Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity

The Crab Nebula.

THE spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
Th' unwearied Sun from day to day
Does his Creator's power display;
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The Moon takes up the wondrous tale;
And nightly to the listening Earth
Repeats the story of her birth:
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
What though nor real voice nor sound
Amidst their radiant orbs be found?
In Reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
For ever singing as they shine,
'The Hand that made us is divine.'
(Joseph Addison)

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Click here for the 8 AM Sunday service, Phoenix time, and the recorded services and Book of Concord studies.

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

The Hymn #13 Before Jehovah’s – Old Hundredth
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 1 Corinthians 10:6-13
The Gospel Luke 16:1-9
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #479 Zion rise – Fahre fort
Escape from the Castle of Despair

The Hymn #387 by Luther vss. 1-5 – Nun freut euch
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 # 387 vss. 6-10

1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5 So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Collect by Veit Dietrich
Lord God, heavenly Father, who hast bountifully given us Thy blessing and our daily bread: We beseech Thee, preserve us from covetousness, and so quicken our hearts that we willingly share Thy blessed gifts with our needy brethren; that we may be found faithful stewards of Thy gifts, and abide in Thy grace when we shall be removed from our stewardship, and shall come before Thy judgment, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

In this lesson we are warned to learn from the example of those who have been destroyed by their own folly. But we are also encouraged by the promises of God to help us with temptation.

We no longer have to look up historic references to Corinth to show people how sinful one city can become. We only need to look around, wherever we are, from the metropolitan areas to the rural counties. America has become Corinth and we are all paying a terrible price for it. Meth maggots or speed freak are common among the celebrities and among the poor, even though the drug is known for destroying people.

America is following the Roman Empire and many others in its decline. Juvenal, a Roman poet, wrote about women parading around in armor, pretending to be soldiers. We have a general social decline accompanied by vast wealth. Unfortunately, wealth allows vice to multiply rapidly.

Therefore, we have to be careful that we do not get drawn into the decline of society, in the name of freedom and forgiveness, and learn too late the penalties attached to that decline. In addition, we should not despair that so many seem to get away with everything. God’s Law is natural law. He commands what is good for us. Therefore, if we continue to violate His law, the consequences will follow.

Most police reports begin, “Outside a bar, downtown, at 2 AM…” or “Police are looking for the live-in boyfriend, who is suspected of…” If those two factors were eliminated, the crime stories would be much tamer. People cannot defy natural law and enjoy good consequences from their actions.

Luther explained the problem of temptation as follows, paraphrased. Satan deceives people to sin, as if there will never be bad consequences. They go along blindly and often enjoy a great measure of happiness, especially in scorning those who feel inhibited by such concepts as right and wrong. However, at the end Satan tears away the mask and shows people what they have become. Then they despair of all forgiveness and make themselves even more fodder for the devil.

Imagine how pitiful is the condition of the great apostates of today – those religious leaders who do not believe in salvation through Christ alone. Are they poor? Are they losing members? Are they scorned by the media? No, just the opposite is true. The worse they become, the more successful they are in every respect but one. Their hearts are hardened against God’s Word. One man wrote about going in to see a televangelist about the corruption of his ministries. The minister responded by ordering his financial secretary to write out a large check, a bribe to silence the man. How much money will God need to be silent on the Day of Judgment? “Lord, Lord, did we not perform great miracles in Your Name?”

Temptation comes in other forms for believers. Then Satan makes us think that others have much better conditions. He encourages us to doubt the goodness of God. Some believers question whether they can be forgiven and fall into despair when they realize how weak their flesh is. However, when we fall into temptation, we should be reminded of how we cannot rely on our own strength to save ourselves.

Since we live in an era with great wealth and peace, we do not despair about the age-old problems of hunger, security, and housing. Nevertheless, there are many ways to be tempted.

Those who suffer from long-term illness are tempted to despair. Many opportunities are closed off to them. I have known several people who are always treated as if they are retarded, just because they have limited physical abilities. The equation does not make sense, unless we believe a professional wrestler is a genius.

Long-term illnesses are almost always accompanied by great discomfort and pain, and many forms of humiliation. Greater expenses are matched by lower income. We worship the active, athletic life, and not one of thought, so it is easy for many people to feel useless because they are not athletes in residence.

But God’s purpose should not be questioned. We should not think He neglects us but rather see how He gives us blessings in the form of problems. Years ago, one mother was despairing because her son had special learning problems. Her husband made $400 an hour in sales, so they were not limited by financial concerns. I said, “That’s a minor problem. He just needs some special training and lots of love.” She said, with some disgust, “You make it sound so easy.” I thought to myself, “Compared to what I have seen in many hospitals and nursing homes, yes it is.”

When people have little, they often value the smallest things. One of our friends had severe lupus, retardation, physical problems, and a father who died fairly young. Her relatives did not treat her very well. On one icy Minnesota day, I stopped at Hardy’s and got her a bag of French fries, her favorite. The weather was too evil for her to walk there. She munched on those fries as if they were the best gourmet food in the world.

When someone has almost nothing, God’s Word is the only treasure. I think we could find more believers among the chronically ill than among the chronically rich. Knowing that their lives are shortened and many things beyond their reach or imagination, they take great comfort in the promises of God. A poor weak person is usually far more patient than a rich, strong person. It is well known that the Mafia don, John Gotti, beat the daylights out of a truck driver for talking back to him. Then, at the assault trial, he scared the trucker into denying the beating. What makes the chronically ill more patient is not their greater virtue, but the leaven of the Gospel working in them, making them more forgiving, more willing to endure.

Despair does not always come from great difficulties. It also comes from the normal challenges of daily life. For instance, as Luther wrote, it is easy to become despondent over the state of the church and the disappointing behavior of pastors. I counted up four pastors I have tried to help with publishing. All four have been especially spiteful and destructive. Those who want to be faithful Lutherans find themselves in one congregation after another, prompting their relatives to mock them for never being happy. I was told several times that WELS district presidents had gone through one doctrinal crisis with the break with the Missouri Synod. For that reason, they refused to engage in another doctrinal battle, as if God gives us a quota of one in our lifetimes. Even deer licenses are more lenient than that.

Despair can also come from fulfilling responsibility and never seeing any great results, often reverses. Mothers must do the same jobs every day and never feel rested or caught up. Gratitude is not a quality found in great abundance in children. Surrounded by love and concern, children take it for granted. Who can measure the great impact a loving mother has on her children, especially when the time spent (for an at-home mother) is so rarely in evidence today?

God’s blessings are being realized when we tempted to despair. At one time I thought my whole life consisted of walking through hospital halls, waiting for test results, listening to social workers insult my intelligence, watching helplessly as the weakness grew in our children. Every cure made things worse. Later, I realized those were times of the greatest possible happiness and fulfilling as well. It is a blessing to be able to care for someone and to receive so much love in response. Black Christians consider it a great honor to be able to care for someone. It is in giving without receiving back that we approach God’s love for us, but God gives us many rewards in the act of giving time and concern.

God promises us a way of escape, an answer for the problems of the moment. In that way, time after time, we see how God works to solve our greatest difficulties. When we see a teenager blow his stack over a minor frustration, we can say, “Oh yes, I often feel the same way.” When we think about how silly it is at the moment, we can think, “I have been as silly if not worse.”

Escaping the Castle of Despair
Every Lutheran should know the great work of Bunyan called Pilgrim’s Progress, because many Biblical lessons are taught in the allegory. I often recall the scene in which Christian is lying in a jail cell in the Castle of Despair. The giant who captured him is loudly discussing with his wife how he will kill Christian in the morning. Finally Christian realizes that he has had the keys to unlock the jail cell all along. They were in his pocket. They are: the Promises of God.

The Gospel defeats despair because it is nothing more than the promises of God. Do we have worries? God will provide. Are we afraid? God will take care of us. Does our suffering seem meaningless? God will show us the meaning in time.

When I think about difficult people I have known, and they come in a marvelous assortment, I believe they have one thing in common – no concept of forgiveness. It is not so much that they must be forgiving toward others. They seem never to have grasped forgiveness of their own sins, how they can receive it and rejoice in it. Forgiveness comes to us through that contrition which is worked in us by God’s Law. We see ourselves as we truly are when we look into the mirror of the Law. It is not that contrition makes us worthy to be forgiven.

