Sermon Notes – August 5, 2018

Our Daily Bread – John 6:33

   In 1921 advertisements teased the people of Indianapolis that a “Wonder was coming on May 21.”   When May 21st arrived Wonder Bread, a new product from the Taggart Baking Company, appeared on store shelves in Indianapolis. When Taggart was purchased by Continental Baking in 1925 Wonder Bread went national. Perhaps you remember their slogan, “Wonder Builds Strong Bodies 12 Ways.”

   In our Gospel for today (John 6:22-35) Jesus teases His audience with comments about an entirely different type of wonder bread: “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (v. 33) The people in our text have followed Jesus after He fed thousands of them miraculously with five barley loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:1-14). That was a wonder! That was great! They thought Jesus was super special! “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (6:14) Jesus leaves because He knows they want to force Him to be a bread king. (6:15) He was not sent to be a bread king. He was sent to be the Bread of Life from heaven.

   Having located Jesus in the synagogue of Capernaum, He challenges them, “You are seeking me…because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (v. 27) They wanted more of His “feeding of the five thousand” wonder bread (like the Wonder Bread that builds strong bodies 12 ways). Jesus wants to give to them Himself, the Bread that endures to eternal life.

   It is not that Jesus discounts the importance of the first kind of bread—our daily nutrition is important. But, Jesus does want us to put our priorities straight. “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mt. 6:25, 32-33) Jesus doesn’t want the temporal to interfere with the eternal or the physical to interfere with the spiritual.

   It is for this reason that Jesus teaches us to pray to our Father in heaven firstly, that His name be kept holy among us; secondly, that His kingdom come; thirdly, that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven; and then fourthly, that He would give us our daily bread. That is what God wanted the children of Israel to learn as He brought them out of bondage in Egypt. Our Old Testament Reading (Ex. 16:2-15) is the quintessential story of daily bread (manna from heaven) and the story starts with the people of Israel grumbling, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

   As Psalm 78 retells the story, “[God’s] anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power.” (21-22) They didn’t fear Him above all things. They didn’t love Him above all things. They didn’t trust Him above all things. They had witnessed God’s power in the ten plagues, the Passover and the Exodus (including the parting of the Red Sea) and yet the first hunger pangs caused anxiety and despair. [Ps. 78:23-25]

   That is not only a commentary on the Old Testament Hebrews; it is a commentary on all human beings. It is a commentary on us. We, like our OT counterparts, are never satisfied. We are challenged to remain faithful, fearing and loving and trusting in God above all things. We allow the temporal to overrule the eternal and the physical to overwhelm the spiritual.

   Who has been able to perfectly resist that temptation? Answer: Jesus. [Mt. 4:1-4; Dt 8:3] You know that when His physical life was threatened and His crucifixion and damnation drew near Jesus was tempted, just as we would be, to flee from the danger. But He did not. He stayed and prayed to His Father, “Not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Lk. 22:42) Because Jesus remained focused on the eternal He completed the work for our salvation and became “the bread of God who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

   Every slice of daily bread that we eat should bring to mind the faithfulness of God in providing for our temporal and physical needs. But each slice of daily bread should also help us to remember and pray to God, “You gave Your Son Jesus as the heavenly bread of life. Grant us faith to feast on Him in Your Word and Sacraments that we may be nourished unto life everlasting.” (Collect for the day)

 

THE WAY OF ESCAPE

1 Corinthians 10:13

 

   Our text is frequently misused to tell us that God will never give us more burdens than we can handle.  With God’s help it is certainly amazing what we are sometimes able to handle, given all of the difficulties life in a fallen world throws our ways.  If we are talking sheer physical endurance, however, there will be that one final burden, that one final assault, that one final breath signaling our mortality. 

   I don’t want to spend too much time on what this text is not about, but you remember in last month’s news the story of Anne Swaney, a local ABC news executive producer who was found murdered in Belize?  When ABC7 asked her father about his strength through this most recent family tragedy (Anne’s older brother died of a heart attack at age 39 two years ago) he answered honestly, “I don’t have it.  I’m not strong.  I’m a mess.”  The poor man died of a broken heart last Tuesday.  He had met his final burden in extraordinarily tragic circumstances.

   What Paul is talking about in our text, however, is something that is “common to man.”  Paul is talking about temptation to sin, and, as one commentator puts it, “It is the kind of temptation that humanity is commonly called on to endure.” (Gregory Lockwood, Concordia Commentary – First Corinthians, ©2000, page 331)  Paul provides examples from Old Testament events, letting us know the Israelites had received the same grace from God that we have received, “but if [we] succumb to the same sins, [we] will be punished just as Israel was punished.” (Ibid)

   Example # 1 – Simple idolatry (“desire evil”) when some people spurned the manna God had miraculously provided and coveted the meat and vegetables of Egypt (leading to the “Graves of Craving” in Numbers 11); and gross idolatry with the golden calf before which “the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” (Exodus 32)

   Example # 2 – Sexual immorality as Moabite women invited Israelite men to participate in their fertility rites in honor of the false god Baal of Peor.  God struck more than 23,000 of those sinners down in a single day (Numbers 25). 

   Example # 3 – Some of the people put God to the test with their unceasing complaining and grumbling, occasionally leading to acts of divine judgment: the poisonous serpents (Numbers 21), the faithlessness of the ten spies (Numbers 14), and the rebellion of Korah and company (Number 16)

   God was always faithful (as Paul announces to us in our text), but some of the people were unfaithful.  They probably said, as people say today, “I couldn’t help myself;” “the devil made me do it;” “if God wanted me to resist the temptations He should have made me stronger.” The temptations then and the temptations now are not irresistible as the Apostle testifies that God “will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 

   Sally Hogshead is a brand consultant who helps companies increase appeal for their products or services.  In 2010 she wrote a book called Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation.  In the book she asserts there are seven universal triggers, the first of which is “lust.”  She writes, “Lust conquers the rational evaluation process, freeing us to stop thinking, and start feeling.” (page 73)  This is, in my opinion, a very true statement.  It is also among the top reasons this world of ours is sinking deeper and deeper into the cesspool of selfish sinfulness.  [NID mission director] 

   The original fascinating triggers are the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth).  Today, far from trying to escape the temptations they bring, we just use more and more tools to enhance their availability and their acceptance.  We had better start looking for the way of escape before we end up “overthrown in the wilderness.” (1 Cor 10:5)  Paul wrote in our Epistle, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (v. 12)  Jesus warned in our Gospel (Luke 13:1-9), “Do you think [those who died tragically] were worse offenders than all others…?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  God taught through the prophet Ezekiel in our Old Testament reading (33:7-20), “Your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just.’”  The way of the Lord is the way of escape! 

   The way of escape is to stand firm on the overwhelming faithfulness of God, to stand firm on the redeeming power of Christ’s death and resurrection, to stand firm on the endless work of the Holy Spirit who empowers us through the Gospel.  God does not lead us into temptation; He is in the delivering from evil business.  Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are led to the way of escape.  That way may not be sexy but it is quite effective. 

   What, however, about the times that we fail and the fascinating seven deadly sins take momentary control of our lives?  There is still the way of escape.  As John wrote in his First Epistle, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (2:1)  “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)  With that sinless life He rescues us—He is the way of escape.

© 2018 St Johns Evangelical Elgin
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