Isaiah 35:4-7a 

Psalm 146 

James 1: 17-27 

Mark 7: 31-37 

“Be opened” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

Many of you may know by now that I have a slight speech  impediment. In fact last year many of you may remember me  mentioning this for a similar Gospel. I am still attempting to  improve my speech and I know that at times my tongue will fail  me and the words that comes out of my mouth may sound odd. It  is not my intention to be difficult to understand, yet this is my thorn  in my side that I must suffer. If anything, my speech issue  humbles me. 

Many of you may also know of my story in why I have a  slight speech impediment. It is because I was born with a hearing  issue. My ears didn’t quite work as they should, and thus my  words were negatively affected. Eventually my mother found a  doctor who was able to fix the issue with my ears but by that point  the damage to my speech was already done. Ever since I have  had multiple issues with my ears, and have been through multiple  speech therapy classes. But, I gave up on those classes when I  entered High School and came to the belief that I will have to live  with this issue of mine and that there’s no point in further fixing  what appeared to be an unfixable issue.

And then I received a mission from God after my first year in  college, to become a Pastor, a profession that of all things is  centered on speaking; yah (sarcastic). But as the faithful Soldier I  was, and with help from my fellow Christians, I came to listen and  obey the command given from God, and that was when my own  pastor gave me a very hard but important lesson, that I needed to  curb my speech issue. So ever since I have tackled this issue and  am still attempting to perfect my English, pronunciation, and  speaking skills. 

So when I read aloud today’s Gospel, I believe I can  understand the joys the man felt when his ears were opened and  his tongue released, allowing him to speak plainly. To those who  have a stutter, imagine the euphoric feelings they get if they could  just say one speech void of one stumble in their words. To those  whose tongues can’t produce certain sounds, imagine the leaps in  their hearts when they finally utter a common sound previously  foreign to their lips. To finally speak plainly, and hear yourself  speak plainly, is a joy that releases individuals from the terror of  not being heard or understood. It releases the anxiety and despair  of those who wonder if their message would ever be received. It  releases the fear of being ridiculed or persecuted by others who  out of their own weakness attacks those who appear lesser. 

Such is the joy that I can imagine within this man cured by  Jesus. Jesus has gifted him a most amazing blessing, one shared  by most, the ability to hear and speak. To finally hear the words of  one’s family and of one’s friend, to hear so plainly, and thus finally  know the truth of what is spoken to him. No longer will he live in a  shadow where reality bounces off his ears thus forcing him to 

decipher the intended message. No longer is a veil placed  between his ears and the world. Jesus has removed this veil by  sighing a single word, a command, “Ephphatha,” meaning, “Be  opened.” 

In the book of Isaiah, in the days of old, this was prophesied,  for it reads, “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.” 

We know that when Jesus came he did many miracles. He  cured this deaf man, but also many others. And in the process, he  came to Israel and all who belief in God to save them. He didn’t  merely come to save us from our ailments, but that doesn’t mean  he won’t. He came ultimately to save us and through this  salvation will eyes be opened and ears unstopped and legs leap  and tongues sing. He came to a darkened world filled with  anxiety. He came to this broken fallen human existence and  through his blood saved it. He mended together the brokenness  of humanity. He lifted the fallen human condition. He healed the  broken hearted. He gave hope to those who saw only pain. Be  strong and fear not, for the Lord comes and He is already here. 

Yes, He comes with gifts of bodily healing, but He comes  with so much more. Through faith in Him, He has removed the  veil of sin that has prevented us from seeing and hearing and  speaking the Truth. Sin is a blindness that prevents us from 

seeing reality. Sin is a deafness that prevents us from hearing  reality. And Sin is a muteness that prevents us from speaking  reality. The dominion of Sin has made all deaf, mute, blind,  broken, despairing. Yet Jesus came to lift this veil of sin away and  heal us from our sin-inducing ailments. He has shown us the  truth. He has revealed through sight and sound the truth of His  existence and the truth of His Salvation. 

Can you guess what were the first words the deaf man in  today’s Gospel heard? He heard the words of God, for it was  Jesus who spoke to him and opened his ears. When Jesus heals  the anxious heart as he removes the blockage of sin from our  eyes and ears, he does so to reveal Himself. For how can you  receive Christ, the source of Salvation, if you do not hear or see  Him? And further, how can you spread the Good News if you  cannot plainly speak the Truth about Him who saved you? 

Even though not all of us may have bodily suffered  conditions that prevent us from receiving or delivering information,  we have all suffered the consequences of sin which prevents us  from receiving and delivering the Truth of God. Yet through Christ,  each and every one of you has been liberated. Your ears have  been opened and are continually being opened to hear the truth  of Christ’s saving grace. Your eyes have been opened and are  continually being opened to see the full glory of Christ. Your limbs  have been moved so as to propel you out into the world to spread  the Good News. Your tongue released and continually released to  tell others of what the Lord has done for you.

With each miracle, those who were healed witnessed the  glory of God. Be opened. Jesus didn’t just open those whom he  healed to the world; he opened them to the Truth. He opened  them to receiving the blessings of hope, faith, and love which  comes from God. And with their bodily blessings, they used these  amazing gifts in the Name of the Lord. Not only seeing and  hearing of the Lord, but also proclaiming to others of the one who  healed them. 

