Monday, July 23, 2018

Sermon - Pentecost 9 - Mark 6:30-44

July 22nd 2018
“The God Who Feeds”
Mark 6:30-44

God loves to feed his people. From the very beginning, in the Garden, and planted trees with all kinds of fruit. God made sure to provide food for his people. He fed his people in the wilderness with a daily supply of manna – bread from heaven. He brought them to a land flowing with milk and honey. The Psalmist writes, “The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” and in that beloved Psalm 23 “You prepare a table before me.”

And Jesus is the same, of course. Like Father, like Son. He loves to feed his people. So after a long day of teaching and preaching, he sees a hungry crowd. And he makes sure that they are fed. Miraculously so – he provides food for 5000 men, not counting women and children. And this wasn't the only time he fed a large crowd, either!

Our Savior teaches here, as he commands he disciples to gather the leftovers – he teaches his children not to waste his gifts. The crowd also teaches us, in that there was more than enough and they didn't hoard it. They gave back to Jesus from the abundance he gave them. And 12 baskets were leftover. How we, living in America today would do well to learn these lessons – don't waste, and don't hoard our physical blessings.

To be sure, passages such as this show us that God does care for our bodily needs. Even in the Lord's Prayer we are taught to pray for daily bread – those things we need to support this body and life. And God gives us way more than we need – just as there were many leftovers at the miraculous feeding of 5,000. As the Psalmist writes, “you prepare a table before me... my cup overflows”. And as we can see in our own lives – even in tough economic times, uncertain times - God provides for us more than we need.

He also provides more than we deserve. Adam and Eve didn't plant the garden or create the trees from which they ate. The Children of Israel didn't do anything but collect the bread God sent from heaven. The 5000 hungry hearers of Jesus simply sat down and received the gifts he gave that day. But none of them deserved it. Especially as sinners, we deserve nothing from God but sin, death and hell. We don't deserve a job, a family, a house, a car, nice clothes, shoes or toys. We don't even deserve the food that God graciously provides.

Notice, however, that food wasn't all Jesus gave that day. It wasn't even the most important gift. He had spent the day putting first things first – he fed the people with his Word. And here we see the spiritual sustenance that comes from the Good News of Jesus Christ is the real thing. Jesus says it himself, “Let's go over there so I can preach.... for that is why I came”. He didn't come just to fill people's stomachs. He didn't come only to heal and cast out demons, raise the dead, and give people what they felt they needed. He came to give us what we all need the most – whether we know it or not.

And that, is himself. He gives himself to us, and for us. He gives his very life – a body broken and precious blood shed for our greatest need... forgiveness. A renewed and restored relationship with God. And all the blessings that go with it.

You may feel your needs are different. How would you finish the sentence, “If I could ask God for just one thing right now, it would be.... _____”? But our greatest need is always Christ, and God has already said yes to that prayer. All other needs and wants and desires pale in comparison to the nourishment of our souls, the living bread from heaven, Jesus Christ.

But that doesn't mean we ought not pray to God for every earthly need. In fact, he's taught us to do so – to pray, “give us this day our daily bread”. And so we do. We pray for the needs of the body, the physical, the earthly, the everyday. We recognize that all of this also comes to us from the hand of a gracious God who loves to feed his people.

But this doesn't give us the right to be lazy. For the ability to work for our daily bread is itself a gift that God gives us. Work is one of the means through which he provides us what we need. And Paul warns the lazy man, “he who does not work, shall not eat!” Expecting God's provision as some sort of right or entitlement is just as wrong as expecting nothing from him at all, and thinking you are the giver of all good things. Rather, we recognize and give thanks for his gifts – also – by putting them to use faithfully. And that includes the ability to work.

Now, some of our hungers are ungodly. Some of our desires are for things sinful. These, God is not interested in granting. Instead these cravings are forbidden fruits. For these sinful desires we need, instead, to repent. Greed and lust, pride, and over-indulgence of our own creaturely comforts.... It can even be the need to be liked and loved, especially at the cost of our integrity. We have many sinful “hungers” and we must weigh carefully – to see whether what we want lines up with what God's word requires of us.

And Satan would love to fill our bellies with all sorts of garbage. Whether you call it “spiritual junk food” or see it as the dangerous poison it is.... he would deceive us into swallowing his lies and falling for his temptations. But these false foods bring death, not life. They leave us malnourished and sickly, or bloated with a false sense of fullness.

But there is a spiritual hunger that is good and godly. It is what happens when the sinner falls on his knees before Holy God and admits what we truly deserve, and what we truly need! Like when Peter preached his first sermon, and the people were “cut to the heart” and asked, “what shall we do?”

Believe and be baptized, he told them. And thousands of years later sinners who hunger and thirst for righteousness are doing the same. When the law cuts us to the heart, we are ready – we hunger to hear that sweet message of good news in Jesus Christ. We are ready to be fed. And God still provides.

And what good Lutheran can think of God feeding us without considering the Lord's Supper? The same Jesus who fed the crowd of 5000 with bread after feeding them with his word, is the same Jesus who by his powerful word feeds us and then feeds us again with his word attached to bread and wine. He feeds you bread and wine that is his own true body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. He feeds you often and freely. He feeds you with what you need the most – himself. He feeds you and this food gives life, and works salvation. He feeds you with a food just as miraculous as the fish and loaves. A food shared by all Christians, a table of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. In this Holy Communion, he feeds well more than 5000 – indeed, he offers his heavenly bread to all.

One more gift Christ gives in connection to this meal. Just as he told the disciples to distribute the food to the crowd, so does he call pastors today, to minister, to serve, to distribute his gifts. “You give them something to eat”. The pastor feeds (and is fed) with the word. The pastor feeds the flock with the food he has received. It is a food only Christ can offer, but he offers it through simple, humble men, just as he gives it in simple words, and water, and bread and wine. It takes faith to see and believe that all this can and does happen. But such faith is also a gift from the provider of all good things.

So come to the table today. But don't come because it's just something to do. Don't come because everyone else is doing it. Don't even come because you should. Come because you feel the hunger. Come because you believe the promise – that this little wafer, and this bit of wine are what Jesus says they are. Come because he is present for you, here with forgiveness. Come because here, in this place, we find the one thing we need most. And our God loves to feed his people. O taste and see that the Lord is good, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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