Trinity 7
Audio
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Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
July 19, 2015
Central Passage
Mark 8:1-9
Description

 

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

You know that the gospel reading is about more than Jesus miraculously feeding some 4,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a few small fish. Certainly this shows His Lordship over creation and His ability to meet the daily needs of everyone with daily bread. But if that’s all it is, then why stop with the 4,000? Why not feed everyone? Why not end world hunger? Because His kingdom is not of this world. Therefore He does not work for this world but He labors for the world to come. Therefore we know that this miracle isn’t simply a display of His power but is here to teach us about the kingdom of heaven and to feed us the Bread of Heaven. 

Jesus is the life of the world and He lives forever. Therefore hunger, poverty, and all the ills that plague us are really no plagues at all but are fleeting reminders that we, that we and this world needs a Savior. Are not all these things that afflict us and the whole earth nothing more than groans of hunger pains? The whole world is hungry; not merely for the bread that fills the belly but hungry for the Bread of Heaven that satisfies unto eternal life. The Bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. 

Who cares if our bellies go hungry in this world – as we are afflicted with hunger, or even dedicate ourselves to fasting and prayer – even though we confess that we are not of this world but merely in this world, just as Christ is not of this world but of heaven? Thus our Lord’s words, “Do not worry about tomorrow; what you eat or what you will put on. Your heavenly Father knows you need these things. But seek first His kingdom and all these things will be added to you.” Such is to live like Christ. But we chase earthly things, namely money the opinions of men, worrying and fretting over such thingsas if our happiness and contentment rests in them. Even the disciples first looked to money to solve the problem rather than to Jesus. Repent. 

We don’t live by bread alone but by the Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. This word became flesh and feeds us with His flesh which is true food and with His blood which is true drink so that we truly eat the flesh of the Prey and drink the blood of the Wounded (Numbers 23:24). For Christ is the Prey, hunted by evil men for an evil purpose; and He is the Wounded, wounded for our transgressions. Jesus feeds you with the Bread of Heaven and the bread that He gives is His flesh (John 6:51). He is the Bread of Heaven. 

But how do we eat this Bread of Heaven? With our ears as much as with our mouths. But here’s the thing that often derails us when it comes to the kingdom of heaven. It is not so much that we look for and feed ourselves the Bread of Heaven as much as it is the Lord who sits us down in groups we call “congregations” and feeds us the Bread of Heaven. 

This miracle of the feeding of the 4,000 teaches us the kingdom of heaven. The Lord feeds His people though His ministers. Is this not the very embodiment of the Christian Church? And what do the minsters of Christ feed us with? That which Jesus gives: the Bread of Heaven. This is none other than Jesus Himself who says, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and also, “the bread I give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6) 

And we, in turn, having received this bread from Jesus through His ministers, then give this bread to our little congregations at home with such things as the Our Congregation at Prayer or other at-home prayer and catechesis tools. Either that or we let them starve. 

It is difficult to preach this without sounding condemnatory. But doesn’t it condemn us all? Don’t we let this world and the pursuits of this world keep us from sitting our family down – whether that consists of a great many or of just one or two – and feeding them the Bread of Heaven? And what is the Bread of Heaven except Jesus. We feed on and we feed our children Jesus. How? By teaching them the gospel, which is that they are inheritors of the eternal kingdom for Christ’s sake. What good is the forgiveness of sins if it does not flower into eternal life and the life of the world to come? We can talk all we want about sins being forgiven but unless we also feed on the resurrection of Jesus and His glorious ascension then we are not feeding them but starving them. 

So, too, if we think that feeding them the Bread of Heaven is to feed them the Law, that they must be of some particular moral character, then we have not fed them the Bread of Heaven but the leaven of the Pharisees. The Law is good for training in behavior, but that only leads to death no matter how good the behavior. But the gospel is good for training unto eternal life. 

This is why we should be bringing even our children to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Here, truly, is the unrequited Bread of Heaven. For isn’t the Lord’s Holy Supper no less than Jesus’ own sermon to us and to our children? Is His not the most perfect children’s sermon: complete with both gospel and participation? He is the One who says, “Take, eat; this is my body, given for you. Take, drink; this is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you.” It is His sermon that says “Do this in remembrance of me.” It is His sermon that preaches to us that this is for the forgiveness of sins and the bestowal of life. For where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation. 