Forgiveness of sin is not based upon how sorry we are or how sorry we say we are. Forgiveness comes from the Gospel alone, received in faith. But as long as our hearts are hardened in pride, as if we need no forgiveness, the Gospel does not mean anything to us.

But when we properly despair of ourselves and ask for mercy from God, we realize how great His love is toward us, how devoid of resting that love upon our worthiness.

Those who know how great this forgiveness is, through the blood of Christ on the cross, also find it easy to forgive others as well. They are also likely to assure others, “Just as God helped me out of my troubles, so He will help you in your crisis.” God is faithful. He will fulfill His promises. His Gospel promises defeat despair, fear, and anxiety.


A Pastor Smites Wolves
"It is not enough that we preach correctly, which the hireling can also do; but we must watch over the sheep, that the wolves, false teachers, may not break in, and we must contend for the sheep against the wolves, with the Word of God, even to the sacrifice of our lives. Such are good shepherds, of whom few are found."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 34. Second Sunday after Easter. John 10:11-16.
Spineless Conservative Pastors Are Wolves
"For nothing can feed or give life to the soul, which is not the doctrine of Christ. Although the hireling does not himself slay and destroy, he does not restrain the wolf. Therefore, because you neither point out nor teach this shepherd, you shall not and ought not to be heard, but you shall be shunned as a wolf."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 58f. Second Sunday after Easter. John 10:11-16.
False Teachers and the Colored Filter
"They [the false teachers] fared like a man who looks through a colored glass. Put before such a man whatever color you please, he sees no other color than that of the glass. The fault is not that the right color is not put before him but that his glass is colored differently, as the word of Isaiah 6:9 puts it: You will see, he says, and yet you will not see it."
Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols.,
ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 644. Isaiah 6:9.
Adiaphora and Confessional Crisis
"We believe, teach, and confess that at a time of confession, as when enemies of the Word of God desire to suppress the pure doctrine of the holy Gospel, the entire community of God, yes, every individual Christian, and especially the ministers of the Word as the leaders of the community of God are obligated to confess openly, not only by words but also through their deeds and actions, the true doctrine and all that pertains to
it, according to the Word of God. In such a case we should not yield to adversaries even in matters of indifference, nor should we tolerate the imposition of such ceremonies on us by adversaries in order to undermine the genuine worship of God and to introduce and confirm their idolatry by force or chicanery. It is written, 'For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.' (Galatians 5:1)."
Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article X, 10-11, The Book of Concord, ed. Theodore G. Tappert, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983, p. 612. Galatians 5:1.
Luther and Fellowship
"Dr. Luther, who understood the true intention of the Augsburg Confession better than any one else, remained by it steadfastly and defended it constantly until he died. Shortly before his death, in his last confession, he repeated his faith in this article with great fervor and wrote as follows: 'I reckon them all as belonging together (that is, as Sacramentarians and enthusiasts), for that is what they are who will not believe that the Lord's bread in the Supper is his true, natural body, which the godless or Judas receive orally as well as St Peter and all the saints. Whoever, I say, will not believe this, will please let me alone and expect no fellowship from me. This is final." [WA 54:155, 156]
Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article VII, Lord's Supper, 33, The Book of Concord, ed. Theodore G. Tappert, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959, p. 575.
Spoiling the Egyptian Garbage
"Is it possible that one who has such models as Luther, Walther, Stoeckhardt, Lochner, Sieck, C. C. Schmidt, and Wessel, etc., etc., should leave these rich pastures to feed upon such garbage heaps as those from whom I have quoted?"
Martin S. Sommer, Concordia Pulpit for 1932, St. Louis:
Concordia Publishing House, 1931, p. viii.
"It is the purpose of this volume to aid in displacing books of Reformed preachers. We would encourage the cultivation of distinctly Lutheran preaching. Therefore, we now appeal to our brethren always to consult Luther when preparing to preach. Quo propior Luthero, eo melior theologus! Let us who are called Lutheran preachers be sure that in every one of our sermons we preach God's Word and Luther's doctrine pure. It is that preaching which God demands of us, 1 Peter 4:11. It was that preaching which conquered the Roman Goliath, Revelation 12:11. By that preaching we shall truly build the walls of Zion, not with hay, straw, and stubble, but with such stones as all the powers of hell shall never overthrow, Luke 21:15."
Martin S. Sommer, Concordia Pulpit for 1932, St. Louis:
Concordia Publishing House, 1931, p. ix.
Proper Use of Love
"In like manner we will also do to our princes and priests;

