Some have asked for copies of Sunday's sermons... I am making them available here for ease of distribution, for the soldiers and support personnel serving so far from home, and in the hopes that they may be a blessing and encouragement to others beyond our parish...
"I don't know what I want, but it is not this..." We say that about the food put in front of us, about leisure activities that we thought we enjoyed, about the jobs we thought were dream jobs, and even about such things as marriages that turn out to be more work than we bargained for. But how do you pursue what you want if you do not know what you want? It is an endless journey of disappointment.
Too often we act as if God's will and purpose for our lives were the same kind of endless quest for what we want. As if God harbored some deep, dark secret about His will for us – and that our spiritual lives were in reality a spiritual quest to uncover the secret, the pursuit of hidden knowledge that will make everything clear. "Lord, what should I do?" But God has not hidden His will and purpose from us – just the opposite – He has made Himself clear and plain in Jesus Christ.
Like the people of old we hear Jesus say, "Don't work for the things that do not last but work for that which endures to eternal life." And like the people of old we ask, "But how do we do that?" We have mortgages, bills, jobs, household duties, and earthly responsibilities – how do we pursue the works of God in the face of so many earthly things to do?" And Jesus tells us. It is not a deep dark secret but plain and clear. "This is the work of God..." He says.
What should we do? Believe in Him whom the Father has sent. In other words, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ whom the Father sent to us as Savior and Redeemer. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the work of God that we are to do. But again, this is not left to our own devices to figure out how to believe. God has given to us His Spirit to teach our fearful hearts the language of trust, to break down the hard shell of doubt and suspicion which sin has built up, and to lead us to faith. We believe that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in the Lord Jesus Christ or come to Him but the Holy Spirit has called, gathered, and enlightened us... sound familiar?
What should we do in order to do the works of God? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But how? Have we all not been disappointed by those whom we have trusted – from family to friends to politicians? Trust is hard. Give us a sign – something solid to hold on to so that faith is not reduced to a feeling. Our fathers walked in the wilderness not knowing where they were going but they had manna as a sign God was with them and leading them. Where is our sign? We want a sign, a little something to reduce the risk and give us something to grasp hold of in this journey of uncertainty by a people so apt to fear and lose our way.
And He gives us a sign. THE sign. The sign is not some miracle moment but the flesh and blood of Him who has come down from heaven. Jesus Christ is our sign. His incarnation through the Virgin Mary, His flesh and blood identity with us in our world of sin and death, His willingness to suffer in our place, His sacrificial death that we may not die, and His rising to life that we might live. He is our sign. Jesus is the bread of God come down from heaven, whose flesh gives life to the world.
God is done with little signs. In many and various ways He spoke to His people of old but now He has spoken through His Son. He is the sign, the one and only sign, by which God reveals Himself and through whom He gives forgiveness, life and salvation. Jesus is that bread of promise which comes down from heaven that we might feed on Him by faith and live forever more. As Christians we need to stop asking for these little signs and start looking to Jesus as THE sign the Father has given to us. Jesus is our sign. He is the bread of life come down from heaven. Whoever who eats of Him will hunger no more and whoever believes in Him shall never thirst.
How do we respond to the sign that He has given, to the call of faith, and to the Spirit who enables such faith in our fearful, fragile hearts. The response of faith is clear. "Sir, give us this bread always!" Philip said to Jesus, "Sir, show us the Father." What did Jesus say? "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." Jesus is the all that God has to give to us.
Faith teaches us to desire the gifts of God and faith leads us to the place where the gifts are given – THE gift of Jesus. Faith leads us to Jesus. But where is He? When I ask the 20 three year olds in preschool chapel where God is, they instinctively point to the sky. It is too bad that we have taught our children and ourselves to think of God who is way up there. Such a God is inaccessible to us. We should stop pointing to heaven and start pointing to the water of baptism. There is Jesus in the water that gives us life. We should stop pointing to heaven and start pointing to the Word. There is Jesus in the living voice that is Scripture, the Word that does what it says and gives what it promises – forgiveness, life and salvation. We should stop pointing to heaven and start pointing to the altar. There is Jesus in bread and wine, His body broken and His blood out poured for us, that we might eat heaven's bread and drink salvation's cup and life forever.
Where is this Jesus who lives for us the holy life we cannot live... who dies for us the atoning death we cannot die... who rises for us with the life that overcomes the grave forever? There He is in the Table where Christ is, the gift of God for the life of the world. There He is in the living voice of His Word. There He is in the living water of baptism. Faith's answer to the Word, to the Water, and to the Table? "Sir give us this bread always."
The journey of faith is not the discovery of the hidden but learning to see what is obvious – but obvious only by faith. Jesus... He is God's sign to us. The Savior long promised whose grace cannot disappoint us. Jesus... who reveals Himself in the living water of baptism, to speaks the living voice of the Gospel, and who feeds us the living food of Holy Communion. Repentance is ultimately an act of remembering – recalling what you know but you have been distracted from or turned away from. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ whom the Father has sent... in the concrete sign of Him who wore our flesh and blood even to suffering and death, in the means of grace where He gives to us what His death won and what His life has accomplished... in the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. So today we add our voices to those of old. Lord, give us this bread always...