Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Isaiah 51:1-6)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost + August 27, 2017
Text: Isaiah 51:1-6

The year was around 700 BC.  Judah was facing destruction at the hand of the Assyrians. They were the last holdout, now that the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen some 20 years before.  But now even Jerusalem had Sennacherib’s troops laying siege against her.  The future of the Temple of God itself was in jeopardy.  Would God really forsake the place where He had promised to dwell among His people?
As for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, things were looking bleak.  People they knew had been slaughtered.  Others whom they had known to be upstanding Israelites were now doubting if the Lord was with them, and they were thinking about deserting to the Assyrians.  After all, maybe the king of Assyria was onto something.  He had said, “Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?’”[1]
The remnant of God’s people appeared to be getting smaller all the time.  The odds were stacked against them.  It was truly a bleak time.
But it’s to this besieged group that the Lord speaks, specifically to those faithful whose eyes were watching their numbers dwindle:
51 “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
you who seek the Lord:
                        look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
          Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
                        for he was but one when I called him,
that I might bless him and multiply him.
Remember where you came from, and what God’s people started as. Every year when the Israelites would go up to offer some of their firstfruits with thanksgiving to God, they would make the offering with this statement of faith: “A wandering Aramean [Jacob] was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous.”[2]  It started with Abraham, and out of his offspring, an entire nation grew.  All this is from God, who created even out of nothing by His omnipotent Word.
But it doesn’t stop with a single nation.  Out of Abraham, God raised up a Seed in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.  “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”[3]
Take time to ponder that, brothers and sisters, children of Abraham through faith.  God fulfilled His promise to make Abraham’s offspring more numerous than the stars in the heavens[4]—in spite of wars, death, bouts of unfaithfulness, wicked kings, and foreign occupation, and even the destruction of earthly temples and the loss of Jerusalem.  In spite of all this earthly tumult, God has fulfilled and will fulfill His Word.
You, who fear the Lord and seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, He is calling you to your origins so that you have strength for the upheaval that batters the Church today.
Christians in the western world have enjoyed great prosperity, but it seems to be over now.  America, one of the last holdouts, a so-called “Christian nation” by some, has turned against her Creator.  As a reflection of that, church attendance is down across the board.  The Great Awakenings have fallen asleep again.  A cultural war now exists between Judeo-Christian values and the animalistic, euphoria-seeking ideals of happiness, tolerance, and self-fulfillment.  The Christian Church, even though it doesn’t have physical borders, is under siege.
It’s times like this that get the nostalgia going.  We dream about the better days gone past, where everyone we could think of was Christian or had a respect for religion.  We want to think back to the “good old days” of this congregation—when there was a large choir, droves of kids in Sunday School, and packed pews.  We want to look back to even 3 or 4 years ago, when a beloved long-time pastor was at the helm.
Those are good things to rejoice about and aspire to.  But the Lord tells you to look back further than that!  Look to how the Christian Church is even in this place, or America, or central Europe, or Rome, or Israel.  For the answer to that, you need to not only look back in time, but also look up, to God, who brought about all these things.
          Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
                        for he was but one when I called him,
that I might bless him and multiply him.
                      For the Lord comforts Zion;
he comforts all her waste places
                        and makes her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
                        joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.
It is the Lord who preserves and prospers His Church, who keeps the faithful in the one true faith—even in bleak times.  Even out of those dark times, God is abundantly able to restore His people.  He can take them from mourning and trembling to gladness, thanksgiving, and singing.
Ah, but we are all too apt to limit our vision to what we can see and predict.  In our lifetimes, we’ve seen the degrading of the visible fellowship of the Church.  We’ve witnessed the increase of false religion and everything ungodly.
