Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 10)

Luke 19:41-48; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Jeremiah 8:4-12

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
On the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Temple Mount, stands a small, teardrop shaped church called Dominus Flevit, a Latin name meaning “The Lord Wept.” From that location, near ancient tombs and the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord Jesus wept as He gazed upon Jerusalem and the temple because His people did not know, they did not recognize, the time of their visitation.
It was Palm Sunday. Jesus rode on a colt, a young unbroken donkey. As He descended from the Mount of Olives the crowds received Him as their Messianic King, laying down their cloaks before Him and waving palm branches in the air shouting, “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord!” But, they praised Him for all the wrong reasons. They imagined the restoration of the worldly glory of Israel under King David, but they remained blind to the kind of King the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, was to be. King Jesus did not come to set His people free from bondage and slavery to worldly powers nor to restore glory to earthly Israel, but He came to set His people free from bondage and slavery to sin, death, and Satan.
“And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it” – Dominus Flevit, “The Lord Wept.” Jesus wept over Jerusalem because of their spiritual blindness, because of their spiritual deafness, because their hearts were hard and their necks were stiff. They had not hearkened to the word of the Prophets who called them to repentance, but they became secure and proud and self-righteous, believing that they had achieved peace with God by their obedience and works, or because of their bloodline. This is what their pastors and teachers, the scribes and Pharisees taught them. And, because of their false peace, they did not know Jesus. They did not recognize their Messiah and King whom the Prophets had foretold for centuries. And, they did not know the time of their visitation.
Their visitation was very much akin to the accounting we heard about last Sunday. King Jesus was paying His people, His Church, a visit to take an account of their management of His gifts. God made a covenant with this people. He promised them blessing and forgiveness if they would only trust Him and keep His Word holy and sacred. But, not only had they abandoned His Word and commandments, but they taught others to do the same. This was a gracious visitation, for there would still be time to repent and receive true and lasting peace with God. Yet, Jesus foresaw their persistent rebellion, idolatry, and apostasy, and He foresaw their coming destruction at the hands of the Romans. Therefore, Jesus wept. Dominus Flevit.
Jesus did not come to condemn His people, but to call them to repentance that they would be saved. He compares Himself to a hen seeking to gather her chicks under the protection of her wings, but they were unwilling. That very image is depicted in a mosaic upon the altar in the Church of Dominus Flevit. Above the altar is a window overlooking the Temple Mount, but the cross in the glass resides over, not the place where the temple stood, but over the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the place where Jesus was crucified and buried, the place where true Peace with God would be secured in Jesus’ shed blood and death upon the cross. This brings to mind another avian image, that of the Pelican in Her Piety. In times of drought, famine, or great distress, the mother pelican is known to pluck feathers from her breast and tear her own flesh that she might feed her brood with her own blood – a fitting and powerful image of our Lord Jesus’ selfless sacrifice for all.
The crowd that received Him that day praised Him for all the wrong reasons. They were seeking glory and power instead of forgiveness and peace with God. And, in the temple courts Jesus found the money changers and vendors of sacrificial animals extorting their own people, making filthy lucre off of people coming to worship their Lord. Therefore He drove out those who had made His Father’s house of prayer a wicked den of robbers. Still, He taught daily in the temple and many hung upon His every word so that the chief priests, the scribes, and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy Him. This was a gracious visitation. There was still time. However, time was running short.
This was nothing new. Jeremiah prophesied to the Lord’s people six centuries earlier saying, “Why has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.” It was Jeremiah who also denounced the teachers in his day for telling the people “Peace, peace; it will be well with you,” while they were rebelliously disobeying the LORD’s Word and commandments, following the visions of their own minds and the deceits of their hearts. Even then they did not know the things that make for peace, for true peace with God. Jesus, and Jesus alone, was and is peace with God, and He was in His temple to cleanse it, a precursor to the once-for-all cleansing from sin which He would accomplish in the temple of His own body on the cross.
Dominus Flevit, “the Lord wept.” Our Lord wept over Jerusalem for the destruction that would soon come upon her. For she did not recognize the time of God’s gracious visitation in Christ, who had come to bring her peace. Destruction was not what the Lord desired. Destruction was not the purpose for which He was sent. But, they rejected and killed the Prophets who came before Him, and they would reject and kill Jesus too. Jesus did not weep for Himself. Willingly He went to the cross out of love for His Father who loves you so much that He gave His only Son unto death that you might live. No, Jesus did not weep for Himself, but He wept for the children of Israel, and He wept for you and me, His children even now. Jesus wept because we are so easily deceived by the desires of our flesh, by our fallen reason, and by the devil. We so easily believe that we are righteous and justified by what we do or how we feel. We are lulled into believing we are at peace with God because we go to church or behave better than others. But, if our peace is not in Christ, and in Christ alone, then we have a false peace, which is no peace at all. The Lord has visited His people in the Messiah Jesus, in humility, mercy, and compassion. Repent; be turned, and find true Peace with God in Jesus.
For, the Lord is visiting you, His people, now in His faith-creating, forgiveness-giving, and life-bestowing Word, Baptism, Absolution, and Supper. And the Lord will visit His people once again in power and great glory, and then every eye will see Him, and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father. He has come. He comes. And, He is coming. Therefore, cleanse the temple of your soul from all self-righteousness, from trust in money and worldly possessions, from whatever idols you have created for yourself and submitted yourself to. For, today you stand in His forgiveness, at peace with God through Jesus Christ. He is unchanging, faithful, and true; He will never leave you or forsake you or break His covenant promise with you. Only you can reject Him, for He will not, and He cannot reject you.
And, His gracious visitation amongst you now is for the purpose that your faith would be renewed and strengthened and that you would be preserved in His parousia, His presence and His gracious visitation this day, and every day, until He reveals Himself in glory for all to see and know. For, the peace that He brings to you, the peace that He is for you, is not a light peace, peace as the world gives, but it is true peace, peace with God who, in and through Jesus, is not your enemy and judge, but your loving Father who graciously gives you all things needful for your body, life, and soul. You are members of His body of which He is the head. You are blocks in the walls of His holy temple of which He is the cornerstone and foundation. Your Lord Jesus was torn down in your death so that not one stone was left standing upon another, and He was raised again on the third day to life that never ends. He is present for you now in this house of prayer. His gates are open and His feast is prepared. Come and eat at His banquet and know His peace.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 9)

Luke 16:1-13; 1 Corinthians 10:6-13; 2 Samuel 22:26-34

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
So, it appears that in today’s Gospel reading Jesus commends dishonesty, or at least a “by all means necessary,” “whatever it takes,” “get ‘er done” sort of pragmatism having little concern for moral righteousness. Afterall, the protagonist in His little tale is a dishonest manager of someone else’s money who, to serve his own interests and to save his own skin under-collected from his master’s debtors, essentially robbing his master of the wealth he was hired to manage and protect. That’s the way it appears, but is that truly what our Lord is doing?
No, our Lord Jesus is not commending dishonesty. However, He is making a strong point: We can be quite shrewd and wise in managing our worldly goods, which are unrighteous and passing away, to profit us. Are we, in contrast, so shrewd and wise in managing the spiritual things that are righteous and do not pass away? You remember our Lord’s teaching: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” This is the very same teaching! Your Lord Jesus is calling you to take account of what your treasure truly is and where your heart truly is: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The dishonest manager was desperate. He was very much aware of his perilous situation and that he had no hope for saving himself by his own means. Therefore, he was shrewd, he was wise, in doing what was necessary to secure help for himself by means of someone else’s wealth, good will, charity, and grace. He slashed the debts of his master’s debtors. He spent his master’s money – which is dishonest in terms of worldly wisdom and righteousness. Nevertheless, it was a shrewd plan for one in dire desperation. For, you see, that is problem with us spiritually: We do not truly recognize, believe, or confess how desperate our true spiritual condition really is. If we did, we would be just as shrewd to secure help for ourselves spiritually and eternally. But, the truth is that we do not: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.”
