Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 16) LSB #’s 803, 790, 817:1-3, 5, 7
Text – Isaiah 29:16
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”?
CREATION VERSUS EVOLUTION
“May the words of my mouth & the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our strength & our redeemer.” Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ that prayer is one I use occasionally as an invocation before I begin the sermon. I first heard it used in that way by a seminary student. It invites God Himself to be working through us by the power of His word. It struck me instantly as a prayer that speaks to the heart of what should be going on during a sermon.
Yes, the pastor is the one doing the preaching, but the congregation is to be completely involved as well. You should be listening, hearing & meditating upon the very words which God is sending you. The form of the prayer I used to begin the sermon is a slight paraphrase of the last verse of Psalm 19. I would like highlight how King David begins that Psalm:
“The heavens declare the glory of God, & the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, & night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, & their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4a ESV)
In other words, the heavens are even today preaching a sermon about the glory of God. Are we, as the congregation – listening, hearing & meditating upon the words of that sermon?
One thing that’s impressive about the night sky is the vast number of stars & yet the utter silence with which they speak to us. That combination declares the glory of their Maker to all the inhabitants of the earth. Culture after culture has recognized the awesome nature of the heavens & how puny mankind is by comparison. The Psalms tell us, “The heavens themselves testify to the righteousness & faithfulness of the Lord who created them.” (Psalm 50:6; 89:5-8; 97:6)
As a result, people who teach that the 1st two chapters of Genesis are simply mythology ignore the fact that many of the Psalms they cherish also declare that Yahweh is our Creator. People who love to read the Psalms, yet don’t believe God created everything in 6 – 24 hour days, are denying one of the basic messages that comes from the book of Psalms.
Depending on how you search, there are as many as 31 Bible verses which teach that God created the heavens & the earth. Those verses are scattered throughout Holy Scripture. So if a Christian is going to accept the teaching of evolution, they basically have to deny that the entire Bible is the holy & inspired Word of God. They can’t simply redefine the 1st two chapters.
Isaiah, a prophet who lived 800 years before Christ, gives the verdict on evolutionary teaching: “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’?…” (Isaiah 29:16 ESV) That is exactly the claim that teachers of evolution are making & Isaiah nailed it almost 3000 years ago.
About a thousand years after Isaiah, St. Peter warned of the same thing, but made sure to tell us that this attitude on the part of evolutionary teachers was a willful denial of our Creator:
I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago & what our Lord & Savior commanded through your apostles. Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth & following their own desires... They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of His command, & He brought the earth out from the water & surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. (2 Peter 3:2-3, 5-6 NLT)
That Flood, which Moses recorded in Genesis, is another thing that evolutionary teachers adamantly deny. Yet, St. Peter connects the flood with the creation of the world, because both of them are the work of our heavenly Father. Denying creation clearly means denying the words of St. Peter, a man chosen by Jesus Himself to be one of His disciples. Those words of St. Peter, inspired by God’s Spirit, go out into the world & they do not return void or empty. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit creates faith through those words. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit renders judgment. The Word of God never fails at the task for which it was sent. To deny that word is foolish!
In Isaiah 29, the prophet was delivering a word of judgment to the nation that had been God’s chosen people. The leaders & the people had, for many years, been refusing to surrender or submit to the will of God. Isaiah compared their attitude to clay that said to the potter, “You did not make me!”
With their lips the people of Judah said all the right words, but their hearts were far from their Lord & Creator. Isaiah had been warning God’s people for many, many years. They refused to listen & now the prophet was describing the judgment that would befall them. The voice of God’s people would be as one from the realm of the dead:
“And you will be brought low, from the earth you shall speak, & from the dust your speech will be bowed down; your voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost, & from the dust your speech shall whisper.” (Isaiah 29:4 ESV) If the people refused to honor the Words of God, then their very own words would become the words of the dead.
That so many people are teaching evolution, instead of creation by God the Father, is a clear sign of judgment from the Lord of the universe. The words of evolutionary theory are the words of the dead just like the voice of a ghost. Teaching evolution is a word & a meditation that is not acceptable to the Lord God, for it says He is a liar.