when they attack our manner of life, we should suffer it and show love for hatred, good for evil; but when they attack our doctrine, God's honor is attacked, then love and patience should cease and we should not keep silent, but also say: I honor my Father, and you dishonor me; yet I do not inquire whether you dishonor me, for I do not seek my own honor."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed.,
John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983,

II, p. 176. Fifth Sunday in Lent. John 8:46-59.

"We have no intention of yielding aught of the eternal, immutable truth of God for the sake of temporal peace, tranquility, and unity (which, moreover, is not in our power to do). Nor would such peace and unity, since it is devised against the truth and for its suppression, have any permanency. Still less are we inclined to adorn and conceal a corruption of the pure doctrine and manifest, condemned errors. But we entertain heartfelt pleasure and love for, and are on our part sincerely inclined and anxious to advance, that unity according to our utmost power, by which His glory remains to God uninjured, nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and thus justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ."
Of God's Eternal Election, Article XI, S.D., Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta,St. Louis: 1921, p. 1095. The Book of Concord, ed. Theodore Tappert, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, p. 632.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Seventh Sunday after Trinity

The Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #44 by Koren – Guds Menighed syng
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 Romans 6:19-23
The Gospel Mark 8:1-9
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 305 1,6-9 Frank Schmucke dich
God Will Provide

The Hymn #36 by Rinckart – Nun danket alle Gott
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 # 316 by Rist - Nun lob, mein seel

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.

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.

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.

God Will Provide

This Gospel lesson reminds us that the Bible records two miracles of feeding the multitudes, not only the Feeding of the Five Thousand, but also the Feeding of the Four Thousand. In this miracle selected for this Sunday, the Gospel emphasizes how Jesus cares for our bodily needs. From this one brief story we can see how kind and loving our Savior is. We crave the assurance given by this miracle. It awakens faith in our hearts and satisfies our faith in Him.

The setting for this miracle is very simple. A vast multitude followed Jesus for three days, listening to Him teach. That alone gives us a glimpse of how compelling people found our Savior to be. Thousands of people hung on His words, knowing that He spoke with the authority of God. They had plenty of work to do, so giving up their daily tasks was a sacrifice they were willing to make. Perhaps they took along some food, as people often do when planning a big event. But no one took along enough food for three days. Most importantly, a multitude would never say, “Now we are hungry. Let’s ask God to feed all of us miraculously.”

Before anyone thought to ask for food, Jesus was already concerned about their needs. He brought up their inability to reach home. “They will faint along the way.” Those of us who live in the desert know how difficult it is to get work done in the burning heat. A Chicago native said, “The first thing I learned was not to mow the lawn at 2 in the afternoon.” Fainting in the heat is easy to imagine when someone daydreams about his next glass of ice water during a meeting. Or when a cup of 100-degree water left in the car is swallowed eagerly.

When people hike in the desert they often neglect to bring enough food. They don’t think of the calories they need to keep from weakness and fainting. This miracle is especially vivid for those who have lived in the desert.

Jesus brought up the problem, already knowing the solution He would provide. But His disciples said, “How can anyone feed all these people in the wilderness?” Thus we can see how different the Scriptures are from human records. An official church history would have the disciples say, “Yes, Lord, you can do anything. You are the Word of Creation. You are the true Son of God.” But the Bible records them as doubting whether the people could be fed at all. Therefore, the disciples serve men expressing our doubts in the same kinds of situation.

