06 August 2017

By Every Word from the Mouth of God

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

If you are hungry, listen.  If you are thirsty, open your ears and hear.  Feast upon God’s Word.

Whatever your hunger may be, whatever your thirst may be, whatever your sickness of mind or body, heart or soul, what you need is the Word of God in Christ.  He is the One who feeds you.  He is the One who gives you to drink.  He is the One who heals all of your diseases.  He is the One who gives you life.  And all of this He does by His Word, by His precious Word of the Gospel.

It is because of sin that you go hungry.  It is with forgiveness that God feeds you.  It is because of sin that you get sick and die.  It is with forgiveness that God heals you and raises you up.

It is freely spoken, freely given, freely to be received.  It costs you nothing.  You cannot work for the Gospel.  You cannot earn it.  You cannot buy it.  You simply hear it and receive it by grace.

So listen.  Hear and receive what the Lord speaks to you by His grace.  And do not let anything get in the way of that.  Do not let anything detain you from hearing the Word of Christ.

Like those people who were so intent on Jesus that they followed Him on foot from their cities round about and spent the entire day hearing Him preach, in order to receive His gifts.  They were not the ones bellyaching for food.  It was the disciples who would send them away in order to eat.

But there is no need to be sent away.  When you are intent on Christ and the hearing of His Word, you shall be fed, and you will live.  For the preaching of His Word is the one thing truly needed.

Jesus gives you Life by His Word of the Gospel.  With divine compassion, by the tender mercies of His heart, He preaches, He feeds you, and He gives you life in Himself through His Word.

It is the same Word of God that your neighbor also needs, if he is to live.  And God desires that he live.  You, then, give your neighbor something to eat.  Feed your neighbor.  What you have heard, speak.  What you have received, share.  Do not keep it to yourself, but, as you have received, so also give.  By this means, your neighbor also lives by the grace of God in Christ.

As a child of God, baptized into Christ and fed by His life-giving Word, you have been called to love and serve your neighbor.  To do for others as Christ does for you, for both body and soul.

In your calling as a parent, a spouse, a child, a brother or sister — in whatever particular stations in life to which God has called you  — that is where you are given particular neighbors to love and to serve with whatever means the Lord has given into your hands and provided for this purpose.

Above all of their bodily needs and concerns, the thing that your neighbors need the most is the same Word of God in Christ by which you also live.  Speak that Word to them.  Confess that Word to them.  Pray and sing that Word with them and for them, that they may live with you in Christ.

It is to each of you fathers, in particular — including you, Kelvin — that the greatest responsibility falls for your family, for your wife, and for your children.  The women and children eat along with the men.  It is the men who are numbered in this story, and they in turn are to give and share the food with their wives and with their children.  So also for the orphans and widows.  You are to care for them and feed them as the Lord your God feeds and cares for you.

Above all, it is your chief responsibility to feed your family with the Word of God.  To speak both the Law and the Gospel to them, and to live by it yourself, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are not serving your family with the Word of God, then it makes no difference how much money you make, or how much money you have.  It makes no difference how well fed or well clothed your family may be.  If you are not serving them with the Word of God, then you are starving them to death, and you are killing them forever.  For they cannot live without the Word.

Wives and mothers, you are likewise called to speak that Word of God to your husband, to your children, and to your neighbors.  And children, you are to speak the Word of God to your parents and siblings, and to live according to His Word in all of your relationships and responsibilities.

Wherever God has placed you within the desert wilderness of life on this earth, that is where you are to hear and confess His Word, to listen and to learn it, and then also to speak it, to sing and to pray it, and to live according to it.  Indeed, that is your number one responsibility as a Christian.

The point is not that you should neglect the other duties and responsibilities of your office and stations in life.  By all means, do what God has given you to do in the world.  Serve your neighbor also in those capacities.  Do your job faithfully and well.  Do it conscientiously.  Pay your bills.  Take care of your home.  Do all those things.  But understand that your chief duty — within your own place — is to confess the Word of God; which requires that you first of all hear and learn it.

Whether you have a family or you’re on your own, hear and heed the Word of God every day; pray, praise, and give thanks.  Pray because you need the Lord.  Give attention to what He says for the same reason.  So also pray and intercede for His Church and for the whole world.  These are not meaningless pursuits.  These are the very things that Christians are given to do by God Himself.

Doing all of these things, fulfill your other duties and responsibility by faith in the Word of Christ — and in love for the Lord and for His people.  Do what you are given to do for God’s sake, and for your neighbor’s sake.  Do it in faith that God will take care of you, for you are His own child.

Those people who listened to Jesus all day were fed.  Not because they worried, nor because the disciples worried, but because the Lord Jesus fed them with His Word in both soul and body.  Likewise, when you give attention to the Word of God, you will not go without what you need.

Do not worry about your body, what you will wear, or what you will eat, or what you will drink.  Your Father knows that you need all of these things for the life that He has given you here on earth for the time being.  In His compassion, in His mercy, in His love for you — because He does love you — He will take care of you.  He feeds you.  He heals you.  He clothes you and shelters you.  He protects you from harm and danger in body and soul.

