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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Seventh Sunday after Trinity. Mark 8:1-9.
Feeding of the Four Thousand

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The Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 2013


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn #9            O Day of Rest                        1:89  
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
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       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #237            All Glory Be                     1:12 

This Miracle Teaches Faith

The Communion Hymn #308                            1.63
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 # 261     Lord Keep Us Steadfast                   1:93 

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.

Luther’s Sermons on this text:



"You must have the faith of a child to enter the Kingdom."
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This Miracle Teaches Faith

There are two miraculous feedings in the Gospel narratives. This one is the Feeding of the Four Thousand. We all tend to blend the two together, and the rationalists think some mistake was made.

Luther emphasized the importance of faith in his second sermon on this text. The two enemies of the Gospel are poverty and wealth. With poverty, people avoid the Office of Preaching because the preachers are treated so badly. With wealth, people flock to the ministry for its material advantages and security. In the famous novel, The Red and the Black, the ministerial students in France spend all their time in school talking about how well they will eat when they become priests. That seems to be their only motivation.

The miracle teaches us an important lesson for those who would be faithful to the Word of God.

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.

The first part of this miracle reveals the compassion of Christ. His large crowds had followed Him for three days in the hot desert. They were now out of the food they brought along. He knew that they could not return all the way home unless they had something to eat. Before anyone asked, God was already taking care of their bodily needs.

4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?

This was like driving along Rt 66 in Arizona. The vistas were beautiful, but there seemed to be no civilization nearby. No gas stations. No small towns. In Arkansas we found an exit like those obscure ones in Arizona. We drove five miles into town and found the only gas station to be closed. It was a large truck stop, whose signs from a distance promised everything.

The problem is doubly great because the disciples asked pointedly that where could anyone obtain enough bread for this great multitude in the desert. The disciples were being rationalists. Everything they said was correct, based on their own experience and human reason.

That is the dominant view in the churches today. “If I copy exactly what this large church is doing, down to the so-called sermons, I will have a church that big. And then I too will have esteem and honors and a board seat for my denomination’s college.”

Everyone is copying everyone else, so the coffee bar in the Pentecostal church looks just like the ones at the “conservative” Lutheran churches, the Babtist churches, and the mainline churches. Everyone grins, as if to say, “I know what it takes to be a cool church.” It is a rationalistic, materialistic approach to spiritual affairs, so it cannot go well in the long run.

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.

Jesus simply commanded that everyone sit down on the ground (an oasis) and divided the loaves, after blessing them. He also blessed a few small fish and divided them. This is not a small matter, that Jesus blessed the food. What we have is from God, and we owe Him thanks for His compassion on us.

Soon the enormous crowd would find something happening, as the disciples did. What began as barely enough for the Twelve became more than enough for the entire crowd.

When people are famished, any small amount of food is energizing. Walking in the desert meant they used up their food, their reserves of strength, and how had only water at that oasis. Drinking water on an empty stomach increases the awareness of the hunger.

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.

They ate until they could eat no more. And yet, the leftovers were greater than what they started with. Jesus dismissed them, with four thousand families knowing that Jesus spoke with authority and defied human reason with His divine power.

Like the water turned into wine, this miracle defied any explanation. It took place where large amounts of food could not be found.

I was even admonished at a fast food place for ordering 30 burgers once, because they had no warning about the order. They were all stressed from doing what they were set up to do, and no one asked them to deliver their sandwiches.
Imagine what an order for 12,000 would have done for them, especially if I had offered to pay them a couple of dollars for the order.

So one of the points of this story is miraculous abundance. We often discuss it in terms of grace offered through the Means of Grace, but it is also true of material blessings.

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Faith Reveals the Obvious
One lesson from gardening is the abundance God provides for us. We do not have good soil here in Arkansas, since we are not part of the grassland prairie making up the breadbasket of America, like Illinois – where topsoil is often measured in feet rather than inches. Nevertheless, my neighbor planted his garden this spring and now he has a plot full of vegetables. Truly, out of rock and soil God has provided an abundance of food.

The energy of the sun, the nitrogen in the rain, and the minerals in the soil conspire to grow plants that have the calories and vitamins we need, even the trace elements.

This abundance is far more complicated that city-folk imagine. Most of the action takes place in the soil, where plants and animals rot, renewing the soil through the work of soil creatures – sowbugs, pill bugs, ants, centipedes, millipedes, and earthworms. Bees and wind pollinate. Birds and preying mantises remove pests.

A man may work his garden a few hours a week while all the God-designed creatures work seven days with no Sabbath rest.

All we have to do is recognize God’s Creation plan and take advantage of His expert management. I have made only two modest changes so far, with plans for gardening next year. One was storing up leaves and plant material in a compost bin in the back of the year. This material will rot down into the best soil improvement possible, and with almost no work.