St. Paul directly connects the suppression of the truth, through rejection of God as Creator, to the immorality that is so prevalent in our country today:
But God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth & sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power & divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship Him as God or even give Him thanks… So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile & degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie… Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking & let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior & gossip. (Romans 1:18-21a, 24-25a, 28-29 NLT)
If you follow the news at all you recognize those words of St. Paul in the lives of American politicians, our news media & the people in general. If the meditation of our hearts is acceptable in God’s sight, we also recognize the words of St. Paul in our own daily living. But not all is doom & gloom for where God brings judgment He also brings salvation.
Immediately after the sermon text Isaiah brings hope with words of the new day that is coming: “Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, & the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book,
& out of their gloom & darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” (Isaiah 29:17-18 ESV)
Listen to the words of a book called the 1st chapter of the Gospel of John:
“In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, & the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, & without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, & the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, & the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5 ESV)
Even as children of God darkness still lives in your heart & in mine, but our heavenly Father’s promise is this – that darkness will not overcome the Light of Christ. The prophet Isaiah, even while announcing judgment upon them, was calling God’s people to turn back to Him to be healed. Jesus Christ is longing to turn your heart back to Him.
You see, billions of years & the evolution of species, is a false teaching centering squarely in violation of the very 1st commandment. We are called to submit our thoughts, our words & our deeds to Yahweh alone. Human reason is always the lie. Consider this – what was so terrible about eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil? Human reason would say that murder is a far greater sin. The travesty of The Fall, was not in the sin, but in Whom Adam & Eve sinned against. They rebelled against their Creator.
As Isaiah accused the people of Judah, “You turn things upside down!” Likewise, disbelieving the events of Creation is not such a terrible act, except for Whom it is that we disbelieve when we deny creation by our Creator. If you aren’t sure you can believe in a six day 24 hour creation, then submit to Christ as Ephesians instructs us to do.
Christians who teach evolution may honor God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. They are teaching as doctrines the commandments of men, which is exactly what Jesus criticized the Pharisees for in the Gospel reading from Mark. If you didn’t notice, Jesus quoted those words from the OT reading in Isaiah.
There is no such thing as the purely ethical scientist who operates with no bias against our heavenly Father. If you remember, St. Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned & fall short of the glory of God.” Even to teach that God used evolution to create Adam & Eve is not a harmless sin. It undercuts the entire foundation of Holy Scripture.
The words of Psalm 19: “May the words of my mouth & the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our strength & our redeemer,” do not simply apply to sermons. They are valid words for every aspect of daily living. So consider meditating on these questions:
The “sealed book” of the text has been replaced by the “open book,” with the message of God’s love revealed, in Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection, ascension & anticipated return. The promise of peace & the opening of eyes have been & will be fulfilled by the work of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace.
As one who was spiritually “blind” at birth I have experienced the Holy Spirit at work in me through the means of grace – God’s Word & Sacraments. “I was blind but now I see.” The promise of ‘peace’ & source of ‘joy’ are renewed by the very presence of our Lord in the bread & wine of Holy Communion.
By the work of the Holy Spirit through Word & Sacraments I believe that Jesus Christ will return to claim me & all believers. He will invite us to experience His presence, “life without end.” I anticipate being there with you. Amen.
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul praise Him, for He is your health & salvation! Let all who hear now to His temple draw near, joining in glad adoration! Praise to the Lord, who has fearfully, wondrously made you, health has bestowed &, when heedlessly falling, has stayed you. What need or grief ever has failed of relief? Wings of His mercy did shade you. Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him! All that has life & breath, come now with praises before Him! Let the Amen sound from His people again. Gladly forever adore Him! Amen. LSB 790:1, 3, 6.
14th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 15) LSB #’s 730, 716:1-3, 716:4-6
Text – John 6:60-61
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?”
ACCEPTING HARD TEACHINGS
Go to your room, right now! Just wait till your father gets home! If you get punished at school, & I hear about it, you’ll get even worse when you get home. You’ve heard those haven’t you? And if you ever were on the receiving end of those words, you know how hard those teachings are to accept.
Swallowing our pride does not come naturally. It takes something a lot more powerful than we are to make us swallow our pride. Still, it’s a good lesson to learn in life. It’s one that all of us should learn to do gracefully, & parents are responsible for seeing to it that their children learn to accept hard teachings.
In the 6th chapter of Paul’s letter to Ephesus, it reads: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline & instruction of the Lord.” (6:4 ESV)
The word Paul used for discipline, or correction, was a Greek word that could mean, “to bring someone up with a training that leads to a fear of the Lord,” & as you may remember from several places in the OT, such fear is the beginning of wisdom.
Children must be disciplined & corrected when they’re young so they learn how to discipline themselves when they are adults. Think about it a moment. Once a person becomes an adult, they almost never allow someone else to discipline them against their will.
More & more, it takes a badge or a gun to do so. Our society has increasingly resorted to prison & life sentences in order to control people who won’t listen to anything else. And a standard complaint today is that people lack common sense. Could some of those situations be related? Could it be that people no longer have wisdom, common sense or self-discipline because they no longer fear God? And who is it that should be teaching them the proper fear of the Lord? God’s Word tells us it’s the parents, specifically the fathers:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline & instruction of the Lord.” Even that Bible text is a hard teaching that is difficult to accept. Many of today’s fathers find that verse offensive, because it takes away from time for themselves. They’d rather be watching sports or hunting or playing with their toys.
How many men are there teaching Sunday School? How many men do you normally find in adult bible study? How many men are seldom seen in church at all? Apparently they’re having a difficult time accepting those hard teachings themselves, let alone teaching them to their children. PAUSE
Where do you rate your ability in that respect? Would you give yourself an A+? How about a D-? Probably most of us would tend to stay around the middle & give ourselves a C. That way we don’t sound too prideful because accepting hard teachings is the opposite of pride, so we don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.
Once the men get their act together, then it’s the turn for the women. One verse after today’s epistle lesson gives a very obvious example: “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.” Talk about a hard teaching! That has got to be one. It’s difficult enough to submit to the Lord & He’s perfect. Husbands are a long way from that.
Yet God’s Word is clear, & the church’s traditional wedding liturgy reflects God’s Word in the vows, “Will you love him, comfort him, honor him, obey him?” In that case, I would think you’d want to be married to a God fearing man – a man of wisdom. And difficult teachings don’t end for women with their marriage vows. Scripture also makes clear that women are not to be pastors. The Bible doesn’t say why, & it doesn’t give the benefit of an explanation. Yet God’s Word is clear even if it’s a hard teaching to accept. PAUSE
While speaking at the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus said, “For my flesh is true food, & my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh & drinks my blood abides in me, & I in him. …This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, & died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:55-56 & 58 ESV)
In those circumstances, many of Jesus’ disciples said, & many people in our day agree, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Several verses later John reports, “From that time on, many of Jesus’ disciples turned back & no longer followed Him.” His teaching rubbed them the wrong way, & in their dissatisfaction they left.
Christianity is a teaching that does not agree with human reason. The man who allows his reason to interfere with his religion is on the downward path. Paul wrote, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) And even the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom.
And that, my friends, is a hard teaching to accept. Our sinful nature chafes at the bit. It wants to go its own way. Forget about common sense & wisdom. I’ll cut off my nose to spite my face if I want to. But when His disciples reject Him, Christ does not run them off. He makes a plea to those offended not to oppose the Spirit of God in His Word.
At times we end up in the same position as those disciples. When we don’t understand some teaching in Scripture, or when we are offended by it, we must not forget that if an insight to an unclear passage is to come to us, it must come from the words themselves. Our trying to make the words say, what we want them to say – is dishonest & arrogant.
In those circumstances we need to swallow our pride. We need to be still, & we need
to know that God is God. That stillness & that knowledge depend upon whether or not the Spirit of God dwells in us, or only the spirit of the flesh. The Spirit of God is quickening, it brings true life, & where He operates all offense at the teaching of Christ is removed. But where the good for nothing sinful nature dominates in man, the offense of Christ remains.
The Spirit operates in the words of Christ. They are spirit & they are life. If the Spirit & life, of which Jesus has been speaking, are to be found anywhere, they must be found in the Word of God.
