Sermon from Rev. Zickler for August 6, 2017

Sermon Proper 13 2017
August 6, 2017
Isaiah 55:1-5

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  This morning, the text for our meditation is the Old Testament Lesson from the Prophet Isaiah.  Especially these words, “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

As we hear the Old Testament and Gospel Lessons for this morning, we can see a theme, there, can’t we?  And what’s the theme?  Food.  At least so to speak.  For example in the Gospel Lesson Jesus boards this boat, He goes out and He teaches the people.  Eventually, He finishes and the people are hungry.  So what does He do?  He feeds them.  Actually, He tells the disciples to do that, but ultimately it’s His work, isn’t it?  He’s the One who extends the measly five loaves and two fish into a full meal for what was probably more than ten thousand people.  Yes the hands of the disciples distribute that food, and collect the twelve baskets of leftovers.  But in the end Jesus is the One who actually gives it: the One who makes that bread continue to appear; the One who creates out of nothing the additional flesh of the fish which not only feeds all of these people, but satisfies them.  And what a wonderful thing to note about our God isn’t it?  He not only feeds that crowd, but they are satisfied.  He doesn’t just give them enough to get on with their journey home, but He gives enough that their bellies are content. Apparently this word can even mean to fatten like a cattle is fattened.  He doesn’t skimp.  

And as we think about that, then we start to think about what He says in the Old Testament lesson.  Now the words aren’t the same in the Septuagint – the Greek Translation of the Old Testament around in Jesus’ day – the words there aren’t the same as what we have in Matthew’s Gospel, but the idea is the same, isn’t it?  Listen to those words again: “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.”  Why do we seek to satisfy ourselves on that which isn’t satisfying?  The Lord desires to gives us that which is.  He desires to give us rich food, literally fat ashes, the best of the best.  Again, He doesn’t skimp.

Think about how He does that.  He lays the table out before us.  Then, again through the hands of His servants, He gives us that glorious salad of Baptism, the salad that is our entrée into the meal.  Then He feeds us with the juiciest Filet Mignon in His Word.  Then if that wasn’t enough, He puts onto our plate the most buttery and delicious tail of lobster in His Holy Meal, Jesus’ very own body and blood.  With all of these He satiates our soul with the promise that He is generously giving us the utter forgiveness of our sins.  He’s filling our hearts in the hope and promise that He is our God and He will take care of us; that no matter what, He has given even His own Son that Jesus’ body given on the cross, and His blood shed for your sins, overcome everything in His resurrection.  Here that is, all that right before you, especially in the Divine Service here, in Church.  Because Jesus doesn’t skimp.

So what’s our problem?  Why do we feast on such a meal here, then so often go home and fill ourselves with that which perils.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Why, when you have steak, lobster, and buttery garlic smashed potatoes, do you fill yourselves with bologna and potato chips?  Why?  It shows just how sinful we are, doesn’t it?

In fact, this week I was reading online an article about a relatively famous pastor by the name of Rob Bell.  Now, Rob Bell, if you don’t know him, was already gaining some fame and notoriety, but shot into a sort of spiritual superstardom in the U.S. when he wrote a book called, “Love Wins.”  The point of this book?  Questioning the idea of hell.  Is there really a hell?  Would a God who really loves people send them to hell?  And as I read in the history of the Church, you know, Mr. Bell is not the first to propose this question.  But this is a thought that’s appealing isn’t it?  Isn’t it appealing to love the thought of the God who doesn’t judge anyone, who doesn’t condemn, who just loves people for who they are?  That’s really appealing isn’t it?  In fact, this article went on to describe how Mr. Bell prides himself on drawing people to God’s love by not only bucking such teachings as hell, but also old unloving doctrines like women’s ordination, or a clear teaching of sexual ethics.  And we can see the appeal can’t we?  The article went even further to tell how in the presentation that he gave on the occasion being reported, someone asked him about bad things happening in his life.  Wondering where God is at that point in his life.  And Mr. Bell responded by critiquing those who would quote Romans 8:28, one of the verses we read last week, the verse which says that God works all things to the good of those who love Him.

