Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sermon: Trinity 7 - 2018

15 July 2018

Text: Mark 8:1-9 (Gen 2:7-17)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“The Lord will provide” is a statement that people sometimes say.  And in fact, it comes right out of the Bible, from the Book of Genesis. It was said by Abraham in response to a dramatic act of God.

Although this exact verse isn’t in today’s reading from Genesis, this section from Chapter Two screams out to us that the Lord does indeed provide, and does so dramatically.  He provides us with our body and life, forming the man from the dust, and then filling our bodies with the spirit, with the “breath of life.”  He doesn’t just create mankind and walk away.  Instead, He cares for and curates our ongoing life, placing the man in “a garden in Eden,” a place where trees spring up, “pleasant to the sight and good for food.”

Indeed, food is necessary to sustain life, and the Lord provides for the ongoing nourishment of mankind.  The plants effortlessly multiply through the ongoing command and provision of God, being literally programmed in their DNA to grow from tiny seeds and to produce fruit for us to eat.  And what’s more, the fruits contain seeds so that the trees reproduce, and they multiply, providing food exponentially beyond what is necessary.  In fact, the Lord God provides mankind with not just food for survival, but food to savor and enjoy, bread and wine to gladden the heart.

God also provides mankind with beautiful things: gems and minerals from the good earth: gold, bdellium, and onyx.  The Lord God provides mankind with flowing rivers, sources of fresh water, beautiful to look at, and delightful to drink: water that irrigates the garden, and continues to provide life for the man and the woman in paradise.

God’s provision even extended to specific directions for human flourishing: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God graciously provided a warning of the one tree that would be toxic to the man and woman, the one thing for which man was to avoid for his survival, under the gracious provision of the Creator who watches out for His creation and His creatures.

And even when we sinned, the Lord provided mankind with mercy, with skins to cover their shame, and with the promise of a Savior and Redeemer to rescue us from the suffering of scarcity and want and death to come.

Yes, indeed, the Lord will provide!  That is what He does.  

As we recite with Dr. Luther, even though we do not deserve it, the Lord provides us with “everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house home, land animals, money, goods,” and so on.  This is what is meant by “daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer.  We need more than mere food, and the Lord not only provides food, but also the provision to make food, calling people all over the world into vocations of service to their neighbor, through whom the Lord provides for all of our needs.

In the 1800s, a great French thinker named Frédéric Bastiat wondered how it was that Paris had a million people who lived in a big city, and didn’t grow their own food, and yet they did not starve.  There was no food czar to feed the people.  So how did they eat?  Human cooperation in the various vocations to which God called them: the farmers grew the food far away, workers harvested it, people gathered it into warehouses and markets, teamsters transported it, merchants bought it and sold it, and it made its way to kitchens and tables throughout the big, bustling city.  Royalty and servants alike were provided for, and Bastiat marveled.  It was as if the hand of God provided the planning for this great act of mercy of feeding an enormous number of people.

God’s gracious provision is demonstrated dramatically in our Gospel, as our Lord Jesus Christ looks upon the want and lack of the hungry multitudes who had come to hear Him, and He said, “I have compassion on the crowd.”  He knew that they needed food.  They had stepped out in faith and followed Him for three days to hear His Word.  Their faith was not to be in vain, for even though they were not in a lush Edenic garden, but rather the “desolate place” of our fallen world of scarcity and poverty, the Lord will provide.

Jesus mocks the idea of scarcity, for what is that to Him?  “How many loaves do you have,” He asks.  And the answer “seven” must have seemed like a joke.  What are seven loaves of bread for four thousand people?  Well, for Jesus, for His compassion, for His Word, for His creative power, the answer is “plenty.”  Like seeds that multiply, like Paris being fed through the plying of godly vocations, like Abraham’s earlier statement of faith from the Book of Genesis: “The Lord will provide” – the people are to be fed.

The Lord Jesus does not complain.  He does not curse the ground for its stinginess.  He does not worry.  Rather, He provides.  “He took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, He broke them and set them before the crowd.”  And He also multiplied a few fish into a feast for thousands.  And by the Lord’s provision, the crowds “ate and were satisfied.”

They were “satisfied,” which means literally, they were filled to capacity.  Their scarcity was replaced by overabundance.  Their hunger was replaced by satisfaction.  Their worry for the well-being of their families was replaced by faith in God’s gracious provision for all of their needs.

This, dear friends, is why the Lord Jesus has come into our world: to provide.  And this is also why we are here: to be fed.  Jesus was born in a village called “Bethlehem,” which means “the house of bread.”  Jesus was laid in a manger: which is a food trough.  And of course, Jesus comes to us through bread and wine, blessed by His Word very much like the bread that He blessed and “set before the people” for whom he had compassion.

In fact, the feeding that Jesus gives is not merely for the temporary sustenance of the body, but also for the eternal provision for body and soul in eternity.  The bread that Jesus provides is His flesh for the life of the world.  And we partake of it here in this “desolate place” of our fallen world, turned into a lush garden by His Word.

For what was it ultimately that the Lord God provided when Abraham made his statement, “The Lord will provide”?  On that dramatic occasion, the Lord provided a substitute, a lamb, whose blood would be shed as a sacrifice, so that Abraham’s own son would be spared.  The Lord provides the death of His own Son, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  The Lord provides the sacrificial atonement and redemption of the entire world, a gracious gift offered to every son of Adam and daughter of Eve, a gift that is received by as many as have faith in these words: “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

The Lord provides, dear friends, and indeed He provides not just bread, but also His very body; not just wine, but also His very blood: given and shed for you in the dramatic act of God at the cross.  And so we eat and we drink to our abundance, to our salvation, to our life – a life that has no end.  And the bread that He provides for the life of the world is His flesh. 

“The Lord will provide!”  Amen.

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

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