Monday, August 4, 2014

Sermon for 03 August 2014, Seventh Sunday after Trinity

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Mark 8:1-9
Care and Feeding
Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 03 August 2014
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When you heard the Gospel for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, the first nine verses of Mark 8, I don’t blame you if you thought, “I’ve heard this before.” You’ve likely heard of the miracle of the feeding of the 4000 before from here in Mark or from Matthew 15. Others of you may have been thinking, “I’ve heard this before” because you’re familiar with the feeding of the 5000+ from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
The feeding of the 4000 is not just a sequel or a re-run. The details in Mark 7 and 8 make this example of Jesus’ care and feeding unique and important for us.
1In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, [Jesus] called his disciples to him and said to them, 2“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”
Note Jesus’ compassion first. He cares about their spiritual well-being and physical well-being. He cares about them body and soul. But who were they? That question is answered once we know where these events took place.
Again a great crowd had gathered. Where had they gathered? There is good reason to believe that Jesus’ ministry here in Mark 8 is going on outside of Israel among a mixed crowd of Jews and Gentiles, and likely some Greek-speaking Jews. Jesus cared for the Syrophoenician woman and her daughter (both non-Jews) in the region of Tyre and Sidon. He healed a deaf man after He went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis, a Greek word simply meaning Ten Cities. We’re outside of Israel among Gentiles.
Why does this matter? We’re Gentiles. Jesus’ Commission to “go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” includes Gentiles like us. The evidence of Mark 7 and 16 is supplemented by more evidence in the text.
4And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”
How indeed? One wonders if the disciples should have had more faith in Jesus after the feeding of the 5000+. Yet, his deep, heartfelt compassion covers even their sin of doubt.
5And he asked them,  “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.”
Seven is an important number in the Scriptures. Here, Mark is giving us the facts. We need not allegorize. We do know that the Lord created in seven days, including His rest on the seventh day, and that this miracle is one done by the same creator and sustainer of heaven and earth. They had seven loaves and a few small fish. There were twelve baskets leftover when the 5000+ had eaten their fill. What would happen this time?
6And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8And they ate and were satisfied.
Psalm 23 echoes through Mark 8 at this point. Green pastures and still waters? No, for this was a desolate place. Yet, the Good Shepherd prepares a table in the presence of enemies and their baskets of leftovers overflow.
And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
Don’t just pass by this verse and the word basket. It’s not the same word as was used in the feeding of the 5000+ when there were twelve baskets (6:43) left over. This word for basket here is the word for Roman baskets, as opposed to the twelve Jewish baskets the twelve disciples used before. Seven creels is an enormous amount left, far more than seven loaves. Voelz: “The crowd receives so much bread that there are enough broken pieces to fill seven fifty-loaf baskets, i.e., the volume of three hundred and fifty loaves. There is no greater indication of the Creator’s/Redeemer’s generosity—also to the Gentiles!” One is overwhelmed at the amount and reminded of the enormous quantity of wine at the wedding in Cana.
9And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.
Four thousand people ate and were satisfied and we still have an enormous amount of daily bread left over.
The Lord is just such a generous giver even today. Our complaints are small compared to those starving, those undergoing persecution for the faith, and those who will never own in their entire lifetime more than what you have on your person right now.
Jesus cares for you. He feeds you with the food of His Word and Daily Bread in addition to His Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.
Jesus cares for both Jew and Gentile. He cares for you.
In His death and resurrection, He accomplishes care and feeding that we could not accomplish for ourselves or for others. Yet, His model of deep, heartfelt compassion pours out from us when we exercise our faith by serving our neighbor in need. People have human care needs even in our community. Some are in need of food, drink, clothing, and shelter. I commend LCMS President Harrison for his example of and encouragement for us to engage in such mercy ministry.
What happened next? And immediately Jesus got into the boat with His disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. We think this may be a small anchorage near Magdala on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, back in Jewish territory. Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles like us has ended for a time at this point in the Gospel according to Mark, but His love and concern for you, for your care and feeding, is everlasting. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.