“Best of all, the creatures come crawling to me.”

Once I have fenced up the autumn leaves, grass, and dead plants in one area, the rain keeps the mass wet and the soil creatures begin working up from the bottom. Mold and bacterial break down the plant material and rain keeps it moist.
Decomposition is the renewal of the soil, so God’s Creation makes us healthy with plants growing on healthy soil.

It is great to see vast crops growing on hundreds of acres as we drive along the highways, but I often think of the teeming masses of life beneath the soil, the lowly creatures that make those crops possible. Prairie grass has such deep roots that the growth the grass and the rotting of the plants manufactured a top soil matched only by the Ukraine. When people came to my hometown area and jumped off their wagons, the soil waved like a giant pudding, because the soil was so rich in this compost. And John Deere had to manufacture a plow that would cut through the sticky soil and not gum up every few feet.

Rich soil launched a major manufacturing fortune in my hometown, and that provided a livelihood for thousands over the years. I went to John Deere Junior High, drove on John Deere Road, and saw the John Deere factories from my father’s bakery. I knew lots of families supported by John Deere, including many of my classmates, who sought jobs there. The Deere employees bought doughnuts on their way to work, so the soil provided for us, too, indirectly.
Christianity has unlocked the wealth of the world by training people to be grateful for God’s blessings and using them wisely. The Reformation did that again by taking the Medieval oppression of the pope-king away from him, opening up the New World when Protestants left for America to escape Roman Catholic persecution.

Ottoman armies allowed the Lutheran church to become established, and those Muslim armies also opened up the New World by closing down trade routes when they captured Constantinople.

Unbelievers see all this as a coincidence while believers realize these things, great and small, as part of God’s compassionate plan.

Micro-View of Faith
This miracle should always be in our minds when we consider how God work. At one moment we are in the desert with nothing to eat. No one can explain how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. Children answer this in faith, “Because He is God. God can do anything.”

This is an allegory of all our practical problems. For example, we just learned a medicine came on the market just a few months ago. It works well on one particular problem, unlike anything else before. How can this nagging problem be cured? There seemed to be no answer until one appeared miraculously.

That does not mean everything runs smoothly for the believer. There are special problems in being faithful to the Word when everyone else seems to be on a different wavelength. The Gospel always excites a special hatred, especially among those who used to believe (apostates) and those who know better and still reject it (reprobates).

Human reason and experience say, “I will join the other side, to find comfort and rest.” That does work very well. I know many who are better off materially from abandoning what they first believed. The market for theologians who believe nothing is lucrative, rewarding, and larded with high salaries – world religion at a state university or even a community college; Biblical studies at Harvard; Church Growth at the conservative Lutheran seminaries.

Having faith in God means trusting in those loaves and fish, knowing from the miracle that He will provide. One dentist had me in her chair and bragged about her huge church – a big attraction for professionals. She gloated about the greatness of this congregation while I was pinned down by dental instruments and all those drains, bibs, chains, and squirters. I thought, “Wrong measure. Your Jesus is born in a marble palace, which is ideal for the upper middle class…only.”

Thrust Among Aliens
It is pleasant to be among people who have the same background, but that is often denied us. That is also God’s plan, so the wealth of His grace is distributed among more people.

Some Evangelicals appreciate the spiritual wisdom of the Word, and others see it only as a business matter. The reward of persistence is to see the imperishable seed of the Word take root, grow, and produce even more by fruiting.

We were exposed to contemporary worship from the 1960s on, in seminary too. We saw the “clever” clown worship sessions, clergy in work clothes, and all the trappings of modern culture. I left a church body where the liturgy, creeds, and good hymns were stripped away (Disciples, home of the Father of Church Growth, McGavran), so seeing it done to Lutheran worship did not appeal to me.

After decades of being derided as a legalist, Fundamentalist, etc, the college students agree with me. They say, “Contemporary Worship is for Boomers. The youth hate it.”

How can this be? They were raised by Boomers like me, the ones who pressed for CoWo and pushed the liturgy away. It happens because the Word always has an effect, and people appreciate what is being taken away from them.

Time after time, people have clung to their Bibles and their old hymnals when the apostate church was abandoning the Gospel.

Faithful Persistence in the Family
The best thing we can do is teach our children the value of faithful persistence in life. When everyone is going astray, it seems, the minority can trust in God’s Promises and rely on that working out, as bizarre as it may seem at times.

We cannot prevent the sorrows of life, but believers are prepared to see God being glorified in spite of those sorrows and because of those sorrows.

