The Object of our Faith

Text: Mark 9:14-29

Dear saints in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

How strong is your faith? Do you think of yourself as a person with strong faith or do you struggle with faith? Your answer to that question might change on a daily or hourly basis. How strong, would you say, is your faith today, right now?

On a pretty regular basis I hear people say things to me like, “Don’t worry about me, Pastor, my faith is strong…” or, on the other hand, “You know, Pastor, my faith doesn’t feel so strong right now…” Everyone goes through times in life where they might fall into either one of those extremes. Most of the time, I imagine, we are somewhere in between the two. Whichever part of that you fall into, however, wherever you would put yourself on the spectrum of faith and strength, our gospel reading today has something to say to you: the strength of your faith does not matter.

In our gospel reading today a man brings his son to Jesus hoping that Jesus might heal him. The boy has a demon, an unclean spirit, which makes him unable to speak. This spirit also seizes him, throws him to the ground, causes him to foam and the mouth and become rigid, and even throws the boy into fire and water seeking to destroy him. All this, the father explains, has been going on since the boy was just a little child. I can only imagine the distress, anxiety, turmoil, and stress that this father and the rest of the family have been through because of this boy’s condition. On this day, however, there is reason for hope. Jesus is near.

When they left their home that morning to come find Jesus the man’s faith was probably as strong as it could possibly be. He was confident that a single word from Jesus would be enough to rid his son of this evil spirit forever. Their ordeal would soon be over. Salvation had come. Brimming with this confidence and filled with this hope they make their way to find Jesus.

When they get to where Jesus was supposed to be, however, they run into a problem. Jesus isn’t there. Jesus had gone up the mountain with three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John, and had been transfigured before them. Up there on the mountain Jesus revealed His glory to His three closes disciples, Peter, James, and John. When the man and his son arrived, then, Jesus was not there.

The man is undeterred, however. He is still confident, filled with hope, and strong in faith. Jesus may not be there personally, but 9 of His disciples were there and that was enough for him. Peter, James, and John were up on the mountain with Jesus, but the others weren’t. All 12 of Jesus’ disciples had been commissioned and sent out by Jesus to preach and cast out demons. They had all dealt with things like this before and had actually been rather successful in doing it. The man was confident that they would be able to heal and save His boy.

But then another problem popped up. One by one the 9 disciples who had not gone up the mountain tried to cast the demon out of the boy. One by one they all failed. Try as they might the boy remained mute and was still afflicted with an evil spirit. Up to this point the man had been confident that his boy would be saved, but now the doubts started to creep in. “They are not strong enough,” the man thinks to himself, “the evil spirit is too powerful. Perhaps even Jesus can’t save my boy.”

Crowds had gathered around by now and the news of the disciples’ failure spread through the crowd like wildfire. The scribes from Jerusalem, who would do anything to discredit Jesus and His teaching, were there too and they were thrilled to see that the disciples were unable to help the boy. The man, hearing the crowds murmur about what had just happened and hearing the scribes crow about Jesus wasn’t everything that the people thought He was, feels his faith and hope slip away second by second, moment by moment. He feels like a fool for trusting Jesus.

That’s when Jesus showed up. Jesus walks right into the middle of the crowd and takes command of the situation. “What are you arguing about?” He asks. Then, from the midst of the crowd, the man who brought his boy to be healed speaks up, he explains the situation and tells Jesus that the disciples were too weak to cast the demon out of his boy. If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us,” he says.

Notice here how far the man’s faith seems to have fallen. He’s not so sure anymore that Jesus can help. He’s not brimming with the confidence he had when the set out from home earlier that day. He’s not holding out hope that anything can be done for his boy. “If,” he says, “you can do anything have compassion on us and help us.” 

Jesus responds, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”

Those are beautiful words, “All things are possible for one who believes.” What reassurance those words gives us, what hope! But for this man who brought his boy to Jesus so that he might be healed and is now filled with the doubt brought on by the disciples’ failure these words lay everything on the line and he has to ask himself, “Do I even believe?” He once believed, but now it doesn’t seem so clear. He cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Now, that doesn’t sound like strong faith, does it? If anything that is the definition of weak faith. It hardly seems like faith at all, actually. He says that he believes, but in the very next breath confesses that he does not believe.

But look at what Jesus does. Jesus does not proceed to lecture the man about his faith that seems weak or even non-existent. He does not explain to everyone there that they really ought to trust him more. He doesn’t chide or scold the man for struggling in faith. Jesus, having heard the man’s seemingly weak and conflicted confession of faith, steps in to heal and save. He turns His attention to that poor boy who has been afflicted so terribly for so many years and says to that unclean spirit that has been afflicting him, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” With that the spirit came out. Jesus took the boy by the hand, picked up him from the ground, and returned him to his weak in faith, doubting, questioning, and uncertain father. Remarkable.

That is the whole point of this story and that is what you and I are meant to take out of this today. The strength of our faith does not matter. Having strong faith does not save you. Having weak faith, faith that struggles to believe, does not condemn you. Faith in Jesus, whether it is strong or weak, is what matters. Faith in Jesus, whether it is strong or weak, is what saves. In other words, it is the object of our faith, the thing our faith believes in, trusts in, and clings to, that matters, not our faith itself or the strength of that faith.

Having “strong faith” means nothing. I can have strong faith that my football team, the Edmonton Eskimos, is going to win the Grey Cup this year. I can have strong faith and believe that with all my heart. But unless the team that I am believing in figures out how to play better, stops losing games they should win, and beats all the other teams that would also like to win the Grey Cup this year my faith is meaningless. Believing in something doesn’t make it so.

That is the difference between our faith and the object of our faith. Faith itself, simply believing in something, does not accomplish anything. The object of our faith, the thing that we believe in, is what makes the difference.

Even though he was conflicted and filled with doubts this man who brought his son to Jesus still, by the grace of God, trusted in Him. That trust, that faith, was shaky at best and had been reduced to a fraction of its former self, but it was trust and faith that believed and trusted in the right thing, the right one, Jesus, the Son of God in human flesh, who had the power to heal and save.

Our faith can be just as shaky, just as weak as that man’s faith was. Events transpire in our lives sometimes leaving the same doubts and concerns in our hearts and minds too. But the object of our faith, the thing that our faith clings to, is not its own strength, but Jesus Christ the crucified and risen Son of God who has the power to heal and save. Our faith clings, even in the midst of doubt, to Jesus who died for us. Our faith clings, even when conflicted, to Jesus who rose from the dead for us. Our faith clings, even when guilt plagues our conscience to the point that we think that God could not possibly love us anymore, to Jesus who takes away our sin. Our faith clings, even when everything around us seems to suggest that we should give up hope, to Jesus who has promised us life in His Kingdom. He is the object of our faith.

