Sunday, March 22, 2009

Laetare - The Fourth Sunday in Lent

One sunflower seed produces hundreds of high-protein, high fat, high mineral content seeds, and it is considered a weed in some farming areas,
due to its miraculous growth. Art by Norma Boeckler.

Laetare, The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

Mid-Week Lenten Services are Thursdays at 6 PM.

The Hymn #361 St. Agnes 4.1
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 Gal. 4:21-31
The Gospel John 6:1-15
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #462 St. Thomas 4.21

When He Had Given Thanks

The Hymn #304 St. Crispin 4.6
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 #166 Spanish Chant 4.35

KJV Galatians 4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

KJV John 6:1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. 2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. 4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. 5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. 15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

Fourth Sunday In Lent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who by Thy Son didst feed five thousand men in the desert with five loaves and two fishes: We beseech Thee to abide graciously also with us in the fullness of Thy blessing. Preserve us from avarice and the cares of this life, that we may seek first Thy kingdom and Thy righteousness, and in all things perceive Thy fatherly goodness, through Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God world without end. Amen.

When He Had Given Thanks

Recent and future plans of our government show that federal officials do not learn from history. The Roman Empire controlled most of the civilized world but suffered from many different monetary crises. The early Christians had to live with the impact of a distant and all-powerful government, just as we do.

In this Gospel lesson, Jesus accomplished what no one else on earth could do. He transformed one boy’s lunch into a miraculous abundance, which was so great that every one was full - and gigantic baskets of fragments remained.

Jesus saw an enormous crowd coming toward Him, so he asked Philip what to do. Philip responded that a certain sum of money was not enough to feed everyone and anyway – where would they find a place to buy food in the desert? Andrew opined that they found one boy with some bread and fish, but that was insignificant among so many.

Jesus said this to test him, so we have a record of the dialogue between the Savior and His disciple. Philip’s answer has two parts, which sounds like so many council meetings:
1) We do not have the money.
2) If we had the money, it still could not be done.
3) There is a supply of food, but it is not enough.

One church secretary lobbied for new carpeting in her office. When the council voted for it, she said, her voice cracking, “I just want to know where all the money is coming from.” Her husband was a Ford executive (1970s) when company generosity knew no bounds. The congregation had thousands of dollars squirreled away in various funds and no debt. The congregation often met challenges by having another commercial fund-raising activity. Their version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand was to turn one pound of meat into a meal for the entire congregation, and to charge dearly for it.

When Jesus heard Philip’s reply, He had the men seated. Note this:

“Now there was much grass in the place.”

That means they were at an oasis. In a desert, there will be grass only where there is a water supply. Otherwise, 5,000 men and their families would be fainting away.

Bravehearts at the Grand Canyon like to hike down the trail to the bottom. They forget that they need a lot of water and food. One man hiked down but could not go up again. In the daytime it was too hot. In the nighttime it was too dangerous to find the path. He stayed near a stream and hallucinated until they found him, still alive. That is just a glimpse at what people faced in the desert at the time of Jesus. They might reach a brackish water source and have to drink what the animals refused to taste.

So we should picture the crowd as one which was drawn to Jesus for various reasons. He provided the Word and taught it with clarity and authority. As the rest of the chapter shows, others would follow only if He did things their way. These disciples fell away because they did not like His teaching. And yet the experts say that the cure for all ills is making disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

KJV John 6:60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

Although they were at an oasis with plenty of grass of water, the crowd needed food. Jesus had them sit down.

John 6:11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

When He had given thanks – Jesus might have transformed the loaves and fish without the spoken Word, but He gave thanks in the midst of so much want. He thanked God, which is something the Jehovah’s Witnesses (who came to my house) cannot comprehend. Their lack of understanding proves that Jesus is not the Son of God – so they claim. I said, “My dog doesn’t understand it either.” That made them angry.

Jesus gave thanks in the midst of want, and so should we. As Peter Schiff said so eloquently, we have been spending on luxuries for years and borrowing from the world for those luxuries. Now the stuff has lost its value but the debt remains. We have garage sales all over our neighborhood. I always say to college classes, who brag about their cell phones and all the features they pay for – “Have a garage sale. That is what your things are worth. Not what you paid, plus interest, but what the people will pay you with cash.” One man let his college-aged son spend $1500 on his cell phone in two months and blamed the cell phone company for the cost. I said, “Why not let your son pay his own bill? That will change his attitude.” The father scowled at me.

