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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz


Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel lesson for this Ninth Sunday After Pentecost, Matthew 14:13-21. There we read these words:

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves." But Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." 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. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

Dear Christian friends, a very strange thing sometimes happens among good, faithful, every-Sunday Christians such as you. It has to do with that old saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

That is the problem: "the tough" often go away when things get tough for them. They go away from Sunday morning worship; they go away from their fellow Christians (who are also fellow sufferers); they go away from the life-giving body and blood of their Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Communion; they go away from the soul-sustaining Word of forgiveness that gets preached to them from the pulpit.

For sure, there is no denying that the going gets tough: Your husband leaves you for reasons you cannot bear to hear. Your wife up and dies, despite your most earnest and heart-felt prayers to the heavenly Father, who not only claims to be gracious and merciful, but has also promised to hear and answer your prayers.

Your rebellious child heads opposite the direction you have spent your best years teaching him. All his life you have been clinging to that Word from God, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is hold he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Corporate America does its dirty work—or you yourself got too greedy—and as a result, your house or job or retirement dreams go up in smoke. Someone in the congregation has hurt or irritated you. Maybe he meant it; maybe she didn’t. You are so angry or insulted that you would prefer not to commune at all, rather than to kneel at the altar with that person.

So you go away. In particular, you go away from the worship life of the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Maybe you are embarrassed. Maybe you do not want to keep explaining things to well-meaning people who tilt their heads sideways and furrow their brows and ask, "So how’s it going?" Maybe you blame God, the One who could have prevented thus-and-such from happening.

Listen again to what Jesus says in today’s Gospel: "They need not go away." They need not go away." Who are "they"?

They are your fellow sufferers. They are your fellow sinners and your fellow sinned-against. They are in the same sort of bad straits that you also get into, and possibly they are even worse off than you. They are the people who gathered around Jesus in the same way you lik

Today’s Gospel is from Matthew. Matthew reports that the crowd was peppered with people who suffered the misery of disease. "When Jesus went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick."

When Mark reported the same miracle of feeding 5,000, he added the point that the people were "like sheep without a shepherd" (Mark 6:34): exposed, directionless, easily made prey. At the very least, could they not be held responsible to fill their own mouths? As the disciples said, "Send the crowds away, Lord, to go into the villages and buy food for themselves."

But please notice, please notice! At every turn, Jesus acted to keep the people from going away! "When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick." Again from St. Mark: "When… He saw a great crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34).

By "teaching them many things," Jesus was pouring Words into their ears and their hearts and their minds: Words that heal, Words that forgive, Words that console, Words that turn, Words that restore, Words that sustain, Words that create, Words that deliver life unto the dead.

Even now, in the lateness of the hour, Jesus did not want His dear people to go away. The disciples said, "Send the crowds away." Jesus replied, "THEY NEED NOT GO AWAY."

Jesus wants you to resist and overcome your temptation to "get going" when "the going gets tough." Jesus wants you to stick with the crowd, that is, "the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints." That crowd in today’s Gospel was gathered around Jesus, just as you gather likewise around Jesus.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

That crowd in today’s Gospel did not need to go away any more than you need to go away during your hardship or suffering. Everything the people needed was right there in the midst of them: the God who was with them, the God who was clothed in human flesh, the God who was the very embodiment of compassion, the God who was the finite image of infinite mercy, the God who had suffered before them, for them and along with them in every way.

Look at what Jesus did for the crowd that did not go away! 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. Is this not a distant image of the very same thing Jesus likewise does for you, when you likewise gather with the crowd?

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: "Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me."

In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: "Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."

Yes, something terrible has happened to you. Your husband or your wife is gone and you are still gasping for breath. Jesus says to you, "Take, eat." Your nest egg and your cozy future have turned to dust. "Take, drink." Your child keeps you awake at night. "This is My body, This cup is the new testament in My blood."

"My body given FOR YOU… My blood shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins": the sin of fear, the sin of anger, the sin of resentment, the sin of disappointment, the sin of doubt, the sin of misdirected expectation, the sin of jealousy, the sin of disgust, the sin of embarrassment, the sin of revenge."

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Some old sayings are not worth very much. If those Words are true, then DO NOT BE TOUGH.

Be a Christian, instead. Believe the Words of Jesus. Jesus says, "They need not go away," and He is talking also about you.

And, did you hear what happened next? Did you hear? "They all ate and were satisfied."

Christ is Risen.

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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