Friday, March 12, 2010

Lent 4 Food for the Soul John 6 1-15

Lent 4 – Laetare                      March 13 – 14, 2010               John 6:1-15     “Food for the Soul”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Lord tested Phillip. Phillip failed. He asked him: “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But there was nowhere to buy bread. It was a trick question. Even if there had been a bakery there in the wilderness, Phillip estimated that 200 days, or 7 months´ worth of wages, would not have been enough to feed these 5000 men plus women and children so that each could have just a little. There might have been more than 15,000 people there.

A denarius was a day´s wages. Figure $100 in modern equivalence. That would be $10 an hour, no benefits. It would have been just enough to almost raise a family, to be one of the working poor. Still, at that modest rate, 200 denarii is the equivalent of $20,000. Phillip says, in effect, “$20,000 worth of bread wouldn´t be enough. We couldn´t buy that much bread in Jerusalem if we had the money. But, anyway, there is nowhere to buy even a dollar´s worth of bread!” Andrew chimes in, “There is a lad here with some bread and fish, but it is worthless. There isn´t enough. Might as well empty the ocean with a sea shell.”

So Phillip and Andrew failed the test. I am not sure what the right answer would have been. Maybe Abraham´s line: “The Lord will provide.” Or maybe St. John´s response to the angel, “Sir, you know.” Or perhaps Phillip should have just reverted to the standard Sunday School answer. “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” And Phillip should have said: “Jesus.” In any case, that was the right answer. Jesus provided what they couldn´t buy, what they couldn´t grow, what they had not earned or deserved, and more than they could contain. Their baskets overflowed.

Phillip and Andrew failed the test but it didn´t matter. They failed because they were sinners, bent on themselves, deformed with their hungers and their lusts. They could not see or hear or think. But Jesus came to seek and to save sinners. He declared them to be holy, to be His saints, to have His innocence and righteousness. He even made them Apostles. The answer they couldn't provide, the miracle they couldn´t imagine, was provided for them. They, too, ate and were full. They were forgiven for their lack of faith and made citizens of a Kingdom where man does not live by bread alone.

Our problem is that we are so infected with sin, so obsessed with the everyday reality and details of our work-a-day worlds, that we forget that it is God who provides. We add up our debts: our mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and car payments. We add the cost of the stuff we think we want: SUV´s, college educations, a vacation home, a new kitchen, and several large gifts to our favorite charities. We add something for our future, for our life of leisure. And the total is enormous. It is far greater than 200 denarii! $20,000 is just the tip of the iceberg. We pay more than that in interest. What will we do? Where we will obtain it? The stock market is uncertain. The lottery is a lie. $300,000 worth of bread wouldn´t be sufficient! Repent. Your mind is on the wrong things.

“The Lord will provide.” “Sir, you know.” “Jesus.” Those are the answers to life´s troubles and worries. You have no money? Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. As impossible as it was for more than 5,000 men, not to mention the women and children, to sit down on the mountainside and be fed with just two fish and five loaves of bread, less than one basketful, so that there were twelve baskets of leftovers, it happened. It was even less possible that one Man should die for the many, that God should love those who hate Him, and give His life to those who killed Him, but it happened and is still in effect.

Imagine if we caught Osama Bin Laden and his top two Lieutenants. Would it be okay if Bin Laden died for all three? If he, the leader, paid their price, could they go free? Of course not. That is ridiculous. They are accountable and responsible for their own actions. But how much worse would it be if we took your young son or  daughter and had them die for Osama and company and they came to dinner at your house and slept in your childs empty bed? That is something more parallel to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. It doesn´t set with the reason of men. It is mercy and compassion beyond our understanding or ability. The Father has sacrificed His Son who sent His Spirit. He has purchased us with Blood. We are worried about which shoes match which belt, who has the nicest lawn, or will it be another wet spring and summer, and Jesus says, “Sit down. I´ll take care of it.”

He doesn’t explain or argue. He rebukes neither Phillip nor Andrew. He just tells them to have the people sit down. Then He passes out bread and fish, as much as they want. And when they are filled the disciples gather up the fragments. Each of the twelve fills his basket. The Lord saw the need better than they did. He provided what they hadn´t even asked for and they could not contain the bounty.

He does the same for you. Our conversation with God is a bit like a small child at the dinner table telling his mother about Little Red Riding Hood. The child says, “The wolf dressed up like her grandma,” And the mother says, “Have some peas.” She knows what the child needs. She knows these foolish, childish fears are not legitimate, but that they are real. She knows that they are not overcome by words but by maturity. The child must outgrow them. In the meantime, she does what she can. She ensures that he is safe whether he always feels like it or not. She comforts him and she leaves the night light on. But she does not indulge the fantasy and give the child a gun to shoot imaginary grandma-posing wolves in the night! She simply says, “Yes, dear. Have some peas.”

So also Our Lord. He knows better than you what you need. You say, “I can´t pay my bills.” He says, “Take, eat, this is My Body.” You say, “My wife doesn´t love me.” He says, “I forgive you.” You say, “I don´t have a job. My friends have betrayed me. My children hate me.” He says, “I remember you. I confess you before My Father.” He is the Prophet come into the world, the King of the Jews who rules by grace and makes men saints by the power of His Word, who provides. He knows what you need. He will give you all things. He loves you, died and rose for you, and is coming back.

So rejoice with Jerusalem, the city that killed the prophets. Rejoice with all who love the Lord of Life, the Prince of Peace, raised up from the earth on the cross, and raised again from the dead for your life. There is food to eat, food for the soul. The Lord does provide. 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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