So how strong is your faith?

If your faith feels strong rejoice, be glad, and give thanks to God because He has given you faith to trust in His Son. What a blessing! But also know that the strength of your faith won’t save you, only Jesus will save you.

In the same way, if your faith feels weak rejoice, be glad, and give thanks to God because He has given you faith to trust in His Son. This faith, weak though it may be, saves as it clings to Jesus, the Son of God who died and rose for us. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Fingers in Ears?

Text: Mark 7:31-37

Dear Saints, grace and peace to each of you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

When is the last time someone stuck their finger into your ear? You sticking your own finger in there doesn’t count and neither does a doctor looking into your ear with an instrument. When is the last time that someone other than yourself stuck their finger into your ear?

I thought about it this week and can recall two examples from my life of people sticking their fingers into my ears. First of all, all three of my kids have each done that do me at some point. Most often it happens when I am carrying them on my side. Inevitably each of them has at one point or another, unbeknownst to me, been overcome by curiosity and reached out one of those little, tiny fingers and wiggled it right into my ear hole. Each time it’s happened it’s been so shocking, so surprising that it takes a concerted effort to make sure I don’t drop the kid.

The other example I recall is similar. One summer when I was a kid and on holidays with my family, my siblings and I decided it would be fun to sneak up on one another and give each other a “wet willy” as often as possible. A “wet willy” is a prank in which one person surprises another by licking their finger, sneaking up behind them, and sticking their saliva dampened finger into the unsuspecting ear hole of their victim. Again, it is a shocking experience, to say the least, having some else’s (wet!) finger in your ear.

When has anyone ever stuck their finger into your ear? Maybe never. But I bet if it has ever happened to you it was somewhat shocking. Today in our gospel reading Jesus does just that, however. When the crowds bring a deaf man to Him, Jesus takes the man aside and He sticks His fingers into the deaf man’s ears.

That’s not all either. Jesus doesn’t stop with ears. Jesus also touches that same deaf man’s tongue. When was the last time someone other than you or the doctor touched your tongue? My daughter Olivia and I play a bit of a game in which I stick my tongue out at her and she tries to grab it, but I always make sure to pull it back into my mouth out of her reach before she can get there. Something about having someone else touch my tongue seems like a little too much. And yet Jesus does exactly that to the deaf man, He touches his tongue.

All in all, what Jesus does in our gospel reading today, sticking fingers into ears and touching tongues, is more than a little strange. This is just not normal human behavior. It would make anyone a little uncomfortable.

Not only is this behavior usual and kind of uncomfortable, but it also seems somewhat unnecessary. There are all sorts of examples of Jesus healing people in the Bible in which He does not touch them at all. In the story right before our gospel reading today Jesus cast a demon out of a woman’s daughter without even going to see her. A woman comes to see Jesus asking Him to save her daughter. After a short back and forth conversation with the woman Jesus simply tells her to go home because the demon had left her daughter. She went home and found her daughter lying in bed and completely well. In another well-known example of Jesus healing someone, four men lower their paralyzed friend down through the roof of the home where Jesus is staying. Jesus tells the paralyzed man to take up his mat and go home and he does. Just like that, at Jesus’ Word, he is healed.

Clearly, Jesus doesn’t need to touch people to heal them. He doesn’t need to stick fingers into ears or touch tongues. He doesn’t even need to be in the same house as them. His Word, the same Word that called into existence everything that exists, has more than enough power and authority to heal even the worst disease or condition. Jesus can, without a doubt, open ears and loosen tongues without all this weird, uncomfortable touching. So why does Jesus do this in our gospel reading today? Why does He put His fingers in the deaf man’s ears and touch his tongue?

The answer is quite simple, really. Jesus does this, He sticks His fingers into the man’s ears and touches His tongue, because the man is deaf.

Yes, Jesus could just say the word, He could just say ephphatha or “Be opened” and the deaf man’s ears would be opened and his tongue would be loosened. He would from the moment the words were spoken be able to hear and speak clearly. Jesus’ words can do that. But Jesus wants to make sure that this deaf man knows the full extent of God’s good news for him. Jesus wants to make sure that even before his ears are opened that this deaf man knows that God’s Son brings salvation for him. Jesus wants this man to know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the promises of God’s Kingdom which Jesus is bringing into the world are for him. Jesus wants to make sure that none of this is lost in translation, so He communicates in a way (physical touch) that the deaf man can comprehend and makes sure that the message won’t be missed: Jesus comes to heal and save him.

Though we are not physically deaf and unable to hear like the man in our gospel reading today, Jesus does the exact same thing for you and me. Jesus is bound and determined to make sure that you and I know that the promises of salvation that He makes to all people are for us. For this reason Jesus comes to us today with His body and blood, the physical reality of His presence among us, to reassure us of His promises to us. “This is my body given FOR YOU,” Jesus says. “This is my blood shed FOR YOU,” Jesus says. He wants you to know, beyond any doubt, that His death on the cross, His sacrifice, His suffering, His bleeding, His dying, His new life, His rising from the dead, is for you.

Some time ago a stumbled across an article written by a young woman who is a Lutheran lay-person about what Holy Communion is and means to her. Her words are better and clearer than mine would be if I tried to rewrite them, so I want to read some of them for you now. The article is called “I Am Starving and This Is The Feast” and you can find it here. She says,

I’m sixteen, and this morning I was made fun of again for leaving a sleepover early to go to church. I’ve been internalizing my “friends’” words and feeling my self-worth going down each moment I sit in the pew. Then I walk to the communion rail, kneel, and hear the words “This is my body. . . This is my blood.” I’m reminded why I’m here. Why I continue to come here even as my peers mock my faith: because this is where Christ is found and the only place I desire to be.

Later on she says,

I’m eighteen, and I sit in the pew feeling disgusting and out of place because of what was done to me the night before. I can’t hear the words of the sermon over the voices in my head saying I don’t belong here with all these pristine and Godly people. But then I’m forced out of my thoughts when I have to physically walk to the altar. I kneel. I hear the words. As I chew the body, before the blood even touches my lips, I can feel the tears forming. “Shed for you . . .” rings in my head. I’m still numb, but right now, God is the only one who knows what happened to me. Gradually, with each Lord’s Supper, I’m reminded I can one day forgive the one who made me feel this way. It wasn’t my fault. Christ loves me. I am clean. I am made new.

Again a little later she says,

I’m twenty, and I screwed up again. I can’t get anything right. I recite the confession feeling more “poor and miserable” than I ever have. Pastor says the absolution, and I want so desperately to believe it as I have before. But today it feels like simply words spoken to a group of people I stumbled into. Until I eat and drink and hear those words “for the forgiveness of sins.” This is real. This is for me. He died for me.

What this young woman’s words demonstrate for us is that even though we are not physically deaf, even though our ears (and tongues for that matter) work just fine by any worldly or earthly standard, the voices in our head are so loud sometimes that they make us deaf to God’s Word. Especially God’s Word of forgiveness. We come to church to hear God’s Word of forgiveness spoken to us, but the voices that clamour in our ears and in our minds, our feelings about our own self-worth, our shame, and our guilt, often over power even God’s Word and deafen our ears so that we do not hear His words of forgiveness or believe that they are for us. Satan, the accuser, fills our ears, hearts, and minds with His accusations so that even though we hear God’s Word and the gospel of forgiveness in Christ with our ears we don’t hear it for ourselves.

But then Jesus invites us to His altar and does something so weird, so strange, so uncomfortable that our deafened ears cannot ignore it. He does something so shocking that it grabs our attention completely. Here, at the rail, He comes to us in the midst of our deafness, in the midst of all the clamouring voices in our heads that would distract us from His Word, puts His fingers in our ears, touches our tongues, places His body and blood into our hands and mouths, and assures us that the forgiveness of sins that He won on the cross is for us. “I died for YOU,” Jesus says. “I shed my blood for YOU,” Jesus says. “I forgive YOU,” Jesus say. “I give YOU life,” Jesus says. “I love YOU,” Jesus says. “Go in peace,” Jesus says.

It is a strange thing sticking your fingers into someone’s ears. It’s a strange thing to touch someone’s tongue. It is also a strange thing to give your body and blood for people like us to eat and drink. But Jesus does these strange things so that we, the deaf man then and all of us today, might know that His promises, His forgiveness, His new life, and His salvation are for us. He comes all the way down to us in our weakness so that we might know that His strength is for us. Thanks be to God that our Jesus does such strange and unexpected things so that we might know that we have a Saviour and that His salvation is for us! In Jesus name, Amen.

A God Pleasing Life

Text: Mark 7:1-13

Dear saints in Christ, grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

You don’t have to read the Bible very much or very long to start to really not like the Pharisees. The way the gospels, the stories of Jesus’ life, present them they are not very likable people. They continually come to Jesus to question Him, trap Him, and, like they do in our gospel reading today, nit-pick His behavior or the behavior of His disciples. Not only that, but they will be among the ring of leaders who scheme, orchestrate, and all but guarantee His death on the cross. The Pharisees are not “good guys” in the narrative of the life of Jesus.

That being said, it is not enough to simply recognize that the Pharisees are bad news, condemn them, and point fingers. The Bible doesn’t mention these Pharisees as often as it does so that we can denounce them and elevate ourselves as vastly superior people. That would, in fact, be Pharisaical behavior. We would be just like them, then. No, when we read these stories about the Pharisees we must make the effort to get into their shoes, understand their thinking, and then realize that we are tempted by the same temptations with which they are tempted and struggle with the same sins with which they struggle.

It would be easy when reading our gospel reading today to simply condemn the Pharisees for their silly traditions regarding washing. The way Mark describes it here makes it sound kind of ridiculous, the Pharisees,” he says, “and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.” It sounds ridiculous (especially the part about washing dining couches), but before we condemn them we need to ask ourselves and think about why they are doing this.

This obsession the Pharisees had with washing wasn’t about good hygiene or anything like that, they weren’t trying to stop the spread of infections. It was about purity, spiritual purity or ritual cleanliness. They believed that God demanded this kind of purity from His people and they were bound and determined to do what God commanded. In fact, in everything that they did the Pharisees were seeking to lead a life that would be pleasing to God. They wanted every aspect of their life to meet and exceed God’s lofty standards. They wanted to be the faithful people that they believed God demanded them to be. So, you see, they were not what we would call “bad people.” They weren’t evil or violent or cruel. They were not intentionally doing the wrong things or leading people astray. They simply wanted to lead God pleasing lives. The problem, however, is that they went about it in entirely the wrong way and failed to recognize that the God they were trying to please was the man standing right in front of them.

The Pharisees got their ideas about how to please God and, in particular, the necessity of ritual hand washing from something called the “tradition of the elders.” They believed that when Moses was up on Mount Sinai with the elders of the people of Israel that he received two things from God. The first thing that they said that Moses received was the written Word of God, the 10 Commandments and other laws and commandments from God that are recorded in the Scriptures. About this they were absolutely correct. They also believed, however, that Moses and the elders received from God an oral tradition that was not written down. This oral tradition, they thought, had been passed down from generation to generation and contained extra information that was necessary to lead a truly God pleasing life. This oral tradition, the tradition of the elders, required this ritual washing. The written Word of God, the Scriptures, only required priests to wash before making sacrifices in the temple, but the tradition of the elders extended this requirement to everyone. For this reason, because they desired to lead a God pleasing life and believed the tradition of the elders to be the equivalent of God’s Word, the Pharisees were appalled when they saw that Jesus and His disciples did not wash their hands before they ate.

So what is the problem here? Well, first and foremost, the problem here is that the tradition of the elders that the Pharisees were so concerned about and clung to so dearly was just that, a tradition. It was not, contrary to what they believed, the Word of God. It was just the word of men.

“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites,” Jesus said, “As it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

Jesus’ words here are devastating. Put yourself in the Pharisees’ shoes for a minute. You’re just trying to lead a God pleasing life, just trying to do what you believe God commands, keeping to the traditions of your people and Jesus calls you a hypocrite, says your heart is far from God, and says that you worship God in vain. Ouch. It must have stung, but it needed to be said. They were teaching as doctrines, as teachings from God, the commandments of men.

If the washing thing had been the only issue here I think Jesus might have gone a little easier on them (maybe…), but the issue ran much deeper. The traditions of men that the Pharisees were teaching allowed a man to take what would have been used to support his parents in their old age and give it as a gift to God. The traditions suggested that giving gifts to God was more important than supporting your parents and loving your neighbour. This was an abomination. God has commanded in His Holy Word (not the tradition of the elders) that we honor our father and mother. God’s Word requires that we love our neighbour as ourselves. God’s Word teaches us that God desires that we have mercy on one other rather than making sacrifices to Him. Here the Pharisees and their traditions have it all wrong. They are teaching as doctrines that commandments of men, leaving the commandments of God, and their hearts are far from Him.

So what does all of this have to do with us? We aren’t, after all, following “tradition of the elders” like the Pharisees were and we haven’t gotten into ritual hand washing or anything like that either. But here’s the thing, remember that the temptations with which the Pharisees were tempted and the sins with which they struggled are the same temptations and sins that we find in our own lives. Like the Pharisees we have a habit of clinging to the ideas or teachings of men and treating them like the Word of God while leaving God’s Word, His commandments and ways, behind. Like the Pharisees we want to lead God pleasing lives, but we tend to go about it in all the wrong ways.

In our gospel reading a few weeks ago the crowds asked Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” In other words, they asked Him what a God pleasing life looks like. Jesus’ answer to their question was rather stunning when you think about it, “This is the work of God,” He said, “that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

It seems too simple, doesn’t it? Could a God pleasing life really be as simple as believing and trusting in the one God sent to be our Saviour? Could that really be all? The minds of men, our minds, are convinced there must be more so we invent stuff. Surely we have to wash ourselves, we think, and get rid of all the wrong that we do. We need to clean up our hearts and show God we are serious, we think. Surely we must give great gifts to God to show Him that our love for Him is genuine and real, we think. Surely there is something we must do! But that is not what Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

To be sure, this faith, faith that believes in the one God sent, is a living faith, an active faith. This faith does things. This faith causes us to begin to live according to God’s commands. This faith rejoices in God’s Word and holds onto it. This faith causes us to begin to love our neighbour as ourselves. But the heart of all of it, the thing that truly pleases God, is simply faith. And this faith is not even something that we can do, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisees, as they were concerned about washing and all kinds of others things, were trying, I think, to lead God pleasing lives. But as they left the commands of God and clung to the traditions of men they missed the point.

A God pleasing life is not one in which we by our works please God. That is an utter impossibility. A God pleasing life is one in which Christ, the Son of God with whom the Father is well pleased, washes us with His blood that we might be pleasing in God’s sight. Our epistle reading says this most beautifully if you just change a few pronouns (replacing “the church” and “her” with “you”). Listen to this, “Christ loved YOU and gave Himself up for YOU, that he might sanctify YOU (that is make you holy), having cleansed YOU by the washing of water with the word (baptism), so that He might present YOU to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that YOU might be holy and without blemish.”

Since God’s Word promises so beautiful a washing and provides all that we need for such a God pleasing life let us cast aside any “traditions of men” that might lead us away from this Word and cling to this Word alone. In Jesus name. Amen.

How can this be?

Text: John 6:51-69

Dear Saints in Christ, grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

“How can this be?” That’s essentially the question that the crowds who have been listening to Jesus in our gospel readings the last three weeks finally end up asking in our reading. “How can this be? How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

In one sense it is a good question, a great question really. If you and I had been there among that crowd and had stood there listening to Jesus talk extensively about how He is the Bread of Life that came down from heaven and that everyone who eats the bread that He gives will live forever and then if we heard Him conclude the point that He has been making for 30 verses now by saying that the bread that He gives for the life of the world is His flesh, we would be asking the same thing, “How can this be? How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

What Jesus is saying here defies any logic, any human understanding. Anyone who heard this surely would be wondering the same thing. In that sense “How can this be?” is a good question. At the same time, however, it is entirely the wrong question and that is proven by how Jesus answers (or doesn’t answer) the question that the crowds have put to Him.

The crowds asked “How?” but Jesus answers with “Why?” He says, “Truly, Truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you.” Jesus does not explain how this can be or how He intends to give His flesh to these people for them to eat. Jesus doesn’t delve into a discourse about His divinity (He isn’t merely a man, after all) and explain the power and authority that He has as the Son of God that enables Him to do this. He does not answer the “How?” question. He answers the “Why?” question. Why does this man give us His flesh to eat? The reason, Jesus says, is simple. Without it, without His flesh and blood to eat and drink, you have not life in you. With it, with His flesh and blood, you have eternal life and He will raise you up on the last day. That is the “why” and  that is what really matters.

We still love to ask “how” though, don’t we? We human beings have kind of an obsession “how.” There is a show on TV called “How It’s Made.” There isn’t really anything particularly special or exciting about this program, it is just a series of video recordings of everything from crayons to kayaks to cars being made on an assembly line with a rather monotone voice describing the whole process to you, but it is fascinating to watch. I’ve found myself more than once captivated by the opportunity to learn how things are made. This is a result, I suppose, of the curiosity that comes along with our human nature. That curiosity is a good thing, a blessing given to us by God, however, it can become a problem for us. Our curiosity, our obsessions with knowing “how,” can cause us to doubt and question God’s own words that He speaks to us. That is exactly what happens in our gospel today. The people asked “How can this be?” and they ended up walking away from Jesus.

The “How?” question that the crowds asked when they heard Jesus talk about His flesh being the bread that He gives for the life of the world betrays what they think about who He is. “How can this MAN give us his flesh to eat?” they wonder. For them Jesus is just a man. They made that clear earlier in the conversation too when (in our reading for last week) they grumbled about Jesus because He said that He came down from heaven. They knew (or thought they knew) His mother and father and were certain He had not come from heaven. “Is not this Jesus the son of Joseph?” they said.

For them Jesus was not the Son of God in human flesh, to them He was just another man. For them the words that they heard Jesus speaking were not the Words of the Son of God, to them they were just the words of another teacher. As such, they did not believe He had come down from heaven, they did not believe that He could give His flesh as the bread of life, and they walked away from Him leaving the promises that He was offering to them sitting on the table.

You and I know that Jesus is God’s Son. The Holy Spirit has created this faith in our hearts. We know that His Words are true. Again, the Holy Spirit has caused us to know this. And we know, because the Holy Spirit testifies to it in the Scriptures, that our Lord Jesus does give His flesh and blood as true food and true drink under bread and wine to give life to the world. We know and believe these things.

At the same time, however, the temptation always remains to doubt. Our minds, seeking to be wise by worldly standards, begin to question if the words we read in Scripture could really be God’s Word. Ideas from out there in the world creep into our minds suggesting that perhaps these are just the word of men, the disciples of Jesus for example, who did their best to get everything down right, but made some mistakes along the way or that the words of the Bible were true for people in one time, but might mean something different for us today or that some parts of the Bible (the New Testament for example) are true, but other parts (like the Old Testament) are just made up stories. The source of these ideas and this kind of thinking is none other than Satan himself. He always wants us to be wondering as we read and hear God’s Word, “Did God really say that?”