We saw one example at the Cleveland Clinic. The parents had a child with a mysterious neurological disorder. The little girl smiled when she was complimented but she was more or less in the sleep zone most of the time. There was no cure. The mother knew the basic questions asked in a clumsy way by many, “Is it your fault or your child’s?” That seems to relieve the ignorant of their fears.

Above the crib was this verse from John 9, about the man born blind. “Did this man sin or did his parents?” Jesus answered, “This happened so that God’s name would be glorified.” And when I read that, I instantly knew that was being fulfilled. The mother knew she could not change her daughter’s fate, but by quoting John, she glorified God and gave a witness to the Gospel.

KJV John 9:2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Faith means believing in God’s goodness and that God commands what is good for us.

A believer looks at the Ten Commandments as ways to honor God, in the First Table and the Second Table.

An unbeliever scoffs at the Commandments and schemes to get around what they mean.



Seventh Sunday after Trinity
  

"Since God has connected His most gracious promise of forgiveness with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, these also are true and efficacious means of grace, namely, by virtue of the divine promises that are attached to them."
John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p. 444.  

"Both Baptism and the Lord's Supper qualify as Means of Grace because of the simple fact that they are visible forms of the essential Gospel message announcing the forgiveness of sins."
Martin W. Lutz, "God the Holy Spirit Acts Through the Lord's Supper," God The Holy Spirit Acts, ed., Eugene P. Kaulfield, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1972, p. 117. 

"Today's Gospel paints to us the Lord in a way that we may fully know how we should esteem Him, namely, that He is merciful, meek and loving; that He gladly helps everybody and freely associates and deals with all people. And such a picture as this, faith really craves." 
 Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1983, IV, p. 203.           

"Therefore the Scriptures present to us a double picture; one is that of fear or the overpowering picture of the severe wrath of God, before which no one can stand; but must despair unless he has faith. In contrast with this the picture of grace is presented to us in order that faith may behold it and obtain for itself an agreeable and comforting refuge in God with the hope that man cannot expect so much from God, that there is not still much more to be had from Him."  
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1983, IV, p. 203.       

"Today's Gospel treats of the temporal and bodily blessings, teaches us the faith of the child, and it is a picture for the weak, in that they should look to God for everything good, and that they might thus later learn to trust God and depend on Him for spiritual blessings. For if we are instructed in the Gospel, how Christ feeds our stomachs, we can then conclude that He will also feed and clothe our souls. For if I cannot trust a person to sustain my body, much less can I trust him to sustain my soul forever."  
Sermons of Martin Luther, IV, p. 204.       

"Therefore Christ asked His disciples that everyone might learn to know by experience what reason is, and acknowledge how reason and faith in no way agree. Here we learn to blindfold reason, when we begin to believe, and then give reason a permanent furlough."  
Sermons of Martin Luther, IV, p. 205.          

"O God, I am Thy creature and Thy handiwork and Thou hast from the beginning created me. I will depend entirely on You who cares more for me, how I shall be sustained, then I do myself; Thou wilt indeed nourish me, feed, clothe and help me, where and when You know best."  
Sermons of Martin Luther IV, p. 206.          

"But when one inquires of reason for counsel it soon says: It is not possible. Yes, you must wait a long time until roasted ducks fly into your mouth, for reason sees nothing, grasps nothing, and nothing is present. Just so the apostles do also here who thought: Yes, who will provide food for so many, no one is able to do that; but had they seen a great pile of money and in addition tables laden with bread and meat, they would soon have discovered good counsel and been able to give good consolation; that would have gone to their thinking very reasonably."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House 1983, IV, p. 206.      

"Therefore, beloved friends, let us once make a beginning to believe; for unbelief is the cause of all sin and vice, which now have taken the upper hand in all stations of life. How does it come to pass that everywhere there are so many foolish women and rogues, so many rank imposters, thieves, robbers, userers, murderers and sellers of indulgences? It all comes from unbelief."
  Sermons of Martin Luther, IV, p. 208.         

"Just so it is also at present: Where true pastors and preachers are so poorly supoorted that no one donates anything to them, and moreover what they have is snatched out of their mouths by a shameless and unthankful world, by princes, noblemen, townsmen and famers, so that they with their poor wives and children must suffer need, and when they die leave behind them pitiable, rejected widows and orphans. By this very many good-hearted and very clever people are more and more discouraged from becoming pastors and preachers."
             Sermons of Martin Luther,IV, p. 214.       

"How does it happen that although all of us are certainly Christians, or at least want to be such, we do not take this attitude of unconcern and neither comfort ourselves with abundance and surplus nor are frightened by want and by worrying about it? For if we faithfully and devotedly cling to God's Word, there shall be no want. Christ takes care of us, and from this it must follow that we shall have something to eat."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 436. Mark 8:1-9          

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