We take God’s grace for granted. We take our Lord Jesus for granted. We think that because He died for us and was raised that we can do whatever we want, live however we want, and tell others its ok to live however they want because God has forgiven us all in Jesus no matter what. But, that’s a damned lie! That’s what Satan wants us to believe. And, on a day we cannot know, the Master will return and we will be called to give an account of our management: “What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management.” Now is the time to take account of your management of all the Lord has blessed you with: your wealth, your possessions, your health, even your life. These are all the LORD’s, and you have been entrusted with the management of these unrighteous things, this mammon, that is passing away. “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”
It is with the merciful that the LORD is merciful. It is with the blameless that the LORD is blameless. It is with the purified that the LORD deals purely. And, it is the humble that the LORD saves. Indeed, mercy, blamelessness, purity, and humility are among some of the most important gifts you have been given management and stewardship of. But the eyes of the LORD are upon the haughty to bring them down. We must not put Christ to the test by squandering our heavenly Father’s possessions in selfishness and sin. The Old Testament provides us countless examples of those who desired evil and engaged in idolatry, sexual immorality, and grumbling and experienced the Father’s wrath against their sin.  “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
Yes, the end of the ages has come. St. Paul penned those words in the middle of the first century, but they are no less true today. The day of accounting is coming, if not today, then tomorrow. No servant can serve two masters. Take account: What master are you serving by your management? You cannot serve God and mammon, money, worldly wealth and possessions, your health, your life. If you think you stand secure, take account of where your security comes from? Does it come from your fear, love, and trust in the LORD, or does it come from your love and trust in worldly things? What do you truly treasure? Where does your heart reside? When your worldly possessions are at risk, when you are tempted to fear that you do not have enough and might lose what you have, when illness afflicts your health, your body, and your life, and the lives of those you love, remember that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptationHe will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.”
Did you catch that – with the temptationthat you may be able to endure it? Do not believe that there is a way around temptation, a way around suffering, a way around the cross. Jesus never promised that. In fact, Jesus promised you precisely the opposite: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first.” “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” These temptations are a test of your management, a test of where and in whom you truly place your fear, love, and trust. Indeed, they are little, blessed accountings that you might repent and return to the LORD whose way is perfect, whose Word proves true.
As the dishonest manager was shrewd in using oil and wheat to provide for his earthly welfare, so also do these earthly elements aid us when pressed into heavenly use in the anointing of baptism and the wheat of the Lord’s Supper. Those who have the Sacraments will have an eternal home when their earthly home fails. These provide us aid in times of temptation. For the Lord is our strength and a shield to all who trust in Him.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Eighth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 8)

Matthew 7:15-23; Romans 8:12-17; Jeremiah 23:16-29

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
If Jesus spoke the words of today’s Gospel lesson in today’s public square He would most certainly be accused of fear-mongering. For, Jesus warns you to watch out for false prophets and false teachers who, wouldn’t you know it, are going to look just like the true prophets and teachers. But, He says to you that you will know them by their fruits, that is, by what they teach and by what their teaching produces. However, is it not the case that what is bad for us often seems the most attractive to us? So, how are we to know the good from the bad? What exactly then would Jesus have us do, live in continual paranoia, trusting no man, but considering all suspect of deception and false teaching? Would He have us live our lives in constant fear?
Well, yes, if that is understood in the correct way. That is, Jesus would have you put your complete faith and trust in no man but rather in God alone. Also, Jesus would have you fear no thing and no one in this life or world but God alone. However, He would nothave you live in paranoia and fear, for, indeed, that would be the fruit of unbelief and godlessness. But rather, believing that our God is not a God who is far off, but that He is near to us, and that He fills heaven and earth,we are to be discerning and cautious, but we are not to be without hope, despairing and afraid.
Jesus says that you will recognize a prophet by his fruits be they good or bad. The fruits of the prophet, in this case, are not so much works, or even outward piety and righteousness, but rather they are the prophet’s preaching and teaching. Does the prophet’s teaching accord with God’s Word or not, particularly about the person and the mission of Jesus Christ?  Does the prophet preach and teach from the mouth of the LORD, or does he speak a vision of his own heart? The prophet is sent to preach and teach God’s Word; his preaching and teaching is his fruit. It is as impossible for a trueprophet to preach and teach contrary to God’s Word as it is for a good tree to bear bad fruit, or a grapevine to bear something other than grapes, a fig tree to bear something other than figs. Likewise, it is as impossible for a falseprophet to preach and teach God’s Word in its truth and purity as it is for a diseased tree to bear good fruit. Such does not and cannot happen, thus you will know them by their fruits.
Still, due to our own fallen and sinful flesh, it can be difficult to discern the false from the true, to discern good fruit from bad. This is especially true since a false prophet will intentionally try to deceive you by appearing, in all external ways, to be a true prophet of God. False prophets, says Jesus, will come to you as wolves in sheepskins so that they appear to be a part of the sheepfold, the flock. Thus, the sheep are not alarmed by the presence of the false prophet and they are lead into a false sense of security, safety, and comfort. This is precisely what a false prophet desires, that you, the sheep, are comfortable and happy in your present sinful condition. For example, a false prophet will preach and teach that sexual relations outside of the marriage of a man and a woman is not sinful. And, in turn, instead of calling sinners to repentance, the false prophet blesses their sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. Likewise, a false prophet will preach and teach that it is not sinful to terminate an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy and, instead of calling sinners to repentance, they bless murder and the destruction of God-created life. This is to say that a false prophet will preach and teach in such a way that you remain comfortable and at peace with your sin, when the truth is that unrepentant sinners are under God’s judgment and wrath. As the true prophet of the LORD Jeremiah puts it, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you’” and they say “‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace.”
Fearmongering and paranoia? No. An exhortation to watchfulness? Yes. How can you tell the true prophet from the false? You will recognize them by their fruits. The fruits of the true prophet are not outward righteousness or success, but faithfulness in proclaiming the Word of the LORD. For, there is no other measure of a prophet than the Word of the LORD. You are not to consider his appearance, his personality, his age, or even his own piety and righteousness, but you are to consider only this: What are his fruits? Is he faithful in his proclamation of the Word of the LORD.
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth,”thus sings the Psalmist. That is to say, hear the Word of the LORD always. Whether it be a Word of Law or a Word of Gospel, hear the Word of the LORD. Whether it strike you to the heart and call you to repentance or shower you in gracious comfort, peace, and forgiveness, hear the Word of the LORD. Whether it be a Word that unsettles you and calls you to change your lifestyle or a Word that confirms you in the path that you are traveling, hear the Word of the LORD. And whether it be a Word that calls you back to the flock or a Word that shepherds you on your way, hear the Word of the LORD.
And the Word of the LORD is very near you; it is in your mouth and it is in your heart.And the Word of the LORD made flesh, Jesus Christ, is present with His Word and with His Wounds to forgive, renew, strengthen, and keep you in the one true faith unto life everlasting to the glory of the Holy Triune God.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Christian Funeral for Lola Ann Keith

Mark 10:13-16; 1 John 3:1-2; Jeremiah 31:15-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Do you believe in unicorns? Lola did. Now, you might expect that from a four-year-old girl, but, it might surprise you to learn that, in fact, unicorns are real. Unicorns are mentioned in the Bible no fewer than nine times (!), but you’ll have to go to the King James translation in order to find them; more modern translations typically say “wild oxen” or something similar. In the Bible, unicorns are wild, undomesticated, powerful, and dangerous animals; therefore, unicorns are to be feared. But, unicorns are real. And, there’s a great big, wild, undomesticated, powerful, and dangerous unicorn right here in this sacred space, right now. Of course, I am playing off of the saying, “There’s an elephant in the room,” by stating that there is a unicorn in this room. What I mean is that there is something that everyone of us is thinking, but that no one is talking about. For, the unicorn in this room is the desperate question, “Why?” Why did God allow this to happen to sweet, precious, little Lola?
Now, there is an answer to that question, but I’ll be honest with you, it’s probably not what you want to hear at a time like this. Why did God allow this to happen to sweet, precious, little Lola? Well, that question is bound up in and with a bigger question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people at all?” The answer to that question is sin – not any specific sin, and certainly not any sin specific to Lola, but sin in general. From the original sin committed by our First Parents in the Garden to the latest sin of thought, word, or deed you or I committed even this morning. And, the wages of sin – that is, what we deserve and earn for our sin – is always, and only, death. God is not the author or the creator of death, but He is in control of it. Not a sparrow falls the ground apart from His knowledge and will. So, while we cannot blame God for illness, suffering, tragedy, or death, for these are the fruit of our sin and our sinful rebellion, nevertheless, it is most certainly true that God does permit suffering and death to befall us, His children.
But, why? Strangely, from our perspective, it is because He loves us: For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and chastens every son or daughter whom He receives. Those of you who are parents know that this is true. You discipline your children because you love them, not because you hate them. Sometimes you cause them pain, sometimes you make them to drink medicine that tastes bitter, not because you hate them and want to hurt them, but because you love them and want only what is best for them and to protect them from true danger and harm. So, the LORD uses the sinful brokenness in this world, and that which we ourselves contribute daily to it, ultimately, to undo the devil’s schemes and to deliver His children, not around death, but rather through it, into life that cannot die.