What our readings today teach us is, first of all, the danger of this temptation to doubt God’s Word as we will see the crowds walk away from Jesus not believing in Him, but also the source of real, true wisdom. Our Old Testament reading today ends with these words, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

Under the guise of wisdom and understanding Satan tempts us to believe that we somehow know better than God, that we understand this world, our lives, and everything about them better than He does. He tempts us to put God and His Word to the test of our human reason and understanding by questioning the truthfulness of His Word in the name of wisdom. This is, of course, is a lie and it is foolishness.

Wisdom, real wisdom, wisdom from God, begins with fearing Him. This fear is not so much a terrified fear (although as sinners who deserve God’s wrath and judgement there is an element of that kind of fear too), but it is more a reverent, awe-filled kind of fear that comes from knowing a God who loves and forgives so deeply. Wisdom begins with this kind of fearing God, respecting Him as the source of everything that exists, the giver of life, the just law maker, and (above all) the forgiver of sins. Wisdom begins with understanding and accepting that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. It begins with accepting God’s Word as God’s Word and believing it because it is God’s Word. From there wisdom flows. When we come to His Word, His banquet table, as simple, unlearned people lacking in sense He fills us with His Wisdom to know the depth of His love for us that would send a Saviour to us to give His flesh for us on the cross and rise from the dead that we, who have no life in us, might live in Him.

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood,” Jesus says, “has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

In these words it is as if Jesus, the real wisdom of God, is setting a table before you and inviting you to come, sit, and eat. He offers to fill you with His goodness, His love, His forgiveness. He offers you His life. He offers to you freely everything that He has won for you by His death on the cross and His rising from the dead. To respond to this invitation by asking, “How can this be?” rather than by coming, eating, and rejoicing in these gifts would be the height of foolishness. And yet, that is too often exactly what we do.

After Jesus said these things many, John tells us, of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. Why? Because they just could not see how this could possibly be. In their own “wisdom” they walk away from Jesus, the source of all wisdom, who is God Himself in human flesh. And look what they left on the table when they walk away from Him: eternal life, resurrection on the last day, His abiding presence in them and with them and their abiding in Him, forgiveness of sins, peace, joy, and, yes, even wisdom. Wisdom, human worldly wisdom, cast these things aside for the sake of understanding. Faith, however, rejoicing in God’s Word and promises, clings to these things as our sure hope.

When those who were offended by His words and refused to believe His teaching had left Jesus turned to the twelve, the “faithful” twelve who just the night before had been terrified when they saw Him walking on the water, and said, “Do you want to go away as well?”

As he often did Simon Peter spoke up on behalf of the rest and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?” Peter and the others did not understand how Jesus could give His flesh for people to eat. They struggled day by day, moment by moment to believe and trust in Him. More often than not their faith failed (as it had on the boat!). But they trusted in His Words, the words of eternal life. They had heard His Words and knew that no one in the history of this earth had ever spoken like this. They heard His Words and, by the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, they knew these were not merely human words. These were the Words of God. They might not understand it all, they certainly did not know how it all worked, but they knew that no one had ever spoken like this before. Even if they did not understand them, these were words worth believing.

So it is with us who, by God’s grace and the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, fear God and His Word, who trust in His wisdom. We often don’t understand, we struggle, we doubt, we question. But it always comes back to this, whose Word is it? Are these words, the words we read in Scripture, the words of our Lord Jesus that we recorded there, just the words of some man or are they the words of the Son of God? The answer is clear, these are the Words of God. And if these are the Words of God are they not worth believing even if we don’t understand them? Of course they are, these are the words of eternal life.

Thanks be to God that we, by the working of the Holy Spirit, have believed and come to know that He, our Lord Jesus, is the Holy One of God who gives His flesh as our bread of life. There is no life in us apart from Him, but with Him and in Him we have life, abundant life, eternal life, and we will rise with Him on the Last Day. In Jesus name. Amen.

Bread for the Journey

Text: John 6:35-51

Dear Saints in Christ, grace and peace to each of you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Thanks Captain Obvious.” Perhaps you’ve seen the TV commercials, heard the radio commercials, or viewed online advertisements for a website called hotels.com featuring their mascot, “Captain Obvious.” He’s a bearded man dressed in a red captain’s jacket, a tie, and a captain’s hat on his head. In all the commercials in which he appears he routinely states the obvious facts that would seem to go without mentioning and someone responds by saying, “Thanks, Captain Obvious,” in a rather sarcastic voice.

Captain Obvious even has his own twitter account, so I pulled a few of his one-liners off of there to share with you:

“If you can’t stand the heat, turn down the thermostat.”

“Today’s a new day. You can tell by the fact that it’s a different day than yesterday.”

“If you wear a watch you always have time on your hands.”

All of which are worthy of the response, “Thanks, Captain Obvious…”

If Elijah had been familiar with Captain Obvious I wonder if would have responded the same way to the angel who spoke to him in our Old Testament reading this morning. We read about an angel appearing to Elijah in the wilderness under a broom tree two times and prompting him to “Arise and eat” both times. The second time the angel appeared to Elijah he expanded on that original statement, “Arise and eat,” a bit and said, “for the journey is too great for you.” Upon hearing those words Elijah very well might have said, “Thanks, Captain Obvious.”

Elijah knew all too well that the “journey” was too much for him. Elijah’s entire life had been too much for him. Elijah had been called to be a prophet of God, to be a pastor, teacher, and shepherd of the people. He was called to proclaim God’s Word to them and instruct them in His ways. That is a daunting enough task for anyone, but Elijah’s “journey” was made more difficult by the fact that he lived during a time when most of his fellow Israelites had no intention of listening to God’s Word spoken by the prophets. God’s people had all turned to their own ways, chasing after the desires of their own hearts, and were worshiping whatever it was that they felt like worshiping that day. It was a discouraging time to be a prophet to say the least.

After many years of toiling away as a prophet, pastor, and teacher of God’s people Elijah had had enough. He had just proven to the people that the Lord was the one true God and that Baal was nothing but a figment of man’s imagination. He had put to death the prophets of Baal who had misled the people into the idolatrous worship of this imaginary god. But, even after such a profound victory Elijah knew all too well that the journey was “too great” for him. Queen Jezebel, a devoted worshiper of Baal, swore that she would put Elijah to death if it was the last thing she ever did. Overwhelmed by it all and fearing the queen’s wrath, Elijah fled, ran way, into the wilderness, sat himself down under a broom tree, and prayed that he might die. The journey was too great for him.

But then this angel showed up, woke Elijah from his sleep, and invited him to eat. Twice. Both times there was a cake of freshly baked bread and a jar of water just there waiting to be consumed. Why? Because the journey was indeed too great for Elijah. The journey, the path, the life that Elijah had been given to lead was too much for him. It overwhelmed him and threatened to destroy him. It was not, however, time for that journey to come to an end quite yet. The Lord would not take Elijah’s life away, instead He would feed and sustain Elijah’s life so that he could continue on that journey that was “too great” for him. And Elijah did, on that bread and water, he journeyed on 40 days and 40 nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Like Elijah you and I are on a journey, a journey through life. Our journey is not nearly as tumultuous (at least most of the time) as Elijah’s journey was, but the same reality remains true about our own journey it is “too great” for us.

Our journey is through a world broken by sin. A world in which we daily deal with the consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God’s commandments and Law, a world in which pain and struggle are ever present reminders that everything is not the way that it is supposed to be. This world that we journey through is also filled with temptations, allurements, which would draw us even further away from the God who created, redeemed, loves, and sustains us.

We ourselves journey through this sin broken world as sin broken people, people whose own hearts are inclined away from God’s Word and commands, people whose hearts are so slow to trust our God that the struggles we face often and easily overwhelm us. Like Elijah we are “no better than our fathers” falling into the same sin behaviours and habits that they fell into.

Added to all of that is a great and dreadful enemy an enemy far more dangerous that the terrible Queen Jezebel who swore that she would kill Elijah, Satan. This enemy has sworn to kill us all. He does not attack outright in plain day so that we can meet him in head to head combat either. He sneaks around, pouncing on us unaware, and grinds us down into dust with his constant and relentless attacks tempting, accusing, and threatening us.

With these three factors combined, this sinful world, our sinful flesh, and our dreadful enemy, the journey is, without a doubt, too great for us. Overwhelmed by it all, feeling too burdened to go on, we call out to our Lord Jesus to bring it all to an end, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” we pray. Perhaps we even pray that our own time on this earth would be up. But He doesn’t come, not yet. We’re still here. The journey isn’t over yet. The time for it to end, our time, hasn’t come yet. We must journey on.

But as we do our Lord Jesus provides food for the way, food that strengthens, food that nourishes, food that sustains, food that carries us right through to our destination.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” Jesus said, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus is our bread, our food, for the journey. He strengthens us for more than a 40 day, 40 night journey to Horeb, the mountain of God. He strengthens us and feeds us and sustains us for a lifelong journey through this sin-broken world as sin-broken people even as our enemy seeks to destroy us. The bread that He gives us, His flesh, has literally walked the road that we must journey on. He has finished the journey. He took on our flesh, overcame this sinful world, forgave our sin, and crushed our enemy. He died and rose again.

And now He gives us His body, His blood to eat and drink. This food gives life. This food gives strength, this food nourishes bodies so that this journey that is far too great for us becomes bearable, doable, and even a source of joy. Not because we are up to it. Not because we are strong enough or capable. But because He is in us and with us. Because He has overcome the world, taken our sin, and defeated our enemy and He gives Himself to us.

Strengthened by this food we journey on, we walk through life, no longer, as Paul says in our epistle today, “as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” but walking “in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” Paul explains,

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

It sounds like a lot, too great for us, but we can do these things through Christ. Because He feeds us, strengthens us, and nourishes us. Because He is our bread of life and He gave His flesh for us.

It’s obvious, the journey is too great for us. We know that all too well. But thanks be to God that He has done the remarkable (for this is anything but obvious) and has given us His Son to sustain us on the way. Arise and eat. The journey is too great for you, but Jesus is your bread of life, your bread for the journey. In Jesus name, Amen.

Satisfied

Text: John 6:22-35

Dear saints in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I want you to try and remember a time when you were completely and totally satisfied. I don’t mean satisfied in the sense that nothing was wrong and you were simply content, I mean satisfied in the sense that everything was good and there was not a care or trouble in your heart and mind. All your needs, your desires, were met and everything was about as perfect as it could possibly be. Maybe it was right after a big holiday meal with family and friends, your stomach was filled with good food and good company was gathered all around. Or maybe it was a time of relaxation on a hot summer day with a cool drink in your hand as you enjoyed the quiet of an evening sunset. Or maybe it was the sense of accomplishment that comes from a long day’s work as you sat back and thought about everything that had been done that day. Whatever it was, how did it feel to be satisfied like that? And, more importantly for our conversation this morning, how long did that feeling last?

I wouldn’t call it complete and total satisfaction necessarily, but I experienced something like that a little over a week ago. I went golfing with my dad and another pastor and after our round of golf was finished the other pastor offered to buy us a drink. We went inside and my dad and this other pastor both ordered a beer. Not wanting to be the odd one out I did too. I do drink beer from time to time, but it isn’t necessarily my first choice for a satisfying beverage after a round of golf. However, as we sat together at the table in the golf course restaurant I noticed how surprisingly satisfying that beer was that day. There was nothing special about it and it was probably more a result of having just enjoyed a round of golf and now spending some time with some people I really enjoy, but I felt satisfied. For a few moments there everything was right in the world. Before, however, long I was in my car driving home cursing the terrible drivers who were all around me and wishing that I had grabbed a water bottle for the drive home to quench my thirst that the beer at the golf course had only satisfied temporarily.

Satisfaction is like that in this life, it’s fleeting. No sooner have we found it and started to really enjoy it then it slips away suddenly. Our physical needs are only satisfied for so long.

Our gospel reading this morning proves that point perfectly. A crowd comes looking for Jesus. This crowd was part of the crowd of 5,000 people that Jesus had just fed the previous day with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. In his telling of that story Mark relays to us that the people there that day “all ate and were satisfied” (Mark 6:42). Then, after all the people had been fed and were satisfied, Jesus sent His disciples away in a boat to cross to the other side. Jesus then proceeded to walk out to his struggling disciples on the water. Once Jesus had joined them the wind stopped and they were able to finish their journey across the lake. Then, in our reading today, the crowds make their way across too and they come find Jesus. But the question is, why have they come? Is it because they believe in Him or is it for some other reason?

Well Jesus knows exactly why the crowds are seeking Him and why they have traveled so far to find Him and He makes no bones about telling them that He knows. “Truly, truly, I say to you,” Jesus said, “you are seeking me, not because you saw signs (or “because you believe”), but because you ate your fill of the loaves (or, “you ate the loaves and were satisfied”).”

Yesterday, when their bellies were filled with the miraculous food that Jesus provided they were satisfied. Now, however, less than 24 hours later they are all back again because their bellies are no longer full and they are no longer satisfied. They desire more of the miraculous food that Jesus has demonstrated that He is able to provide. Jesus confronts this reality and says, “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.”