He does it all for Jesus’ sake, who in compassion has given Himself for you.  And for God it is a small thing to feed and clothe your body, to shelter and protect you in this life.  It is a very small thing, indeed, in comparison to what He does and gives for you in the Body of Christ Jesus.

Think of it.  Will you really doubt or question God’s love and care for you?  Do you suppose that He will not provide your needs, who did not withhold His own dear Son but gave Him up for you?

Do not cast about and worry, as to how you will make ends meet.  Do not look at yourself, at what you have, or at what you can do and accomplish.  Do not be daunted by the task of providing for your family, and for your neighbor’s needs as well.  Simply do what God has called you to do, by and according to His Word, and trust that He will provide everything that is needed for doing so.

Where and when you do come short of time, ability, or means, examine your heart and life, your choices, decisions, and actions, and consider whether you are investing yourself in that which God has not given you to do, to the detriment of what He has called you and commanded you to do.

But what if you are hungry?  What if you are starving to death?  There are baptized Christians in the world who do go without.  What if you should find yourself out on the street, with no place to lay your head, with little or nothing to wear?  What if you are sick?  What if you are dying?

What if?  In any case, do not despair.  Do not look to yourself, but look to Christ who loves you.  And looking to Christ, look also to your neighbor in love, and do what you are given to do.  Give your neighbor something to eat, as all that you have, be it little or much, has been given to you.

Remember the widow with her little boy?  Almost no food left, only enough for one last meal.  She and her son are going to eat, and then they are going to die.  And just then, when they’re on the verge of starvation, along comes the man of God and says, “First give me something to eat.”

She did not starve.  Her little boy did not starve.  Their food did not run out.  For the entire time of famine, God continued to feed them.  And He feeds you, too; so that you should be able to feed your neighbor, and to support the Church and Ministry of His Word with whatever you have.

But what if you spend your life in love and pour yourself out completely for others, and you die in the line of duty?  What then?  What have you lost?  Nothing.  Though you die, yet shall you live.

But if you turn away from Christ and from your neighbor to fend for yourself, to feed and clothe yourself, to get a life for yourself, you will fail.  You will die.  And you will lose everything.  Because you’re not God, no matter how hard you try.  That is not given to you.  Repent.

It is the Lord, in His tender mercy and compassion, who feeds you and clothes you, heals you and protects you.  He does all of that, not only for you, but also for the wicked, with or without your prayer.  You don’t have to twist His arm.  He does it gladly for His own love’s sake.

Much more, in love, He has called you to a far better life than this one that you now know.  And He has called you to that new Life in Christ by the way and the means of His Cross.

Those who share His Baptism — including, now also, Emma Elizabeth — share His Life out in the wilderness, in desolate places, where there seems to be no water or food but only the attacks of the devil.  That wicked foe taunts you: Why isn’t God taking care of you?  Why are you going hungry?  Why do you have to suffer?  Why must everything be so hard and go so badly for you?

Well, the fact is that those who are baptized into Christ share His Cross and suffering.  They share His death.  And it is by His Cross that you also receive and share His Resurrection and His Life.

It is for His compassion’s sake that He does it, for you and for all.  And it is at His own expense.  He denies Himself the very comforts and benefits with which He still takes care of you.

He goes hungry.  He does not miraculously feed Himself in the desert.  He waits upon His Father to feed Him in due season.  And He goes thirsty, as He hangs upon the Cross, parched and dying for you sins.  He goes hungry and thirsty, that He might feed you with His own flesh and blood.

He goes homeless, that you should be sheltered in the Temple of His crucified and risen Body.

And He goes naked in His death upon the Cross, that He may clothe you with His righteousness — as He done this morning for Emma Elizabeth in her Holy Baptism.

He bears all your griefs and sorrows, and He takes all your sickness, suffering, and death upon Himself, in order to heal all of your diseases and to give you life in place of death by His Word.

You shall not live by bread alone.  By bread alone, you will finally die.  But you do live, now and forever, by this Word of God in Christ, by this Word made Flesh who speaks to you in love, and who forgives you all of your sins.  For where there is such forgiveness, there is life and salvation.

This Word made Flesh gives Himself to you as Bread for both body and soul.  For He who gives life to your soul, gives life to your body as well.  Even here and now, you are living by His grace.  But you shall live even better, and forever and ever, in the Resurrection of your body at the last.

Here is the Rock who has been opened for you, to pour out of Himself the water and the Blood that quench your thirst, cleanse and refresh you within and without, and give you life in the wilderness.  Here and now, as then, He does it all by the hand of His disciples.  But He is the One who acts.  He is the One who speaks.  He takes the bread, He blesses, He breaks, and He gives it to you with His Word.  Take and eat His Body.  Drink His Blood.  Be satisfied.  Be forgiven.  And live.

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

No comments: