The Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
The Hymn #536 Awake My Soul 3.28
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Romans 6:19-23
The Gospel Mark 8:1-0
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #36 Now Thank We 3.40
The Opposite of Fear Is Not Courage, But Faith
The Hymn #316 O Living Bread 3.45
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #354 In the Cross 3.84
KJV Romans 6:19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
KJV Mark 8:1 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, 2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: 3 And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. 4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? 5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. 6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. 7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. 8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. 9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.
Seventh Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, who in the wilderness didst by Thy Son abundantly feed four thousand men besides women and children with seven loaves and a few small fishes: We beseech Thee, graciously abide among us with Thy blessing, and keep us from covetousness and the cares of this life, that we may seek first Thy kingdom and Thy righteousness, and in all things needful for body and soul, experience Thine ever-present help; through Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
The Opposite of Fear Is Not Courage But Faith
The theme of this sermon is from Luther, who always preached about faith.
This miracle is familiar to everyone. The rationalists have always tried to explain it away, as they did so many other parts of the New Testament. People shared their food after hiding it away – a remarkable feat after spending three days with Jesus. They stored so much away that they had more leftovers than anyone could imagine. Such a miracle of sharing, the rationalists tell us. No wonder the rationalists also try to figure out how to live in luxury while denying the message of the Bible, yet many manage to do exactly that.
First we notice that Jesus anticipated the needs of the crowd before they asked. That is a common message of the Bible, even though we forget. God is answering our prayers before we begin to ask. He cares for those who never acknowledge Him.
For believers, there is this promise:
KJV Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
I recently wrote that to a client, who lost his business after 20 years of running a Christian bookstore. The next day a long-time acquaintance started to cry when he said his son’s house was in foreclosure due to double-job losses (his and his wife’s).
These are evil times for everyone, and more troubles seem to be rising each day.
Jesus revealed in this miracle that God provides miraculous abundance through His Word. The Kingdom of God is not based upon material needs but spiritual needs. Nevertheless, God consoles us with His promises so that we do not abandon the Kingdom to provide for ourselves out of fear and anxiety.
This miracle nurtures our faith, so we can see how God can provide whatever He wants.
Children have the faith Jesus taught as ideal. They simply trust their parents to provide and never wonder about all the complexities involved. I am not sure we understand either. All the financial experts write that they were caught flat-footed, and they know far more than I can imagine.
Faith is constantly urged by the Scriptures and naturally in all of Luther’s sermons. As he pointed out so often, the opposite of fear is not courage (a virtue among the philosophers) but faith.
False teachers are always fearful, so they make doubly-sure they have all the power, authority, and money. They are afraid people will find out what they really believe, so they hide their doctrine.
False teachers often hide behind others, so they are not found out, because they are afraid of the consequences.
False teachers want to strike out against the Word of God, but they are afraid to do that openly, so they find ways of appearing pious and holy while they undermine the Word.
Faith conquers fear, so we should not look to possessing more courage. That is, we should not look inwardly and try to conjure up inner strength, but look to the Word of God for nurturing our faith in Him.
Anxiety and fear are the result of trusting in ourselves and relying on our experiences. The disciples did that when they were in the boat with Jesus as the storm kicked up. There is no way to describe the terror caused by a storm on a vast inland sea like the Sea of Galilee. Everything is black. The waves rise up and crash down with enormous power. The lack of light means total confusion about land, sea, and safety. The disciples relied on their expertise and faith disappeared. Jesus let them be terrified to show them what it meant to be with the Savior and to have the Savior with them. He silenced the sea. He walked on the water – still an expression for divine power.
Again, when the disciples knew there were no fish to be netted, Jesus spoke the Word and their boats were swamped with a miraculous catch of fish.
The answer is not in figuring it out, because we cannot. These mysteries are revealed to believers and hidden from unbelievers, who think they are foolishness.
The answer is relying on God and casting our cares upon Him.
KJV 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished [experienced] in your brethren that are in the world.
What was true of the disciples is also true for us.
When they faced the crucifixion of their Master, they once again fell prey to fear and anxiety, running away (except for John and the women at the cross). They were still in great anxiety after the Resurrection, when Jesus came to them. They were still in a locked room, not only the first time (Easter Sunday) but also the next Sunday (Doubting Thomas Sunday).