One young man asked me if he could repair my windshield at the car wash. I could tell he needed some cash, so I let him. I thought it might save me some trouble later. He told me about spending $60,000 on his truck. A young woman said she had a vehicle that cost her $2,000 a month in payments, gas, and insurance. Later, she and her husband left town with no forwarding address and no phone number. Now the credit bubble has burst and my favorite bookstore is offering collectible books at 50% off. It’s my favorite store because I can enjoy a museum trip in book collecting for free and leave without guilt.

They say the sign of the Wall Street bubble, just before the Great Depression, was a shoeshine boy talking about his investments. We had two Mexican students from college come by to do some electrical work. They were talking about how hard it was to buy a house before they others had it bought already. Far too many of my students were either in real estate or the mortgage business. The money rolled in for many of these people.

What Jesus accomplished in the desert was a miracle of the Word. Anyone troubled over Holy Communion should consider the Feeding of the Multitude. We cannot understand or grasp either one. Both are mysteries, revealed to us. A mystery is something beyond our understanding – such as the Holy Trinity, Creation by the Word, the Incarnation, the Atonement. Once God reveals these mysteries to us, everything in Christian doctrine is in perfect harmony.

Here is the beginning of the Feeding of the Multitude:

John 6:11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples,

The Last Supper in Mark:

KJV Mark 14:23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

The Words of Institution in Corinthians:

KJV 1 Corinthians 11:24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Some people look at the mysteries and make fun of them. John Calvin was a Christian, but he subjected the Bible to his rationalistic analysis. So he made fun of the Real Presence in his Institutes. He was confused about the Two Natures of Christ and the Incarnation, so he was also confused about Holy Communion. Not surprisingly, Calvinists turn into Unitarians in one generation. Doubts about Holy Communion become doubts about the divinity of Christ. There is a saying which is true for Calvinists and Calvinistic countries – “Young Calvinist, old Unitarian.”

A pastor is a “steward of the mysteries of God” because these mysteries are not for us to trifle with. God has given us a great treasure in Holy Communion, so we do not hide it or act embarrassed about it, as if a mystery of God would keep God’s Church from accomplishing His will.

As I recall, one Roman Catholic missionary simply set up shop in China and began saying Mass. Eventually the ruler wanted to know about Christianity and people were converted. This may be mythical. But it is entirely different from hiding the Gospel behind a popcorn machine in the hopes that people will stop by for snacks and wi-fi, but stay for something that shames the stewards of the mysteries of God – the Gospel.

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Jesus provided so abundantly that the entire crowd was satisfied and 12 baskets of bread fragments were gathered up. The word for basket is “coffin,” which suggests a man-sized basket, not a tiny offering basket. That amount is far beyond anyone’s comprehension and defies all rationalistic explanations.

In the same way, Jesus provided for us by establishing Holy Communion. Already at the Last Supper, He said, “This is My body, give for you, for the forgiveness of sin.” Since then millions have received His body and His blood.

He provides the instruments of His grace in great abundance. Anyone in the world can hear the Gospel, one way or another. Ways to distribute the Gospel message are even more far-reaching than ever before.

This chapter in John has strange contrasts in it, because Jesus foreshadowed Holy Communion with this miraculous Feeding. His message was spiritual rather than material, but he crowd wanted to make Him king.

Luther commented on this text. God certainly provides for our material needs, but “a roast goose will not fly into our mouths.” He wrote about the need to work for our material needs while trusting that God would provide.

When young adults complain about how hard it can be, I ask, “How many people swim 90 miles through shark-infested water to reach Cuba? No one! They swim here, and you are already here.” (One woman came from a criminal family. Everyone was on welfare and stole to make extra money. She said it was difficult to leave that life because it was so easy, to collect benefits and to profit from crime.)

Life will be difficult in the years to come. The Forbes billionaire list said most of the wealthiest lost 50% of their wealth, like everyone else. That will continue to have an impact on everything. My Evangelical students tell me they are learning how to live frugally, which was the only way in the Great Depression.
The Scriptures teach us that God will take care of our material needs, our greatest worry – which should be our least. He provides for our spiritual needs in great abundance. That should be the source of our greatest joy. In everything we should give thanks.

