Lent 4 2019

The Epistle – Galatians 4:21-31

The Gospel – St. John 6:1-14

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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Throughout Lent it seems important to be reminded that even though this is a time to be intently focused inward on sins and transgressions, we must always remember the model that is found all throughout the Bible ….

 

And that is…Law and Gospel.

 

In Lent, we consider how we have left undone those things which we ought to have done… and done those things which we ought not to have done.

In other words….we have broken and continue to break the law of God.

 

We break it every day to one degree or another, and breaking it even in one way makes us culpable for the whole law.

 

So-called lighter offences or white lies or small transgressions are still transgressions of the law of God. ..and He still sees them.

 

We alter our eating pattern hopefully and let a little hunger pain here or there prompt us to consider these things.

 

Or we take on or give up something else during Lent, and these too are there to prompt us to be aware of the same things… and also to be aware of  who and what sustains our life.

 

….that God sustains us and all that we receive comes from His generous hand.

 

And yet, as has been noted, this sort of short term lifestyle change at this time, when done right, can seem lengthy, tedious, difficult, ….or it can, as many say, bring pain, problems.

 

Many will attest to the fact that during Lent they feel more tempted, more problems arise in their lives, and more testing comes their way.

 

This might be due to the fact that it is happening, as they say, and it might be because the Lenten discipline is working…or a combination of the two.

 

Satan loves to tempt when we are weak or vulnerable. So it becomes all that more real. If we are seeing this correlation or this relationship, then what is supposed to happen is happening.

 

The awareness of sin, our surroundings, the events in our lives and of course God’s presence in this, Lent is unfolding as it should.

 

We should welcome these things, for we are being strengthened by them. God is transforming us day by day through this process.  

 

So, with this happening, this mid-Lent set of lessons and Prayers come to us today to give us the other side of the coin, so-to-speak.

 

Law drives us down. The failure to keep it brings despair.

Troubles linked to Lent heighten our awareness of how difficult life is and how far we are from perfection.

 

And then the other side of it is the relieving message of the Gospel. With the message of the Gospel comes relief, comfort, fortification and strength.

 

“Our Lenten fast is not to be a dull and heavy burden, but a willing offering. This will be the secret of influence, for a dull and joyless Church wins few victories. It is the joy of faith that conquers the world.”[1]

 

Today we see two lessons on relief. The Gospel, it should go without saying, is a message of relief.  

 

Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee and the people follow Him. And they do this because it says, “…they saw the signs (miracles) that He was doing on the sick.”

 

Jesus teaches just such a lesson of relief in the Feeding of the 5000.

 

First this is a lesson on hungry people. They were poor and hungry and followed Jesus to the point of exhaustion in some cases.

 

And they were also spiritually hungry…and poor and without a shepherd.

 

Jesus has compassion on them. He begins to teach the Disciples by asking them questions…and trying to get them to think about the larger concept here of Christ’s ability.

 

Philip where shall we buy bread?

Philip says, it would take a lot of money to feed this many people.

 

He is right, but “O Lord, you know.” Would have been a better answer.

 

“Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?’” (ESV)…also seeing only in human and earthly terms.

 

Of course, it’s difficult to make fun of these men since we too would have had similar answers.

 

Jesus has been miraculously healing people. This is the noted at the beginning of the story. He has power from God.

 

And yet they resort back to simple earthly answers. We would have to find a lot of money to feed this many. It’s useless, since we don’t have that much. Nothing can be done.

 

Or, there is a boy here who has a bit of food, but that is not enough to feed this many. Nothing can be done here.

 

But Jesus, knowing what He would do, tells them, “Have the people sit down.”

 

Nothing to be done here. Not sending them away. Not telling the Disciples to roam the crowds looking to see if anyone else had something that could be added and then split among the group.

 

But 5000 people is a lot of people.

 

Jesus says, “Make them sit down.” In other words, just be a receiver. Nothing to do here. Just sit.  Trust that Jesus is having them sit for a reason.

 

“Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.” (ESV)

 

So the Disciples are fed first. Then they are instructed to gather up the fragments and put them in baskets.

 

“So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.” (ESV)

 

This is a miracle that is different than most others. This is a creation miracle.

Though raising the dead is nothing to shrug off, and healing people is certainly reserved for the power of God, Jesus here creates something that was not there before.

 

Food is called into existence that is not there before.

 

So, restoring us as we repent is just as possible for Christ. He has already created within us a new heart. He has already supernaturally washed us in the waters of baptism.

He has already raised us up and justified us before the Father.

 

He now shows us that these things He has done for us, though at great cost to Him….His life…He is able to do by His power.

 

Bishop Ryle says this, “Such a history as this ought to be specially instructive and encouraging to all who endeavour to do good to souls. It shows us the Lord Jesus “able to save to the uttermost.” He is One who has all power over dead hearts. Not only can He mend that which is broken,—build up that which is ruined,—heal that which is sick,—strengthen that which is weak. He can do even greater things than these. He can call into being that which was not before, and call it out of nothing. We must never despair of any one being saved. So long as there is life there is hope. Reason and sense may say that some poor sinner is too hardened, or too old to be converted. Faith will reply,—“Our Master can create as well as renew. With a Saviour who, by His Spirit, can create a new heart, nothing is impossible.”[2]

And so much from so little. Some bread and some fish….and yet so many people…all fed.

 

But for Christ our Lord, nothing is too small or impossible.

We too are small of little significance when it comes to how the world views us. Christians are not known as powerful, strong, influential people usually.

 

We see this in ourselves at a time like Lent because the very contemplation of sin, when compared to the great, sinless awesomeness of Christ, certainly does make us small and insignificant.

 

And yet God so loves us, that He does not forget us. Though He is higher than the highest heavens, He considers us.

He knows us each by name. He numbers the days we live and the hairs on our head.

 

And one final observation. This has been seen as a sign or a symbol of the Eucharist…and the commissioning of the Disciples as His first ministers to the people of God.

 

This account shows us what the true minister of Christ is to do. He is to feed the people of God. The minster of God is to receive the bread of life that is consecrated by the Holy Spirit and distribute it to His people.

 

The Holy Eucharist is a time of refreshment. It is a time of receiving what Christ gives to us. There is a reality here that we might miss if we are not careful.

 

This Holy Meal is a reminder and a seal of Christ’s promises to us.

 

The Holy Spirit truly comes at the invocation. He truly blesses the bread and wine.

 

We truly feed on the Body and Blood of Christ as refreshing food for both body and soul.

 

And this is something we can all access, even through Lent! No matter what our choices are in Lent regarding fasting, the Holy Eucharist is available to us, nevertheless.

 

This is a reminder of God’s sustaining power, of feeding us no matter what our condition or despair or pain.

 

Scott – “Our Lord would have us feel our poverty and inability in order that we may be driven to turn to Him for relief.

How poor are human thoughts compared with the thoughts of Christ, and how insignificant are human resources as seen in the “five barley loaves and two fishes!” Poor five thousand, if they had had to depend upon the disciples they would not have had a crumb apiece!”[3]

 

“In the wilderness of the world we need refreshment.”[4]

 

This mid-Lent Sunday serves for that purpose. In these readings from Scripture we are reminded from whence cometh our help….it cometh from the Lord.

 

No matter how low Lent takes us, there is mid-term refreshment and there is a resurrection day to look forward to as well.

All of these things are set in place to help us keep our eyes on the prize.

 

So we can say with Paul, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ [9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—[10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [11] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. [16] Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.

 

[2] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on John (Vol. 1, pp. 324–325). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

[3] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.

 

[4] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.