Sunday, August 04, 2019

Sermon: Trinity 7 - 2019

4 August 2019

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

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

There is an elephant in the room.  

We always pretend that we can’t see it.  But it’s there.  We go about our lives as if it doesn’t exist.  We get so used to ignoring it, that often we convince ourselves that our pretending it away is reality.

But every so often, the elephant knocks something over or lets us know in other unpleasant ways that its presence cannot truly be ignored.

Our Lord’s feeding of the four thousand people refuses to ignore the elephant that has been in the room since the Fall in the Garden of Eden.  Our Lord Jesus has come to deal with the elephant, not to ignore it.  And the fathers of the church understood what our Lord was up to, and this miracle’s connection with the Garden of Eden.  And this is why our Old Testament lesson from Genesis 2 is paired up with our Gospel reading, dear friends.

For the elephant is sin, chaos, and death.  The elephant is our own disobedience and rebellion against the will of God.

For the man was placed in this beautiful, good, and perfect garden.  The garden was filled with lush foods – fruits that were good to eat and required no sweat of the brow or struggling with thorns to enjoy the natural God-given yield.  And yes, there were elephants in the garden, but they were real ones, not the symbolic ones that we ignore.  The animals knew their place in creation and were no threat to mankind.  The man and the woman likewise knew and understood their vocations in creation and carried them out perfectly, without resentment, for they knew that they were perfectly suited for each other, for God, and for the rest of creation.  

In this garden, this paradise, there was no sin, and there was no death.  Our Lord warned the man and the woman that all of the trees were there for them to eat from, except “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.”

Death is something foreign and alien to the Lord’s creation.  It is the result of the elephant in the room: sin, suffering, disharmony, chaos, and scarcity of resources.  All of these things – including death itself – are the elephant in the room that Jesus comes not only to point out, and to address.

Our Lord entered a world where everyone sees the elephant, but pretends that it isn’t there.  We become actors on a stage, playing make-believe rather than deal with the cold reality that our world is broken and we are all dying.  The people for whom Jesus reserves His harshest words are the Pharisees.  They are the greatest of all pretenders, the actors of actors, the hypocrites of hypocrites – and of course, we all follow in their train.  Jesus comes to say what nobody else has the courage to say: there is an elephant in the room.  It doesn’t belong here.  It needs to be removed, not simply ignored.  

Our Lord takes flesh so that He can die, so that mankind can meet God’s requirement of the Law: “you shall surely die.”  We invite the elephant in when we sin, when we rebel against God’s created order, and even when we pretend the elephant isn’t there.

One of the results of the Fall is scarcity.  As God told Adam, the beautiful harmony of the garden – in which the trees come to fruition with no labor – is no more.  Now the man must till the soil, struggle with thorns, and he must make bread by the sweat of his brow.  The fruits of the earth are not enough.  Now he must rely on the corruption of nature to create leaven and yeast in order that, after much work, the grains might provide food – and even then, it’s never enough.

And this scarcity is the cause of poverty, and of wars between people to relieve their scarcity by taking that which belongs to other people.  The history of the post-fall world is one of warfare, tribal hatreds, the settling of scores, of famines, of suffering, and of death.

That is the elephant, dear friends.

And so, this is why our Lord’s miracle is so magnificent.  It goes beyond demonstrating his compassion for the hungry – which He does demonstrate in His love and mercy.  For what’s more, this miracle is a direct attack upon the elephant in the room.

In their zeal to hear Jesus proclaim the Word of God, His listeners were suffering hunger.  Scarcity rears its ugly head, and now the discomfort is becoming dangerous to their lives.  Jesus indeed has compassion for the hungry, but He goes beyond compassion to action, and to the heart of the matter.

Our Lord hearkens back to the days of Eden, when God commanded all of creation to “be fruitful and multiply,” and Jesus multiplies the bread and fish in order to alleviate scarcity and hunger, to call attention to the elephant, and to demonstrate mastery over it.  Jesus casts away the elephant in the room by means of a miracle that restores paradise as a foretaste of the feast to come in eternity.  For in eternity, the real elephant in the room, Satan, will be cast into the lake of fire, when scarcity and struggle and hatred and hunger and death shall be no more.

And in fact, instead of shortages, there will be surpluses.  Instead of hunger, there will be satisfaction.  Instead of poverty, there will be riches.  Instead of hatred and death there will be love and life.  And the people who heard our Lord Jesus proclaim the gospel “ate and were satisfied.”

For Jesus is the living bread come down from heaven.  His birth in Bethlehem, that is, “the house of bread” and His enthronement in a manger, that is, a food trough – are all pointers to what He has come to do.  And on the day before His death on the cross, He gave us His very body and blood to eat and to drink: the Bread of Heaven and the Blood of the New Testament – which we partake of and participate in this very day, and will do so until He comes again to permanently remove the elephant from the room.

And so, dear friends, take eat, take drink, and don’t fear acknowledging the elephant.  For we know that Jesus has come to put things aright, to restore us to paradise, to conquer sin, death, and the devil. 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” says the apostle.  We have been “set free from sin” and have once more been put into harmony with our Creator and with creation.  And so St. Paul urges us to “present our members as slaves of righteousness leading to sanctification.”   

There is indeed an elephant in the room.  We don’t have to pretend.  We do not have to ignore it or fear it.  Jesus has come to put it away from us: to feed us with the living bread from heaven, and to restore us to paradise.  So let us join with the four thousand; let us eat and be satisfied.  Amen.

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

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