In order to do this, God had to become one of us and suffer and die as one of us. God so loved the world in this way: He gave His only Son into death on the cross so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Because His children share in flesh and blood, God Himself became flesh and blood, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Because there is no way around sin and its wage of death, the sinless one Jesus died for all, thus destroying the power of death. Now, for all who believe in Him, who trust in Him for forgiveness and salvation, death cannot hold them, but Jesus will raise them up to everlasting life on the Last Day.
The Lord has seen fit to call precious Lola home. We do not, we cannot, know why. But, we trust in Him and in His love and in His word of promise that He will raise her up on the Last Day, and that we will see her again with our own flesh and blood eyes, hear her voice with our own flesh and blood ears, and hug her with our own flesh and blood arms. And, even now, in the midst of grief, sorrow, and tears, we are comforted that Lola is with Jesus, safe from sorrow, pain, suffering, and death, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as Lola, says Jesus, for she received it freely, as a child, in childlike faith, as a free and perfect gift of God’s grace, and grace alone. Indeed, Jesus says, all who would enter His kingdom must have faith like that of a little child like Lola. What kind of faith is that? Simple trust. That is it. Childlike faith trusts Jesus and His Word, even when eyes and ears and human reason suggest otherwise. I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, trusting only Thee; trusting Thee for full salvation great and free. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones, to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong.
Precious Lola learned about Jesus from Mom, Sarah, and from Grandma, Kathy, and many others, but she also learned about Jesus from brother, Lucas, who loved to give her advice about how to act in preschool chapel: “Now, you have to behave. Be quiet. Sit still.” Lucas would sing out, “Who built the ark?” to which Lola would sing in response, “Noah! Noah!” And Lucas would tell Lola stories from the Bible. At chapel, all the preschool children sit in that first pew right over there. There Lola sat quietly and learned about the life, teaching, and miracles of Jesus, the Lord’s Prayer, Luther’s Morning Prayer, how to live as a child of God, and several simple hymns about God and Jesus, three of which we are singing this morning. Let us give thanks to God for all the Christian people He put in Lola’s young life. And, thanks be to God for St. John Lutheran Preschool and Miss Melissa and Miss Lisa and chapel, through whom Lola learned and came to know her Lord Jesus even more fully. Lola believed and confessed Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Lola told others about Jesus. Lola, a precious little child had her childlike faith in Jesus, and now Lola is with Jesus in His kingdom. Thanks be to God for His love and mercy to Lola, that He keeps His promises in and because of His Son Jesus, Lola’s Savior, and the Savior of us all.
We know where Lola is. We know that she is safe. We know that we will see her again. We know this, not because we can see it, explain it, or understand it, but we know this because the Lord has promised it, and He who has died and has risen victorious over death and the devil keeps His promises. Yet, still, we miss Lola desperately. We miss her beautiful face, her sweet smile, and her sparkling eyes. We miss her painted nails, braided hair, and ballerina dresses which she wore as she mucked horse stalls and cared for her pony Beauty Girl, her stallion Henry Unicorn, and as she fed Peppa Pig. Lola was a little redneck farm girl hiding a diva underneath, and a saint underneath that. And we will miss her when we celebrate her favorite holiday Christmas, with all its sparkling lights, and when we eat cupcakes with shiny sprinkles or chocolate of any kind.
The LORD knew Lola when He knit her together in her mother’s womb. The LORD wrote Lola’s name in His Book of Life, which is Jesus. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, called His little lamb Lola by name. Lola believed in Jesus and trusted in Jesus. Jesus knew the number of Lola’s days when there were yet none of them – days she now enjoys without number, that have no end. As hard as it may be to say in our time of grief, we must confess, we should not so much want Lola back as to be with her where she is. That, too, our LORD has promised in Jesus Christ, who loved His Father so much that He loved Lola, and He loved you, and He loved all the world that He laid down His own sinless, holy, righteous, and innocent life into death to have you as His own. Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is with you always, and nothing can separate you from His love.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

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.
