The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
As much as things change, they still remain the same. Or… as Solomon put it: There is nothing new under the sun. Consider the Old Testament Israelites. This could’ve been written this past week. God (mercifully) gives them sustenance from heaven (in spite of their wicked, thankless behavior). He provides more than enough for every single person for each day’s need. On top of that, He provides double on the sixth day of every week so that they have no excuses. There would be nothing that could keep them from resting and worshiping on the seventh day. There would be nothing that kept them from receiving God’s over-flowing abundance to them as He served them. 24/7, God abundantly provides for all their needs. They are to simply trust in Him; remain focused on Him and hold fast to Him and His mercy and grace in repentant thankfulness.
So… what does that trust look like in real life? Lots of people say they have faith; that is, they trust in God. And yet… their fruits don’t exactly match their confession. Case in point: Moses tells the Israelites to not try and hoard any of the manna away. “Don’t let any of it over till the morning.” Do they listen? No! They do their own thing. They try to stash and hoard and stockpile. Unfortunately, their plans (along with their stash) all goes to rot. And why would they be commanded to NOT store up and stash away such things? Wouldn’t that be “good stewardship”? No. It was disobedience, plain and simple. That disobedience showed, without a doubt, that they didn’t trust in their Lord’s providence and care. They didn’t trust that their God and Lord would daily provide them with all that they need for this body and life. Hmmm…. manna… toilet paper… eggs… my, how far we’ve come! But… it’s different in our particular cases, isn’t it?
What about the Gospel lesson? Nothing new under the sun there either. Our Lord (once again) richly, abundantly, and miraculously provides more than enough bread and fish to thousands of hungry men, women, and children, so much so that there were twelve huge baskets left over. And how do the people respond? They try to force Jesus into being their “bread king.” What’s that mean? It means that the people saw in Jesus an unlimited supply of “fat, dumb, and happy.” No more having to work for dinner for them! They didn’t recognize the Bread of Life in their midst because they were too busy looking for bread to fill their bellies and their pantries. They didn’t see the unfailing eternal Bread because they were too busy looking to get an unlimited stash of what moth and rust and rot can destroy.
If we were to put a modern spin on this, the people would be flocking to Christ, becoming “Christian,” only because Jesus gives out free toilet paper and eggs. In fact, Jesus would be obligated—forced—to give out an over-flowing abundance of toilet paper and eggs to anyone who simply showed up, claiming Jesus was their “toilet paper king.” Yeah… that’s a problem, isn’t it? As comical as this premise may seem, though, let me ask you: Do you think there are instances when people aren’t primarily concerned about the Bread of Life and the eternal, unfailing sustenance He so richly, abundantly, and freely provides, and are instead focused on and overly-concerned about all the wrong things? I know it’s easy to speak of “those people” outside of Christ, but what about all those who proudly boast of their Christianity? What about us? Can we be more concerned about all the wrong things and not properly concerned about that which matters most? Who/what is king in your life? Careful, because your Lord knows the Truth. He knows your heart better than you do.
Folks: Here is Christ. Here is your King of all kings; your Lord of all lords. Here is the One that neither moth nor rust can destroy. Here is the One that transcends all time. You never have to make God’s Word relevant to the times. God is ALWAYS relevant. God’s Word makes you relevant. (Case in point: These lessons were appointed centuries ago to be read/meditated upon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Here we are! Do you think we need to hear this lesson today?) Here is the eternal and unfailing Bread of Life. He doesn’t have a shelf life. Your Lord’s love for you is fresh and limitless and over-flowing in abundance each and every day. You never have to hoard it or stash it. In fact, you are to freely give it away! Like the poor widow, your Lord will ensure that your Bread of Life will never run out. Your Lord promises that your cup of salvation will always be over-flowing.
Look to the font. Look to your baptism. This promise never rots or goes bad. Your Lord has washed you and made you His own. The corruption of sin and death has been swallowed up and drowned and put to death in Him, the Lord of Life. By virtue of your baptism into Him, you belong to Him, and nothing and no one can steal this away from you. Look to this altar. Here is the Bread of Life. Jesus doesn’t quarantine when trouble arises. Immanuel hasn’t withdrawn. He’s with you and in your midst. “Where two or three gather in My name, there I am among you.” *For those of you at home today because of health concerns, be at peace. Let not your conscience/faith be burdened. There is a huge difference between “I can’t be in church” versus “I don’t have to/wanna go to church.” Even if you are all alone watching this, you are still participating in good and God-pleasing worship. You are holding fast to Christ, and your Immanuel is with you, for you are gathered with us in worship. You are gathered with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. Most importantly, you are gathered with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Talk about a majority!
For those who are homebound, call upon your pastor to bring the sacrament of Christ to you. He will! Nothing would give him more joy than to share the Body and Blood of Christ—the Bread of Life—with you! And fear not, for this is exactly what your Lord says it is: His very Body and Blood. This ought to mean something to you. Hold fast to His Word and Promise. “As often you do this, remember what I have said.” Your Lord will NEVER give you poison with His Body and Blood. Ordinary bread and wine are corruptible. Ordinary bread and wine can harbor germs and rot. BUT… when your Lord says “This IS My body and blood,” it is no longer mere bread and wine, is it? It is exactly what He says it is. It is forgiveness of sins. It is Life. It is Christ, who is incorruptible. There is no death in the Lord of Life! I know what man says about these things, but I also know what Christ says. Be at peace… and rejoice, for your Immanuel Lord and King is with you.
One final point in closing (and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t say this): We are not to put God to the test. Use the gift of common sense that God has given you. Obey Caesar and stay away from the unnecessary risks/dangers. Don’t go casting yourself off the proverbial high spots into unnecessary health risks, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of your neighbor. Don’t make them suffer because of your self-centered stupidity. At the same time, though, use the gift of faith that God has wrought in you. Flee to Him. Hold fast to Him. “Social-distancing” does not apply to God and His means of grace! Quarantining yourself from the things of God is the stupidest (and deadliest) thing ever. The devil rejoices when we shut out God and His means of grace. As I said earlier to those who are homebound due to illness or health concerns, let not your conscience be burdened. But… if you can’t be here, still be in the Word. Just because you can’t be at this table doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t partake of the Bread of Life. Be in Christ. Turn and gather and hold fast to Him, for He—and He alone—is your incorruptible and unfailing Life, peace, and salvation, in good times, in bad times, in sickness, in health, in bear markets and recessions, in unemployment and pandemics and national emergencies, richer, poorer, for better and for worse, now and into all eternity. Whatever the case may be; wherever you find yourself in these dark and uncertain times, be at peace and rejoice, for He is with you now, and He will be with you to the end of the age and into all eternity… just as He has promised. Folks: The gates of hell cannot prevail against this Gospel Truth, so neither will viruses, quarantines, income-loss, or empty shelves.
And now may this incorruptible and unlimited joy and peace of the King of your salvation—the Bread of Life Himself—guard and keep your hearts and minds in Him, now and into all eternity.
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