| ||Messiah Lutheran Church||
6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634
In the Old Testament, while the Israelites wandered in the desert, they were fed with manna from heaven, the word manna meaning, "What is it?" It certainly must not have appeared all that tasty or appetizing. For it looked like white round seeds or tiny stones, and tasted like a wafer made with honey" and having to feed on a diet of manna for 40 years surely must have been pretty bland. And what about getting enough protein, vitamins, and minerals? As one of my Sunday School kids in Korea once said, it was like being on a daily diet of marshmallows without the hot chocolate!
And so, we find them complaining in Numbers 11:5, "Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now our appetite is gone; there is nothing to see but this manna!" But we find the same thing happening today when it comes to the hearing of God's Word. Luther's explains the third commandment "Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy"." We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it."
And yet, how many Christians are missing church this morning, not because they can't, as some of our shut-ins or those who must work or be out of town, but because their sinful flesh simply doesn't want to be here, and they have put themselves on the throne of their life rather than God. Now, I have to confess there are some Sundays, when Pastor Sheets and Rev. Pillows seem much more inviting, so I am preaching to myself, as welL And I also realize that we live in a culture that isn't so church friendly, as it was in the past. When attending church was the norm, rather than the exception, especially for those who considered themselves to be Christians. Statistics tell us that if present trends continue the percentage of the population in this country that attends church in 2050 is estimated to be at almost half of 1990's attendance, a drop from 2004 to 11.7 percent.
And yet in the midst of this troubling trend, the optimist in me, sees the tremendous mission field that lies at our very door step, beginning at home with our own detached members, For, as much as people may believe they can have a relationship with Jesus Christ without the church, perhaps the' greatest spiritual danger of our times is the separation of Jesus from the church. Scripture tells us that the church is the body of Christ. Without Jesus, there can be no church, and without the church you cannot stay united with Jesus. And I've yet to meet anyone who has come closer to Jesus by forsaking the church. For to listen to the church is to listen to the Lord of the church.
Thus, David says in Psalm 122:1, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD." And I'm reminded of o~e the now sainted Shirley Caffery, who was happy every time she was able to renew her driver's license, and would always say, "Pastor, I'm just happy to be here!" And how many of my shut-ins I have visited throughout the years, who long to attend the Divine Worship Service, again. Our text reminds us of the importance of consistently feeding on God's Word, as you are this morning. Along with partaking of the very body and Christ in with and under the elements of bread and. wine. And yet our sinful flesh balks and says, "This is boring! There's a lot more exciting stuff I can listen to, read, watch, and do."
And so to attempt to get people to listen to God's Word, false teachers throughout time have fed people with poisonous lies and untruths, twisting God's Word to sooth itching ears. And we can find examples of in some of the popular radio and TV preachers, as wen as in our mega-churches, who scratch itching ears with their cross-less and Christ-less messages Rather than serving a balanced diet of Gods Law and Gospel, properly divided, the Law showing us our sins and the Gospel showing us our Savior. And some of you might be thinking, but I know that already. Same old, same old .... And yet, just as God fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna on the way to the Promised Land. This is how God has chosen to feed us as we journey in this earthly wilderness on the way to the Promised Land of heaven.
Granted, there may be more appealing ways to deliver God's Word, just as there might be more appealing ways to serve the food we eat. But when it comes right down to it, the essential diet of God's Word remains the same, when served in its truth and purity: "Christ crucified for theforgiveness of sins." This phrase, explains what the Law and Gospel of God's Word is all about. For, as we look upon the crucifix above our altar, we are reminded of the stark fact that it out sins that Christ offered up His life on the cross for. While at the same time, we can fmd comfort that Christ's sacrifice has providedfor us the propitiation of all our sins. And that He is the Living Bread from Heaven we are to continually feed our souls upon along with His words of life, no matter how unappealing and bland this may seem to our sinful flesh.
In season and out of season, when we feel like it and when we don't feel like it. St. Paul, who as a student of Gamaliel, was well-schooled in the Old Testament and might have easily bogged his listeners down with plenty of other details, writes in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
As well as 1 Corinthians 1:18: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
For wherever and whenever God's Word is faithfully proclaimed, we are reminded that just as the prophet Nathan called out David in his sin: "You are the man!" "You are the woman!" "I am the man!", who have sinned against a Holy God and am deserving of nothing but His wrath and punishment. But, the harsher the Law the sweeter the Gospel!
As Jesus said of the sinful woman in Luke 7: "Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the p>same loves little." I've preached a lot of sermons in my over 28 years of ministry in various contexts and settings.
I've had captive audiences, and heard vocal "Amens" and "Say it agains", and "Can I get a witness's"; Along with a few "Help him Lord's", when it seemed I wasn't getting through. especially in the African-American churches where I have served.
At the same time, I've had people fall asleep in the middle of my sermons, as well.
And I take comfort in the fact that the apostle Paul had the same experience in Acts 20. Although, I can't guarantee if you fall asleep off the balcony that I can raise you from the dead like he did in the case ofEutychus. I've made people mad. I've made people laugh and have moved people to tears. I've been scolded for being too long, as well as for being too short. And I take all the blame when my sinful flesh and slowness of speech has gotten in the way of the hearing of God's Word.
At the same time, I'm also reminded that I'm just an instrument. And if God can use Balaam's donkey to speak his Word, He can certainly use a man of clay like myself to speak His Word. And, I pray every time I preach that I may get my own sinful self out (If the way in order that I might be a vessel for God to speak His word through me. And so, speak the living Word of God and feed you with the Living Bread of Heaven, Jesus Christ. In this day and age, when we find many people turning back and no longer following Jesus.
Who find the message of the cross unattractive in the midst of a cacophony of false teachings and beliefs. May we join Samuel in saying, "Speak Lord for your servant is listening"
As well as Peter in our text saying: "Lord to whom shall we go? Y ou have the words of
etemallife, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of
God." May you continually feed upon the pure Word of God all your days, until at last you
see the Living Bread from Heaven, Jesus Christ Himself, face to face. All the while singing
and praying: "Guide me, 0 my great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me now and ever more,
feed me now and ever more."
As Hebrews 10:25 warns, "Let us not stay away from our worship services, as some are regularly doing, but let us encourage one another, all the more because you see the day coming nearer."
See you in worship!
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