Well, one of my English regulars came to excuse herself from tomorrow´s divine service. That´s just how it should be. Coming is no deal. It´s the expected normal and goes without saying but being absent is the exception and apologies are quite in order. Coming around to our little bookstore gives time for some personal talk too. Very much like the traditional “Anmeldung” in our Lutheran congregations, when church folk would knock on the pastor´s door during the week and announce their plan to come to the Lord´s table that Sunday – God willing. Obviously there´s some paperwork to be done, names recorded and such, but mainly it was about shaking hands, looking each other in the eyes, praying together to the good Lord and God, who has called us into His holy community and blessed association of forgiven saints and destined heirs of His kingdom – in Holy Baptism.
Tomorrow´s divine service has the watchword for the 7th Sunday after Trinity from the holy Apostle Paul´s epistle:
So then You are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household.”Ephesians 2:19
That´s so special to know – and reason for joyful celebrations once again even though we are now right in the middle of the non-festive season in the church calendar. God has done great things for us with this gracious election and lasting predestination and calling to higher things. Still, He continues to be gracious and His mercy is new every morning. Yes, He continues to save, liberate, deliver and free us from all evil calamity, death, sin, the devil and all troubles, which might have befallen us. Just as Psalm 107 reiterates descriptively, depicting various stations in life, where the triune God has done this for His people with great miracles and wonders – on high seas, in deserted wastelands and other pitfalls of our sojourn – so that they might give thanks to the Lord for His loyal love and for all the amazing things, He has done for us. Not because of our own merit or worthiness, but solely for His profound goodness, great love and gracious favor:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,Psalm 107:1-9
and his loyal love endures.
Let those delivered by the Lord speak out,
those whom he delivered from the power of the enemy,
and gathered from foreign lands,
from east and west,
from north and south.
They wandered through the wilderness, in a wasteland;
they found no road to a city in which to live.
They were hungry and thirsty;
they fainted from exhaustion.
They cried out to the Lord in their distress;
he delivered them from their troubles.
He led them on a level road,
that they might find a city in which to live.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his loyal love,
and for the amazing things he has done for people.
For he has satisfied those who thirst,
and those who hunger he has filled with food.
The lessons from God´s Holy Word for this Sunday underline this theme of God feeding His hungry people – right there in the barren outback. Reminding us, how He creates lavish blessings and let´s good things of life, joy and peace flourish for His people, right there in the desert, where all else failed, hunger prevailed, and death was the only sure outcome. Yes, where death was considered better than life. The Old Testament lesson tells the story of God feeding His people with Manna and quails, when they had suffered greatly and were even yearning back for the days gone by in Egyptian hardship and slavery:
The entire company of Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!”
And the Lord spoke to Moses, “I have heard the murmurings of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘During the evening you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be satisfied with bread, so that you may know that I am the Lord your God.’”
In the evening the quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning a layer of dew was all around the camp. When the layer of dew had evaporated, there on the surface of the wilderness was a thin flaky substance, thin like frost on the earth. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” because they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you for food.
“This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Each person is to gather from it what he can eat, an omer per person according to the number of your people; each one will pick it up for whoever lives in his tent.’” The Israelites did so, and they gathered—some more, some less. When they measured with an omer, the one who gathered much had nothing left over, and the one who gathered little lacked nothing; each one had gathered what he could eat.Exodus 16:2-3.11-18
This was but an image of what was still to come and our good Lord´s Gospel as recorded by the holy evangelist St. John takes it further in the big bread chapter – that Jesus Christ himself is the bread from heaven born in the house of bread, He the bread of life, who feeds His own, that they no longer hunger, but are truly satisfied for good.
After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd was following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick. So, Jesus went on up the mountainside and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Jewish Feast of the Passover was near. Then Jesus, when he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat?” Now Jesus said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “200 silver coins worth of bread would not be enough for them, for each one to get a little.” One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “Here is a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what good are these for so many people?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was a lot of grass in that place. So, the men sat down, about 5,000 in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed the bread to those who were seated. He then did the same with the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were all satisfied, Jesus said to his disciples, “Gather up the broken pieces that are left over, so that nothing is wasted.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves left over by the people who had eaten.
Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, “This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Then Jesus, because he knew they were going to come and seize him by force to make him king, withdrew again up the mountainside alone.John 6:1-15
Satisfied in this miraculous way God´s people live in this world, knowing that they are well taken care of. They are at peace in a troubled world. They go about their daily business of listening to God´s Word as proclaimed by apostles and prophets, enjoying God´s good gifts of sacramental communion in Baptism and the Lord´s Supper and adhering faithfully to pray for all people etc. and praising God, who adds ever more to those, who have been saved from death to life – just as we hear from the early church in Jerusalem:
So those who accepted his message were baptized. They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. All who believed were together and held everything in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts,praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.Acts 2:41a.42-47
Yes, the church continues to go about its daily life in this world blessed by God´s gracious presence and it is He, who equips them with love and mercy to continue with good works as long as it is day. Tomorrow´s sermon on the 13th chapter of the letter to the Hebrews gives us some indicators in just three short verses:
Brotherly love must continue. Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them, and those ill-treated as though you too felt their torment.Hebrews 13:1-3
My current sermon outline is as follows:
- God´s Hospitality: He feeds His people (graciously/miraculously) in the desert.
- You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household.
- Have a seat. See: It is all prepared
- God´s temple right in the desert and wilderness!
- There´s lots of room and there´s enough for all – big and small in the family.
- He wants all to be fed & satisfied.
- Go out – and invite them in! There is still room. (Gentiles: foreigners/non-citizens)
- There´s more than leftovers: 12 baskets full (Israel´s 12 tribes)
- The Church as holy communion of fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household
- Still, we too often (sinfully) long for the old and past life.
- Better to die outside, foreign lands and even in Egyptian captivity – and not in God´s family – but there´s no salvation outside the church i.e. God´s promised land.
- Old stuff of sinful (egocentric) life more tempting/alluring than God´s new creation of communion and common good: It looks so good to eat!
- Can´t share, because we have so little ourselves: What is this for so many? Hold on to what You have…
- The old brother, who does not want to celebrate with his younger brother… (Lk.15)
- The white supremacist, who thinks black lives don´t matter
- God calls us to repentance and grants renewed faith by reminding us of
- Our brother´s i.e. IX´s love for us! He left heaven to live with us on earth and draw us back to himself in holiness and righteousness.
- His outstanding hospitality “Gastfreundschaft”: Zachäus, tax-collectors and sinners, Willingness to listen to the prayers of Abraham, Moses and all saints – deliverance of Lot from Sodom/Gomorrah.
- Christ praying for his persecutors and tormentors, blessing his cursers/murderers.
- Joseph for his brothers.
- Paul praying in Philippi for the prison warden
- Persecution/imprisonment of Christians China/N.Korea, Nigeria, Middle East
- Burning/desecration of churches in France, USA and Constantinople
- Ill-treatment: Pedophilia, domestic violence and other crimes against humanity.
- Three take-aways:
- Continue to love – not just temporarily, sporadic works of love – but continually – even if the times have come, where the first love of too many has cooled off, grown cold and even died down.
- Continue being hospitable – even in times of social distancing; welcome those, who are often considered unwelcome – little babies, sick & dying.
- Continue to draw in those pushed away – Remember kindly, helpfully and with brotherly love (Philadelphia) those imprisoned/shut-ins/hospitalized – or those ill-treated, discriminated against and side-lined etc.
In this German divine service, we plan to sing the regular hymns suggested for this 7th Sunday after Trinity. A good addition would be the old standard and hot favorite:
1 Lord Jesus Christ, You have prepared
This feast for our salvation;
It is Your body and Your blood,
And at Your invitation
As weary souls, with sin oppressed,
We come to You for needed rest,
For comfort, and for pardon.
2 Although You did to Heav’n ascend,
Where angel hosts are dwelling,
And in Your presence they behold
Your glory, all excelling,
And though Your people shall not see
Your glory and Your majesty
Till dawns the judgment morning.
3 Yet, Savior, You are not confined
To any habitation;
But You are present even now
Here with Your congregation.
Firm as a rock this truth shall stand,
Unmoved by any daring hand
Or subtle craft and cunning.
4 We eat this bread and drink this cup,
Your precious Word believing
That Your true body and Your blood
Our lips are here receiving.
This word remains forever true,
All things are possible with You,
For You are Lord Almighty.
5 Though reason cannot understand,
Yet faith this truth embraces;
Your body, Lord, is even now
At once in many places.
I leave to You how this can be;
Your Word alone suffices me;
I trust its truth unfailing.
6 Lord, I believe what You have said;
Help me when doubts assail me.
Remember that I am but dust,
And let my faith not fail me.
Your Supper in this vale of tears
Refreshes me and stills my fears
And is my priceless treasure.
7 Grant that we worthily receive
Your Supper, Lord, our Savior,
And, truly grieving o’er our sins,
May prove by our behavior
That we are thankful for Your grace
And day by day may run our race,
In holiness increasing.
8 For Your consoling supper, Lord,Samuel Kinner 1644
Be praised throughout all ages!
Preserve it, for in ev’ry place
The world against it rages.
Grant that this sacrament may be
A blessèd comfort unto me
When living and when dying.