But, the Church that confesses Jesus Christ is not founded on common values or people of a particular occupation or class.  If it were, then yes, it will fade away when people’s values change or their interest in religion wanes.  If this is all just a matter of winning people’s hearts to a particular cause, then we should employ every device that the prevailing culture does.  We should have a lobbying machine the way the LGBT cause has progressed in the courts and the schools.  We ought to employ advertising and social media the way the Mormons do to get into people’s hearts.  We should take opinion polls so we can say and do the things people like so that they will feel comfortable and relaxed and want to be a part of this.   Don’t tell young people that sex is something God only gives to husbands and wives, and only when they are husbands and wives—because, after all, they might leave the church when they hear this!
The Church is more than a human invention.  So, the Lord Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”[5]  The rock is not a person, or particular congregation, or the Lutheran church.  The Rock is the heaven-given confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  When our faith is built on this rock, what can the shifting affections of man do to it?  When it comes from God, it is eternal.  It is as almighty as He is.  It is as powerful as His Word, which creates out of nothing and even raises the dead.
Whether in times of prosperity or persecution, look to God, for He alone is the Rock from which we were hewn.  You won’t always be around.  The people and trends that trouble you now won’t always be around.   But, He isn’t going anywhere.  His Church isn’t going anywhere.  Look up; He’s always there and always the same.
          Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth beneath;
                        for the heavens vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment,
and they who dwell in it will die in like manner;
                        but my salvation will be forever,
and my righteousness will never be dismayed.
[1] Isaiah 36:18
[2] Deuteronomy 26:5
[3] Galatians 3:27, 29
[4] Genesis 15:5
[5] Matthew 16:16-18

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Matthew 15:21-28)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost + August 20, 2017
Text: Matthew 15:21-28

The Psalmist, David writes in Psalm 25:6, “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.”   And it’s true: God always remembers us. The harder thing is for us to remember Him.  Our sin causes a double forgetfulness.  When we prosper and things are good, we take it for granted and forget that everything we have in this life comes from Him.  Then, when we suffer and times are hard, we forget His love and faithfulness and think that He has abandoned us.
So, how can we be trained to remember the Lord’s mercy and steadfast love toward us?  It comes through the testing of our faith, when God doesn’t prosper us, and hides His face when we’re in trouble.  James is even so bold to say, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”[1]  This may not be the kind of God you want Him to be, but He is the kind of God who loves you and saves you eternally.
Now to be trained in this lesson, our Lord holds up the example of dogs.
It seems for many these days, their dogs are like children to them.  Yet, no matter how close a person is with their dog, there’s still more of a connection between parents and their true, human children.  God tells us that we are His beloved children through faith.  Because of that, we are certain that God is our dear Father and we are His dear children.  But here, Jesus uses dogs as an example from which the children can learn.  And what we can learn best of all from our canine companions is how to ask for what we need.
The disciples were quite annoyed that this Canaanite woman was crying out after them.  They begged Jesus to just send her away.  After all, He seemed to be ignoring her.  But the Lord was using this encounter to teach his disciples and teach this poor woman.  A dog’s begging can teach us how to pray.
Dogs are not shy about begging for what they want.  If a dog wants something you have, it is a difficult force to stop.  You can close the door, but then comes the scratching and the whining.  The Canaanite woman shows this same unabashed confidence.  Her people were despised reminders of Israel’s unfaithfulness, but here she is calling out after Israel’s Messiah.
And that’s how the Lord wants us to pray—with confidence.  God’s table is full of good things: comfort for our sorrows, abundance for our poverty, mercy for our sins, and even life for our death.  Yet, we assume He keeps all that just for Himself or only gives it to better people than us. We think, God must have better people to help than me.  But if He truly is your Father, He wants to give us every good thing.  “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”[2]  He has promised it, so we should boldly ask for it.
The wording of the Lord’s Prayer reflects this too.  The fourth petition, “Give us this day our daily bread” sounds very poetic, but the Greek is much bolder: “Our daily bread…give it to us! Today![3] It’s as if there’s no one else who can give us what we need for the day and tomorrow will be too late.
When you pray, beg like a dog and be confident.