Therefore, even when the disciples who left were offended, at the hard teachings of Jesus, the Spirit of God was still working on their hardened hearts through those very words, which they found so offensive. God’s discipline is not simply punishment or correction. It also includes instruction & teaching.
God’s Words are life, because they do not only offend & condemn. They are creative & forgiving as well. Nonetheless, He allows you to reject them, & in that case God’s will is that His words become powerless. It’s uncomfortable to think that God allows you & me to render His Words powerless, however, that’s only for a time.
There comes a point when God renders judgment, & those Words are anything but powerless. Then life teaches hard lessons. Illness intrudes upon our plans. Death interrupts our goals. And there’re hundreds of smaller inconveniences that daily interfere with our ideas. Life itself, if lived as God wills, is a constant struggle of hard teachings.
And God does not promise that He’ll always light our path to see His will. Isaiah wrote,
“Let him who walks in darkness & has no light trust in the name of the Lord & rely on his God.” (50:10 ESV) Sometimes we are fighting with our sinful nature. Sometimes we’re fighting with our holy nature. And there are plenty of times when we cannot tell the difference. We won’t always know what is the right thing to do. But no matter the battle, the final question always boils down to, “Do you believe in Jesus as Savior, or don’t you?” PAUSE
We cannot always know what is right, but we can always know that Christ has the words of eternal life. After the offended disciples left, Jesus asked His remaining followers, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68 ESV)
Congregations that use the hymnal recognize those last sentences. They’re sung by the people just before the Gospel reading. And they’re a fitting introduction to the Good News, because they speak volumes about where salvation is to be found.
We don’t find it in psychology or salesmanship. We don’t find it in good works nor in decent living. A man will not find it in bringing up his children correctly, nor will a woman find it in submitting to her husband. None of us can even find salvation in accepting hard teachings. All of those actions, God pleasing as they are, do not gain us eternal life.
By virtue of Christ’s Words we have eternal life as a gift. It comes first. All our God pleasing actions flow out of, & as a result of, the spiritual life that came first. That order of salvation releases us from guilt & worry, because first Jesus sees to it that He earns eternal life for the whole world.
Only a living tree can produce fruit, & first Christ’s Words made us alive. Those words are still making us alive – over & over. The only thing for us to do is share that fantastic & life giving news, as a healthy tree shares its fruit. As the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens & sanctifies you, you will find that God’s teachings are not so difficult to accept after all.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life.” Amen.
Praise the Lord all you nations; extol Him all you peoples. For great is His love toward us, & the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord. Amen. Psalm 117:1-2.
12th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 14) LSB #’s 645, 912, 924
Text – 1 Kings 19:8
And [Elijah] arose & ate & drank, & went in the strength of that food forty days & forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
FORTY DAYS & FORTY NIGHTS
The phrase 40 days & 40 nights rings forth from the OT like a harbinger of momentous news. Rain fell upon the earth for 40 days & 40 nights. Moses was on Mt. Sinai with the Lord 40 days & 40 nights. Elijah arose & went in the strength of that food 40 days & 40 nights.
The reading from the OT shows how faithful our heavenly Father is in providing for His children. Even in times of utter desperation & complete helplessness, our Lord cares for us & provides the wherewithal to continue. On the strength of one meal Elijah hikes through the same wilderness where Israel had wandered for forty years.
In the NT the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. Guess how long He was there – tempted by Satan? After 40 day & 40 nights, in a clear understatement, Matthew records, “Jesus then became hungry.” But after the temptation, angels attended Him. Later, we’ll see that Jesus, in the form of an angel, attended Elijah when he was in the wilderness.
In past sermons I’ve spoken of how Scripture uses stories of God’s chosen people in the wilderness as a metaphor for our lives. We can learn lessons about how God works by studying the manner in which He acted in the lives of people such as Elijah.
Today’s OT lesson begins with Elijah going a day’s journey into the wilderness. There he sits under a tree & prays that he might die: “I’ve had enough Lord! Take my life!” Then he fell asleep under that tree. Elijah was tired of having to persevere.
God had just used him to humiliate & then have killed over 850 prophets of the false
gods Baal & Asherah. The Queen – Jezebel, was infuriated, & she ordered that Elijah be killed within 24 hours. Elijah escapes into the wilderness, but now he has given up. Feeling that he was the only true believer left alive, life was not worth the struggle anymore.