When I suggest that pastors do the right thing, the ministers reply, “Yes, but who will feed me?” Whenever I have seen a congregation attempt to carry out a minor project, the anxieties set in. How can we do this? People won’t support it. The bank won’t give us the money. Someone will be upset and quit. General George S. Patton called this taking counsel of your fears. If we listen to our fears, our fears will advise us not to trust in God.

This miracle comforts us by showing us how Jesus cared for the material needs of the people before they even thought of asking Him. In the same way He still cares for our material needs, before and even without us asking. Yes, He is generous and loving toward unbelievers as well. Unfortunately, they do not realize it.

KJV Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Fear is the opposite of faith, as Luther often observed. Being anxious about our daily needs is the same as not trusting in God to provide for us. Whenever we listen to stories about Jesus during His earthly ministry, we need to remember that His human nature gave Him a special compassion about our needs. He knew what it meant to be thirsty (John 4) and to be hungry (The Temptation of Jesus). He was mocked, scorned, and physically attacked. His human nature remains united with His divine nature, so He understands our needs completely.

As I mentioned before, Jesus knew the needs of this multitude and planned for their needs before they could ask, beyond His own disciples’ comprehension of His power. When you worry about your income, physical health, and other material needs, think about this miracle. Jesus has already seen your need and has planned an answer for your needs before you thought to ask.

Then why should we pray for our daily bread? The catechism reminds us that we pray for what God provides so that we will be thankful for these blessings and number them as coming from God rather than ourselves. Then, when we consider what matters most, we praise God for giving us what we need so generously and for denying us what we do not need in His wisdom.

Few parents with any wisdom will say that we should give children what they want, when they want it, all the time. Parents will even allow children to face certain hardships in order to prepare them for adult life and responsibility. If children learn to face frustration by having tantrums, they never progress beyond having fits to get their way as adults. When Bjorn Borg had a tantrum on the tennis court, his parents made him lock up his tennis racket for a year. He was famous for never shouting insults at refs during games, even when his trained eye saw a miss or a foul differently. He was so polite that the TV commentators were shocked that he looked a few seconds at a ref who made a bad call. That was in the days when some overgrown brats screamed at refs, hit tennis balls at them, and used obscenities.

So we should not look at God’s discipline as hatred but rather as love toward us. This miracle comforts us by showing us first that our material needs are provided by God before we even ask. Then we can understand more completely how God also takes care of our spiritual needs, which are not so obvious and can be easy to overlook. If someone does not eat for three days, he can only think of food. If he skips worship for months, he may say, “I am fine. In fact, I am doing better than ever. I still believe and I have saved time by not getting involved in all those little matters.”

We are poor judges of spiritual matters on our own. If we were so wise, we could worship once a year. But all of human history tells us that we quickly forget our Creator, that we take for granted what our Savior Jesus has done for us, that we receive spiritual wisdom from the Holy Spirit and then thank ourselves for being so intelligent. Here is one small example. The world observes a 7 day week. Why? Most people exposed to evolution no longer believe in the Six Day Creation. Why not have a 5 day week or a 10 day week? Why would the entire world follow this pattern set up by Genesis? Could it be that we have a world-wide acknowledgement of the Creation and yet a vast forgetting of that Creation?

Rip Rehwinkel has an interesting observation in his book “The Flood.” It relates to what I said above. He pointed out the existence of a death holiday across the world. Every culture has a holiday where people seem to remember and defy a time of universal death. These holidays feature skeletons and they all fall at the same time, the end of October. Rehwinkel wondered if this was a remembrance of The Flood. And yet today, we can celebrate Halloween, but we cannot talk about The Flood seriously, or people start discussing how hard it is to build an ark as large as a battleship and then fill it with animals. Difficult yes. Impossible? We have monumental construction from ancient times that we cannot reproduce today with our best and most powerful tools. The pyramids of Egypt are so mysterious that people still debate how they were made. If all of them were gone, no one would believe than ancient man built such enormous structures with such perfection. (Some fell down, but so did some of the cathedrals built in Europe many centuries later.)

So whenever we see God placing a cross upon us, we have to say, “My Old Adam does not like this one little bit, but I must need this experience in some way to serve God’s purpose.” God told Noah to build the ark in the midst of a jeering population. No one listened to his sermons about the impending disaster.

