Sermon: Laetare (Lent 4)
Pastor Sean Willman
Good Shepherd Pleasant Prairie
Lent 4 (Laetare)
11 March 2018
God provides what is necessary for life in desperate situations and desolate places when we can’t help ourselves. But then again you already knew that. In fact you acknowledge it every day. Every time you pray the 4th petition of the Lord’s prayer and every time you pause to pray before a meal you acknowledge that God provides for you.
“because they saw the signs he was doing on the sick”
Don’t know who He is. They thought Moses gave manna in the wilderness, and they think Jesus is another man, indeed a prophet like Moses giving physical gifts.
Know who Jesus is, don’t imagine that He will provide for these people
Send them away . . . What is so little among so many?
The crowd wants bread, the disciples want to send them away to buy it.
Savior of the world. Come to restore all things. Physically and spiritually. He feeds them. And why wouldn’t He? There’d be no reason for Him to save them from hell and then not provide for them on earth. In the same way that there’d be no point for Jesus to feed people only to let them die and go to hell. He does this out of compassion and love.
And He does it with the simple things of creation. Five loaves and two fish.
He doesn’t make a rock grow wings and fly or turn a boy into a frog. Instead what Jesus does is within the order of creation. Here he simply magnifies something that already is. Creation itself is an exercise of His power that’s around us all the time. It’s a historical event of course, but it’s also a typical event of the life of the church. That God works on us and for us through the church through means. We don’t expect to hear God’s voice coming to us on a cloud, rather we expect to hear God’s voice in the scripture where he’s promised to be, so we know that’s where we can find Him. So also we expect to hear Him through our brothers and sisters in Christ and through the Pastor. It’s kind of mundane and boring. It isn’t flashy. Holy Communion and Holy Baptism are really no different. Nothing exciting, interesting, or magical about bread or wine, water or word. And that’s the point. It’s what God gives, not magic. It’s the way he blesses the things of creation. He pronounced it good at the very beginning and though it’s been corrupted by our sin, it’s still good and he’s still using it for good.
His miracles are in certain ways always restorative. Restoring sight or skin or health. He’s making the man what he was supposed to be.
Nor does Jesus have some sort of fancy elaborate words. No hocus pocus. No magic. He simply prays and blesses the gifts. And this in light of their great hunger. We’re told it’s so bad they could faint on the way home if they aren’t fed. And Jesus makes it clear that it really isn’t desperate, God is in control and He will provide.
God provides what is necessary for life in desperate situations and desolate places when we can’t help ourselves.
He takes the time to pause and pray. Every time we pray and give thanks we recognize that if it wasn’t for God’s intervention we’d be dead and in hell. And doing so, taking the time to give thanks for God’s good gifts to us and acknowledging that they’re from Him and that we haven’t earned them by our merit or worthiness is more than simply an act of childhood piety. Instead it helps keep us from acting as the either the crowd or the disciples. That is, it helps prevent us from thinking of Jesus merely as some sort holy vending machine dispensing miracles and temporal gifts aplenty and thereby chasing after Him for these things alone as the crowd does. And also it keeps us from despairing of our physical needs because we think that Jesus doesn’t care.
The Lord’s compassion isn’t limited to either physical or spiritual. This is why it’s so good to pray before meals, it’s a reminder that without God’s constant provision, we’d be dead. And, we’d have to pay for our sins with death and hell, rather than receive the life that He won for us.
And so we pray and give thanks. Because man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.