Second Sunday in Lent (Reminiscere)

Readings: Genesis 32:22-32 | 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 | Matthew 15:21-28

Text: Genesis 32:22-32

One of our world’s favorite questions is to ask, “Where is God?” When the floods rage, where is your God? When the tornadoes touch down, where is your God? When tidal waves destroy, when earthquakes level cities, or people die, where is your God? “I thought He was good. I thought He was all-powerful. I thought He loved you.”

In fact, why wait for the big things. What about when it happens in your life? When a loved one dies, where is your God? When you find out you have cancer, where is your God? When you can’t make ends meet, when everything goes wrong, when you hurt most of all, where is your God?

It’s a good question to ask, really. Because we don’t bother with where God is until something terrible comes up. Everyday routine stuff, what’s God have to do with that? I don’t go looking for God every time I write a check, or wash my hair. I don’t go looking for God when I put on my pajamas or watch an evening sitcom. I don’t go looking for God when the 49ers take the field…except when they lose the Super Bowl. Well, maybe then. But that’s different. For the most part, we can handle it on our own.

Jacob was also pretty good at handling things on his own. He skillfully negotiated Esau’s birthright out from under him for a bowl of stew without any help. Jacob and his Mom got Dad to give him the blessing instead of Esau without a single prayer. He convinced his future father-in-law to let him marry his daughter just on his own skills. He convinced his father-in-law to let him marry his other daughter after his father-in-law conned him into the ugly one—poor, unloved Leah. He came up with that plan all by himself. When he was only allowed to keep the defective sheep for his flock, he managed to breed them all to look  defective. When He heard his brothers-in-law were jealous enough to hurt him, He got his family the heck out of Dodge. And as we see in this text, when Esau’s on his way, he’s got an escape route all planned out, just in case things go south.

Jacob talks a big game about God. He’ll say that God blessed him with this. That God was looking out for him in that. That God is a really great guy. But you know? It’s been the Jacob show all along. And now, Esau has small army. And Esau was looking to kill him not that long ago. And Esau isn’t going to be bribed out of his anger. And even just sending the women and children across the river is only buying time. So Jacob, where is your God now?

Right in front of him, trying to pop him in the teeth. It’s funny, the word for wrestle in Hebrew: אבק. It literally means to kick up dust. And I think both meanings are intended here. Jacob has a history of turning tail. But God’s not going to let him go this time.

But now? Can’t you go wrestle Esau instead? This is the worst possible time, God. And God does come at the worst possible time. For Jacob, and for us. Can’t you wait until I’m ready? Can’t you wait until I’ve got time to deal with you? Our moment might not be a life and death showdown with Esau. But it’s often not far from that. It’s when there’s too much going on. Too much to handle. And we need to be completely on top of our game if we’re going to get through it.

It’s then that God gets up in our faces. Wrenches our hip out of socket. Breaks us in such a way that we just can’t do it anymore. Why?! And why now, God?! To teach us some divine object lesson? To show us that we need Him for everything? To knock us off our high horse? Humiliate us into bowing our heads? Perhaps. He’s there to tell Jacob, and tell you that, “you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Prevailed? Let me get this straight. God comes down, puts Jacob in a headlock, breaks his hip, all to tell Jacob that Jacob wins? God makes a trainwreck of my life, turns everything upside down, hurts me badly, all to tell me I win? How does that make any sense? I could understand it if he wanted to show me that I need Him. I could understand if He wanted to me to keep my eyes on Him at all times. I could understand if He wanted me to pray more, get Him more involved in my life, and stop doing it alone. True, He exercises our faith to that goal. But God uses that place and that time to give Jacob a message: You have already prevailed. It’s a message to us: You have already prevailed.

When you’re used to doing it on your own, it can be overwhelming when you can’t. When you’ve relied on only yourself and your own means, it’s frightening when there’s nothing left. When you’ve pulled yourself up by your bootstraps all your life, it’s absolutely crushing when there’s nowhere left to pull. You cannot win. You cannot prevail. So God has to tell you that you already have…yet not in a way that you can rest in your hard work.

Because Jesus died on your behalf. Jesus rose again for you. Jesus won. Jesus prevailed. Yes, He did. Sin, death and Hell, He conquered them all. Sin is overcome, because He carried all that sin with Him when He died. Death is undone, because it couldn’t hold Him when He rose on the third day. Hell is beaten, because He unlocked its gates and set the captives free. Satan is vanquished, all because of Jesus. Not us. Jesus.

