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.

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