It’s a common reaction when we come down from the mountaintop events of living. We experience a tremendous accomplishment, or an exhilarating time of success, but then it ends. The inevitable letdown occurs. We crash & burn. Everyday life can never live up to those spectacular moments when everything comes together just as we hope for.
Elijah had crashed & burned. At just this point, the Son of God comes to Elijah in the form that He often took in the OT – that of an Angel. This Malach Yahweh, this Angel of the Lord, touched Elijah & said, “Arise & eat.”
Elijah did so, but then he lay down again. So the Angel of the Lord came a second time, & said, “Arise & eat, for the journey is too much for you.” Do you find those words to be comforting? It’s encouraging to realize that our Lord knows when things are too much. Nevertheless, it’s very common that we do not understand why things happen as they do.
Life has a way of presenting challenges that look insurmountable. After our 1st two days of the crash course in ancient Greek, most of my seminary class was pretty well convinced that each of us would fail. After years of being a large & growing church it’s easy to get beat up & worn down with asking why this congregation keeps shrinking.
After decades of declining population, the demise of many small cities in North Dakota seems inevitable. Adultery can cause a marriage to appear beyond repair. Drug use & other forms of rebellion can make a child seem lost forever to the parents. To someone whose life is controlled by an addiction, living without it sounds impossible.
In situations like those, we too are tempted to say, “Lord, take my life!” And in those
difficult circumstances, many people do commit suicide. They take their own lives because they have NO hope for the future, & they completely surrender to the present. Even if they don’t kill themselves, they may, like Elijah, lie down under a tree & simply give up.
Nothing can be done with people in that condition, because they trust their own feelings more than they trust their Savior & His love for them. Even psychologists realize that you cannot help someone, unless they’re willing to help themselves. The old saying applies, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
We may not know the reasoning behind the circumstances that God allows into our lives, but the book of Kings records history from God’s perspective so we might see how He did work in the lives of His people. The OT gives a picture of the themes that God still works with today.
The Angel of the Lord comes down & touches you in the waters of your baptism. He touches you through the elements of bread & wine in, with & under which exists the body & blood of Christ, given & shed for you for the remission of your sins. Those sins are what weigh you down. Those sins are what cause you to collapse in hopeless despair.
But, like Elijah, we fail to notice the truth. We fail to comprehend that the journey is too much for us. We try to make it on our own, & then depression sets in: “Lord, I have had enough.” Finally, we surrender to Satan’s deception, but our guilt has been removed from us. We have nothing to hide & nothing to fear in spite of what the Devil tells us.
When we are afraid to confess our sin, it’s not because God won’t declare it forgiven. It’s because we don’t want that forgiveness. We prefer to continue living in our sins, because we have so little hope for a future without them. Elijah was so depressed at the beginning of this story that he sits down & prays that God would kill him. God never grants that request, as eventually Elijah is taken to heaven in a whirlwind. He never sees death, but in today’s lesson, he had no such hope. God sustained & strengthened Elijah through sending the Angel of the Lord, to touch him & bring him a supernatural supply of strength through miraculous bread & water.
What miraculous blessings might God have in store for you that you are currently unwilling to trust in? What mountaintop experiences might God have waiting; prepared in advance, if you’re only willing to trust & follow His will rather than your own?
There have been many blessings in my life that I would’ve considered totally irrational to expect; yet God has provided them. Likewise, Elijah expected nothing from God in that wilderness, nothing except death.
What are you expecting from your God in this life? Do you expect only the thunder & lightning as God works His miracles, or do you also look for quiet revelations of His power & love? In the life of Elijah, our Lord had just proven beyond a doubt that false gods are impotent & powerless, & He did that in a spectacular display before thousands of people.
Yet, Christ also came to Elijah in the middle of the wilderness, with not a single witness, & performed just as mighty a miracle. He overcame the despair & hopelessness of Elijah. Christ overcame the defeat & the surrender. Christ overcame Elijah’s desire to die!