Each of us, like those crowds and all other who have lived on this earth since Adam and Eve fell into sin, spend the majority of our time in our lives striving and laboring after the satisfaction that we find in physical things, food that perishes. To a certain degree this is a necessary reality of our existence. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience all of humanity was cursed to live in a world that would not spontaneously provide for all of their needs but would need to be worked and tilled and toiled over in order to produce what would be necessary for life. We need to work, we need to labor, we need to earn paycheques, produce food, and earn a living. But our laboring for the food that perishes often goes beyond simply what we need in order to live. Instead we end up seeking joy and happiness, satisfaction, in physical things, earthly things failing time after time to realize that these things perish and the satisfaction they give will only be temporary leaving us empty and unsatisfied.

There is an excellent example of this very thing in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. There King Solomon talks about his own search for joy, happiness, and satisfaction in life. King Solomon was king over Israel in the height of the nation’s glory. There was no king in Israel before or after Solomon who had as much wealth, prestige, honor, and power as Solomon. He was the wealthiest king they ever had. But this is what he says,

I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”

Solomon labored after it all. He tried find satisfaction and meaning in life by laboring after whatever it is that his heart desired. He built great buildings, gardens, and parks. He built up his household to be filled with people, servants and family members. He built up a name for himself that was greater than any name who had living in Jerusalem before him. In the end, however, he is forced to admit that it was all vanity, empty, a striving after the wind. There was no lasting satisfaction to be found.

“Do not labor for the food that perishes,” Jesus said, “but for the food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give to you.”

It is worth asking ourselves the question, what do we labor after? We are not like Solomon, we do not have the wealth of a nation at our disposal in the search for satisfaction, but do we, like him, try to find that satisfaction in worldly things? What “food” do we labor after? Is it in food that perishes (possession, leisure, income, prestige, family, reputation, etc…) or is it in the food that endures to eternal life which Jesus, the Son of Man, gives freely to us?

Jesus offers us here a far better option than worldly self-made satisfaction that perishes. He offers us a more satisfying meal than anything that we could make for ourselves. He offers us Himself. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus says, “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Imagine that, to eat and never again grow hungry, to drink and never again grow thirsty. To be completely and totally satisfied now and into eternal life. That is exactly what Jesus offers to all who come to Him in faith. The bread that He gives satisfies our souls perfectly and completely because it is the same body that bled and died on the cross to take our sins away. It is the body through which we have peace with God. The bread that He gives endures to life everlasting because it is His own glorious, divine, risen from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father, body. Risen from the dead it never perishes, never dies, and those who eat of it in faith likewise never perish and never die. He gives us His body under bread to eat and His blood under wine to drink and in this holy food He satisfies our souls unto eternal life.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is food worth laboring after, striving for. This food is so precious that we really should strain every muscle to strive after it and dedicate every waking hour of our lives to laboring for it. But the beauty of this food is that no labor or striving is necessary. It is the food that the Son of Man gives and He gives it freely to all who come in faith. When the crowds that day who came seeking to have their bellies filled once again asked Jesus what they must do to be doing the works of God Jesus responded rather simply, “Believe in the one whom He has sent.” Believe. Eat. Come. Receive. Be filled. Be satisfied. These are gifts, the gifts Christ gives. The Bread of Life. He satisfies the hungry heart now and into eternity. Thanks be to God for Jesus sake. Amen.

He Got into the Boat!

Text: Mark 6:45-56

Dear saints in Christ, grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In our gospel reading Jesus does something totally incredible and completely unexpected and it’s not that He walks on water. Don’t get me wrong, walking on water is incredible and unexpected, but something even more incredible and even more unexpected happens in this reading, something that we might easily overlook. Let me explain.

Three out of the four gospels (books of the Bible recounting the life, deeds, and sayings of Jesus) contain this story about Jesus walking on water. Luke doesn’t mention this story in his gospel, but Matthew, Mark, and John all do. Today we read it from the gospel of Mark. When we have a story like this that is recorded in different places in the Bible it gives us the opportunity to consider what is unique about this version of the story. So what is unique about Mark’s telling of the morning when Jesus walked on the water?

Well Mark’s version of the story does leave out some familiar details. Mark doesn’t tell us about any one (Peter) getting out of the boat and walking on the water to Jesus or anything like that.  There isn’t even a hint of that familiar detail here. But that is not what makes Mark’s telling of the story unique.

Mark tells us that Jesus sent His disciples out on the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee to the other side. Then, when He had dismissed the crowds, Jesus went up a mountain to pray. Later, seeing that they were making little progress in their journey across the lake Jesus walked out on the water to them. So far that is all as expected (if you can say that about someone walking on water!). Then, however, Mark says something strange, he says, “He (that is Jesus) meant to pass by them.”

Think about that for a second, it’s strange isn’t it? When we think about Jesus walking out on the water we would naturally assume the He made a beeline for His disciples and their boat and that His intention all along was to join them on board. Mark says, however, that this was not the case. Instead, Jesus intended to “pass by” them, to walk on the water right past them as they sat there in the boat struggling to make any progress on His way to the other side. But why?

Well, a couple stories from the Old Testament can help us understand that a bit better. The first story is about Moses. After Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea on dry ground he led them to Mount Sinai where God would establish His covenant with them. As Moses was up there on the mountain talking with God the people down below did the unthinkable, they made a calf out of gold and started worshiping it. When Moses came down he smashed the stone tablets that contained the commandments God had given his people and then he destroyed the golden calf that they had made. Then he went back up the mountain to plead for the people before God. It took some convincing, but God did finally agree not to abandon His people who had so quickly abandoned Him. He told Moses would go with them after all, to the Promised Land.

But Moses wanted to be sure, he wanted to know with certainty that God would be with him and the people, so he asked to see God’s glory. God responded by telling Moses that he could not see God’s face because man cannot look on God’s face and live, but God did make an allowance for Moses. He hid Moses in a cleft in the rock, a crack in the stone face of the mountain, and let him see God’s glory as He “passed by.” God “passed by” Moses, revealing His glory, to reassure Moses that He is faithful to His promises and Moses went back down the mountain sure that God would indeed be with His people.

The next example comes from later in the Old Testament from the life of the prophet Elijah. Elijah had just defeated the prophets of Baal in a great contest. He had proven definitively that the LORD was the one true God and that Baal was a non-existent figment of the people’s imaginations. But then Queen Jezebel, a worshipper of Baal, had sworn to kill Elijah. He was forced to run for his life, to flee. First he hid in the wilderness under a tree. There he hid and prayed that he would die, but God sent ravens to feed Elijah in the wilderness. He did not die. Eventually he made his way to a cave. When God asked Elijah what he was doing there in that cave Elijah responded by telling God how hopeless the situation had become, “No one else believe,” Elijah insisted. He was losing hope. So what did God do? He “passed by.” He “passed by” the entrance to the cave in what the Bible calls a “low whisper.” God “passed by” to give Elijah hope. After God passed by Elijah emerged from the cave, strengthened in faith.

