Sunday, July 18, 2010

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.

Food. Now there’s something we can all agree upon. Everybody likes food; everybody needs food. Today, culinary programs pepper our television screens teaching us how to prepare food, evaluating restaurants and chefs that prepare and serve food to us, and taking us to exotic locations where we can enjoy unique and unusual food. We’re concerned about low fat food, high fiber food, food that’s organic, food that’s all natural and not processed. Everybody enjoys food and everybody needs food to survive, thus food appeals to us both on an emotional and sensory level and also on a fundamental basic needs level.

Moments after birth, the newborn infant’s reflex action to suck, to eat, is activated. The infant’s need for food is natural and moms are equipped with a natural supply of food. And, without food, natural, formula, or otherwise, the infant will get weak, then sick, and will soon die.

Moments after His creation of man, God created a lush garden filled with fruit bearing plants and trees that the man may eat and live. All that Adam needed to support his body and life were supplied by his Creator and Lord. The Lord gave Adam to eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden, even of the Tree of Life, save the one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In connection with that particular species God gave His Word, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Life and death, that’s what food and eating is all about. In the Garden, food literally rained from the trees and fell into the mouths of God’s creatures; Adam and Eve didn’t have to break a sweat to eat and live, all was provided by the grace of their loving Father.

Now, let us consider the catechetical question: How can bodily eating […] do such great things? And, here we get to the crux: It is not the eating, or the drinking, or even the food itself that gives life, but it is the Word of God connected to it that gives life. Consider the two specifically named trees in the Garden of Eden: The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If we suppose that these trees and their fruit were good and evil in and of themselves, we are incorrect and we entirely miss the point. There were many different trees, plants, and other flora in the Garden; the only thing that made these two different and special is the Word that God gave concerning them: The Tree of Life gave life because the Word of God said so. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil brought death because the Word of God said so. And so, Moses rightly warned the Israelites not to forget God in times of prosperity saying, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And you will remember that our Lord Jesus replied with this same Word of God when tempted the devil in the desert to eat and satisfy the hunger of His flesh.

Our First Parents succumbed to the devil’s tempting; they rationalized away God’s Word concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: “It looks good to eat.” “It’s good for making one wise.” “What harm could there be in it?” And so they ate, and they died; no, they didn’t die physically, not immediately, although that process began at that moment, but they died spiritually in that they lost the image of their Creator and were separated from His holy presence. The substance of their eating, the fruit of the tree, really had nothing to do with their fall; it is disregarding and disobeying the Lord’s Word that leads to death.

There are many lessons for us in the Fall of our First Parents, but for now let us consider only the temptation to subtly twist and misinterpret the Word of the Lord. The devil did not speak unfamiliar words to Eve. She undoubtedly knew these Words well, having learned them from her husband and pastor Adam. But the devil tempted Eve by causing her to question and doubt how she understood God’s Word. “Did God really say…?” the devil tempted, and, as the tempting began to work its way into her heart, Eve reinterpreted and rationalized God’s Word to make the eating of the forbidden fruit permissible, even approved by God! Pastor Adam, who was with her, heard the same beguiling words and he ate too. Their actual sin was merely the fruit of their unbelief.

After the Fall, food does not come so easily. One of the fruits of sin and unbelief is that we are cut off from God’s direct holy presence. Nevertheless, God is gracious and merciful, allowing us to receive the blessing of His presence through means. No longer does the earth readily supply us daily bread, but by the sweat of our brows and hard toil we must till and weed the fields, battle insects, drought, and blight to put food upon our tables and into our hungry mouths. And, still we die; for, no earthly food, no bread alone, can feed our spiritual starvation or nourish our souls; still, only the Word of God can do that.

So God did the unimaginable, He veiled His holy Word in human flesh in the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. In Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead and His glorious presence, hidden, so that God and man might once again walk and talk together. Jesus is food sent from heaven for all hungry hearts that a man may eat and live and may drink and never thirst again.

Jesus has compassion upon the multitudes in this desolate place where there can be found no food that truly fulfills or truly gives life. The disciples despaired of their meager providence, seven loaves of bread and a few small fish, that there would not be enough for everyone. But, it doesn’t matter, because it’s not about the bread and the fish, it’s about the Word of God. Jesus took the loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. They ate and were satisfied, because the Word of God attached to those humble elements is what gave them sustenance and life. There were more than four thousand present that day, more than five thousand on another occasion, and in both meals, basketfuls of leftovers were gathered after all had eaten and were satisfied.

Those hungry souls had been with Jesus three days. They had listened to His teaching, observed His works and miracles, and followed Him wherever He went. They were hungry and in a desolate place with no food for them to eat. But on that third day, Jesus renewed the bounty of Eden, there in that most unlikely of places, freely granting an abundance of bread to the four thousand.

So also, our Lord Jesus, having endured the burden of our sin, was raised on the third day to bring us back to Paradise. He now miraculously turns the bread of death into the Bread of Life in this holy Sacrament, giving you His very body and His very blood for the forgiveness of your sins. This free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

No comments: