Saturday, March 21, 2020

Lent 4 Sermon

Lent 4 – John 6:1-15 – March 22nd, 2020 (Viral Week 1)

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
Lifting up His eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward Him, Jesus said to Phillip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. With the feeding of the 5000, we see our Lord Jesus Christ doing two things that He constantly and continually does – He cares for people, and He teaches. And of course, the feeding of the 5000 is a wonderful, miraculous demonstration of God's care for people – between this feeding and the Manna in the wilderness, we've heard two really fantastic ways of God doing the whole “give us this day our daily bread” thing. But Jesus is also always teaching, and right here Jesus is teaching Phillip. Jesus teaches Phillip by asking Phillip a question from left field.

Consider – Jesus has been preaching and teaching before – and Phillip has seen this and is used to this. Perhaps on that day the crowd was a bit bigger than normal, or maybe they were further out of town than usual – but Jesus does something new. How are we going to see that these people eat? That hadn't been part of the deal before hand, that hadn't been the way things were done. The Sermon on the Mount hadn't been catered, what are we supposed to do now?

Phillip has no clue. Why should he have any clue – it's a new experience for him. If you or I had been there instead of Phillip, we'd be lost. In fact, Phillip's answer is actually not that bad - “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” At least Phillip identifies the problem – we have limited means, we can't achieve the goal using the straight forward, typical approach. Andrew tries to help out, a little despondently – “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many.” One boy, one little kid had a packed lunch that a thoughtful mom had sent him off with – but option two, crowd sourcing, raising donations – even that will fall short.

So Jesus teaches who He is. Have the people sit down – and John notes, “now there was much grass in that place.” Of course there is – this is The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pasture. And then the LORD feeds – man may not live by bread alone, but God did so create man that they need to eat, and so the Lord opens His hand and satisfies the mouth of every living creature. This Jesus is the LORD, the God who has created everyone and still cares for and preserves them. Most of the time this is done in completely normal and typical ways – sometimes, like in the wilderness of the Exodus or on that grassy mountainside, in extraordinary ways.

But let's go back to Jesus' initial question to Phillip – how do we feed these people. How do we care for these people. It's a good question for us to ponder in these extraordinary days that we ourselves are facing. This is a time unlike any we ourselves have come across. I'm not used to preaching on Sunday morning to a nearly empty room hoping that you are watching at home and praying along. And even as an introvert and a home body, these government recommendations and regulations and restrictions chaffe me – I'm sorry for all you extroverts out there. But likewise we today are faced with a similar challenge of how best to love our neighbor. I would submit, my friends, that you've been better trained and prepared for this day than you know.

Let's think back on Catechism class and the Small Catechism, especially the 10 commandments. What is the fifth commandment – You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need. Now, we all can think of ways that this has played out in our lives before – we bring things to the sick, giving the grieving a hug if they need it, we support folks with our generosity, we are kind. And this idea, this care still plays out. It's just that in this situation, on this day, that support of our neighbor's body means to stay away from them more. The way that we care for our neighbor's body, for their health, needs to shift a bit at the moment – and that's okay. That's fine. And it is annoying – but this is what we do. We bear things, we give up things for the good of our neighbor and their health. This is especially true for us young folk. I could catch this coronavirus and probably not bat an eye – same with my family. Might not even notice – in fact, that's the great danger – that I could be sick and not notice because it is so mild for me, yet I could spread it to the older folk and harm them without even knowing it. And as for those of you who are older than me – yes, you're old. Deal with it. I know you're still only 30 in your head, but a lot of you ain't so young anymore, so tough. No one likes this, young or old, healthy or frail, introvert or extrovert. We are sad, we are angry and annoyed, we mourn – but we deal with the day that we are in and we show love to our neighbor.

Likewise, I would have you ponder the seventh commandment for a bit. What is the seventh commandment? You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor's money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income. Frankly, we are going to get a jolt to our economic system with this. We are going to go from one of if not the lowest unemployment rates in our nations' history to right around 20% unemployment – depression era rates – at least temporarily – as businesses are temporarily closed. People you know are going to be hurting – you yourself may be hurting. So I encourage you to help your neighbor protect and improve their possessions and income. Be generous with your neighbors who will need your generosity to get through this. And if you are one who is hurting, whose income has dried up, don't be too stubborn to receive help. This is why God has given you neighbors, so they can help you. This is why God has put us together and keeps us still here – to love and support each other – to make sure that we all keep getting our daily bread.

And this is new for all of us. This is strange stuff that we've not had to deal with before. Be patient with others, be patient with yourselves. Don't be upset if you don't have all the answers right away – Phillip and Andrew struggled with answering Jesus' challenge in the Gospel lesson, but Jesus still knew what He was going to do. And Jesus already knew what He would have Phillip and Andrew do – Jesus already knew that they were going to be picking up baskets of leftovers. Jesus already knows how He will have you show love and care to your neighbor in the weeks to come – it's all under control and in His care, and it will just be a new time of learning for us.

Because even as so many things are changing, even as March 22nd seems so different from February 22nd, most things are still the same. The love of Christ Jesus for you is still the same. The forgiveness of sins which He won with His death and resurrection is still the same. The eternal life that is yours in Christ is still the same. It remained the same centuries before in plagues much worse than this – it remained the same in the midst of wars and depressions and times of social chaos. It remained the same even when kings and princes were persecuting Christians. As daunting as this day is to us – it is as nothing to Jesus, who is still your Lord.

So receive the challenges, the questions, the learning, the opportunities that He gives to you this week as a gift. We will get to see His love and care given to us and given through us in strange and wondrous ways. It is all good in Christ Jesus. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

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