Lobet den Herren alle, die ihn ehren

All Praise the Lord, All Who Honor Him.

1. Lobet den Herren alle, die ihn ehren; lasst uns mit Freuden seinem Namen singen und Preis und Dank zu seinem Altar bringen. Lobet den Herren!

All praise the Lord, who honor Him; let us sing his name with joy and bring praise and thanks to His altar. All praise the Lord.

2. Der unser Leben, das er uns gegeben, in dieser Nacht so väterlich bedecket / und aus dem Schlaf uns fröhlich auferwecket: Lobet den Herren!

He who our life has given, in this night has covered us so fatherly and wakes us joyfully from sleep, All praise the Lord.

3. Dass unsre Sinnen / wir noch brauchen können / und Händ und Füße, Zung und Lippen regen, das haben wir zu danken seinem Segen. Lobet den Herren!

That we can use our senses, move our hands and feet, tongue and lips, we owe His blessing. All praise the Lord.

4. Dass Feuerflammen / uns nicht allzusammen / mit unsern Häusern unversehns gefressen, das macht's, dass wir in seinem Schoß gesessen. Lobet den Herren!

The flames of fire will not devour our homes, He wills that we sit in His castle. All praise the Lord.

5. Dass Dieb und Räuber / unser Gut und Leiber / nicht angetast' und grausamlich verletzet, dawider hat sein Engel sich gesetzet. Lobet den Herren!

That thief and robber, our goods and life cannot take, for His angel has been appointed. All praise the Lord.

6. O treuer Hüter, Brunnen aller Güter, ach lass doch ferner über unser Leben / bei Tag und Nacht dein Hut und Güte schweben. Lobet den Herren!

O faithful Guardain, wellspring of all goodness, by day and night Your Guard and Goodness hover. All praise the Lord.

7. Gib, dass wir heute, Herr, durch dein Geleite / auf unsern Wegen unverhindert gehen / und überall in deiner Gnade stehen. Lobet den Herren!

Give us that we today, Lord, through Your escorts, go on our way unhindered and remain in Your grace. All praise the Lord.

8. Treib unsern Willen, dein Wort zu erfüllen; lehr uns verrichten heilige Geschäfte, und wo wir schwach sind, da gib du uns Kräfte. Lobet den Herren!

Strengthen our will to fulfill Your Word; teach us holy ways; and where we are weak, there give us strength. All praise the Lord.

9. Richt unsre Herzen, dass wir ja nicht scherzen / mit deinen Strafen, sondern fromm zu werden / vor deiner Zukunft uns bemühn auf Erden. Lobet den Herren!

Direct our hearts, that we do not trifle with Your judgments, but remain pious before Your future reign on earth. All praise the Lord.

10. Herr, du wirst kommen / und all deine Frommen, die sich bekehren, gnädig dahin bringen, da alle Engel ewig, ewig singen: >Lobet den Herren!<

Lord, you will soon come, and all Your believers, those who are converted, bring them in with grace, where all the angels, always always sing out, All praise the Lord.

Paul Gerhardt 1607-1676


"Nothing in the world so effectively hinders faith as mammon, or riches, on the one hand and poverty on the other. He who is rich and has something simply ignores God's Word and treads it underfoot. So the Gospel speaks of those who are invited to the great supper but 'cannot' attend because of their acre, oxen, wife, etc. (Luke 14) He who is poor does everything that pleases the devil and the world in order to stave off poverty."
What Luther Says, ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 435. John 6:1?15; Luke 14.

"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, I, p. 436.

"Children are the most delightful pledges of a loving marriage. They are the best wool on the sheep."
What Luther Says, I, p. 137.

"We should deal with children in such a way that they do not fear their parents, but that they know that they are offending God if they do not fear their parents."
What Luther Says, I, p. 142.

"Chastise them when they deserve it, but accompany the correction with affectionate words so that they do not become disheartened and expect nothing good from you. It is very bad if a son loves someone else more than his father. The father should give some sort of proof that there is no intention entirely to crush the child. The Law alone serves no good purpose; in fact, it is intolerable."
What Luther Says, I, p. 142. 1533, Ephesians 6:4.

The Small Catechism
P: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor's. What does this mean?
C: We should fear and love God that we may not estrange, force, or entice away from our neighbor his wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and do their duty.
P: What does God say of all these commandments?
C: He says thus: I, the Lord, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.

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