Text: Mark 6:30-44 

To Him who loves us and has washed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

It is easy for us to get tied into knots about our material needs.  The reason being, we are hard-wired to survive.  It is one of our basic instincts.  When our tummies get hungry, we want to fill them with food.  When the air gets cold, we want to cover ourselves with clothing.  When we get tired and threatened, we want to sleep in safety.  Hunger, coldness, and tiredness cause us to seek out a solution that will satisfy these needs. 

But what happens when these needs cannot be satisfied or fulfilled right away?  Well, naturally, uneasiness sets in.  Fear and worry can end up consuming us. 

All this stated, we need to pause for a moment and be honest with each other.  That is to say, most of us here in North Dakota cannot comprehend what it is like to truly go hungry or to not have clothing or shelter.  Frankly, the poorest 10% of the people in America are still better off than the richest 10% in Mexico. 

I don’t say this to lay North American guilt upon you, but rather to simply point out that here in America we are very blessed by the Lord materially speaking.  We rarely go hungry more than a day, there ample opportunities for job assistance, and there always seems to be housing support. 

Consequently, as Americans it is easy for us to take for granted that the most ordinary blessings, those blessings without a hint of the miraculous, are actually the Lord’s loving hand for us.  Even though we are so used to these things being available, they are still the Lord’s gifts to us.  Otherwise stated, the $1 candy bar, the 90% ground beef at the grocery store, the shirt you are wearing now, and the bed that you slept in last night, are all gifts from the Lord to you.  They are from the Father who showers us with all sorts of material gifts. 

Indeed, our problem of hunger, our problem of sleep, and our problem of being cold at night are solved by the Lord working to supply you and me with food, food stamps, food pantries, apartments, houses, blankets, sweaters, t-shirts, and jeans.  Through the various vocations of farmers, construction workers, seamstresses, grocers, humanitarian volunteers, and so forth, the Lord solves our problems of hunger, coldness, and fatigue by supplying gifts to and for us. 

Now, is this the point of today’s Gospel reading though?  Is the phenomenon in our Gospel reading the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ filled a bunch of hungry stomachs with bread and fish?  Is today’s Gospel reading merely about Jesus providing for the physical needs of the people and that we should seek to do the same? 

There is no doubt about it that Jesus did miraculously multiply five loaves of bread and two fish; however, what we need to realize is that this miracle was a sign.  It was a physical, tangible, and real miracle that not only fed a bunch of tummies, but also signaled that Jesus was the Son of God.  In other words, all the miracles of healing the sick, exorcising demons, and multiplying the food, which were recorded in the New Testament Gospels, were to serve as Jesus’ credentials, the proof that He was who He claimed to be—the Savior of the world.  These miracles were signs that granted faith to the people. 

However, as the Gospel of John shows us, this crowd lacked faith.  Instead of these signs drawing the people closer to Jesus and His teachings, the people became fascinated with the miracles themselves.  In a nutshell, they had essentially forgot the giver and marveled at the gifts.  They did not necessarily want Jesus; they just wanted the gifts that He dispensed.

Unfortunately in our day and age, things have not changed.  The church is literally infected with what is called the prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all.  This awful theology—most often found in the sermons of popular TV preacher—focuses on the doctrine that financial and material blessings are the will of God for the Christian. 

Two points of caution for us in regard to this prosperity theology.   First, we can get so fixated on getting the gifts—getting health, wealth, and prosperity—that we fail to recognize the giver of the gifts.  “Give me bread, give me fish, give me health, give me wealth, and give me prosperity… oh, and I will take Jesus too if I need to.”

Secondly, we can get so fixated on health, wealth, and prosperity that we fail to recognize the Lord’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  “Just give me money, answer my prayers for good healthy, and make me happy, but I don’t need all that talk about the forgiveness of sins and life after death.   That stuff is just too scary and too irrelevant to my everyday life.  Show me the money.  That’s what I want and what I was promised.”      

What the prosperity gospel teaching fails to realize is that sometimes, instead of solving our problems and giving us our wildest dreams, the Lord may allow our problems to remain. He may choose to have you suffer the hardship for a time, even as He supplies you with the strength to endure. This, also, is the Lord’s loving hand.  Or instead of supplying what you need for your problem, the Lord may choose in His wisdom to remove you. In other words, He may take you to Himself in heaven, where all troubles cease.

The point being, the Lord may not always help you in the way that you want. He may supply miraculous help, as He did with the five thousand hungry individuals in our Gospel reading or He may give you a miracle even if you do not recognize it at the time. Or instead, you may experience something that seemed like a miracle, even though it may have only been God using natural resources to solve your problem. That is how the Lord works at times, He organizes and orchestrates events in exactly the right way and at the right time to help you. 

Dear friends, God gives us our daily bread, that is to say, food, drink, clothing, shoes, home, money, goods, good weather, friends, and so forth.  And the Lord also gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation, for we are given the true bread of Heaven.  Indeed, God not only provides our physical needs, but more importantly He provides our spiritual and eternal needs by giving us Jesus. 

The crowd that followed Jesus did not see Christ correctly, even though they saw Him.  Their reaction to Jesus is debatable.  In other words, they saw “something” in Jesus; however, something is not everything.  Their faith was misplaced.

You see, to believe merely that the Lord cares for your daily needs is good, but frankly, it is not saving faith. Any pagan can believe that. That is why the Holy Spirit's main work is to show you and me that we are sinners and then turn our eyes upon Christ, the Savior. The Holy Spirit gave you first the Kingdom and His righteousness. All the other things will follow after.

What this means for you is that you are safe and absolutely secure, no matter what happens around you, because you have Christ. Because you have Christ through your baptisms, the Word, and the Holy Supper, let the world threaten you. Let demons surround you. Let your houses be taken, your pillows snatched, and your food spoiled.  Let family, friends, and even your life be taken away. If all these things happen, you are still forever founded upon Christ and His life. You cannot be destroyed, whatever may come. You have been marked by the Name of this holy Lord whose death has made you alive by the bread of heaven.  Even if the Lord’s material gifts to you are snatched away by pirates, looters, thieves, and tyrants, your Lord surely never stops giving, for when these old tents, our bodies, finally wear out, He promises us in His Word to clothe us with a perfect body on the Day of His return. 

The Lord has come to you with the forgiveness of sins in the Word and Sacraments.  This is bigger than all your sin and His forgiveness is indestructible; it is stronger than any death you’ll ever face.  His Word of forgiveness is that which is sure and constant whether you have much or little, whether you are rich or whether you are poor, whether you are healthy or sick, dead or alive.  His promise of forgiveness places you with Him forever. 

Come, then, and feast with Christ - here’s food that by His Words and promise will keep alive in you the life He freely gave you at Your Baptism.

Here’s food that will keep you breathing the sweet air of the resurrection and make the moment when your body stops breathing no big deal; no big deal at all - not to any who trust His Words and promises, not to any who are in Christ.
The Lord indeed, gives everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body and the soul.  All pure gift: nothing deserved, all given—for you.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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