Monday, July 31, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 7 – 2017

30 July 2017

Text: Mark 8:1-9 (Gen 2:7-17, Rom 6:19-23)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

In the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, our ancestors Adam and Eve did not know what it meant to be hungry.  They were surrounded by glorious trees bearing a superabundance of fruits so perfect that we can’t even imagine it.  But in eating of the one tree that was forbidden, our superabundance became deadly scarcity, and our perfect world became rotten with corruption.  We became mortal, and we learned the hard way what God meant when He said, “You shall surely die.”

Throughout the history of mankind since the Fall, the word “hunger” has been frightening.  It’s truly hard for us to relate to this, as even the vast majority of the poorest Americans have a refrigerator and access to cheap meals at fast food restaurants.  It has been a good 150 years since Americans were forced by circumstances of warfare to retreat into caves and eat rats to survive.  

Some of our older veterans living today knew true hunger in enemy prison camps.  Of course, some people here in America and in many other countries do know what it is to be truly hungry.  It’s not just the physical pangs, but the weakness and the helplessness, and the knowledge that death lurks just around the corner, even as other people are comfortably satisfied and are eating in great luxury, that is also vexing and horrific.

In our Gospel, great crowds followed Jesus, willing to make any sacrifice just to hear Him proclaim life-bearing words, so much so that even making provisions for this body and life became of secondary importance to being where He was, and listening to His Word.  

And our blessed Lord has “compassion” – literally a sympathetic reaction in His gut – with the crowds who have determined that there is nothing more important than the Word.  They even risk starvation so as to be fulfilled by the Bread of Life Himself.  

What faith, dear friends!  They don’t even plan to eat because they know that the Word of Christ is life itself.  

Their faith was not misdirected, because what does our blessed Lord do for them?  He feeds them by means of a miracle.  The Creator of the universe takes bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them.  His ministers, the disciples, distributed this life-bread to the hungry people who had gathered to hear Jesus. “And they ate and were satisfied” – literally, they had eaten until they were full!  St. Jerome translates it into Latin using the word “saturated.”  This is the very opposite of hunger.  For this is a feast as opposed to a famine.

Dear friends, this is the Christian life!  It is a feast in the midst of famine; It is light in the midst of darkness; it is life in the midst of death.

The Fall brought shortages, suffering, and starvation.  This leads to fighting and theft and even warfare.  And in the midst of this want and deadly lack comes our Lord Jesus Christ, even He who is the Bread of Life in the flesh.  He has compassion.  Though the wages of our sin is death, He gives us the free gift of eternal life: He feeds us – not only with the daily bread of “food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home,” and “everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body,” but even more!

Our Lord knows that in our sinful and fallen state, we are hungry, we suffer want and lack on account of our sins.  We are starving for Good News!  We are ravenous for reconciliation.  And He comes to us in His compassion, in His mercy, pouring out His guts on the cross, giving His body and blood to feed us in His mercy, even as He feeds us here and now in His compassion at the altar.

In the Lord’s prayer, we pray to our Father: “Give us this day our daily bread.”  And indeed, this daily bread includes all of those daily needs we have in this flesh and blood life.  But the original word for “daily” has a kind of double-meaning.  It also means that we are hungry for a kind of supernatural bread that comes to us from above on a continual basis, a bread that never runs out, and which sustains us even unto eternal life.

This kind of bread calls to mind the manna by which our Lord miraculously and mercifully fed the children of Israel in their vulnerability and want, and yes in their desperate and deadly hunger – in the desert.  It also calls to mind the flesh of the Passover lamb, as well as the blood that marked the door of the children of Israel.  The Passover is fulfilled in the Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, who told the astonished crowds: “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh…. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Our Lord also said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Dear friends, this feast in the middle of a desert is truly the Christian life.  This promise of life even as we are surrounded by death is the resurrection.  This conquest of righteousness over sin, death, and the devil is what it truly means to be satisfied.

Come to the feast, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness!  Come and enjoy the fruit of the Tree of Life from Him who has compassion upon us poor miserable sinners, upon us sons of Adam and daughters of Eve!  For you are no longer “slaves of sin” eating the fruit that leads to death.  No indeed, dear brothers and sisters!  For “you have been set free from sin, and have become slaves of God,” and “the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Come and partake of this fruit!  Feast upon it!  No more are we terrified by our lack and our hunger, nor even by death itself.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Amen.

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

No comments: