Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sermon: Laetare (Lent 4) – 2014

30 March 2014

Text: John 6:1-15 (Ex 16:2-21, Gal 4:21-31)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The cause of all human dissatisfaction and unhappiness is not the want of food, but the want of faith.  For without faith, we are left to depend upon ourselves.  And so we use all of our supposed superior intellect to plan our lives, to pass laws and rules and regulations to ensure fairness, and then convinced of how smart we are, we see every human attempt to end poverty fall into total failure. 

It’s not that we lack enough bread.  For Jesus has already proven that this is no obstacle to Almighty God.  Rather we lack faith.  We would rather grumble that God is not feeding us our way than to submit to His way and to be filled with all that we need according to His will and ways.

It all began at Eden when superabundance of all the perfect food for mankind was freely available with no labor needed – and that was still not good enough for Adam and Eve, who were talked into grumbling by the serpent, who then talked them into taking matters into their own hands.  For again, they did not lack food, nor anything material at all, they lacked faith in the promise of God to provide for them.

When Moses had miraculously led the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery, when they saw God repeatedly strike Egypt with plagues while sparing His people, when they experienced the hand of God delivering them across the Red Sea while drowning Pharaoh’s army, instead of praising God with faithful hearts, eagerly awaiting His next blessing, rather “the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron.”  They lamented that they didn’t die in Egypt with bellies full of meat and bread.  And they blamed Moses and Aaron and accused them of bringing them out “into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

And in the face of their rebellion, grumbling, and desire to take matters into their own hands, the Lord continued to bless them and provide for them, giving them the miraculous bread of the manna in the wilderness.  And if that weren’t enough, the Lord provided huge quantities of meat for them in the form of quail.  And even then, some of the people tried to hoard the manna in direct violation of the Lord’s instructions.

Again, even when they were loaded up with meat and bread, they were still not satisfied, because they lacked faith.

Our Lord Jesus Christ directly addressed the problem of scarcity and want, of poverty and hunger, when He challenged His apostles to provide food for the five thousand men (not counting the women and children) who gathered to hear Him speak.  For the essence of the problem is not a lack of food, but a lack of faith.  Reason itself cried out that one boy with five loaves and two fish could not feed thousands of hungry people.

And yet, in the face of all that our minds tell us to the contrary, in opposition to what reason said to the disciples, and even over and against the expectations of His thousands of listeners, Jesus did what reason says is impossible, but which faith says the Creator in the flesh can do with nothing other than His will, using nothing but His Word, and motivated by nothing except His compassion.  Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, and not only fed the multitudes, but even arranged for twelve baskets of leftovers to be carried away.

For the problem was not a lack of loaves and fishes, but rather a lack of faith.

And even after eating this miraculous meal, dear friends, the crowds sought to take matters into their own hands, and instead of submitting to His will, sought to “take Him by force to make Him king.”  Again and again, dear friends, this is our problem.  It is not a lack of food, not a lack of money, not a lack of fortune or luck or a job or education or circumstances or wealthy relatives or natural resources.  Our problem is a lack of faith!

And our Lord is calling us to repent of this!  We need to stop trying to micromanage our lives, trying to manipulate God, trying to use force to get our way with Jesus.  Dear brother, dear sister, you are not in control.  You are not God.  You cannot multiply loaves and fishes.  You cannot force God to do what you want.  You cannot control the circumstances of your lives, your boss, your grown children, your aging parents, your desires, nor even your own bodies.  And grumbling about it doesn’t help either.  Jesus calls upon us to hear His Word and allow that Word to build faith in us, the faith that comes by hearing, by hearing the Word of Christ, by hearing because you have someone preaching, and by hearing that preaching because a preacher has been sent to you.

Our problem, dear friends, in case I have been unclear to this point, is not our lack of material goods; our problem is our lack of faith.  Our problem is our lack of faith.  Our problem is our lack of faith.

For when we trust ourselves to achieve our goals, when we impede our own faith by shutting out, distorting, ignoring, or misinterpreting God’s will, we act like we are the slave children of Hagar, in bondage to sin, by the flesh, by the stubbornness of the will, enslaved by the law, rather than claiming our heritage as being the free children of promise, the sons and daughters of Sarah, not only hearing the Word, but rejoicing in the liberating forgiveness of that Word, the Word that went to the cross for us, the Word that declares us forgiven, the Word whose body and blood satisfy us with superabundance by faith in the promise given to us to eat and to drink in another miraculous Passover meal presided over by our Lord Jesus Christ!

In Christ, this food never runs out.  The bread and wine are joined to the Lord’s Word, and we are fed by the millions over thousands of years, by grace, through faith, according to His promise and testament, and multiplied by nothing other than His Word spoken over the elements – which are in turn received by us in faith, the true body and blood of the Lord.

And in this holy meal, dear friends, there is no dissatisfaction, no unhappiness, no want, no poverty, and no lack – because there is no sin!  The root cause of all poverty and want and hunger is done away with, and it is done so not by force but by faith.

Dear friends, we have been invited to “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her.”  This is because we bear the promise, we hear the Word, we partake of the fleshly bread of Christ’s body, and drink of the atoning wine of the Lord’s blood, we receive these miraculous and satisfying gifts by faith.  For “this is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  We do not have to force Him to be king, for He is also our King and Priest, the host and the victim, our very life in the midst of death.  He is the source and the object of our faith.  Although reason itself cries out that one Man nailed to a cross cannot forgive the sins of billions of sinful people, faith confesses that this is so!  Indeed, dear friends, through this faith, satisfied by the bread of life, let us “rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her” – now and even unto eternity.  Amen.


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