Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sermon for 3/10/13--Lent IV

More Than Enough

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

There is a hunger that is deep within the heart and soul of all people that can only be satisfied by the presence of the living God.  The wonder of God’s love and grace is that He, in fact, seeks us out.  Left to ourselves we would wander away from God.  But through Jesus Christ, and through His saving work—His life, death, and resurrection—God feeds us, and in that way satisfies our great hunger for His saving presence.  In our text we see a striking picture of the magnificent way in which God draws His people to Himself and feeds them.  This event was of unique significance in the life of the early Church.  There is no miracle of Jesus to which the ancient fathers make more reference than this feeding of the 5000.  Indeed, it is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four of the Gospels.
The central figure in this miracle is, of course, Jesus.  To see bread and fish multiplying without seeing the One whose power makes it happen is to miss the point.  Yet, how often in this life do we focus on the gifts without recognizing the Giver?  What would those people have seen as this miraculous event unfolded before their eyes?  Those who were waiting faithfully for the promised Messiah surely would have seen something significant.  They had been taught that the Messiah would prepare a great banquet feast for His people.  That miraculous feeding of the people of Israel in the wilderness would be reenacted in the presence of the Messiah.
Jesus is the Host at this meal; He is in complete control of all that takes place.  He silences the practical, earthly voices of Philip and Andrew.  They, like us, are inclined to doubt in the face of what appears to be an impossible situation.  “Where will we get what we need?  Our resources are insufficient!”  Jesus proceeds, unmoved by the doubts of His disciples.  He will feed His people.  And even if they fail to see or misunderstand the nature of the food He offers, He will still provide it.  He will provide in abundance, as only He can do.  Only Jesus can feed and satisfy the hunger of the heart and soul.  The food we would find and choose to eat has no lasting value.  And yet we prefer to choose our own diet, to find our own way, to live our own lives.  We still prefer that fruit of the garden that began all our problems, because in eating we think we will be like God.  But such a meal does not sustain us.  We remain hungry, undernourished, bound for death.  Our hunger cannot be satisfied by bread and fish because its root is deeper than the lining of our stomach walls.  We hunger for that communion God first established in the Garden, but which our first parents destroyed.  God Himself has placed that hunger within us, and He will satisfy it.
What are we hungry for?  We hunger for forgiveness.  We hunger for communion with God. The weight of sin and guilt hangs mercilessly around our necks.  To say that we have no sin is to play a foolish, deadly game with eternity.  Walking the straight and narrow, cleaning up our acts, being nice to our spouse and children—all of these, as nice as they may be, have no effect on our sin.  At best, such works are appreciated by others and may temporarily soothe troubled consciences.  But the soul that sins will die unless it is nourished by that life-giving Bread of God, which is Jesus Christ.  As the hunger pangs of repentance rumble within us, we are fed and satisfied with the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is aware of all of these needs, which is why He calls us to Himself.  He is the friend of sinners.  He feeds us.   He changes us.  He satisfies a need for communion with Him and with each other as no one else can do.
The place of the feeding has changed, but the food has not changed. Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He once fed His people on a mountainside.  Today He feeds us in the midst of crowded cities and peaceful country settings; in tension-filled work places and in pain-filled hospital rooms; in mortgaged homes and family farms.  He feeds us in times of personal distress and spiritual darkness, in failing health, and even at death’s door.  And He will feed us eternally.  He guaranteed this when He took on Himself our sin, our pain, our guilt, our hatred, our afflictions, and all our spiritual hunger.  Everything that might crush us, and destroy us, and plunge us into despair and death was heaped on Him.  And it broke Him.  On the cross His body was broken for us.  The Bread of Life was broken and laid in a tomb.  But that Bread did not decay, nor did it remain in the tomb.  The life-giving Bread, our Lord Jesus Christ, was resurrected.  Sin could not hold Him.  Death could not hold Him.  He lives and continues to feed the hungry, with more than enough for everyone.
And we, the ones who are hungry, continue to gather around Him, drawn by His love and mercy.  We gather around His Word and His Sacrament to be fed by Him.  And we are fed; fed with forgiveness of sins, with Communion with Him and with each other, and with the certainty of a future that will have no end.  Jesus is our Unending Feast.  We again today savor the goodness and grace of a Savior whose presence is eternally real, whose love for us is unconditional, and whose body and blood satisfy us.  In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

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