In paradise, the LORD provided everything our First Parents needed for their bodies and lives. They didn’t have to work to eat, but “out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” Yet, Satan tempted them to think that paradise a barren wilderness, and that God was holding out on them. The LORD had forbidden them only one thing, to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. To that tree and its fruit the LORD attached this curse, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” The curse was death, not because the tree was bad or evil, but because of the LORD’s command to not eat of its fruit. It was not the fruit that brought death, but it was sinful rebellion against the LORD’s holy, righteous, and life-giving word.
God wasn’t holding out on them. That was sinful pride, jealousy, and greed already at work in them even before they took the first bite. St. James explains in his epistle, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Our fallen, sinful desire blinds us to what is truly good, but we regularly call evil things good, and good things evil. Thus, at the Feeding of the 5000 and then again at the Feeding of the 4000, all that the disciples and the crowds could see was their hunger and need, their poverty and lack of resources to satisfy their hunger and need. Although the Lord was with them, although He had already demonstrated for them in the Feeding of the 5000 that He knew their need and would satisfy them, they grumbled, lost hope, and despaired. They did not believe, or they forgot, that the Lord is good and merciful, perhaps believing Him unable to help, or unwilling, but most likely they were so preoccupied with their need and despair that they didn’t consider Him at all.
Feeding stories abound in the Holy Scriptures. The LORD fed our First Parents in the Garden. The LORD provided food for Israel in Egypt during the seven-year famine. The LORD fed the children of Israel in the wilderness with manna and quail for forty years. The Passover was a meal of remembrance of the LORD’s gracious providence and deliverance. Jesus’ ministry was marked by meals, invoking the wrath of the scribes and Pharisees concerning whom Jesus ate and drank with. Many of Jesus’ miracles involved food and drink, from the Wedding at Cana, to the feedings of the 5000 and the 4000, to the Last Supper, to Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to His disciples where He ate bread and made them breakfast by the Sea of Galilee. Food is a fundamental sign of God’s providence, that He knows and cares about our needs, and that He graciously provides for all of our needs of body and life. The problem is that, because of our sin, we do not often appreciate what He provides us, we sometimes even consider His good gifts to be evil, while we fill and satisfy ourselves and our sinful desires with what is truly evil. You will remember when the children of Israel grumbled against the LORD and His providence saying, “there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” They were like children standing before a pantry full of food crying, “There’s nothing to eat!” So too do we take the LORD’s gracious providence for granted and often consider the good things He provides for us to be bad, even evil.
Want and weakness, meagerness, and need come in many forms. Perhaps hunger is chief, but there is also the weakness of the flesh when sickness and disease afflict us, and there is grief and mourning and the loss of independence, be it physical or financial, or at the loss of those we love when the wage of the garden’s curse is finally paid out in full. Our Lord’s miraculous feedings are a reminder to us that His word and promise to us remains true despite what we think, see, or feel. Indeed, they are a reminder to us that we are in bondage to sin, that our eyes, ears, reason, and all our senses are not to be trusted completely, for they often deceive us and are open to Satan’s lies and deceptions: “Did God really say?” “You will not surely die.”
Take note, however, that Jesus knew their need: “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” Jesus knows your need. God knows your need. No matter how needy you believe yourself to be, no matter how desperate you believe your situation to be, do not forget, and do not be deceived: The LORD knows your need, and His promise remains true to you, despite what you see, think, or feel. And, He will use the things you already have, meager as they may be, along with faith to satisfy you, to provide you what you need, which most likely will be different than what you think you want.
The Lord’s Supper we celebrate and receive together each Lord’s Day is an ongoing and living reminder of our Lord’s gracious providence. In, with, and under the humble and foolish forms of tasteless bread and inexpensive wine, our Lord provides us with so much more than food for the body, but also complete and total sustenance for our souls, forgiveness of sins, salvation, and immortality in Jesus Christ. More than that, the LORD provides abundantly more: Twelve baskets of leftovers in the Feeding of the 5000, seven in the Feeding of the 4000. With the LORD there is always more. As He fills you to the brim with His blessing, even so He keeps on pouring so that you overflow with His blessings, that you might be a blessing to others, promising that with the amount you give, so will it will be measured back to you. Come, eat and drink and be satisfied. The LORD graciously provides you with what you need. May what you want, what you desire, be conformed to what the LORD wills, and not the other way around, and the LORD will bless you and make you a rich blessing to others to the glory of His Name.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.