Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity - Mk 8:1-9

                                                                                                Trinity 7
                                                                                                Mk 8:1-9

            In the normal circumstances of our day to day life, we are never in the situation when we can’t get food.  Now I am not talking about those times when we adults must face that eternal and dreaded question: “What’s for dinner tonight?”  As soon as mom no longer makes your food that becomes a daily question, and its answer only becomes more difficult once you have children of your own.   
            No instead, I am referring to the more basic issue of being able to get food. If your refrigerator or pantry is empty and you don’t see anything in there to eat, you can always go to the grocery store and you will have several different options from which to choose.  In each one you will find an almost endless variety of food you can buy.  If instead you decide you don’t want to make anything, you can always go out to eat.  And in this too, you will have many options – all different kinds of food in a variety of different settings.
            However, if you are out on the highway, you can run into some difficulties.  All areas are not developed to the same extent.  There are stretches in rural areas where you may not be able to find a place to eat.  Forget about a restaurant or fast food place, if you are really hungry you may be glad just to find a gas station where you can get some kind of snack to tide you over.
            In the Gospel lesson for today, the disciples believe that the issue of location stands at the center of a food problem.  Our text begins by saying: “In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.’”
            Our Lord was teaching a large crowd of people – we learn at the end of our Gospel lesson that there were about four thousand.  They were there to hear Jesus teach, and no doubt hoped to see the miracles that he performed.  After three days of this, Jesus raised a concern to the disciples.  The Lord had compassion on the crowd because they now had nothing to eat.  Certainly anything they had brought with them was consumed.  They had no food and were hungry.  Jesus expressed concern that if he just sent them away, some who were weakened might in fact faint.
            In response the disciples said, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” Their concern was the setting.  They were in an uninhabited area near the Sea of Galilee.  There was no food available there, and so how was it possible to feed a group of people – especially one this large?
            Mark introduces our text by saying, “In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat.”  He very intentionally calls our attention to an earlier event in the Gospel.  In chapter six Jesus had gone to a deserted place and was followed by a crowd. There the Lord taught them, until late in the day, when the disciples approached Jesus and asked him to send the people away so that they could go and buy something to eat.  However, instead Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”  The disciples responded that they couldn’t possibly afford to feed that many people.  So Jesus worked a miracle as he used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed more than five thousand people.
            Now, here Jesus is again with a large group of hungry people.  Yet this time, the disciples don’t look very good from the start.  In chapter six it was they who came to Jesus at the end of the day and raised the question.  At least they showed an awareness of the peoples’ need. This time, three days have passed and it is Jesus who has compassion on the people.  He is the one raises the question.  The disciples are apparently oblivious the crowd’s need.
            There are times when that describes us.  We are most concerned about “me.”  We gauge situations based on the impact they will have on us.  We think about how we can make things easiest on ourselves. Operating in this way it is so easy to be oblivious to the needs of others.  And I am not only talking about physical needs.  We find it easy to ignore the person who is lonely or sad – the person who needs encouragement or the simple expression of concern and care.  We fail to see how some of our time directed toward another person can be a great benefit to him or her.
            When Jesus pointed out the need, the disciples’ focus was on their location. They said, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”  It is as if the feeding of the five thousand had not happened.  They had forgotten that it was Jesus who was located in their midst.
            On the one hand, it seems stunning. The disciples have seen Jesus feed a crowd of more than five thousand people.  And now, when confronted with another hungry crowd they only think about the challenge in the ways of the world. They don’t allow the presence of Jesus to affect their thinking.
            We do the same thing.  When someone hurts us, we get angry and want to get pay back.  When things do not go as we had planned, we are quick to conclude that God is not caring for us. We make plans and take actions without thinking about how faith in Jesus Christ should affect those things.
            Jesus Christ did not factor into the way the disciples were thinking.  They thought about it only in the way our fallen world works.  Yet in doing so, they ignored that Jesus Christ was there. 
            The first thing to recognize about Jesus is that he has compassion on us.  This note of Jesus’ compassion rings through in both feeding miracles.  The first time we hear: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”  Our Lord had compassion on them and so we began to teach them.  He fed them spiritually.  Now in our text Jesus says, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.” Our Lord sees their physical need and wants to help them.
            Yet the thing about Jesus is that he doesn’t just want to help.  He also has the power to do something about it.  This is true, even when his disciples forget; even when you forget.
            Our Lord learned that the disciples had seven loaves of bread.  So he had the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples. Then the disciples gave them to the crowd.  He blessed a few small fish and did the same with those.  The bread and fish never ran out. All of the people ate until they were satisfied. They even picked up seven baskets full of leftovers.
            In our text Jesus works a miracle as he feeds the crowd.  Yet the miracle is about more than just quieting growling stomachs. Immediately before our text, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment.  When the people saw this they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
            In describing the man’s condition, Mark uses a rare Greek word that occurs elsewhere in the translation of Isaiah chapter 35.  There the prophet describes the end time salvation that Yahweh is going to provide. Isaiah says, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”
            Jesus’ feeding of the crowd showed that our God has come.  In the person of Jesus Christ, God’s reign had entered this world to remove sin and all that it has done to us.  Jesus removed our sin by offering himself on the cross.  Our Lord says in this Gospel, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  The holy and sinless life of God’s Son was sacrificed to take away your sins.
            He died for you.  Yet death could not hold Jesus.  Death could not overcome Jesus. On the third day our Lord defeated death as he rose from the dead.  Now, as the risen and ascended Lord, he continues to work a miracle as he feeds you in his Sacrament  Through his called servant the pastor, Jesus takes bread and wine and gives thanks. He says “This is my body. This is my blood.” Because they are the risen Lord’s words, that bread and wine is now the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Through his body and blood Jesus gives you forgiveness and nourishes the new man so that you can continue to walk in faith.
            He works this miraculous feeding as a foretaste of the feast to come.  God has promised his people a feast. Through Isaiah he said, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces.”  Partaking now of the Sacrament of his body and blood, you know that you will share in the Lord’s resurrection on the Last Day.  You will share in the feast of salvation that has no end.
            In a few moments Jesus will invite you once again to receive his Sacrament.  Our Lord will be present in his body and blood as he gives us forgiveness and life.  Because he does, we are reminded Jesus is with us.  The Lord does this so that his  presence affects our thinking. 
            Since Jesus comes to us in this way and gives us this gift, how can we think about things in the way of the world?  Our Lord has had compassion on us, so now we seek to have compassion on others in the many ways this can take place.  Our Lord has forgiven us, so we now we forgive others and seek reconciliation with them. Our Lord will continue to do this for us as we eagerly look for his return on the Last Day and marriage feast of the Lamb that will have no end. 




No comments:

Post a Comment