So how can God tell us that we’ve already prevailed? Because Jesus has already given all this to you. It’s certainly not because you were always there. Not because you leaned on Him at the right time. (that would be a lie) Not because you had a good relationship with Him. You have overcome because God gives. He gives even to those who aren’t really good at doing the right thing–even to those like Jacob the swindler in our text.

That’s an incredible comfort for us. In a world that is so geared toward one’s own getting ahead. We see this in the wrestling of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel (Matt. 15:21-28). She comes to Jesus, and it seems like He’s her enemy. What’s up with Jesus’ responses? Saying He hasn’t been sent to her, implying that she’s a dog, and pushing her off these three times?

But in her responses, we see faith—the gift of God—at work. Look at them:

  • “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
  • But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
  • “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.

As strange as this sounds, this is the work of faith. Faith doesn’t come to God boasting about how much we’ve done for God. It doesn’t count the hours we’ve agonized for those for whom we’ve kept vigil. Faith doesn’t expect that God should move heaven and earth because of something in us. No, faith comes in humility before God-in-the-flesh.

There’s a song that’s making the rounds right now that goes,

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours…
What You say of me, I believe” [1]

What if God were to say to you, “You don’t deserve His goodness”? “You are of no account, and ‘I have mercy on whom I have mercy’?” [Exodus 33:19] What if God calls you a dog, begging from the table? What faith says is, Yes and Amen. And in that confession, as weak as it sounds, you have the victory.

Jesus has given you His death and resurrection, and because you have that, God is right. You have already prevailed. Whatever you face in life, whatever the world does to you, and whatever Satan would use against you. You have already prevailed. In faith, you have faced off with God, and God has declared you the winner. What can anything else do to take that away?

None of the things that matter before God can be taken forever. The resurrection is coming. And we look forward to that with all our hearts. To our eyes, and to the eyes of those around us, it doesn’t look like victory. Does it ever look like defeat and Pollyannaism! Faith looks foolish to the unbelieving. But to the faithful, we trust that God has the victory; that God is true and we will say Amen to Him even though all others scoff. In the meantime, when the world asks, “Where is your God.” You have an answer. He’s right here, giving me Jesus.

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

[1] Lauren Daigle – “You Say”


First Sunday in Lent (Invocavit)

Readings: Genesis 3:1-21 | 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 | Matthew 4:1-11

Text: Genesis 3:1-21; Matthew 4:1-11

The Apostle Peter warns us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9

In the first reading from Genesis 3, we learn a great deal about the devil both in his works and his ways, as well as why we as Christians should be concerned with the devil. 

It doesn’t say exactly how long it was between Genesis 2 and 3, but it’s a stretch to imagine it was very long before the devil came to corrupt the only other creatures with a free will: man and woman.  He entices them by possessing a serpent.  Why a serpent?  Because it is crafty, stealthy, and shrewd: The serpent slips in where others are blocked, it stalks its food and lays in wait to strike, and it knows how to slip out of the scene before it is detected.  All of these qualities fit the devil’s ways, as we see in how he interacts with the woman.  God uses a turn of these traits when it comes to punishing the devil, however.  “On your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the day of your life.”  Just as Satan used the craftiness of the snake, now God uses the fact that the snake is a “creeping thing” to show that God will keep him in submission until the Lord’s ultimate victory: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15

Later in history the devil would be compared to other creatures, such as Leviathan the great sea beast, as lions, as a dragon (Psalm 74:12-14, Daniel 6:16-24, Isaiah 27:1).  In the New Testament, the legion of demons in Mark 5 ends up possessing a herd of unclean swine and being destroyed in a mock baptism.  Each of these teach us about the devil and his followers.  But, the point here isn’t the mechanics of how the devil possessed the serpent, or how an ordinarily mute animal spoke, but that we learn that the devil is a wily enemy to both God and us. 

Then what this crafty devil does first of all is attack their trust in God’s Word. He tramples on God’s order that the husband is the spiritual head of the household. He is apathetic to what misery will be wrought for all humanity. The devil’s boldness flies in the face of his Creator and Master

“He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1b-5)

The devil questions God’s truthfulness and he questions God’s good intentions for His creatures.  Our first parents, formed in innocence by the hand of God Himself, were tempted and sinned.  They sinned, not merely by breaking God’s rule, but by breaking faith with Him through disbelieving His Word.  Even from this primordial world, “man has lived by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)  The very definition of a right relationship between Creator and creature is on the basis of taking God at His Word. 

