25 July 2009

The Incident of the Loaves

What is it that you are looking for? What do you need?
You don’t know, really, unless you are taught. . . . But you do know need itself, because you hunger and thirst — not only for food and drink, and for clothing and shelter, but what else?
What satisfaction is required? What peace and rest do you long for?
Why is it so elusive, so impossible?
You are created for life with God, and you will never be satisfied, you will have no true and lasting rest, until you are filled with Him and find your peace and rest and life in Him.
What is it, then, that keeps you from Him? What is it that separates you from Him and cuts you off from Him? You know the answer; it is your own sin, by which you are always turning away.
It is already quite late, and you are in serious trouble if you don’t eat something that satisfies you. You’re in a desolate place, and there’s not enough money nor enough food to make ends meet.
But now the Lord has come ashore, and He sees you — He knows your need — and He has mercy upon you, and compassion for you. The One who created you in love for life with Himself, graciously opens His generous hand to provide for you.
Make no mistake, He does care about your body and life on earth, and He provides for all those needs, as He does for the lilies and the sparrows. But His care for you goes much further, and His provision likewise.
The divine compassion of the Good Shepherd is not merely an emotion of pity, but an active care and concern for you that springs from the very heart of Him; yes, from the entrails of His being. He suffers with you and for you. He bears your burdens and makes them His own. He gathers you to Himself, and takes your sin upon Himself. He suffers all the punishment of your sin, even the death of His Cross. He lays down His life for you, and sacrifices Himself for you.
The Good Shepherd becomes the Passover Lamb, the Sacrifice of Atonement for the entire flock.

Not only does He thus remove your burdens from you, but He then feeds you with Himself, with His sacrificial flesh and blood — and so He fills the deepest emptiness within you, with Himself.
How so? By the preaching and teaching of His Word, first of all; by the apostolic Ministry of the Gospel, which centers in the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of Christ Jesus. With Words? Yes, His preaching of Peace to you and to all, both near and far. Because He preaches nothing less than Himself to you, and reconciliation with God: into your ears, into your heart and life.
And He does more.
He takes the bread — He blesses and gives thanks — He breaks it and gives it to His disciples.
By the hand of His servant, He gives this Bread to you; for you are His disciple by the catechesis of His Word, and by the washing of water with His Word.
There is nothing lacking here, neither in quantity or quality. This Food that Jesus provides, His own Body and His Blood, feeds His entire Church in all times and places; and with this Food He satisfies your hunger, He quenches your thirst, unto life with God forever in both soul and body.
It is certainly not by my power or proficiency that I give you this Food! I could not do any such thing of myself. I too need the peace and rest that only Jesus provides by His Gospel. But for that very purpose, He has said to me: "You give them something to eat." So I do, at His Word, by His divine command. I preach and teach, and forgive, and distribute this Food of Christ Jesus.

Here, then, in the Lord’s Church, is the green grass of His Gospel, and the peaceful waters of forgiveness and life, and the banqueting Table with the overflowing Chalice of salvation.
Here is the Good Shepherd, who cares and provides for His whole Church.
What, then, shall you say or do?
How many loaves do you have?
Is it not enough to do what the Lord has given you to do?
Do not suppose that you will ever be able to make ends meet by yourself. You can’t, and you won’t. You’ll run out of money, out of food, out of energy, and out of time.
But do not be dismayed, and do not grow weary or lose heart. For the Lord Jesus, your Good Shepherd, is still moved with compassion for you, His dear lamb, His sheep. He will provide for all that you need, and far more than you could ever ask or imagine.
Do the work to which He has called you: in the confidence of His grace, mercy and peace. Let each day be sufficient of itself to concern you; and let that be to you according to His Word.
But now, come away from your work to rest a while. Find your place aboard the boat with Jesus and His disciples, which is the holy ark of Christendom. Recline in the peace of Christ within these fruitful pastures of His Word. Eat, drink, and be satisfied.
The Lord your God removes all of your sin and relieves you of all your burdens. And He Himself is your Food, your Meat and Drink indeed, who fills you with His own life & salvation.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

sarahlaughed said...

Again, I have to say, "Thanks so much, Pastor. I needed to hear that sermon." Thanks for doing your vocation and forgiving sinners like Jesus told you to.