The Angel of the Lord comes to feed Him. Eight hundred years later, in the Gospel reading Jesus tells everyone that He Himself is the bread of life: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” (John 6:51b ESV) “…Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:43-44a ESV)
Christ comes to us in His Holy Supper, prepared for you, to strengthen you with a faith that cannot be explained by rational argument. He comes to draw you to Himself, to guide & direct you to Mt. Horeb in the sense that there He will speak to you as well. My child come to Me for the journey is too much for you. I tell you the truth, he who believes already has everlasting life. PAUSE
Are those words too irrational for you? Are you hesitating? Are you backing away?
There are a countless number of things in life that do not make sense. Events happen that we can only label as mystery. How Elijah could travel 40 days & 40 nights through the wilderness on only one meal is not rational, but it is real.
How we can survive & even rejoice in a world as corrupt & hopeless as ours is also a mystery. It’s not rational. Yet, it’s real. The journey here on earth is too much for us, but our Savior, who experienced that same journey in every way as we have, knows our weakness. He came to earth in order to conquer the source of our weakness & to renew our hope for life.
The final resurrection awaits us & Christ desires to strengthen us for the journey there. From that time on, we’ll never again know weakness or despair, hunger or thirst. Until then, Jesus calls us to believe that He has done all that is necessary, & He will never abandon us.
It’s through the Bread of life that you are enabled to hold onto His Word & its truth, serving Christ alone throughout time & eternity. Come. Lay hold of the Bread of life & the Living Waters that you may have strength for the journey. Our comforting God is leading us to another mountain – to Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Garden of Eden restored.
Christ has already taken the journey to the cross. He carried all your sins there & He paid the price demanded for our rebellion. Your worry, your fear & your despair they are forgiven. Go in the strength of the Angel of the Lord & be at peace. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
11th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 13) LSB #589
Text – John 6:26
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
EATING YOUR FILL
“The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:16 NLT) That line, from a well-known parable of Jesus, is something few of us have experienced. Yet, it was this man’s tremendous hunger that finally caused him to turn away from the rebellious attitude in his heart.
His need for food spurred him to turn back to the father who once loved him. He thought, maybe his father would accept him back as a servant, because even the servants ate better than this prodigal son was now eating… Has anything ever caused you to change your mind, to turn around, to plot a new course?
In the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is pleading with the crowds to change course, & in world history that’s nothing new. In the 9th verse of Genesis 3, “…the Lord God called to the man & said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (ESV) You see, Adam & Eve were headed in a totally unhealthy direction, & their Creator, out of love, was calling them to change course.
In what areas of life would it be healthy for you to change course? Jesus challenged the people searching for Him because they sought food instead of forgiveness. While it’s true that we need food & water, what we want are cookies & ice cream. While it’s true that we need forgiveness, what we want is to have our sins swept under the rug rather than forgiven.
Forgiveness is not free. If someone hurts you, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually, when you honestly forgive them, you are absorbing the price through your pain. To forgive the sins of the whole world, Jesus had to pay the price. It meant excruciating pain – physically as He was nailed to the cross, emotionally as His own people shouted, “Crucify Him,” & spiritually as His Father in heaven abandoned Him. Jesus suffered hell all alone. With forgiveness, the person causing the pain does not pay the price. It is paid by someone else for them. God the Father sent His only Son to pay that price for you.
And that’s why Jesus has the right to call you to a course correction: “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (John 6:27a ESV) Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus went into more detail:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth & rust destroy & where thieves break in & steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys & where thieves do not break in & steal.” (6:19-20 ESV)
Jesus is consistent in His teaching that, if we’ve been making our lives all about material things, we need to change course. The culture around us, of which we are part, teaches that to be needy is bad. We’ve been programmed to believe that our need is the problem & whatever fills that need is the solution. The culture says, “All people should be eating their fill.”
The Greek word that Jesus spoke could be used when speaking of cattle that have been fattened for the market – “you ate your fill of the loaves.” Jesus knew that’s why they came searching for Him. They wanted their needs met on their own terms. They weren’t the least bit interested in Jesus’ knowledge of the danger they were in, nor in His love for them.
