Trinity 7 2022
July 31, 2022
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Tired, hungry, and away from home. That’s the situation of the great crowd that had followed Jesus. For three days, they had followed Him around, listening to Him speak, and now they find themselves in a desolate place with no food and no easy way home. Jesus’ disciples didn’t know what to do for them. But Jesus does. He has compassion on the crowd.
The disciples struggle with their faith that Jesus can do something. It seems impossible to feed all those people in such a place. But Jesus doesn’t seem to care about what the disciples think is impossible. He asks them how many loaves of bread they have, seven being the answer. He gives thanks, breaks them, gives them to the disciples to distribute among the thousands of people. And then He repeats with three fish. And everyone eats and is satisfied. And they have more leftovers than what they began with.
On our pulpit, we have a picture of seven loaves and three fish. This is no accident. It is reminded to us of this miracle, a visual symbol proclaiming God’s compassion and provision. You have followed Jesus’ call here. You have heard His Word, received His blessing. He provides for you. The words of today’s Gradual describe you, “Come, O children, listen to Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”
Jesus doesn’t leave the Church empty handed. He delivers the meal as surely as He delivered the bread and fish. It didn’t look like enough then. It doesn’t look like enough now. We have a small amount of bread and wine. Delivered by God to us here today, He will take it and multiply His grace to us. We are fed to the full and overflow.
We should learn by this to be hostile to our unbelief and to oppose it. We should get into the habit of thinking that Christ can do and does do more and greater things that we can understand or believe. We often stress and worry about our own earthly goods, as well as that of our church. We vote today on a budget for our church and school. We receive what the Lord has given and strive to be good and faithful stewards. It causes worry and strife and hard feelings. It shouldn’t be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way.
So you might say, “I know that God gives good gifts and provides for the needs of His people but how come so often that He lets His Christians suffer in the world?” Here we must know how the kingdom of God works, for He wants to show us that His kingdom on earth is not a secular kingdom, which consists of eating and drinking and money and possessions. To the Christian, the whole world is to be considered as nothing other than a wilderness itself. The godless consider the world to be a paradise, or at least the potential, and work toward making it so. But for us Christians, this is but a temporary home, as St. Paul describes in Romans 8, a creation fallen, subjected to futility, and suffering because of the effects of sin and eagerly longing for the revelation of the sons of God in the hope that it will be set free from bondage and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
But Christ has ordained that you live in a spiritual kingdom in which you are to seek and find eternal, divine blessings. Notice that He doesn’t shorten His sermon so they can get beat the rush to the favorite lunch time restaurant or because some have come a long way and have a long way to go, but He continues to teach them and provide for them.
If Christ demands entire devotion, He will give much grace. If He calls us to seek Him first, He will not neglect what we have left for His sake. The Gospel adds a message of comfort the believer who strives for God’s righteousness, who is feeling the weight of things that seek to weaken our purpose, defeat our effort, and impair our service. He knows how far we have left on our way and will in order to sit at His feet, and He will see to it that we shall be cared for. We are to learn to believe that they will not lack the physical and are to expect from Him also what is necessary for the physical life of His Church on earth. He has arraigned to continuously feed you with His Word and Sacraments as you follow Him through this desolate and sinful world. You can never have too much, you can never feast on the Word of God and the Lord’s Supper too often, for it is the food of immortality.
Christ also wants us to put our faith into practice so that we are to look to His hands and expect the necessities of this life from Him. Luther’s prayer before a meal in the Small Catechism echoes this as it starts with Psalm 145:15-16, “The eyes of all look to You, O Lord, and You give them food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Closes with Psalm 147:11, “… the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”
Christ teaches us here that no matter how little or great it is, we should use what God has given to us, and accept it with thanksgiving. The Psalmist says, “The little a righteous person has is better than the great possessions of many godless people” (Ps 36 [37:16]; “The blessing of the Lord makes rich” (Proverbs 10:20), “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:6). When a man is content with his poverty, when he is left with nothing else to do but receive from God’s hand, then he has a very great treasure which is called “God’s blessing” (Luther, LW 78, p 265).
Christ would have His Church no less compassionate. He calls His disciples to share in this. It is the duty of the Church to feed the flock of Christ committed to her care, and to consider her needs. At the same time He chases away the doubts of the disciples, He uses them as His instruments to share His compassion to others. They don’t keep the bread and fish for themselves, but on Christ’s command, distribute it to the people. This is how each of us, to whom God has given more than is necessary, should gladly share with our neighbors in need.