But I fear that we are afraid of this Bread of Heaven. We think that Jesus will damn us or our children if we simply receive in faith. Rather, we set up traditions that cause our children to earn the Sacrament; traditions better called stumbling blocks. Our traditions – as all traditions not born of the gospel – refuse to admit those among us who are always among us, who hear with us, sing with us, pray with us, and otherwise participate with us – our children; yet our traditions let others think that no matter how much they avoid the Sacrament and the Holy Gathering, that simply because they are confirmed they somehow deserve or have earned the right to receive. 

We cause our ministers to sin twice by insisting they give the Sacrament to those who otherwise never come and don’t show any evidence of wanting it, yet withhold it from those who hear weekly or very nearly every week that it is for them from their Lord. 

Jesus is the Bread of Heaven. We eat of this bread by participating in Christ through His blessed mysteries: baptism, preaching, the Holy Supper, and the blessed absolution. Let us do as that crowd did that day and receive from the Lord what He gives without qualification. For He gives abundantly because He is the compassionate Lord, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, who forgives all our sins and heals all our iniquity. 

 

 

like the question of Holy Baptism – how can such little ones have faith – we have asked the same question of the Holy Supper and so have withheld it from many for whom the Lord wishes to give it, from many who have faith in the words, “Given and shed for you.” It is a marvel that so many Christians want the ministers of Christ to sin against conscience, against the Body of Christ, and so against Christ Himself, and give the Holy Supper to those whom they do not know and who neglect to gather and have abandoned the gathering for worldly pursuits  and reasons, yet simply because they are family and they’re visiting us for the weekend, and because we are more afraid of giving offense to men than of offending God and His Church, that we demand our ministers give the Supper to those who do not ask for it or truly want it. If they did, why have they abandoned it? Why do they stay away from it Sunday after Sunday if they want it and think they need it? Why do they reject the proper teaching of Christ concerning the Sacraments and His Church for those altars that do not confess the Scriptures but exalt reason and experience above the Bible? 

. Yet these same Christians want those same ministers to sin twice by also withholding the Blessed Sacrament from the ones who do gather weekly with us and hear the Word with us and sing with us and pray with us and call upon the name of the Lord with us and otherwise eat the Bread of Heaven – the children of our congregation. I fear we make the faith a faith of knowledge rather than of obedience by forbidding the little ones from coming to Christ because we think they do not understand and cannot know. But faith is not a matter of the head, but of the promises of God in Christ. And we wonder why the apostasy is so great among our youth and young families. Is it not because we have withheld from them what their Lord desires to give them, saying they must earn it by Confirmation and their learning? No wonder once they have achieved this goal there is little to keep them? We make the Christian faith only about being good and doing good and living good, but because no one can be so good they leave the Church in droves and we wonder what has driven them out. 

The Christian faith is about clinging to Christ and receiving Christ and rejoicing in Christ and participating in Christ. We teach them to leave by our leaving, whether we actually leave or if we leave out the gospel and force them to live by the Law. We teach them to abandon the Sacrament by our abandonment of it. We have taught them to trust in their goodness because we trust in our goodness. We have taught them not to pray because we do not pray. We have taught them and they have learned. Let us repent and leave the being good to the Pharisees who have received their reward and let those called by the Lord receive Christ who is their reward. Let us teach our children right and receive them as the Lord receives us. Let us feed them the Bread of Heaven. 

It’s really quite easy. Instead of setting up the traditions of men and of church bodies as the test of faith and faithfulness, let us rely on the traditions of Christ and His apostles as the test of faith and faithfulness. We shouldn’t care if one is Confirmed – something that is not in the Bible or our Lutheran Confessions – but rather we should care whether they make a mockery of Christ and His Church by abandoning the orthodox faith or if they remain faithful by continued participation in Christ through His holy mysteries, regardless of age or pedigree. Let us be moved by the Word of God rather than be cemented by the reasons of men. Let us be free in Christ to do as He has commanded rather than enslaved by what men have reasoned. Let us seek to please God rather than men. 