KJV Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

The entire building of the ark was grievous to Noah and his family, building a battleship sized ship on dry land. He was a failure in saving others, but Noah’s ark became an important lesson in teaching us about the effectiveness of baptism.

KJV 1 Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Noah built the ark in faith, not for a few months or years, but for 120 years.

KJV Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

So we can see in the miracle of the Feeding and in Noah’s ark, God’s plan to take care of the material needs of people in advance. Then we know how completely God has planned for our spiritual needs as well. It is a good feeling when someone looks to our needs in advance. When someone has shown us dozens of examples of kindness, we are inclined to listen to that person when he offers us advice. We are inclined to trust a person who has anticipated our needs and provided for them. Children will often clamor for something, anxious that their demands will not be met, sounding like robins in the nest, all cheeping at once with their mouths wide open. Then they learn that mother and father have already provided for them and they settle down to enjoy what they longed for, whether it is food or a special event.

When I get food ready in the kitchen, Precious (the Sheltie) comes to the kitchen door and supervises, to make sure food comes her way as well. She stands there watching until I take it to my desk in the bedroom. As Luther observed, a dog always expects the best from its owner. It can here no a hundred times and look expectantly for that favor. Luther said we should always expect the best from God – in the same way. Chytraeus wrote that it was a sin to question God’s goodness.

Jesus is our answer for the most important aspect of our lives – the forgiveness of our sins. Just as He provided an abundance of food, and far more than enough (7 man-sized baskets of leftovers), so also He gives us a superabundance of forgiveness through His atoning death on the cross. He rose from the dead (Romans 4:25) to show us that He alone is the One who conquers sin, death, and the devil.

This is where many people become confused, so we cannot think about it too much. How does one become forgiven of his sins? Almost everyone agrees that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. He redeemed the world, paying for all sins. Forgiveness was accomplished through His atoning death and resurrection. However, this forgiveness is distributed to every single person through the preaching of the Gospel and the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

Once again, (just as we see with the Feeding of the Four Thousand) before we even knew we were sinners, God provided for the forgiveness of our sins, our salvation and eternal life. Whenever the Gospel is proclaimed and taught, people believe in Christ as their Savior and receive the forgiveness of their sins. Whenever and wherever the Gospel of Christ is believed, death is overcome by eternal life through our Savior.

Many things will happen in the next decades to tempt people away from the Word of God. Satan tempts believers and not unbelievers. The believers will be few at the end of time, as Jesus taught us. “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith?” Because the time of Satan is short and the believers are few, the rage of the devil will be all the greater against God’s Kingdom. When things become more chaotic and tribulation increases, we must remember that our trust is not in men or institutions but in the Gospel of forgiveness. In the wilderness to come, we will be fed by the Word.

“So they did eat and they were filled.” They were filled to such an extent that the entire multitude, as many as 12,000 people (if we assume 4,000 men, their wives and children) ate as much as they could but were unable to consume another 7 baskets of fragments. They were famished and faint from hunger but God provided an avalanche of food, just as He freely offers us an avalanche of blessings with complete and total forgiveness of sin.

"In reconciling the world unto Himself by Christ's substitutionary satisfaction, God asked no one's advice concerning His singular method of reconciliation. In like manner, without asking any man's advice, He ordained the means by which He gives men the infallible assurance of His gracious will toward them; in other words, He both confers on men the remission of sins merited by Christ and works faith in the proffered remission or, where faith already exists, strengthens it. The Church has appropriately called these divine ordinances the means of grace, media gratiae, instrumenta gratiae; Formula of Concord: 'Instrumenta sive media Spiritus Sancti' (Triglotta, p. 903, Solid Declaration, II, 58). They are the Word of the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, as will be shown more fully on the following pages."
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953, III, p. 103.

"As distinguished from the Gospel, Sacraments are acts, we apply water in Baptism, and we eat and drink in the Lord's Supper. They are sacred acts, and must, as such, be distinguished from ordinary washing, eating and drinking...A Sacrament which offers God's blessings cannot be instituted by man or the Church, but by God alone." Edward W. A. Koehler, A Short Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism, Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1946, p. 254.

"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 HS 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