But sin changed all of that.  When the first doubt was planted in the heart of Adam and Eve, they now had another authority—themselves.  The question of what was good had a new answer: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”      

That is what humanity—and we ourselves each day—have been wrestling with ever since.  Do we take God at His Word, or look for another authority that tells us what our corrupt hearts want to hear? 

The devil consistently attacks the truthfulness of God’s will and His goodness toward us.  This is the root of why immorality persists and increases.  This is why there are so many religions in the world and even divisions within the Christian Church on earth.  This is why so few of the world’s population cares about God and what He says.  The devil’s work is to cause people to doubt and disbelieve God’s powerful, all-creating, life-giving Word. 

Do we take God at His Word or not?  Alas, it’s not really a choice so simple.  Every natural born offspring of Adam and Eve is born with this deafness and aversion to God’s Word.  So, the story of temptation with man is a story of failings.  The serpent was craftier than Adam and Eve, and deceived them so easily.  Now he exercises authority over us, their children. 

When we think of temptation as Christians…as human beings, it isn’t about trying to overcome the devil and make personal triumphs.  If our sinless parents fell, how much worse is it for us?  Listen to the diagnosis of our condition:

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.”
“The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.” (1 Cor. 2:14, Gal. 5:17, Rom. 8:7)

Who is able to save us from this wretched condition?  Our only way out from under the devil’s thumb completely depends on this Man, facing the devil.  The sole Overcomer is Jesus Christ. 

(Read Matthew 4:1-11

Here the devil is called “the tempter” because his purpose is to lead men consistently to put God to the test (same word as “tempt”) without faith.  The devil does his worst to this man, Jesus, but He consistently replies with God’s Word rightly believed. 

These are the works and ways of the devil: to subtly slip in and break our faith.  In Holy Baptism, and again at Confirmation, we are asked: Do you renounce the devil? Do you renounce all his works? Do you renounce all his ways?  If it were up to you and your strength, you would say yes, but not be able to accomplish what these questions ask.  It is only by your Baptism into Christ, the Victor over the devil, that you gain the victory. 

That brings us back to the passage that we started out with: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”  The only power we have to resist and overcome the devil comes through baptismal grace.  Baptized into Christ, the Son of God, we have forgiveness and spiritual victory which lasts to eternal life.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Quinquagesima (About 50 days until Easter)

Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 | 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 | Luke 18:31-43

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

First Corinthians 13 is one of the most beloved passages of all Scripture. It is a favorite passage for weddings. It is written on knickknacks and tchotchkes we decorate our houses with. Pardon the pun, but we love this chapter of the Bible. And rightly so. It puts front and center what is essential to living in Christ. Without it, none of our good works, or even great works have any value whatsoever. But love covers all that we cannot do. 

But by today, these words—faith, hope, and love—have become disembodied slogans. They are no more than an allegory to a lost and forgotten past, the same way the works of Homer or Virgil used to be referenced as common knowledge. Faith, hope, and love are just decals to adorn your Hobby Lobby-inspired décor.

Meanwhile, our actual lives have become whatever we want them to be. By nature and by practice, our lives are the product of philosophies and peers. And because there is nothing new under the sun, it was not much different for the Christians in Corinth.

The Stoics believed only the spiritual mattered, so they denied the body everything of meaning. The Epicureans believed only the spiritual mattered, so the indulged the body in everything, no matter how degenerate. False teachers then and now emphasized that things like tongues, prophesies, healings, and powers were how to know you were spiritual. And Paul had to correct them all, while bringing them together.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” “As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” “Love never ends.”

There was nothing wrong with tongues, prophecies, knowledge, or powers. In fact, they could be good. But only so far as they loved one another. Without that divine love, none of those other things mattered. Without love, they were even a hindrance.

But what does it mean to love one another? The world alienated from God defines love differently than God and His people do. They show us that it’s a feeling you fall into. It’s a sense of comfort, of happiness. It’s your source of joy when you get what you want, and a source of sorrow when you don’t. It’s the emotion that drives people to do great things…or even terrible things. “They did it for love,” and that makes it all worth it. But love for our world is found inside you. There’s a selfishness to the world’s love. It can motivate one to do a lot, but always for one’s own sake. We want our feeling validated by others. We want to be loved in return. And when we don’t get what we want, when our feelings fade, so does our effort, our work. This “love” is a passing mist.

That’s not the kind of love that God has for us. His love is an action, not a feeling. God loves because that’s who He is, not because we have something He wants. In fact, when we do not do what He desires, He acts in love all the more, because we are in need. God’s love is selfless, self-sacrificial. And it never fades or fails. 

But such a love doesn’t look like we expect it to. Love is demonstrated for us in the Gospels. In Luke 4:16-30, Jesus does not give the people in His hometown of Nazareth the signs and miracles He did in Capernaum. They wanted them, and they would have loved Him for it (at least the way the world loves). Instead, He gave them something better: His Word which declared that the Lord’s Christ was in their midst. But they would not have heard His Word if He had given them miracles.

At other times, like when He met the rich man in Mark 10, we hear,

21  Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:21-22)

To us, it sounds like that love doesn’t get desirable results.

More importantly, do we love one another as Christ has loved us? I dare say we have not measured up too well. We have been impatient and mean to those who are not on our side. We have been envious, wishing we had what others seem to get. We have boasted about ourselves, how we know better than the rest. We have been arrogant enough to think we are better than others. Sometimes, we’re rude enough to tell that to their faces. We have insisted on our own way in all things. We have been irritable and resentful to all. We have rejoiced at wrongdoings, calling it justice, or comeuppance, or karma. We have borne little, believed little, hoped little, endured little. And had the audacity to say that we did it all in love. That kind of love cannot end soon enough.

Therefore we are to repent. We are to renounce such things. We must see all people as ones for whom Christ died, because He has—even those who irritate us the most. After all God loved us when we not only irritated Him, but openly rebelled against Him with our sin. Our neighbor needs our love. Not our feelings. Not our self-centered attempts to get what we want out of them. But self-sacrificial service. Jesus has done no less than that for us. 

Christian love is Christ’s love. Christ’s love is patient, bearing with our sin, like when He was betrayed by one of His closest friends. His love is kind, caring for us though we made ourselves His enemy, like he healed the ear of the high priest’s servant as they arrested Him. HIs love does not envy, like when Jesus was falsely accused before the Sanhedrin. His love does not boast, as He remained silent before His accusers. Jesus’ love it is not arrogant. He did not elevate Himself above others—even though He is truly the Son of God—but He was humiliated before all Jerusalem for our sake as He was carried before Pilate. His love is not rude, telling even Pilate, a gentile polytheist, of the truth. 

Jesus’ love, It does not insist on its own way, letting the soldiers put a reed in His hand to later be struck with, and a crown thorns upon His head in mockery. His love is not irritable, patiently bearing the blasphemous call from the chief priests and Pharisees to come down from the cross. His love is not resentful, as He even promised paradise to the repentant thief who earlier had mocked Him.

His love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. So at the last, He says it is finished, and gives up His Spirit. There He finished His great work of love. The ultimate self-sacrifice for every sinner. To pay for our sin, even the sin of failing to love as we ought. He gladly laid down His life for your sake and for mine. His love truly bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And the cross is the place He has loved you. By action, not by feeling. Jesus died for your sake. And has purchased you out of your slavery to your sin. 

The love of God never ends—not even death can snuff it out. After Jesus gave His life for your sake, He took it back up again. On the third Day Jesus rose from the dead. Another work accomplished for you, and a promise given to you. Since He died your death in your place, His resurrection is also made yours. A promise coming on the last day for you and for every believer.

 “The Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever.” (Ps. 100:5) This love is so intertwined with the cross, that Christians have made a practice of tracing the cross on themselves. That tradition is still preserved to this day, by the little Latin cross in the hymnal. Notice the places where it is:

  1. When we invoke His saving Name, remembering Holy Baptism where Jesus’ death becomes our death, and His resurrection our hope of the same (Romans 6:3-11)
  2. At the end of the Creed, where we confess our certain hope in the life of the world to come, which is made ours through the cross (Luke 18:29-30)
  3. Although it’s not printed, some choose to cross themselves at the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil,” because it is by the cross that “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame.” (Colossians 2:15)

This is what love actually is, by which He loved the world and us, so that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). This is what He teaches us, and in Him, we grow daily in Christian love for those same people God has loved. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Sexagesima (About 60 Days until Easter)

Readings: Isaiah 55:10-13 | 2 Corinthians 11:19-12:9 | Luke 8:4-15

Text: Isaiah 55:1-3, 10-13

At the beginning of Isaiah 55, before we hear this familiar proclamation about God’s Word, we hear God’s heart with a different analogy—one we can all appreciate:

1“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.

“Come and be satisfied!” This is the message God is speaking to us today through his prophet Isaiah. Here in these verses, we see several things about the Lord’s invitation.

First, who are the ones to whom the Lord is extending this invitation? Isaiah tells us: everyone who thirsts” and “he who has no money.” Is that you? Are you thirsty? Do you realize your spiritual poverty? If so, then this invitation is for you. If not, then you should take a more spiritual look at yourself.

So, are you thirsty? In the New Testament, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6) To the sinful woman at the well, he says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever.” (John 4:14, see ESV footnote) And at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37) You see, Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. When Isaiah says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters,” he’s really looking ahead to Jesus, who would give the waters that will satisfy our thirst.

So, are you thirsty? Do you know and feel your spiritual thirst? Do you realize something’s wrong, something’s wrong with you? That you are a sinner? That you have broken God’s good commandments and gone contrary to his will? That you haven’t done the things that you know God wants you to do? That you have done things you know you shouldn’t do? That’s sin, and it should make you thirsty, spiritually thirsty for something, anything, that will take away your guilt and your shame. Do you sense and feel your own lack of inner righteousness? That dissonance between what you know you ought to be and what you have been? That you aren’t good enough to stand before almighty God on the Day of Judgment?

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” How much does it cost to buy the food and drink the Lord here offers? Keep in mind, this is the greatest food and drink you could possibly imagine (keep the wine of Cana’s wedding in mind, John 2:1-11). This food is the forgiveness of your sins and the sure hope of everlasting life. Despite everything our bodily senses tell us, it doesn’t get any better than that. Even the most exquisite meal on earth will leave you hungry or thirsting again. But not what the Lord gives!

So how much does this grand feast cost? Absolutely nothing. You heard me: Nothing. No cost at all. No, wait. It does come at a cost, except you’re not the one who pays it. But for you, it’s free. No charge.

We’ve all heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Meaning, it may sound like it’s free, but it really isn’t. There are some strings attached. You may not be paying directly for that supposedly free lunch, but somewhere down the line, you are, whether in higher taxes or whatever. In this world, in this life, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

But when it comes to the food and drink that God offers, it is free, truly free. This is a gracious invitation, all by grace, a free gift. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Rom. 6:23-24; Eph. 2:8-9) And in Revelation 22, it says, “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

You see, you couldn’t buy this food and drink even if you tried. You cannot pile up enough good deeds to offset your sins and thereby purchase the priceless gift God gives you. You don’t have that kind of currency. But Jesus does. He has the righteousness that has infinite cash value. Enough to go around to cover the debts of every sinner everywhere. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

And when I say that God’s great feast does come at a cost, but you’re not the one who pays it, I’m talking about Jesus, of course. He’s the one who pays for your redemption, your rescue from sin and death. Christ paid that incalculable cost on the cross. There he, the sinless Son of God, paid the price that sets us sinners free. How did he do it? He “redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” (Small Catechism, 2nd Article) There is no greater price that could be paid than that. And this is how the Lord can offer you his gifts for free: Because they’ve already been paid for.

So why would you go after other things that cannot satisfy like the Lord’s gifts can? The unbelievers and our sinful flesh look all over the place for things they think will satisfy their hunger and thirst. But nothing else can do the job. “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” That’s a good question. All these other avenues that people go down are dead ends. They will end in death. They may give momentary pleasure, but they will end in death.

Whether it is in a god made up in someone’s imagination, or to the desires of our flesh, or to the fleeting promises of this world, all of these are insufficient. Our fleshly desires always aim against God’s will for our bodies and lives. The world with its pursuits is passing away [1 John 2]. All hopes for an earthly paradise have and will fall flat, because people remain sinful.

We have the capability to turn even good things into an idol. Prosperity, pleasure, health, wealth, recreation, romance, a nice home, family, fun times. Even these good things, these good gifts from God, cannot ultimately satisfy. Don’t let them become an end in themselves. These things cannot forgive your sins. These things cannot rescue you from the grave or hell. Instead, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” Yes, it is the Word of God which satisfies our human need.

10“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  (Isaiah 55:10–13)

Today, hear and heed the Lord’s gracious invitation, and come and eat and drink. Be fed by the feast of His Word which bring you peace with God, deliverance from death, and everlasting security! Eat and drink when that Word is joined to the bread and wine at the Lord’s table. This is rich food indeed!

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Original sermon by Pr. Charles Henrickson, adapted by Pr. Michael Miller