Why didn’t Jesus feed everybody? Why doesn’t He just heal all the sick and raise all the dead? Why doesn’t He fix the world’s problems? Why doesn’t He stop all the madness? Because His kingdom is not of this world. Therefore let us not chain it to this world but let us be chained to the world to come. Let us and our children be fed the Bread of Heaven and drink deeply from the River of Life so that we may all as one rejoice in Him who is our Head, our Savior, our Lord, and our Master. Let us repent and believe the gospel. 

 

 

 

 

 We feed on Christ when we hear and believe the gospel; that our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus; that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. We are united to Christ: united to His death to sin and His resurrection to life. We are alive in Christ. Even if and when this mortal body succumbs to death, still we are alive in Christ Jesus our Lord who is the Life of the world. 

We drink His blood with our ears as much as with our mouths. For we drink deeply of Him who is the Well of Life when we hear and rejoice in the mercies of God in Christ; that we are called the children of God. We eat and drink with our ears because His kingdom is not of this world. 

But what of those who cannot hear? Not only the deaf, but babies, too. Of course, what we mean is that they cannot understand. Are they not then among the blessed? Certainly! For they are baptized. And baptism is not our work but God’s work on us and for us. So we can say with great confidence that those who are baptized are chosen by God in Christ for the world to come. Now if they reject God’s work then that is on their head but it doesn’t make God a liar but only proves that men are liars and haters of God. 

Therefore in Holy Baptism, which the Scriptures say is the blood of Jesus, we are fed the Bread of Heaven and drink from the River of Life. But the question arises: how do such little ones have faith if they have not heard, that is, if they have not understood the sound their ears receive? This is a difficult question, to be sure. But its difficulty lies in our limitations, not in God’s word. For what does the word of God say? “This promise is for you and for your children and all for whom the Lord calls to Himself.” And how does He call us to Himself except through preaching and baptism? For what do preachers preach except baptism? Were not the first preachers, that holy band of apostles, sent to preach and baptize all nations, which includes our littlest onesBaptism is as much a part of preaching as preaching is. In fact, Holy Baptism is the goal of preaching as demonstrated in Acts 8 with St. Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Those who are baptized are baptized in faith, by faith, and into the faith. In faith, having heard the word of God, we bring our little ones to Holy Baptism, trusting the promises of God in Christ. And He who is faithful to His promises receives them because of our faith and prayers and welcomes them into His holy flock where He feeds them the Bread of Heaven. 

So, too, the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, the Holy Supper of our Lord. It, too, is as much preaching as preaching is. For isn’t the Lord’s Holy Supper no less than Jesus’ own sermon to us and to our children? He is the One who says, “Take, eat; this is my body, given for you. Take, drink; this is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you.” It is His sermon that says “Do this in remembrance of me.” It is His sermon that preaches to us that this is for the forgiveness of sins and the bestowal of life. For where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation. 

But I fear that like the question of Holy Baptism – how can such little ones have faith – we have asked the same question of the Holy Supper and so have withheld it from many for whom the Lord wishes to give it, from many who have faith in the words, “Given and shed for you.” It is a marvel that so many Christians want the ministers of Christ to sin against conscience, against the Body of Christ, and so against Christ Himself, and give the Holy Supper to those whom they do not know and who neglect to gather and have abandoned the gathering for worldly pursuits  and reasons, yet simply because they are family and they’re visiting us for the weekend, and because we are more afraid of giving offense to men than of offending God and His Churchthat we demand our ministers give the Supper to those who do not ask for it or truly want it. If they did, why have they abandoned it? Why do they stay away from it Sunday after Sunday if they want it and think they need it? Why do they reject the proper teaching of Christ concerning the Sacraments and His Church for those altars that do not confess the Scriptures but exalt reason and experience above the Bible? 