It might not be steak & lobster, it might be mac & cheese, but most Americans can eat their fill whenever they like. They are not searching for anything more than the material things of life. It seems to be one reason for our nation’s lack of interest today in the Church. The life of most Americans is saturated with stuff. Giving people more of they want is a dead end. “It’s the economy, stupid!” is a more contemporary line, yet it describes the same problem Jesus saw: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
The OT reading was about Israel’s journey in the wilderness – 40 years of traveling in circles, all the time carried along by Christ. The manna they were given to eat pointed to the coming of Jesus, the Bread of Life. So at the end of today’s Gospel reading Jesus declares:
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, & whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Can you believe in Jesus even in the struggles of your broken, sinful lives? Can you believe enough so you will actually engage the struggle, every day, to stop ‘chasing’ after earthly food? PAUSE
The manna in the wilderness was given to living people to keep them alive. The Bread of Life gives life to people who are dead so they may live. That is the food God’s children are to work for, remaining in the faith that God 1st created in us. That’s why we sing of the Gospel reading: “Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…”
Our Creator has the food that endures to eternal life & we need it to survive. The main object of our lives ought to be earnest labor to remain believers. God’s Spirit created the faith in us, but Satan, the world, & our own sinful nature, are constantly trying to starve it out.
In that struggle we get the physical earthly blessings confused with the spiritual heavenly ones. Jesus complained of the people, “You seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” The miraculous feeding of the 5000 had occurred just a few verses before the Gospel reading, & food was not easy to come by in their lives.
It may sound like madness when Jesus calls us to take our mind off our worries, off of what we lack, off of what we have failed to achieve, & place our mind upon Christ. Martin Luther wrote, “To depend on God’s Word, so that the heart is not terrified by sin & death, but trusts & believes in God, is a more severe demand than any that humankind can dream up.”
Many try believing in order to ‘get something’ out of Jesus. When they get nothing like the commercials on TV, they give up, they drift off, they fade away. That’s because even then, even believing in Christ, our sinful nature is still, always, working for food, working for things, working for this life. In that sense Christ never satisfies.
Our sinful nature never gains enough. It must always have more. There are still large #’s of people who seek nothing more in Christianity than earthly well-being. How’s your Christian walk been going lately? Has it been a bed of roses? If it hasn’t, are you disappointed, weary, discouraged?
Have you been hard at work just trying to stay even, or get a little ahead of the game? Even if you’re trying to work for the food that endures to eternal life, it is weary & exhausting work. Our sinful nature is that strong.
The Gospel of John teaches that we need not feel guilty for leaning upon Christ. He knows our dilemma. He knows our failures. He knows our sins. Jesus knows how we are naturally preoccupied with the things of this world, with the food that spoils. So He came, not just to die, but to live in your place. Jesus has done everything that needs to be done.
Now you can rest in Him, & once you are rested, then Jesus can use you to point others to the Bread of Life. Until you yourself find rest from your sin in Jesus you cannot lead anyone else to Him. Otherwise, you will only be seeking Him because you have eaten your fill. That’s why, daily, each of us needs the course correction that God’s gift of repentance brings to us.
You & I can always find rest in Jesus, because even when we seek Him for the wrong reasons, He responds to our own individual hearts & not merely to our words. The question as always is this: “Will we allow Jesus to give us a course correction & follow Him?” By the end of John’s 6th chapter many people had left Jesus because His teaching was too difficult. In other words, they did not want to give up the things of this world. They worshipped the creation instead of the Creator.
Why do you search for Jesus? Why do you pray to Him? Do you worship Jesus for His own sake or do you worship Him because of the gifts He has given to you? Is there a course correction in your future? Could it be that what is best for us is our emptiness & our need? As with the thorn in St. Paul’s flesh, maybe God’s answer is that ‘His grace is sufficient for us.’
Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens, let Your Word to me come near; newborn life & spirit give me, let each promise still my fear. Death’s dread power, its inward strife, wars against Your Word of life; fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor that I cling to You forever! Oh, what blessing to be near You & to listen to Your voice; let me ever love & hear you, let Your Word be now my choice! Many hardened sinners, Lord, flee in terror at Your Word; but to all who feel sin’s burden You give words of peace & pardon. Amen. LSB 589:1-2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet