22 July 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Mark 8:1-9 (Gen 2:7-17, Rom 6:19-23)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
There are a few verses of Scripture that basically sum up the Christian faith in just a few works. St. Paul does this in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Sin is not just a little trifle. It is not a joking matter. Sin is tragic and horrifying. Sin is the cause of shooting rampages in movie theaters. Sin is the cause of war, aggression, torture, and genocide. Sin is the cause of broken marriages, broken families, broken homes, and broken children. Sin is the cause of inexplicable acts of violence. Sin nothing to laugh at, gloss over, or make excuses for. Sin is why we have hospitals and jails and funeral homes. Sin is the cause of death.
And yet, the matter does not end there. Death does not get the final say. For God intervenes. God fills the breach. God breaks into history and invades into our lives. God restores. God repairs. God forgives. For “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Life. Life conquers death. Life is a gift, a free gift, a pure act of grace, of mercy, of love, of healing, of forgiveness. It cannot be bought or sold, horded or traded, packaged in a mutual fund, or loaned out at interest. And this free gift of life is eternal. It has no end. It is unlimited and boundless. It transcends reason and overtakes even the vast expanse of space and time. For it is bound with the infinite nature of God Himself.
That which was broken has been fixed. That which was at war has been set at peace. That which was dead has been restored to life. That which was corrupted has been made new.
This, dear friends, is what Christianity is all about. And how sad that so many people mistakenly think Christianity is really about arbitrary rules, an angry wrathful God, judgmental people, hollow ritual, and much ado about nothing. How sad that the road to destruction is broad – trodden on by those who see no value in forgiveness, in atonement, in the cross. And yet, how glorious and blessed this Christian life is for us who are being saved, being placed on the narrow way by the Way, through the free gift won for us by Christ Jesus our Lord!
For we are not left in our aches and pains, in our suffering and sorrow, in our sickbeds and graves! For our Lord Jesus – who took flesh to save us, who died to redeem us, who rose to resurrect us – has compassion on us, on His broken world, on His forlorn creation. He has come to repair and heal, to roll back the effects of sin and death, and to remake the universe anew, atom by atom, molecule by molecule, person by person, congregation by congregation.
He does this by meeting us where we are – we who are starving to death in our sins – and He feeds us. He does not merely put food in our bellies, but gives Himself as a living bread from Heaven, a communion with the God in the flesh, a nourishment that can even roll away the stone sealing our graves because it is the Bread of Life, miraculously multiplied and bound to His Word and promise for the very purpose of bringing us from death to life.
All of this is because of the Lord’s “compassion.”
He could have simply been angry at us, at His wayward creatures. He could have simply destroyed us and started anew – with another catastrophe like the great flood. He could have condemned us all to hell and started all over.
But our Lord doesn’t do any of these things, because he has “compassion.”
Our pain is His pain. Our grief is His grief. Our cross – the cross we have earned and should be bearing – is His cross. And our death – the death that is the wages of our sin – is His death, His passion, His body given for us, His blood shed for us, His righteousness accredited to us – is our salvation, our forgiveness, our very life!
Our Lord takes us in the deserts of our lives, in our need and hunger, in our desperation to be fed – and He directs us to sit, to gather, to come into His presence with outstretched and expectant hands. And through His appointed ministers, He gives thanks, He breaks the bread, and He sets it before the people. But this is not bread only – it is bread consecrated by His Word: “This is My body.” And His body is given to us with His very blood, the blood of the New Testament, placed into a cup for “all of us” to drink. These gifts are indeed the “free gift of God” that is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“And they ate and were satisfied.”
Dear brothers and sisters, eat and be satisfied! For though we are not in the garden eating of the pure, genetically perfect fruits of the flawless creation, the Lord has compassion on us. He takes the bread that we must make with our own hands with our own work, and He blesses it with His own hands, and makes it His own redemptive work.
He feeds us and saves us because He loves us and has compassion on us.
For our past is our destiny. We will, in eternity, once again enjoy the sinless, painless, sorrowless, and deathless creation: the tree of life, the rivers of living water, the gold and bdellium and onyx, and the ever-present communion with the Triune God in all His majesty and glory, uninhibited by our sin and untainted by our death – for owing to this gift of God in Christ Jesus, our sin and death are no more!
This is yours, dear friends, all yours by virtue of the Lord’s incarnation, His promises, His preaching, His teaching, His miracles, His passion, His cross, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension to the Father. This free gift is yours by virtue of His Word, His sacraments, His Church, and His grace. It is yours by virtue of His compassion.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
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In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.