. Yet these same Christians want those same ministers to sin twice by also withholding the Blessed Sacrament from the ones who do gather weekly with us and hear the Word with us and sing with us and pray with us and call upon the name of the Lord with us and otherwise eat the Bread of Heaven – the children of our congregationI fear we make the faith a faith of knowledge rather than of obedience by forbidding the little ones from coming to Christ because we think they do not understand and cannot know. But faith is not a matter of the head, but of the promises of God in Christ. And we wonder why the apostasy is so great among our youth and young families. Is it not because we have withheld from them what their Lord desires to give them, saying they must earn it by Confirmation and their learning? No wonder once they have achieved this goal there is little to keep them? We make the Christian faith only about being good and doing good and living good, but because no one can be so good they leave the Church in droves and we wonder what has driven them out. 

The Christian faith is about clinging to Christ and receiving Christ and rejoicing in Christ and participating in Christ. We teach them to leave by our leaving, whether we actually leave or if we leave out the gospel and force them to live by the Law. We teach them to abandon the Sacrament by our abandonment of it. We have taught them to trust in their goodness because we trust in our goodness. We have taught them not to pray because we do not pray. We have taught them and they have learned. Let us repent and leave the being good to the Pharisees who have received their reward and let those called by the Lord receive Christ who is their reward. Let us teach our children right and receive them as the Lord receives us. Let us feed them the Bread of Heaven. 

It’s really quite easy. Instead of setting up the traditions of men and of church bodies as the test of faith and faithfulness, let us rely on the traditions of Christ and His apostles as the test of faith and faithfulness. We shouldn’t care if one is Confirmed – something that is not in the Bible or our Lutheran Confessions – but rather we should care whether they make a mockery of Christ and His Church by abandoning the orthodox faith or if they remain faithful by continued participation in Christ through His holy mysteries, regardless of age or pedigree. Let us be moved by the Word of God rather than be cemented by the reasons of men. Let us be free in Christ to do as He has commanded rather than enslaved by what men have reasoned. Let us seek to please God rather than men. 

Why didn’t Jesus feed everybody? Why doesn’t He just heal all the sick and raise all the dead? Why doesn’t He fix the world’s problems? Why doesn’t He stop all the madness? Because His kingdom is not of this world. Therefore let us not chain it to this world but let us be chained to the world to come. Let us and our children be fed the Bread of Heaven and drink deeply from the River of Life so that we may all as one rejoice in Him who is our Head, our Savior, our Lord, and our Master. Let us repent and believe the gospel. 

 

 

 

Why didn’t Jesus heal all the sick. Why didn’t He raise all the dead? Why didn’t He feed all the hungry? Why doesn’t He fix all the world’s problems? Hunger; ISIS; warlords; the governments; universities. Why doesn’t He stop all the madness? Of course, what we really want to know is why doesn’t He fix your problems? Your debt; your marriage; your kids; your family; your body? In truth, if our own problems were all fixed we probably wouldn’t care so much about the world’s problems because we could avoid them. Perhaps that’s why He doesn’t solve our problems; so that we would learn to sympathize and pray for and help others who are as hurt and troubled as we are. 

But that’s what the world asks: why doesn’t Jesus just fix everything, like some 1st century Superman. It’s what we ask when we hear things such as today’s gospel where Jesus feeds a multitude – some 4,000 people – with a few loaves of bread and a few small fish. If He could do that, why can’t He help me. And in asking we reveal that we – like Jesus’ disciples way back then – don’t quite get it. We don’t quite understand. We need to be reminded. And there’s nothing wrong with being reminded. We shouldn’t ever get to the point when we think we do understand, that we do get it so that we stop hearing, stop being taught by Christ. We should never think that we’ve arrived. Even St. Paul confesses that He has not yet obtained all these things but presses on toward the goal. Even if one day you do get it, you do understand and have complete knowledge and wisdom, there’s always tomorrow when you won’t. But who has perfect knowledge and wisdom this side of the resurrection? 

So every week, even every day, the Lord sits us down and feeds His people. That’s how He teaches us. He multiplies His word and spreads it throughout the world so that all His multitude eats and is satisfied. No one brings their own picnic lunch. No one has their own food. This means that no one gets to sit by themselves and eat. None of us learn from Christ and eat His heavenly bread alone. Even if we are physically alone we are learning from Him and eating His bread by listening to His apostles as we read the Bible and respond in prayer. We’re not studying the Bible the right way or for the right reasons if from it we are not learning to pray, praise, and give thanks. Make sure you’re not reading the Bible with an eye toward the way you things ought to be. That leads to false belief. 

And here’s the rub: His word that He feeds us with, the heavenly bread that satisfies us and the multitude the world over is the gospel. It’s not the law. Christ teaches you by feeding you the gospel; that your sins are forgiven and you have been reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus; that for Christ’s sake, because of His obedience, you are counted as righteous and obedient because you are baptized into Him and He has marked you as His own. 

If this is the net that is thrown over the whole world by which men are saved from the deep, then it is also the food that the Lord distributes to feed the world. If He is the bread of heaven and the life of the world then the world must feed on Him and be filled with Him in order to live. And this is not the language of condemnation and judgment but of freedom and reconciliation. 

You are what you eat. Healthy if you eat healthy; unhealthy if you eat unhealthy. 

To be Christian is easy. Eat the right food. That’s why ancient Israel was commanded by the Lord to eat some food but avoid other food. It had nothing to do with medical science or dietary needs of people. By this the Lord was giving instruction to eat the food He provides, the food He gives us to eat. After all, the Old Testament was written down for our instruction in Christ. 

So we learn even in the Old Testament that the Lord gives food for His people to eat. They eat the right food they are clean. If they eat the wrong food they are unclean. So it is today. Only the food is the gospel, is Christ Himself. IF we eat the gospel we are clean. If we eat anything else, no matter how healthy it looks, then we are unclean. 

So why do we keep such food from our children? We do. We give ourselves away when we demand that our children learn the Bible stories and can recite things and so forth, but refuse to give them the Sacrament because we don’t think they can understand it. In so doing we make the Sacrament not a blessing of Christ for His children but a reward for those who have accomplished something. Woe to us even while we don’t want our pastors to examine visitors even though the Bible tells pastors to do that very thing. We don’t give the Sacrament to the little one of whom Jesus says to not refuse for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, but we become angry and leave when strangers are asked to confess their faith. 

Don’t we feed our children before they understand? We bring them to church before they know why. We pray with them before they understand the words or to whom we pray. Why don’t we leave them at home when we go to church? Why don’t we wait until they are older and understand more before we pray with them and teach them to pray? Is it not because we are forming in them the habit of righteousness and the life of faith. Absolutely! 

So why do we wait until they are rebellious teenagers who are self-conscious and nervous and afraid of what others think and say before we being to let them partake of the Sacrament? A time in their lives when they are stretching boundaries and limits and are beginning to distrust mom and dad and exerting themselves, that’s when we introduce the most sacred, holy, and blessed Supper of our Lord to them. That might have worked 20, 30, or 40 years ago when children were less in-touch with the world and more protected from unbelievers. But now, when the whole unbelieving, evil world is in their pocket in the form of a smart phone, they are exposed to evil far earlier and with far greater frequency than they are exposed to holiness. 

Of course, before that we tell them what it is and why they need it and why they should want it. But we don’t give it to them when they say, “Amen.” We wait for some man-made rite called Confirmation, regardless of how many times they came to class or their attendance in church or whether they came to Sunday school. Confirmation is no longer a rite – r-i-t-e – it has become a right – r-i-g-h-t – and so too many who have rejected the faith and live like unbelievers expect that the Supper is now their right because they were baptized and confirmed in this church. What do we say to our little ones when they say, “I want that” because they’ve been sitting here hearing what it is and watching their brothers and sisters in Christ receive it, hearing Jesus’ words, “For you.” We tell them, “Well you can’t have it because it’s not for you until you’re confirmed.” God help us. And God forgive our anger. 

There is a better way, a more biblical way. Bring our children to the sacrament when they are young and want what mom and dad want. Form in them the habit of righteousness and holiness from an early age. We are more concerned with teaching them the law – don’t steal, don’t lie, be nice, and so forth – than we are teaching them the gospel: whoever feeds on Jesus will live forever! 

Why doesn’t Jesus solve the world’s problems? Our problems? Because His kingdom is not of this world and the food that He gives is not earthly but heavenly, not for the mortal body but for immortality. Truly He has solved the world’s problem, which is death. Let us rejoice in life and bring our little ones with us, feeding them the Bread of Heaven unto life everlasting. 

 

In Nomine Iesu