Now, perhaps I was personally offended by the critique because I am one of those who speaks that verse to people in trials.  As we talked about last week, what comfort it is, when we know that God has not spared His own Son for us, that we can know that in Christ He will certainly give us all things.  And we can see on the cross that God certainly wants what’s best for us.  Mr. Bell’s solution is that instead of speaking such words, we have to only say, “I don’t know why,” and come alongside the person and help them find the answer.  Now to be fair, we should heed the critique that we’re willing to just spit out platitudes to try to calm people down rather than coming alongside them and caring for them, helping to carry them through their trials.  As the Church that’s exactly what we are supposed to do, we are supposed to bear with one another’s burdens.  That’s our job, it’s something I see you all do so well, but we should always be striving to be better at it shouldn’t we?  We should always be looking to ourselves and seeing just how far we have fallen short of that love we should show, looking to our Lord’s love for us and repenting.  But even still, what’s the draw of this sort of teaching?  It’s kind of a hip, amorphous God who just is a blob of gooey “love.”  Isn’t it?  It sounds nice to our itching ears, but look at Jesus.  How does Jesus love?  Here again, we see that Jesus doesn’t skimp.

Think about sin.  For example, think about John Chapter Four – the woman at the well.  Here is this woman that has been married five times and is living with man – not husband, but man – number six.  Does Jesus just kind of come alongside her and tell her that “It’s OK because God loves you for who you are?” No!  There they are sitting at that well, and Jesus is telling her about how that water will make her thirst again, but He has something greater.  Living water.  Water which is the washing and cleansing from sin.  Water that will satisfy her thirst always.  And then He calls her on her sin.  You see, Jesus doesn’t skimp, He wants something better for her.  He doesn’t love her because of who she is, because she’s so great, because she’s so grand.  Just the same way, Jesus doesn’t love us because we’re so deserving.  No, He loves this woman because He is so grand, because His love is so huge.  Because His love isn’t gooey and amorphous, it’s love that takes the form of the cross and died for her sins, and died for ours too.  Jesus doesn’t skimp.

Coming back to the feeding of the five thousand, we see this there too.  Did you notice result of the feeding?  Twelve baskets full of leftovers.  Now, when we see twelve, we should think of the Church.  Twelve Tribes in the Old Testament, Twelve apostles in the New.  Twelve baskets full of leftovers, of this satisfying food – there’s enough of this for the Church because Jesus doesn’t skimp.

So then, ask yourself, Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Why is it that we’re more willing to take the time to read 50 Shades of Grey than to read our Bibles?  Why are we more willing to sacrifice time, money, and comfort to play or watch sports than we are to hear the preaching of God’s Word?  Or whatever applies to you.  Ask yourself, first of all what do you labor for that doesn’t ultimately satisfy, and then ask why.  Why do you labor for that?  

And then listen to what God is really saying.  He’s saying instead of listening to the world, listen to me.  Instead of clinging to cheap imitations of satisfaction that this world provides listen to what I provide.  He says, “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.”  He says, my Word will give you life.  Or as Jesus quoted to the Devil, “Man does not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Or as He said to His disciples, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”  And what we see is that He doesn’t skimp.

So to answer the question, as to why do we seek other things?  You know that.  It’s because you are broken and fallen.  But God calls you to come and to feast on His righteousness.  As we’re talking about this theme of food, we see Jesus tells us that whoever hungers and thirsts for righteousness will be satisfied.  So as you see yourself drawn to potato chips and bologna of this world, heed the invitation of the Lord.  Why wouldn’t you want to come?  Why wouldn’t you want to partake of His richest of fare?  Why wouldn’t you want to partake of His fattened cuisine?  He doesn’t skimp, so come to Him and feed on His Word, feed on the feast of His body and blood.  Feed and He promises that you will be satisfied.  Your hunger in your belly might return, but keep coming to hear that Word, to feed your faith, and eternally you will be filled in His Kingdom, because our Lord doesn’t skimp.  Amen.