In each circumstance described and many others, Jesus allowed them to feel the depths of fear, despair, and anxiety so He could reveal His love, power, and compassion. Each display of love and divine power increased their faith. Their faith was confirmed and strengthened again in the post-resurrection appearances, which the 500 shared together and separately in some cases. They could admonish and encourage one another because of those many revelations of Jesus’ power and compassion.
It would be foolish to say a Christian believer never worries, never experiences anxiety. We take a certain state for granted and stop being thankful about God’s material blessings. When those blessings disappear, our anxieties rise up like storm clouds and darken our perception of everything. Fear can cause a kind of paralysis – as if we are saying, “What’s the use? Everything is beyond my control.”
If we look back we can see how many different ways God has turned bad events into blessings. We can only see them in retrospect, seldom at the time. As I have mentioned, I never wanted to live in a big city, but we landed in Cleveland with a baby and then two. That was the best place for the medical issues we faced in the next two years. Later, Cleveland seemed to be perfect, for all its flaws.
Difficulties should make us grateful, although mustering thanks to God for them at the time seems a real challenge. Spiritual difficulties make us spiritually strong. Other difficulties build character. If I want help from someone, I go to an individual who has gone through a lot. As Luther said, unless that person has experienced Anfectungen (onslaughts), he is no help to me. And then, in due time, we have something to offer people, after learning from the spiritual wisdom of others, offering some ourselves from the Word and the Confessions.
After all, what does a Trust Fund Baby know? How to relax from a winter vacation by taking a summer vacation. The truth is – very few people offer much when they have been given everything.
In the area of Christian doctrine, the times of turmoil develop the best hymns, confessions, and books. When people simply sit around and praise themselves for being orthodox, they have nothing to offer. The Book of Concord did not come from a self-satisfied seminary faculty but from an era of Muslim terror (Turks at the gates of Vienna) and religious persecution – dungeons, the stake, exile.
Lack of thankfulness to God is a great sin, because it is akin to lack of faith. Not being thankful and instead blaming God is just like thinking God wishes evil upon us. He does not. He is so powerful that He turns evil into good, as He did with the crucifixion of His only Son. We only have to wait for God to accomplish His purpose in His time.
"Thus we have two parts, preaching and believing. His coming to us is preaching; His standing in our hearts is faith. For it is not sufficient that He stand before our eyes and ears; He must stand in the midst of us in our hearts, and offer and impart to us peace."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 355.
"This is going through closed doors, when He comes into the heart through the Word, not breaking nor displacing anything. For when the Word of God comes, it neither injures the conscience, nor deranges the understanding of the heart and the external senses; as the false teachers do who break all the doors and windows, breaking through like thieves, leaving nothing whole and undamaged, and perverting, falsifying and injuring all life, conscience, reason, and the senses. Christ does not do thus."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 355.
"Hence I send you into the world as my Father hath sent me; namely, that every Christian should instruct and teach his neighbor, that he may also come to Christ. By this, no power is delegated exclusively to popes and bishops, but all Christians are commanded to profess their faith publicly and also to lead others to believe."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 359.
"The first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when he has become a believer, is to bring others also to believe in the way he himself came to believe. And here you notice Christ begins and institutes the office of the ministry of the external Word in every Christian; for He Himself came with this office and the external Word."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 359.
"Now God drives us to this by holding the law before us, in order that through the law we may come to a knowledge of ourselves. For where there is not this knowledge, one can never be saved. He that is well needs no physician; but if a man is sick and desires to become well, he must know that he is weak and sick, otherwise he cannot be helped."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 370.
"For the devil will not allow a Christian to have peace; therefore Christ must bestow it in a manner different from that in which the world has and gives, in that he quiets the heart and removes from within fear and terror, although without there remain contention and misfortune."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 380.
"Reformed theologians, in order to support their denial of the illocalis modus subsistendi of Christ's human nature, have sought, in their exposition of John 20, an opening in the closed doors, or a window, or an aperture in the roof or in the walls, in order to explain the possibility of Christ's appearance in the room where the disciples were assembled."
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950, II, p. 127.