I would like to think that the Lord has helped me these last  several years with regards to my speech. In high school I gave  up. But because of the calling I have received I became terrified  of failing God because of my own incompetence. Had it not been  for this calling from the Lord I may have never attempted to fix my  issues, but the Lord kindled within me a fear and through such  fear a desire to face my own problems and tackle them. But as I  speak I would like to believe that I am not alone. I would like to  believe that the Lord guides the words that come out of my mouth  and that he helps me speak plainly. Not for my sake, but for His  Name sake and the sake of all who hear. And if by doing so I pray  that as I speak that the Lord opens the ears of those listening so  that they not merely hear words but truly hear the Word. 

This little gift that the Lord has given me, of releasing my  tongue, is a source of hope. For in my weakness I gave up. But  through the Lord I was given the push necessary to keep on  walking. And though the push He gave me terrified me by placing  a new fear in my heart, one that was scared of failing God, He  tells me to be strong and to fear not, for God is my strength, my  healer, and my savior.

I apologize for the testimony, for this more self-centered  message. It is as if I feel that through this sermon I have  momentarily become a Mormon, those who are well known for  giving testimonies rather than sermons. Yet, I am truly gracious  for the opportunity given to me and I hope that the Lord has done  so likewise for all of you and continue to do so; gifting you with  opportunities and blessings, opening your eyes and ears,  liberating your tongue, and providing the courage to speak of  God. Basically, not only being opened to receiving God, but also  being opened in rejoicing in God and proclaiming His Name. 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, heal our hearts, souls, minds, and  bodies, so that as you guide us and stand with us, we may fully  rejoice in your most Holy Name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8 

Psalm 15 

Ephesians 6: 10-20 

Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23 

“Stand Firm!” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

In light of the last two years, today’s Gospel might hit a little  closer to home. Whereas we have always heard the saying,  “wash your hands before you eat,” and many good parents would  demand such before you come to the dinner table, these last two  years the fervor for handwashing and other medically sound  practices escaladed. Now it is true that the situation changed, and  I will give you that, it is also true that many have mishandled such  good practices by elevating their value to deism. 

I have heard many pastors go stark-raving crazy at other  pastors for not adopting medical practices in their churches by  accusing such pastors of wanting people to die, only to laugh  malevolently at congregations who get sick because they did not  properly prepare. I have heard many damn to Hell others because  they would not say wear a mask. I and many others have been  attacked wrongfully for not emotionally elevating safety  precautions above God-given rights, such as the right to religion  and freedom of assembly of all things. I have been accused of  going against God for stating I will never ever withhold a service,  in other words close down the church when I am woefully capable  of coming and officiating worship. I have been attacked by a  Roman Catholic Priest who accused me of killing his mother 

because, one, I defend the conscience of those who won’t take  the vaccine, and two, because he himself admitted His mother to  hospice that for medical reasons was against the vaccine. All of  these are examples of those who have emotionally lifted medical  practices far beyond rational thinking and to the point of deism.  Most especially for the Pharisaic Pastors who accused me of  defying God for having worship, thus obeying God, I repeat the  words of Jesus, “You leave the commandment of God and hold to  the tradition of men.” 

Now don’t misunderstand this spiel to be anti-science or  sound medical practice. Many human-made traditions are indeed  good, for example washing your hands before you eat, that is  most definitely good. My problem, which is Jesus’ problem in  scripture, is lifting up human traditions to the point of doctrine. Again, many of our human made traditions are indeed good, but  they are just that, good human-made traditions. No amount of  obeying these traditions will gain you favor in the eyes of God. No  amount of observing human commands will merit you anything  from God. And nothing created by human hands should be  treated on the same level as that which was given to us by God.  They all might be good, but nothing pales in comparison to that  which comes from God. Above all else, nothing created by human  hands will ever earn you salvation. Only the free gift of faith which  eternally comes to you through the Holy Spirit, faith in Jesus  Christ and the Sacrifice he made on the cross will ever provide  you salvation. Nothing made by human hands will ever  accomplish this.

This is why Jesus got so mad at the Pharisees, and he was  indeed furious. After Moses provided the Laws of God, the high  elders who came after him years later added to the Laws what are  known as the traditions of the elders. Obviously the traditions of  the elders are not the traditions of God, nor is there anything in  God’s Law that can be confused to allude to the traditions of the  elders. That is why these traditions were added, and added they  indeed were for next to the Laws are the traditions. The traditions  of the elders are not the Law, but the elders added these  traditions to the Law and the Jews then lifted these traditions to  be observed as faithfully as the Law of God. In our first reading,  Deuteronomy says, “You shall not add to the word that I  command you,” yet that is exactly what the elders did and what  the Pharisees and all the Jews are currently doing. 

It says in scripture with regards to the washing of hands,  “For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash  their hands properly.” Well the disciples are Jews, and there is  that royal “all”, so why didn’t the disciples according to tradition  wash their hands? We don’t know, but what we did know is that  Jesus didn’t chastise them for not cleaning their dirty hands, and  they were eating with filthy hands, but rather chastised the  Pharisees for ridiculing the disciples for eating with defiled hands. 

When the Pharisees saw the defiled hands they sneered  and, acting like pumped-up pompous pricks, said, “Why do your  disciples not walk according to the traditions of the elders, but eat  with defiled hands?” That is like sneering at a man who wears a  suit to church when everyone knows you are supposed to wear  flannel. That is like getting offended when one person in church 

decides to sing alto when it has been agreed upon by the church  elders that the church will only sing soprano. That is like saying,  the only way you can enter a sanctuary and be allowed to worship  and receive communion is if you wear a mask. 

To the Pharisees who lifted up man-made laws, Jesus said,  “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This  people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in  vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the  commandments of men.’” Again, the commandments of men are  not bad, so far as you do not treat them like doctrine. We can all  agree that washing your hands before you eat is good and should  be encouraged. But what happens when you meet someone who  doesn’t? Obviously you tell them quiet plainly that if they wish to  be healthy then maybe they should wash their hands, and do not  act like the Pharisees. 

So what happens when you live in a world that wants to be  like the Pharisees and lift up human-made beliefs up above God?  And this can be any human-made belief such as the false notion  that you are born sinless, or the improper order of loving they  neighbor more so than loving the Lord your God with all your  heart soul and mind, or the idea that you don’t need Christ to  enter Heaven thus avoiding Hell. There are many heretical  teachings out there crafted by the world that will be used against  your faith. And the world will always try to lift up these human made traditions to the point of doctrine, daring to replace God’s  commands with its own commands. Martin Luther had his fair  share of this when the Roman Catholic Church created and still  use to this day the belief that you can merit yourself salvation 

through human-made traditions. That is exactly, in the words of  Jesus, “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” 

Martin Luther and his fellow Lutherans had some choice  words against this practice that had infected the Churches for in  the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 15, titled, “Of  Human traditions in the Church,” it reads, “If the adversaries  defend these human services as meriting justification, grace, and  the remission of sins, they simply establish the kingdom of  Antichrist. For the kingdom of Antichrist is a new service of God,  devised by human authority rejecting Christ… Thus the Papacy  also will be a part of the kingdom of Antichrist if it thus defends  human services as justifying.” 

So what should we do when the world starts demanding we  lift up human traditions, effectively establishing the Kingdom of  Antichrist, we rebuff all of Satan’s flaming darts. We rise up  against the schemes of the devil and, standing firm, we say, “How  dare you try to replace God with man-kind.” 

And as we are standing, let us not stand alone, but instead  stand firm with the armor of God defending you from all the  vicious attempts to cause you to kneel to human traditions, rather  kneel to God. For to God and for God alone I kneel, but to the  world I stand firm. Take on God’s truth, not the truth of humans,  which is a belt that fastens all together. Wear His righteousness,  not your own, which is a breastplate which covers your heart. Be  ready in the Lord, which is given not by human scripture but  God’s Scripture, by wearing his boots. Always hold up the  external faith that comes not from within but from the Holy Spirit, 

which is a shield that protects you from all the flaming darts of the  Devil. And then respond with your own weapon, not a human  sword, but the Sword of God which is Jesus Christ Himself, the  Word of God. Take on God’s salvation, not human-made  salvation, which is a helmet that crowns the head. Take on all  these pieces of God’s armor, relying not on Human-made armor  for such is worthless against the devil and may even be fashioned  by the devil, but rather God’s armor which is steadfast and will  never fail. So when the world presses it’s ungodly tactics upon the  Church, while wearing the Armor of God, in accordance to  Ephesians, stand firm in the Lord and boldly speak the Gospel. It  has been my practice to end with a prayer, but if I may I would like  to end with words from Martin Luther: 

“Since your most serene majesty and your high  

 

mightinesses require of me a simple, clear and direct answer, I  will give one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the  pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they  have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with  themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy  Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very  text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into  subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything;  for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak  against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God  help me! Amen.” – Martin Luther, Diet of Worms

Exodus 16:2-15

Psalm 78:23-29

Ephesians 4:17-24

John 6:24-35

 

 

“Bread of Life: Part 1”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

        As I was preparing for these last two busy weeks - as some of you are aware my brother was getting married, and is now married, and this last week I was in Texas with Jeff for our NALC Convocation – yes, as I was preparing I decided to go ahead and organize last week’s and this week’s worship services fairly early. And as I perused through the LBW, our green hymnal, between the pages of 26 and 27, in order to understand, according to the lectionary I have been using this last year, what Scriptures I would be working with, I noticed something peculiar. Not just last week, not just today, not just tomorrow but for the entirety and only the entirety of August, all five weeks, the Gospel will be from St. John chapter 6. Fascinating, indeed very fascinating, for the topic in question with regards to John 6, most especially with regards to the select verses of John, is all about the Bread of Life. For this very reason I will be conducting a four part sermon series beginning today focusing solely on the bread of life in accordance with the Gospel.

       

        Now last week was just a foretaste, for technically the feeding of the five thousand is a precursor to the famous “I am the Bread of Life” speech and interaction from Jesus. Thus the reason why I am not doing a five part series beginning last week but rather a four part series beginning today is because of this very fact; the feeding of the five thousand is a precursor. So you got a foretaste where mentioned multiple points last week of which I will be providing again today and for the next several weeks.

 

Part 1 of the Bread of Life series:

 

        Our Gospel follows directly after Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish. After seeing this sign, the crowd wished to make Jesus king, yet Jesus did not come to be a political ruler, of which he would most certainly be under watch and fiercely protected by Soldiers from any and all assailing forces. Jesus came for a much higher purpose, one which would require Him to be seen as an enemy of the state rather its king. So Jesus escaped so as to preserve His intended mission on Earth, to die, not suicidal but as a martyr for all sin. And as He escaped to the other side of the Capernaum Sea, whoa and behold He was followed by the crowd who just would not give up on Him. Though as they followed Him to make Him king, their reasoning was simply because He conducted a miraculous act which satisfied their earthly hunger.

 

        “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Such harsh words for Jesus is quite plainly telling them that the reason they want to lift Him as king is not because He did a miracle, did the impossible, but because they are hungry; hungry not for higher things, but merely food. Though, on a jovial note, the saying is most definitely true, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

 

        Well the masses are indeed following Jesus and is about to get a heavy lesson. They followed because of their stomach, but at least this allowed Jesus to get to their hearts, to provide for them a much higher thing than mere food that all people need for the sake of life. Yes, Jesus provides something more important than food in of itself. So to these people who worked up a sweat just to catch up with Jesus on the completely opposite side of the sea, Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.”

 

        Are you telling us to starve? Are you mad crazy? We need food to live! Know they were not thinking this, though not yet, simply because Jesus had not yet revealed what he meant by “food that endures to eternal life.” Without context, of which Jesus will soon provide, of course anyone would want this eternal food. If I worked for food that perishes, then in order to stay alive I need to keep on working for food, but if food was to endure for eternal life then all I have to do is work once and I’m good to go. Who wouldn’t want that? And then Jesus tells them, “which the Son of Man will give to you.”

 

        Who? The Son of Man, aka the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke of old and of whom the Jews desperately pray for. And note it does not say “may give to you,” but that, “the Son of Man will give to you.” This is a definitive. There is no possibility here, there is no chance, there is no prerequisite or some needed condition for a controlled cause and effect, but a definitive. Will, not may. He will give to you. This is a promise. He is making a contract, and is holding firm to it, and because God never lies, we know that this promise will indeed be fulfilled.

 

        Yet, this food will not be received by everyone, for though God is making a promise, which implies no conditions, this is not a forced action. The statement says again, “will give to you.” Not forced on you, not thrust on you, not give you any say, it is given. And if anything is given then that must imply that said thing can be rejected. That which is given is a gift, and all gifts can be either received or rejected, thus the same applies to this imperishable food. And if one person rejects this gift then obviously this food will not be received by all.

 

        Those who think with stomachs did not understand Jesus, but rather got all giddy with the notion of receiving this food that sustains life eternal, conveniently missing the statement that this “will” be given, conveniently missing the unconditional promise. For they respond, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” What must we do, what must we do!? Did you not just hear what I said? The Son of Man will give to you! No, for all they heard was, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” Conveniently missing what immediately followed. So, to answer, Jesus tells them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Two things are true here. The first, belief is not an action. The second, you believe because God has worked within you. This is interesting because the crowds are asking what they must do, but Jesus tells them what God will do, and that the only thing needed is faith. Eternal life comes not from works, but only faith which is a work of God.

 

        Of course the crowds, well learned though, are still hung up on works or actions, for they ask, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” What did I just do earlier? Are your brains made of mush? Are you more forgetful than a goldfish? Do you not remember why you followed me across the sea in the first place? I fed five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish! And you have the audacity to ask, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” [Disgruntle noise]. Again, per Jesus’ first sentence in today’s Gospel, “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” They didn’t see a sign, if they didn’t see this sign, which directly impacted their bodies, then what sign is going to convince them?

 

        Now I mentioned they were well-learned. Their audacious questioning goes on, “What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’”. They knew scripture, and since the topic was about bread, eternal life, and bread that comes from God, of course they were going to bring up this event, of God providing Manna during the days of Moses. Yet, Jesus saw this coming. Is not God all knowing? And is not Jesus God? Jesus knew they would bring up manna and say, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” And this was His opportunity to open their eyes, to remove the wool that blocked their sight, to reveal the truth. Moses didn’t give that bread, but God the Father did. And he didn’t just gave bread from heaven then, but He is giving the true bread of heaven here and now. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

 

        I don’t think that the crowds totally understood Jesus, for Jesus didn’t say that the bread of God was a “what” but a “who”, it was not a thing but a person. I don’t think they understood, for they said, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

 

        Oh he’ll give you this bread always, for Jesus is the Bread of Life, and he is never going away. Whoever comes to Him will not hunger, and whoever believes in Him will never thirst.

 

Let us pray,

 

        Dear Heavenly Father, we earthly creatures who thinks with our stomachs and desire to fill our hungry hearts with pleasures and earthly things help guide our hearts to your Son, the bread of Life who was, who is, and who will always be, the only source of true life. In your most blessed name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 Kings 19: 4-8

Psalm 34: 1-8

Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2

John 6: 41-51

 

 

“Bread of Life: Part 2”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

        Today we continue with our four part sermon series, Bread of Life: Part 2.

 

        In the Gospel last week we read that the crowds that followed Jesus only did so because of their stomachs and not because of the miraculous sign of Jesus feeding five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish. They followed Jesus and Jesus called them out for following their stomach rather their hearts, telling them that instead of following perishable things they should follow imperishable things. Instead of follow for food that sustains for only a while, follow food that sustains eternally. And that He, the Son of God, will give this eternal food. The crowd was excited for this everlasting food and asked how they could acquire it; what do they need to do? So Jesus said faith is all you need. He then also told them that He was the Bread of Life.

 

        So this whole time, all the way up to the point that Jesus said He was the Bread of Life, revealing this bread to be a who rather a what, the crowds was of the misguided belief that Jesus was talking about something you consume. To tell the truth, they weren’t wrong, but that’s a topic for next week. So when Jesus identified himself to be the Bread of Life rather some consumable good, the Jews became disgruntled. Though their initial disgruntlement wasn’t because Jesus claimed to be food, it was because He claimed to come down from Heaven.

 

        You see, these Jews who followed Jesus knew of Jesus and his family. Most knew his parents Mary and Joseph the carpenter. Thus they knew Jesus to be the oldest child of this family. Yes, he is a wise child, and probably a prophet of God. They knew that he was born from Mary and they witnessed Him grow up to the wise man He is today. They initially followed Him because of His wisdom and knowledge of Scripture and the great things He has done. And now they follow Him because of their bellies. So when they heard Jesus claiming to come down from heaven they grumbled because they knew His background and where He came from, how He was raised, and who raised Him.

 

        How can He claim to come down from heaven to the very people who witnessed Him grow in wisdom. How can He claim to us who know his upbringing that He came down from heaven? Does He take us to be fools? Yet we know Jesus to be very wise, so how could say something so foolish Himself such as claiming to descend from heaven? So they grumbled; either second guessing their lofty opinion of Jesus, or trying to decipher Jesus’ words, or figure out if they accidentally misheard Him. Regardless, they were at the very least uncomfortable with what they thought they just heard leave Jesus’ lips. How could He claim to come down from heaven?

 

        So Jesus provided a short speech. Reiterating that He is indeed the Bread of Life, Jesus tells the crowds that He was not only sent by the Father, but that only those who have heard and learned from the Father comes to Him. Basically, unless the Father wills it you will not believe in who I am, but if you come to me with faith that is because the Father has willed it. Had Jesus of stopped there we would probably hear of the Jesus grumbling again, but Jesus kept of speaking. Yet if the Jews did grumble it is because they would feel as if Jesus is smacking them offside the head with a heavy and seemingly disrespectful lesson. We are close to the Father, and we have heard of Him and learn from His great Scripture. Are you calling us, those who do not believe you to be from heaven, liars? Quite frankly, yes, though you may not be aware of the false shadowy realm of a lie you live in.

 

        The reason why no one can believe in Christ, so not just the Jews but all people, is because of the veil of sin that closes our eyes to reality. The dominion of sin that we are born in, under original sin, prevents us, slaves of Satan, to ever realize of our own free will that Jesus is Christ, that He is the Son of God sent from Heaven not to condemn the world but to free us from sin. He came to save us, and this is the truth, but the shadow of sin prevents us from seeing this but rather only see a lie. So if we claim that Jesus of Nazareth did not come down from heaven then yes we are speaking a lie, though unintentionally, yet still a lie. For this is what Martin Luther says in the small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel.” We cannot believe by our own power, yet through the Holy Spirit, the Father draws us to believe that Jesus is Christ. It is for this reason that Jesus tells us that, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

        So without the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, it would neigh impossible for any of the Jews, most especially those who witnessed Jesus’ growth, to believe that Jesus came down from heaven, sent by God the Father, with Him being God the Son. So how could Jesus fault the Jews who followed Him? He doesn’t but instead simply tells them not to grumble, and that the Father will draw them into believing. Instead of damning those present who have trouble believing, Jesus provides promises of hope for all who merely believes. He says that He will raise them up on the last day and that they will have eternal life.

 

        God the Father provided the Jews many things in their times of struggle. After they escaped Egypt, when the Hebrews starved in the wilderness, God graciously provided for them manna and many other gifts so as to sustain their aching bellies. God did not abandon His people but looked after them throughout their long journey till they eventually found themselves at the Land of milk and honey. And here they didn’t conquer the land, in fact they were prevented from simply entering the land. So God conquered this land and didn’t just gift it to the Hebrews but also deemed them the rightful rulers of this land known as Israel, now and forever. God the Father provided them Israel. And then later in the history of the Jews after the prophet Elijah ran for his life from Jezebel, Queen of Israel, who ordered his death, God provided substance for Elijah. Elijah asked for death, but instead God provided him with hope.

 

        These are all examples of God’s providence to his people, but they all pale in comparison to the most ultimate gift God the Father provides, His own Son who is the source of eternal life. And next to this gift is the faith to believe in Jesus Christ, a faith that can only come from the Holy Spirit. So worry not, faith in Him comes not from within, for faith in of itself is also a gift provided by God the Father, and it is through this gift that you are drawn to the real source of eternal life, the Bread of Life, He who is sent from God.

 

        And again who is this Bread of Life? Who is it that was sent by God the Father from heaven down to earth? Why Jesus Christ from Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph.

 

        Again, Jesus gave the Jews no time to grumble, for as he speed right through this proclamation which would have most definitely cause the Jews grief, he blazed right into an even more troublesome topic. He started to harp down on the very fact that the point of bread is to be consumed. By claiming He came down from Heaven the Jews temporarily forgot that Jesus claimed to be the Bread of life, bread, a consumable. So now Jesus is bringing to the forefront this controversial subject; one that has not only troubled the Jews to no end but has troubled Christians to this day. What did Jesus say?

 

        “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

 

        Jesus gave up his own flesh on the cross, as a living sacrifice, so that all who believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. He did this not for a select few, but for the whole world, to free all who believe in Him. This much we now is true, but why did he say, “If anyone eats of this bread”? Next week we will dive into this for the Jews will once again grumble with horror at the notion that Jesus is demanding cannibalism.

 

        Instead I leave you with this. When Jesus presented the bread and wine during that Last Supper He said this is my body, and this is my blood, and then commanded us to eat and drink. We also know that Jesus is the bread of Life and when we eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, we are receiving the promise of Christ into our bodies; the promise of eternal life. Thus as we take communion, and to all who are baptized I ask that you do take communion, know this, by eating the bread and drinking the wine you proclaiming that you believe in Jesus and through the receiving of His body and blood are also receiving a portion of his grace, a foretaste of the feast to come, spiritual sustenance, the strength to keep on believing, and hope in his many promises.

 

        “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

 

Let us pray,

 

        Dear Heavenly Father, you have blessed us greatly with your Son who came as a living Sacrifice for all sin. Though we may have trouble believing in Him and in Communion, you and only you have drawn us into belief and have granted us the faith necessary to receive Christ always. We ask that you continually sustain our faith through Communion, and that your Spirit draws more and more to your altar table. In name we pray, Amen.

Exodus 24:3-11

Psalm 145

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16

John 6:1-15

 

 

“Receive His Gifts”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

        Throughout my life I have been in multiple situations when I am in need of help but would never ask for aid. At times some have offered a morsel of their time or money to help me out only for me to decline their offer. I have also seen many others do likewise in that they will not only stubbornly stay independent, not bothering to ask for help, but also decline any kind offerings of assistance. I’ve noted that when I’ve done it in the past it was simply because I didn’t want to be a bother to other people. It was a selfless mentality where I didn’t want others to be troubled by my own complications. Outside of myself, I have observed other rationales for such behavior to include: a stubborn false sense of pride; selfishness masquerading as selflessness; desire for independence and proof of self-sufficiency; etc.

 

        People may come and say, “I want to give you this,” or say, “may I help you with this.” An answer I have provided in the past and may still do so today is, “No thank you, I got this.” Know this, when I say this I am not implying that I don’t need your help, nor that help isn’t wanted, but that I don’t wish to trouble you. Also know this, even though I say this, I do appreciate it if you assist regardless.

 

        Something I’ve noticed in kids is that many may secretly be begging for help, their eyes tells you quiet plainly that they are in over their heads, that they ate too much than they can chew, that by themselves they will not accomplish what they desire to do. They know that by themselves they cannot accomplish such, yet out of stubbornness, out of pride, out of independence, they will not voice they need help. Their eyes say they need help, but they will not actively ask for help. Sometimes they might even decline aid that is provided. When it comes to not too consequential things, this phenomenon can be quite amusing, especially for parents.  An example, say your child is on the playground and wants to use the monkey bars, but they are too short and can’t reach. They look around, at other kids, they jitter a bit, they don’t know what to do with their hands, and very frequently they look up at the bars. They are paralyzed between two dilemmas: preserve one’s own pride, or have fun on the monkey bars. Now you see all this transpiring, so you go to your child and ask him, if he needs help getting to the bars. The eyes of your child lights up, and a slight grin forms as he is about to say something, only for a quick furrow to cross his brow in first confusion and then into denial, as they shake their head no. Such an interaction is amusing. If I was the parent I would say ok in a mocking way and try and hide a smirk as I walk back to my bench.

 

        Now, I’ve also noted that this behavior of note accepting help is also very American. Here in America one of our founding values is independence. We have always prized our abilities as individuals to be self-autonomous, or at least as much as possible. And on top of that we glorify and praise anyone who is capable of living completely self-autonomously. In other cultures, a newlywed couple is still deeply connected with the wider family. In fact, in many cultures, an entire family under one head may live together in a tight community of homes. In American culture, usually the two start their own family and separate from the one they grew up in, not completely, but all in order to become one independent family. And it is because of this value that many of the laws and bills are designed to preserve and defend this independent desire, to prevent government from dictating how an individual must live their lives. Yet this sense of independency on an individualistic level also has its own consequences, mostly misguided pride or a desire to prove you can be self-sufficient.

 

        Whereas it is good to be independent, to have the ability to stand on your own good two feet, for the saying goes, “You have two good feet, use them,” God did not create us to be independent of each other. He created us as social creatures, to be involved with each other. He created us in His image, the image of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the image of He who in of Himself is never alone. Did not God sanctify marriage between only one man and one wife, combining two into one, because one is designed to be with the other and is never truly complete except through marriage? Did not Jesus say where two or more are gathered in my name there I am also? God intended us to be social creatures and because of such two things will happen: one, you will need someone else’s help; two, someone will come to you providing aid.

 

        With this I’ve come to the realization as I matured that whereas it is good to stand on your own two feet, it is equally good to accept gifts that are given to you.

 

        Many will come to you with genuine aid, wishing to give you something, either an item or money or their service. Their aid may not be what you need nor in the way you wish to receive, but the best thing you can do for such a person is to freely and willingly allow them to help in their own way. Now this conflicts with what I said earlier when I acknowledge that I do at times decline offers because I wish to not trouble other people. I’m still young; growing and learning. For whereas I do conduct such, I still genuinely believe that it is better to accept gifts, I just have some habits I am still working with.

 

        Now why is it better to just accept assistance? In the end, accepting aid is an act of kindness toward the giver. The giver wishes to help, and if you don’t allow them such an opportunity then they may have a myriad of negative thoughts, sometimes unwantedness or worthlessness. But when you accept, the genuine giver lights up and is filled joy for their joy comes not from what you give them but from what they give you. Not too surprisingly one such person is God Himself.

 

        God is like an overbearing parent who wishes smother us in all sorts of good things. He sees us act in sinful ways, and out of His unconditional kindness he first provided us the Law so that we may become aware of our sinful nature. Because he wished us to not do evil he punished many communities when they do atrocious things such as Sodom and Gomorrah, or at least promised punishment only to relent such as Nineveh with regards to Jonah. But God does not wish to punish but to gift us with many good things. He wishes to fill us like a cup overflowing. Paul tells us that the Grace of our Lord will always surpass sin, that no matter how much sin you commit His Grace will always be more.

 

        Our Lord wants to give to us, but when He does provide gifts he does so not in a totalitarian, equal outcome fashion. For when he sent his Son to die for us He did this out of overbearing unconditional love. Yet even though Jesus died for all, his death did not immediately save all for all time. If he did then the one who blasphemies against the Lord would enter Heaven, the Atheist would be saved, the Satanist would be forgiven of their sins.

 

        God does not force his grace on everyone, thus he does not give all equal outcome, where all no matter what they do will enter heaven. No, instead God, through His Son, has given all the equal opportunity to enter into heaven. He cares not for who you are, nor your past, rather despite your past, for he cares for all people. He only asks that you have faith in the Triune God and accept the blood-stained gift of eternal life and forgiveness. Of all the things that brings God joy, it is this willingness to accept His give of Salvation that gives Him the most joy.

 

        When Jesus fed the five thousand he did so out of the kindness of his heart. He wanted to feed them, and all present graciously received. Yet there after, the crowds followed Jesus simply because they were thinking with their stomachs and not with their hearts. For the rest of August we will be reading from St John chapter 6, and the predominant message is that Jesus is the bread of Life. He comes with many gifts; most far surpass a mere serving of food; for he came not to satisfy the hungry stomach, but to satisfy the hungry heart. As you will soon find out, the masses did not freely accept His gift of Salvation which comes only through Him. Oh, they accepted the food, but His teaching was too much for them, so they did not accept his gift.

 

        If we truly love God, then as he comes to us in his genuine unconditionally loving and giving way, then let us also willingly accept all of the gracious gifts that he wishes to pour over us: His Law, His physical provisions, His Spirit, the gifts of His Spirit, His forgiveness, and His saving grace. Let us not come to the belief that we can live independent of God. Let us not put God in a box and say this is God time and this is not God time; all is God’s time. Let us not come to the belief that we only need part of His gifts, and then choose which gifts we want. Let us not come to the belief that we are troubling God with prayers or when we accept His grace. Let us instead willingly receive whatever God brings our way.

 

And now let us… pray,

 

        Dear Heavenly Father, throughout all ages you have provided for your people, the greatest gift being your Son who died on the cross for our forgiveness, sanctification, and salvation. Soften our hearts so that they don’t turn to stone but rather accept all of your gifts as well as the gifts from our fellow friends and family. In your most glorious name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Exodus 24:3-11

Psalm 145

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16

John 6:1-15

 

 

“Receive His Gifts”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

        Throughout my life I have been in multiple situations when I am in need of help but would never ask for aid. At times some have offered a morsel of their time or money to help me out only for me to decline their offer. I have also seen many others do likewise in that they will not only stubbornly stay independent, not bothering to ask for help, but also decline any kind offerings of assistance. I’ve noted that when I’ve done it in the past it was simply because I didn’t want to be a bother to other people. It was a selfless mentality where I didn’t want others to be troubled by my own complications. Outside of myself, I have observed other rationales for such behavior to include: a stubborn false sense of pride; selfishness masquerading as selflessness; desire for independence and proof of self-sufficiency; etc.

 

        People may come and say, “I want to give you this,” or say, “may I help you with this.” An answer I have provided in the past and may still do so today is, “No thank you, I got this.” Know this, when I say this I am not implying that I don’t need your help, nor that help isn’t wanted, but that I don’t wish to trouble you. Also know this, even though I say this, I do appreciate it if you assist regardless.

 

        Something I’ve noticed in kids is that many may secretly be begging for help, their eyes tells you quiet plainly that they are in over their heads, that they ate too much than they can chew, that by themselves they will not accomplish what they desire to do. They know that by themselves they cannot accomplish such, yet out of stubbornness, out of pride, out of independence, they will not voice they need help. Their eyes say they need help, but they will not actively ask for help. Sometimes they might even decline aid that is provided. When it comes to not too consequential things, this phenomenon can be quite amusing, especially for parents.  An example, say your child is on the playground and wants to use the monkey bars, but they are too short and can’t reach. They look around, at other kids, they jitter a bit, they don’t know what to do with their hands, and very frequently they look up at the bars. They are paralyzed between two dilemmas: preserve one’s own pride, or have fun on the monkey bars. Now you see all this transpiring, so you go to your child and ask him, if he needs help getting to the bars. The eyes of your child lights up, and a slight grin forms as he is about to say something, only for a quick furrow to cross his brow in first confusion and then into denial, as they shake their head no. Such an interaction is amusing. If I was the parent I would say ok in a mocking way and try and hide a smirk as I walk back to my bench.

 

        Now, I’ve also noted that this behavior of note accepting help is also very American. Here in America one of our founding values is independence. We have always prized our abilities as individuals to be self-autonomous, or at least as much as possible. And on top of that we glorify and praise anyone who is capable of living completely self-autonomously. In other cultures, a newlywed couple is still deeply connected with the wider family. In fact, in many cultures, an entire family under one head may live together in a tight community of homes. In American culture, usually the two start their own family and separate from the one they grew up in, not completely, but all in order to become one independent family. And it is because of this value that many of the laws and bills are designed to preserve and defend this independent desire, to prevent government from dictating how an individual must live their lives. Yet this sense of independency on an individualistic level also has its own consequences, mostly misguided pride or a desire to prove you can be self-sufficient.

 

        Whereas it is good to be independent, to have the ability to stand on your own good two feet, for the saying goes, “You have two good feet, use them,” God did not create us to be independent of each other. He created us as social creatures, to be involved with each other. He created us in His image, the image of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the image of He who in of Himself is never alone. Did not God sanctify marriage between only one man and one wife, combining two into one, because one is designed to be with the other and is never truly complete except through marriage? Did not Jesus say where two or more are gathered in my name there I am also? God intended us to be social creatures and because of such two things will happen: one, you will need someone else’s help; two, someone will come to you providing aid.

 

        With this I’ve come to the realization as I matured that whereas it is good to stand on your own two feet, it is equally good to accept gifts that are given to you.

 

        Many will come to you with genuine aid, wishing to give you something, either an item or money or their service. Their aid may not be what you need nor in the way you wish to receive, but the best thing you can do for such a person is to freely and willingly allow them to help in their own way. Now this conflicts with what I said earlier when I acknowledge that I do at times decline offers because I wish to not trouble other people. I’m still young; growing and learning. For whereas I do conduct such, I still genuinely believe that it is better to accept gifts, I just have some habits I am still working with.

 

        Now why is it better to just accept assistance? In the end, accepting aid is an act of kindness toward the giver. The giver wishes to help, and if you don’t allow them such an opportunity then they may have a myriad of negative thoughts, sometimes unwantedness or worthlessness. But when you accept, the genuine giver lights up and is filled joy for their joy comes not from what you give them but from what they give you. Not too surprisingly one such person is God Himself.

 

        God is like an overbearing parent who wishes smother us in all sorts of good things. He sees us act in sinful ways, and out of His unconditional kindness he first provided us the Law so that we may become aware of our sinful nature. Because he wished us to not do evil he punished many communities when they do atrocious things such as Sodom and Gomorrah, or at least promised punishment only to relent such as Nineveh with regards to Jonah. But God does not wish to punish but to gift us with many good things. He wishes to fill us like a cup overflowing. Paul tells us that the Grace of our Lord will always surpass sin, that no matter how much sin you commit His Grace will always be more.

 

        Our Lord wants to give to us, but when He does provide gifts he does so not in a totalitarian, equal outcome fashion. For when he sent his Son to die for us He did this out of overbearing unconditional love. Yet even though Jesus died for all, his death did not immediately save all for all time. If he did then the one who blasphemies against the Lord would enter Heaven, the Atheist would be saved, the Satanist would be forgiven of their sins.

 

        God does not force his grace on everyone, thus he does not give all equal outcome, where all no matter what they do will enter heaven. No, instead God, through His Son, has given all the equal opportunity to enter into heaven. He cares not for who you are, nor your past, rather despite your past, for he cares for all people. He only asks that you have faith in the Triune God and accept the blood-stained gift of eternal life and forgiveness. Of all the things that brings God joy, it is this willingness to accept His give of Salvation that gives Him the most joy.

 

        When Jesus fed the five thousand he did so out of the kindness of his heart. He wanted to feed them, and all present graciously received. Yet there after, the crowds followed Jesus simply because they were thinking with their stomachs and not with their hearts. For the rest of August we will be reading from St John chapter 6, and the predominant message is that Jesus is the bread of Life. He comes with many gifts; most far surpass a mere serving of food; for he came not to satisfy the hungry stomach, but to satisfy the hungry heart. As you will soon find out, the masses did not freely accept His gift of Salvation which comes only through Him. Oh, they accepted the food, but His teaching was too much for them, so they did not accept his gift.

 

        If we truly love God, then as he comes to us in his genuine unconditionally loving and giving way, then let us also willingly accept all of the gracious gifts that he wishes to pour over us: His Law, His physical provisions, His Spirit, the gifts of His Spirit, His forgiveness, and His saving grace. Let us not come to the belief that we can live independent of God. Let us not put God in a box and say this is God time and this is not God time; all is God’s time. Let us not come to the belief that we only need part of His gifts, and then choose which gifts we want. Let us not come to the belief that we are troubling God with prayers or when we accept His grace. Let us instead willingly receive whatever God brings our way.

 

And now let us… pray,

 

        Dear Heavenly Father, throughout all ages you have provided for your people, the greatest gift being your Son who died on the cross for our forgiveness, sanctification, and salvation. Soften our hearts so that they don’t turn to stone but rather accept all of your gifts as well as the gifts from our fellow friends and family. In your most glorious name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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