The whines of a begging dog teach us about our posture in prayer.  When you have a table full of a delicious food, only a disorderly scoundrel of a dog would jump up and steal from your plate.  But even the most well-behaved dog will still approach the dinner table, head bowed, showing you the big eyes, and whimper.  A good dog knows its place in the pack.  They know that the food on your table doesn’t belong to them.  Even so, they really, really, really want some of what you have.  And this is a picture of humility.
When Jesus finally did answer the Canaanite woman, He brushed her off and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 
Jesus is not discriminating against her because of her nationality or race.  He doesn’t brush her off as if to say that one group of people—be it Israelites, fair skinned people, or Americans—are children, while others are dogs and deserve inhumane treatment.  That’s an issue right now with a resurgence in white supremacy and alt-right nationalism.  Supporters of these ideas claim that people should take care of white Americans as “children” while the rest, be they Mexican, or Jewish, or Muslim, should be cast off and treated as second class.
This is bigotry and does not come from God, no matter how many out-of-context Bible passages twisted men use.  He made the people of every nation, but it was our sin which divided us into nations and languages after the Tower of Babel.[4]  It’s our own wickedness which makes us proud of outward traits like skin, body features, language, or citizenship.  But God’s desire is for “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”[5]
Even for Canaanites to seek after Israel’s Savior.  So, even though Jesus brushes her off by saying He was sent only to Israel, “she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ And he answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’”  Jesus tells her, You see this rich spread on the Lord’s Table?  It’s not for you because you don’t deserve it.  It’s for the children, and you are a rebellious sinner.  You deserve to be cast into the outer darkness.  But her response is incredible: “Yes, Lord.”  She acknowledges that she doesn’t deserve even the smallest table scrap.  If fact, she doesn’t even deserve to still be breathing in His presence.  Neither she, nor any other human being—even Israelites—have something to boast about that will get God’s attention.  Yet, how she responds expresses a humility that acknowledges all this, and yet seeks the grace the Lord has promised.
When you pray, beg like a dog and be humble.
Now think about your dog when you have to put it out in the garage or back yard.  It will stand at the door whining and scratching.  How long does that go on?   Dogs may have a short attention span while you’re training them, but if they have their heart set on something—namely you—they don’t give up quickly.  If you were to come back an hour later, you would probably find that dog waiting right at the door, as if any moment you were going to open for them.  A begging dog is persistent, even if you brush them off.
That’s what we also see between the Lord and this woman.  He refuses her three times: First, he doesn’t answer her a word.  Second, He tells her “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And finally He tells her, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  As Jesus compares her to a dog, He’s also holding up her example of persistence.  Finally with her answer, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” He commends the faith she has.  It is a faith which, when put to the test, proves to be true.
In faith, she has the confidence to ask Jesus, humbly acknowledging that she deserves nothing.  Now, her faith is shown to be genuine because she doesn’t take adversity for rejection. Her persistence shows that her faith is in Jesus alone.  She isn’t hedging her bets and just “trying prayer out.”  It’s real and it’s serious—her only hope is the Lord.  If it’s true that “neither death nor life…nor anything in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus,” shall we be turned away by “tribulation, or distress, or persecution”?[6]  God our Father has commanded us to pray and promised to hear us.  We do well to listen to Him!
When you pray, beg like a dog and don’t give up until He answers you.
Now, what dogs are after and what we need are very different things.  Dogs are satisfied with people food, a scratch behind the ears, and a place to snuggle up next to you.  Our needs are more complex.  But everything that we need, God’s table has in abundance.  This woman confessed that she would be satisfied by even crumbs from the Lord’s table, because His bountiful goodness is so great.  The Psalmist declares, “A day in the Lord’s courts is better than a thousand elsewhere”[7]  Even the littlest bit of God’s abundant love, mercy, and provision is enough to satisfy all of our needs.
Out of even these undeserved crumbs, He gives us the peace we need through His Word.  When everything seems broken beyond repair to us, even our troubled heart is not beyond His help.  And we have still more comfort!  God’s table, metaphorically speaking, is full of the goodness of our Father’s house.  Well, the Lord Himself does prepare an actual Table with all of these things.  “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Lord’s table.”  The Lord has set His Table here today with the choicest of Food and Drink: His own Body and Blood for Christians to eat and drink.  No other food has the promise, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”[8]  The Food spread on your Lord’s Table has the power to forgive all your sins and unite you with your Lord and His victory over death.
