)


Mark 8:1-9; Romans 6:19-23; Genesis 2:7-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Part of the curse that Adam brought upon himself, his children, and the entire world when he rebelled against God and sinned was that the earth would no longer provide sustenance freely and naturally apart from man’s burdensome labor and toil. Where, in the beginning, “the LORD God made to spring up out of the ground every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food,” after the fall, the ground was cursed in Adam’s sin so that it produced thorns and thistles so that, in pain, toil, and sweat, man was forced to till the ground and to strive against nature in order to eat his daily bread. And yet, despite all his toil, labor, pain, and sweat, the bread that man produces cannot give true and lasting life, but, like the widow at Zarephath and her son, a man can only expect to work hard, eat his daily bread, and then die. It’s like the old coal mining folk song says: You load sixteen tons, what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go; I owe my soul to the company store. For all our striving, for all our toil, for all our pain, sweat, and labor, what do we get? We get what we deserve. We get what we have earned. We live another day, we get older, and we die. For, the wages of sin, what we earn, what we merit for our sin, is death, and man cannot and does not live by bread alone.

Four thousand years later, our Lord Jesus came to break Adam’s curse. He was born in Bethlehem, which means the house of bread, David’s town of Messianic promise. He came as our Bread King to graciously provide men with bread that leads to life, true and lasting life, bread which a man may eat and truly live. For, Jesus is the bread made not by human hands which sustained the children of Israel forty years in the wilderness of sin. And, Jesus is the widow’s meal and oil that was never depleted. And, Jesus is the bread that satisfies countless multitudes, four thousand today, five thousand tomorrow, with grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness that they did not deserve, or earn, or merit, because He has compassion upon humanity and sacrificially laid down His life for men. And Jesus is the pure and holy Passover Bread having not the leaven of sin. He is food for the journey, our exodus out of this world and life of sin into true and eternal life in His sacrificial death and resurrection.

For Jesus bore our sixteen tons of sin upon the cross. Throughout His life and ministry He sowed His seed everywhere He could, regardless of the condition of men’s hearts, and He sent His disciples and apostles to do the same to the ends of the earth that, when He returns for the harvest, the barns of heaven might be filled with precious wheat.

In the miracle of the Feeding of the 4,000, and then again in the Feeding of the 5,000, Jesus provides a sign that He is the undoing of Adam’s curse. In Jesus, men will eat and live without toil, pain, and death. In Jesus, men will eat bread and live. In Jesus, the wilderness is again a garden and He is the very Tree of Life. No one who comes to Him will be turned away. All who eat the bread of His flesh will live. No one who dies in Him will die eternally, but he will be raised in a resurrection like His to eternal life.

In these days there are great crowds of people, surrounded by food, who have nothing to eat and are literally starving to death. Our cupboards and refrigerators are filled with plenty, and yet we are starving for the things our bodies truly need. This is true physically and biologically, and even more this is true spiritually. In this great and prosperous nation where the individual is god and individual choice is the altar at which this god is worshipped, we labor and toil and purchase the things that we falsely believe give us life, prosperity, and happiness. But, in the end we still die. Indeed, we die a little more each and every day. With each and every potato chip and pizza slice we consume we draw a little closer to death. Though we are fat and obese, though our homes are filled with luxuries and material goods, we are dying, we are literally starving to death.

Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they had been with Him for three days and they had nothing to eat. The people were like children who grumble and complain when vegetables and nutritious foods are served to them that they have nothing to eat. They had been eating all the wrong things and searching for all the wrong things to eat even while they had the life-giving Bread from Heaven in their midst. Perhaps you are not so unlike the children of Israel, searching for food and life in all the wrong places, when right here, in your very midst is the Bread of Life, Jesus, the Holy One of Israel. He has had compassion for you and He has allowed His precious body to be broken that you may eat of His flesh and drink of His blood and be satisfied and live. More than that, He will provide for you in superabundance that there will always be more than you need so that others may eat and live too. For, the life you live in Him is His life. It is a free gift to you like the fruit of Eden for which you do not labor, toil, and sweat and by which you will not die but will live eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I know that your flesh desires the things that lead to death. That is because it was conceived and born in sin and death and it wants nothing to do with true and eternal life. Your own flesh lies to you and deceives you so that you desire and pursue things that are bad for you and that serve only you and your selfish, fleshly desires. But you have been born again in Holy Baptism. You live a new life in Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the watery womb of the Church. And you are not alone, you are no longer an individual, but you are part of a new family, the one body of Christ, His Holy Bride, the Church. There is no place for individualism and selfishness in the body of Christ – such a cell in the body would be a cancer – but the thought, love, and compassion of each member is for the other members, that is, for the body. In this way, the new life of Christ in the Church is like Holy Marriage as husband and wife die to themselves and live to Christ as one flesh.

In Holy Baptism you were called out into the wilderness, away from the fallen trappings of this world which bring only death, and there you drowned and died with Jesus. But there too you were raised with Jesus to new life and you were returned to the world to live in the world, but not of the world, to be a leaven of mercy, love, compassion, and righteousness to the world, but not to be leavened by the world. And Jesus feeds your new life in Him with the Living Bread of His Word and with the Word made flesh, His true and present body and blood.

Listen to the Prophet Isaiah: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” For Christ Jesus has miraculously turned the bread of death into the Bread of Life in this Holy Sacrament, and He gives you His very body and blood for your forgiveness. And, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit now and forevermore. In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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