Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sermon for 7/19/15: Trinity VII



His Mercy Endures Forever

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

In the Garden of Eden food came without toil. The garden was fruitful and abundant. There were no storehouses, silos, or preservatives. There was no competition for food with mice and mold. But that all changed when Adam watched as his wife was seduced by the serpent, when he failed to protect or guide her, when he reached for knowledge of good and evil and sought in his lust to be like God, when he ate the poison and knew his nakedness.

Yet God's mercy is past all understanding. He did not abandon Adam and Eve the way that we abandon those who are unfaithful to us. By His grace, we still eat. The earth gives up its fruit. It exacts toil and sweat from us sinful sons of Adam but it gives up its fruit. Herbicides and fertilizer, machinery and the collective wisdom of ages has made it easier. But still it is not the garden planted by God and tended by angels, supervised by sinless Adam, where work is purest joy. Men must gather in the grain and protect it again. And even when it has been processed and baked into bread still the mice and mold threaten it and it must be eaten quickly before it is stolen or succumbs to rot.

And thus have we sometimes thought our labor was the key. Indeed, without out there would be no food. They've brought their wisdom and technology, their strength and their discipline to bear and brought a harvest home and sometimes they've thought it was their own. But it never is. Whenever we eat, it is God who provides. We are but a single tsunami or terrorist attack or who-knows-what away from famine. John Deere doesn't make a tractor that can stop bombs, hurricanes, blights, plagues, or stock market crashes. Our Lord once multiplied bread and fish to feed a mob who would turn on Him. He had compassion. He did not want to see them faint on the way. But what of the fainting mothers whose sons were murdered in Tennessee? What of those who are dealing with cancer, with unemployment, with loneliness, with the loss of loved ones?

There is an answer here in the feeding of the four thousand. There is great comfort. But it can't be rushed. The anguish must be felt. The tears must flow. The Law must seem to have its way and take us to our knees. Our Lord wept at the death of Lazarus even though He knew His friend would rise. So let us also weep without shame. Let no man say that these evil things are God's will! But while we weep, let us confess that God is still good. Let us confess that He uses all things, even evil things, for good.

God is good. He does know what He is doing. What can the winds and waves, the guns and bombs, the lies and threats do to you? You belong to God. His compassion for the four thousand pales next to His love for you. You are His child in whom He is well-pleased. Always He would feed you, provide for you, comfort and love you. Always He welcomes you back. Always the angels rejoice when you repent.

We are not in control. God is. Indeed, His mercy sometimes seems almost cruel to our feeble minds. His ways are past finding out. But whenever men eat, it is God who provides. Not because He has to, not because He owes us or should, but simply because He has compassion. His mercy endures forever. His love is without measure. Our Lord Jesus, who died but who lives, takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner but would have all men turn and believe in Him.

Now it may be that God will not heal all your diseases or miraculously multiple the oil and the flour in your pantry. He might not. He might instead ask you to bear heavy crosses and shed many tears. You might even, like He was, be sentenced to unjust or a violent death. But you will not touch a drop of the Cup of Wrath that could not be removed, for He drank it all. And whether you experience miracles like the feeding of the four thousand or not, God Himself has cleansed your soul. That is the greatest and most important miracle next to His resurrection. He has laid His claim upon you. He has called you to be His. You are baptized! And that is no small thing in the Kingdom of God.

Hunger does not last. Grief will not last. Suffering will come to an end. Whenever we eat, it is God who provides. Whenever we grieve, our Lord provides comfort. Whenever we suffer, our Father provides healing in body and in soul. We are most certainly not in control of how it happens. Thanks be to God for that! For unlike our needs, His mercy endures forever. 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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