Your Lord and Master is here to give you every good thing.  He satisfies you with the abundance of His house.[9]  You are far more than a pet in His house; you are a beloved son through Jesus Christ.  As a son, come to your Heavenly Father confidently, humbly, and persistently.  He hears your prayers of faith and never forsakes you, even if He may not answer when and how you want.  “Be it done for you as you desire.” Amen.
[1] James 1:2-3
[2] Matthew 7:11
[3] Matthew 6:11
[4] Genesis 11:1-9
[5] 1 Timothy 2:4
[6] Romans 8:38, 35
[7] Psalm 84:10 ; Psalm 90:14
[8] John 6:54
[9] Psalm 36:8

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Job 38:4-18)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Bethel Lutheran Church, Sweet Home, OR
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost + August 13, 2017
Text: Job 38:4-18

You may notice the portraits of two hymnwriters inside the bulletin.  The hymns which they wrote are more than “songs for a heavy heart”[1] or platitudes to feed someone after a terrible loss.  These hymns were borne out of their own bearing the crosses of injustice, longing, and deep tragedy.
Georg Neumark, was a recent graduate in Thuringia, Germany in the autumn of 1641.  He was on his way to university at Königsberg to study law.  He was traveling with a number of others from Leipzig to Lübeck.  Shortly after Magdeburg they were plundered by a band of highwaymen.  They robbed Georg of all he had with him, except his prayer-book and a little money which he had sewed up in the clothes which he was wearing. He returned to Magdeburg, but could obtain no employment there, nor in Lüneburg, nor in Winsen, nor in Hamburg—gradually working his way north nearly 200 miles.  The friends he had made along the way passed him on.
In the beginning of December 1641, he went to Kiel (another 60 miles north), where he found a friend in the person of Nicolaus Becker, chief pastor at Kiel. Day after day passed by without an opening, till about the end of the month the tutor in the family of the Judge Stephan Henning fell into disgrace and took sudden flight from Kiel. By Becker’s recommendation Georg Neumark received the vacant position, and this sudden end of his anxieties was the occasion of the writing of his hymn.  In Henning’s house the time passed happily till he had saved enough to proceed to Königsberg, where he began university in June 1643, as a student of law.  While studying at university, he again lost all of his property in a fire, but later went on to work as a poet.  He was noticed by Duke Wilhelm II and was appointed court poet among other duties. He worked for the Duke until his death in 1681. (adapted from
Early on, Georg Neumark found himself vulnerable.  Through no fault of his own, he was cast into poverty and left to wander from city to town looking for work.  But when God lifted him up, Georg found that he had never been truly alone or without help.  What he found to be true was that God brings low and God lifts up, but His love and care are constant.  He allows sins to happen against us that are unfair and unjust.  Think of how Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and yet became second under Pharaoh.  David was pursued by King Saul but later ruled Israel.  Jeremiah preached the true Word of God and God’s people beat him and put him in a cistern, but the Word he preached came true.   Jesus was truly the promised Messiah, the one to redeem Israel but they nailed Him to the cross.  Yet, on the third day, God even raised Him from the dead.
This is the undeserved fatherly goodness which inspired Georg Neumark to write, “He’ll give thee strength whate’er betide thee, and see thee through the evil day.” In those anxious and ever colder months, he learned, “What can it help if thou bewail thee over each dark moment as it flies?”  But without his knowledge, God knew the time when He would lift up His child and give him times of gladness, coming to him “all unaware, to make thee own His loving care.”
Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a family — a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. Yet, God in His mercy and kindness allowed the business to flourish once more.
On Nov. 21, 1873, Mrs. Spafford and her remaining four daughters travelled aboard a French ocean liner bound for Europe. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later.
About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the ship collided with an iron-hulled Scottish ship. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with her four daughters and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them. Within approximately 12 minutes, the ship slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.  Anna Spafford was rescued by a passing sailor.  Nine days later, she landed in Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down. According to his daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” while on this journey. (adapted from a biography by Dr. Lindsey Terry)
Spafford could likely identify with Job, after he had lost all five of his children while being completely helpless to save them.  How could it possibly be God’s will to bear such pain?   It would have been easy and understandable if Spafford and his wife had become angry at God for such a lot.  Instead, his faith was strengthened because it wasn’t built on the shifting sands of day to day life.  Horatio Spafford found comfort and hope in the words and promises of his God.  That is how he was able to believe the words, “When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: It is well, it is well with my soul.”
That brings us to Job and the Word of the Lord.  (Read again Job 38:4-18.)
At first, these words from God put us in our place for judging God’s ways.  Are we wiser or stronger than He is?  Do we really know what’s best for our lives when all we can see is an infinitesimal sliver of time?  How can we project into the future, or be so certain that God must hate us because of a passing storm?
What’s more, who are we to talk back to the Almighty, we who are but dust and ashes? (Gen. 18:27, Job 30:19).  When we say that we are destroyed and can’t take any more, the unspoken assumption is that we deserve better from God.  But the clear response in this passage is: What makes us qualified to judge good and evil?  Can we answer why even the righteous must suffer, or why the wicked get off scot free?  “Declare, if you know all this, O man!”
Yet, this almighty God against whom we’ve spoken, against whom we’ve grumbled, who we’ve despised and ignored in our daily decisions. This God has also had mercy on your dust and ashes.  His Beloved Son is the one who received what you truly deserved.  Now, the Almighty Judge has also declared your sins forgiven.  Though the thoughts of your heart and mind testify against you, the blood of Christ speaks stronger and has gained your pardon.
Now that this is the case, these words of a gracious Father become comfort for us.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?”[2]
The God who speaks is now your heavenly Father.  It is He who laid the foundation of the earth, who sets boundaries for the sea, who commands wind and wave for your good, who rules over the nations and over men so that your cries under injustice do not go unanswered.  It also He, your God, who burst the gates of death and Hades and now holds the key to them (Rev. 3:7, 20:1-3).  He whose understanding surpasses the expanse of earth holds your whole life in His Almighty care.  What can man, or weather, or health do to you when you have God on your side?
This is no small matter!  This is the difference between peace and despair, between comfort and worry.  But even if you struggle to believe it, do you think He is unable to break through?  “Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.”[3]  Amen.
[1] Proverbs 25:20
[2] Romans 8:31
[3] Matthew 14:27

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Matthew 14:13-21)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR and Bethel Lutheran Church, Sweet Home, OR
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost + August 6, 2017
Text: Matthew 14:13-21

It was a perfectly ordinary day in Galilee, although the mood was rather somber.  Jesus had just received news that John the Baptist had been beheaded.  He wanted to withdraw with His disciples to a solitary place.  Yet as often happened, hordes of people came seeking Him out.  They knew Him to be a miracle-worker, one who cleansed lepers, forgave sinners, and even raised the dead.  Even though the crowds trampled his plans for solitude, He had compassion on them.  He taught them, and He healed their sick.  It was just another day in the ministry of Jesus.
Then it began to get late.  And by the way, they’re in a desolate place far away from settlements, merchants, or lodging.  Then there’s this big crowd of more than 5,000 people.  The problems just keep stacking up.  Things could get urgent, so the disciples start coming up with solutions.  It’s late, their teacher wanted a break, and they’re all hungry.  It stands to reason if the crowds were gone, everything would be solved (well, except where the disciples themselves would get food).
Trouble is that the disciples had a human view of Jesus.  They suggest to Jesus that He should dismiss the crowds, as if He’s just a rabbi who got carried away with His work and forgot the creature comforts of his audience.  But in this human view of Jesus, they don’t see His compassion.  They underestimate both His care for the crowds and His ability to provide.
Oh, one more problem: Nobody brought any food except five loaves of bread and two fish.  People say desperate times call for desperate measures.
What follows is as much for the disciples learning as it is for the crowds and their hunger:
Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”
Jesus knew exactly where they were, He knew exactly how many people had come to meet Him across the shore, and He also knew exactly what it takes to care for that great crowd.  But was Jesus failing them by allowing things to get so urgent?  Couldn’t He have just as easily warned the disciples ahead of time so they could make provision?  Instead, He was teaching them and refining their faith, which He did by presenting them with a ordinarily impossible task: “You give them something to eat.”
The place was deserted, the hour was late, the food was in short supply, and the people were many, but none of this is an obstacle.  They had the Lord of Creation with them, which is what He was showing them.  All of the facts of their circumstances were true, but what would save them was the Lord’s compassion and the truth that nothing is impossible with God.
That has something to say to us in our trying times.  Is God unaware of our need when He allows us to come into situations over our head?  On the day you lose your job and a big medical bill comes in, was God on vacation?  We often feel that God is distant when life gets hard and overwhelming.  Even if He is near, we complain that He’s not much help because doesn’t seem to have things under control.
So, desperate times call for desperate measures, right?  If you need money, look to the lottery or the casino, so you can make a fortune on the false hopes of others.  You’re hungry, your family needs food, and the grocery store has so much.  Surely it isn’t wrong to take just one or two cans of soup.  You’ve had a killer week, so you think it wouldn’t be so bad to take your mind off things with a few drinks.
Just like the disciples wanting to dismiss the crowds, these are human solutions for people who do not have a God.  But we do have a God, and One who is ever-present, loving, and able to help.[1]  “I will never leave you nor forsake you,”[2] your God says.  So bank on it, and follow the example of your Savior.  This is how a son of God faces desperate times.
Jesus, the man, is taxed from hearing about the death of his cousin, John, and He’s been ministering to this massive crowd all day.  He’s tired and hungry, too.  Don’t think that Jesus is above the situation, because He’s a part of the human need also.
What food is there for all these bellies?  Five loaves and two fish.  “Bring them here to me,” Jesus says.  He looks up to heaven and blesses God for that little bit of food.  His eyes are not focused on what isn’t there or what He thinks should be there, but on what is there, what God has provided.  And for this He gives thanks and blesses God.
How can He bless God in a time like this?  Because this is what it looks like to commend one’s life—body and soul—into the heavenly Father’s care, trusting in His promises: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.”[3]  He made you, intricately fashioned in your mother’s womb, and He knows all your needs—spiritual, emotional, physical.  He knows your life better than you do, the future as well as the past.  Employers, medical tests, school admissions, family conflict, church politics—none of these is too much for Him to overcome.  Bless God and give thanks for what He’s given you, knowing that He is not limited by the circumstances you see.  Hold fast to what an Almighty Father does for His beloved children.
18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.”  Their Father in heaven provide not only enough to feed 5,000 men and their families, but also provided enough to supply Jesus and His twelve disciples with Him.  Believe in His Word and count on His faithfulness in Jesus Christ, because He does the same for you.  Amen.
Fahling: The sad feature of it was that it was not a Savior-seeking, but a miracle-seeking crowd.
God is moved with compassion, even for those who do not believe and begrudge Him as Savior.
Luther: The great need of the disciples on this occasion was that, though they could think and figure, they did not believe or realize what kind of Lord they had in Christ. And that is the universal need even today, not only when we need food but also when we realize all sorts of necessities. We know how to figure and calculate carefully so that our needs might be filled. But when help does not come immediately as we would like it, we get nothing out of our careful figuring and calculating except sorrow and loss of spirit. It would be much better for us to commend the whole matter to God and not think so much about our needs.
Buls: “No one was overlooked. “Satisfied” is usually used of animals which eat to the full. That is the point here. The left-overs amounted to many times more than the original five loaves and two fishes.”
[1] Psalm 46:1, Psalm 50:15
[2] Hebrews 13:5-6
[3] Psalm 145:15-16