PENTECOST 8, A – August 3, 2014

SCRIPTURES – Psalm 105; Isaiah 55:1-5; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21

 

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Isaiah 55

 

Today’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus saw a great crowd that had come seeking Him “He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” It doesn’t say what the sicknesses were. The flu; malaria; congestive heart failure; paralysis; leprosy; small pox; it didn’t matter. We know from this and other Gospel accounts that Jesus healed people of any and every disease or affliction. Several times He even raised dead people to life again! And, after healing the people on this particular day He went on to feed them – a crowd numbering in the thousands – with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Utterly amazing! Jesus can do anything, can’t He?

 

No, He can’t; or, He won’t. He can’t make people love Him. He can’t – or won’t – make anyone listen to Him, treasure His words, and gladly receive the eternal life in Him that they give. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!” God cries – Jesus cries – to us. “Listen diligently to me... Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live!” He will not treat us like puppets, put His hand inside of us and forcibly make us come to Him, listen to Him, and follow Him. He desires that we willingly do so. Will you?

 

You won’t if you’re just being religious and going to church for what you can get out of it in this life. Sure, Jesus can do great things. He can miraculously heal and feed people, even when they haven’t asked for food. He can help us and bless us in many ways in this life and does! “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone, even to all evil people,” our Catechism reminds us. He gives us “food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” With a little thought we could all add to this list. Our good Lord does so much for us! And yet, there are also times when we don’t have these things. God doesn’t give us everything we want.

  • We began this Service by affirming Sean McGee’s Baptism in the hospital. How wonderful that he’s doing so well. God has blessed him greatly! But, the day of his birth was not so wonderful a day. Kelli’s going into labor and delivering Sean over two months early was very scary.

    God allows many bad things to happen, even to His believers whom He loves with all His heart. In this life things often don’t go as we desire. And so, of course we need God’s help. Of course we need to pray for His blessing. But, doing so does not guarantee that everything will turn out ok. Life is filled with hurts and sufferings and hardships. Christ’s people are not exempt from suffering them, and suffering because of them. But, even when things are good we need to remember that they can change, that the things of this life are very temporary. “Why spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” The things of this life – not only wealth and possessions and cars and jobs and movies and games, but also the good health to enjoy them – are not the wine and milk and rich food that God desires to give us, and that He gives us in His words. When we go to God and listen to Him we gain far more than His help in this life. We hear of, and receive, “an everlasting covenant, His steadfast, sure love” in Christ our Lord.

     

    I’d like to read to you from a letter I received last week from a wise man who has learned this. Aaron Smith is in prison in CT, serving 40 years for a crime that he committed about 20 years ago. I visit him once a month to share God’s Word with him and bring him Holy Communion. When he told another inmate on his work crew that I have been visiting him every month for 10 years or so, the guy asked him, “How much can he have to say to you, or is it that you just don’t listen?” Aaron thought about how to answer and during lunch told him:

    “I don’t go to visit to listen to my Pastor speak. I go to hear God speak through him. When I go out to have Divine Service with my Pastor I know I am a wretched sinner. I’ve fallen very short of all the 10 commandments. But with God there’s forgiveness. Pastor speaks the words of God and through these words we’re both made clean and forgiven. But since I’ll end up soiled and sinning again I must eagerly seek my Bible and these visits from my Pastor.”

    I hope you’ll take to heart the words of this convicted man. I hope you’ll take to heart the words of another convicted man who was even sentenced to death: Jesus. He said:

     “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24

    Take to heart also the words of a man who was imprisoned more than once, and finally was put to death: Peter. When people began leaving Jesus because they could not accept His claim that He was the bread of life who alone could save them from their sins, and He asked His twelve closest disciples if they were also going leave Him, Peter responded:

    “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68)

    The words of eternal life, words that are not only about eternal life but that actually give eternal life: this is what we have in the words of our Lord Jesus. He wants to give eternal life to our souls, and not simply encouragement to our ears or prosperity to our lives.

     

    But, He will not force His words into your ears and your heart. He wants you to gladly give your ears to Him and open your heart to Him. He wants your love and your grateful worship, not your happily hearing because of what you can get.

     

    “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!” No matter why you have come today; if this is the first time in a long time or is what you do every week; still, come! Not one of us is pure in our heart. We are all thirsty and in need of Christ’s forgiveness. But, it is the thirsty that He wants. So, come! Incline you ear and come, that your soul may live! God’s eternal love and forgiveness in Christ – and not just barely enough, but a cup overflowing and rich food with baskets left over – will fill you with life; with Christ’s life, which will never end. May we praise Him with our ears; our minds; our hearts and our lives forever! Amen.