In the same way, then, Jesus intended to “pass by” His disciples on the sea. It was meant to be a revelation of His majesty and power, a source of hope and certainty. As they struggled against the wind and the waves and felt like they were making no progress at all they were supposed to look up and see their Lord Jesus, their teacher, master, and Saviour, carelessly, defiantly walking on the waves towards the shore. This was meant to steel their resolve, to give them hope, but it didn’t work.

The disciples looked up from their boat and they saw Jesus. They saw Him in His glory and majesty walking on the waves like only the God who made the sea and all that is in it could. They saw Him alright, but they did not see in Him a source of hope or confidence. They only saw a reason to be afraid. They were terrified. Why? Because their hearts were hard, Mark tells us, they did not know or understand or believe in who Jesus really was. They did not believe that He is the Son of God who can do things like walk on water. They did not believe that their teacher was, in fact, the same God who had passed by Moses on the mountain and Elijah in the cave. They did not believe and they were filled with fear.

So what did Jesus do? Well, first He spoke to them. “Take heart!” He said, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” And then He did something truly incredible and unexpected, the thing I was referring to at the beginning: He got into the boat with them.

That might not seem like anything significant, but think about it. He had “passed by” them. He had revealed His glory to them again, His power, His might. Earlier that same day He had fed 5,000 people and now He was walking beside on the water their boat and they were afraid because they did not believe in Him. He could have just kept on walking, He could have moved on to new disciples who would believe, but instead He came to them, spoke to them, and took a seat alongside them in their boat. He was with them.

The amazing thing about the incarnation, about the Son of God’s taking on of human flesh and being born as a man just as we are born, is that He did not just pass by. Jesus’ incarnation, His taking on of our human flesh, was not like a politician visiting a community that has been struck by disaster and then jetting off back to Ottawa or Washington or wherever leaving the residents to sort out affairs for themselves. No, Jesus does not just pass by. He dwells among us. He gets in the boat and He stays there.

The very Son of God through whom the world was made, in whom the universe holds together, who can tread upon the very waters of the sea which He called into existence took on our human flesh, lived among us, suffered everything that we suffer (physical, emotional, and spiritual pain), was tempted as we are tempted, and yet remained without sin. Though He had no sin of His own He took our sin, all of it, into His own body and on the cross suffered the death and we deserve to suffer. After three days He rose from the dead, but even then He did not just pass by. Over 40 days He appeared to His frightened cowering disciples and before He did ascend into Heaven He promised in no uncertain terms to never leave them and never forsake them. He’s in the boat and He’s not leaving.

This is wonderful news for you and me because in many ways we are just like the disciples in that boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. Like them we struggle in life against the wind and the waves and seem to make little progress. The devil, the world, and our own sinful nature, the wind and waves that work against us, seem more often than not to be winning. Our progress against these foes seems non-existent most of the time. Week after week we come here and open our service by confessing our sins. Week after week we confess the same sins that we have been confessing for weeks, months, or years (jealousy and anger, pride and vanity, lovelessness and hatred). But week after week our Lord Jesus comes, stands here among us in the boat, and says “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid” and He announces to you that your sins are forgiven.

In the same way, we come here to this altar time and again to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. We come each time with the same sets of fears, anxieties, troubles, and doubts that we have always had. We come here with hard hearts that struggle to believe. But here, as we come to His altar, our Lord Jesus stand among us on the boat again. He says again, “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.” and He feeds you with His own body and blood to strengthen your faith. Having eaten and drank His body and blood You can know that He dwells in our hearts by faith.

Walking on water is truly incredible, truly unexpected. So were all the other miracles that Jesus performed, everything from casting our demons to raising the dead. But even more incredible and unexpected is that this same Son of God who strolls on the sea, sends evil reeling in defeat, and has the power over death itself comes to us, sinners one and all, and stays with us. He is in our boat, at our side, comforting, healing, and forgiving even as we make our way through this storm tossed life looking forward to the new life He brings. In Jesus name. Amen.

When Confronted

Text: Mark 6:14-29

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

A few months ago I received a letter in the mail from the Ontario Court of Justice. In that letter was a series of three photographs of the back end of my car driving through an intersection on Burlington Street. Each photo zoomed in a little closer on my car until only the liscense plate was in the frame. The traffic light could also be plainly seen in the first photograph and it was red. Underneath the picture was a dollar figure, the amount that I now owed the government as a result of my recent traffic violation.

As soon as I opened the letter I instantly recalled the incident, I remembered exactly when it happened and how it happened. There was no doubt about it. I had run a red light. I was guilty and I knew it. I was not ready, however, to admit it.

I remember my first reaction to that ticket being anger. I remember thinking something like, “Don’t they have real criminals to be dealing with? I don’t deserve this… I’m a good driver…” Then, when the anger had somewhat subsided, the excuses started. “There was no one around, you know, it was early in the morning, the streets were empty, and there was no one at the crosswalk. There was no reason that light should have been changing. I just thought I could sneak through on the yellow. I didn’t really have time to stop anyway.” After that I took that letter from the government up to my bedroom and placed it on my dresser content to ignore it for as long as I possibly could. Maybe it would just go away. It didn’t. A week or so later I sent in the money and settled up with the government.

Nobody likes to admit that they have done something wrong, nobody. Nobody likes to be confronted with their own mistakes. It’s not a fun experience. Even when we know that we have done something wrong, that we have hurt someone, or that we have failed to live up to our obligations we don’t like to admit it. Instead, we often get angry, make excuses, and try to ignore whatever it is that we have done wrong in hopes that it will just go away.

For this reason I think that we can all, to a certain degree, relate to King Herod and his wife Herodias in our gospel reading today. Our gospel reading today started off with King Herod hearing about Jesus and the miracles of power and healing that Jesus was doing through His disciples. When Herod heard about these things, about Jesus’ power to heal and save, he panicked because he thought that perhaps John the Baptist had been raised from the dead. Mark then relates for us the sordid, gruesome story of John’s death.

John the Baptist (whose birthday we celebrated just a few weeks ago) was the forerunner of Jesus, he prepared the way for Jesus. John did this by preaching repentance, pointing out to people the sinfulness of their ways, calling on them to turn from those sinful ways, and pointing them to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

John was so bold and so vigorous in his proclamation of repentance that he even called out King Herod and his wife Herodias. Their marriage was a mess. Herodias had been married to Phillip, Herod’s brother, but for political reasons she had decided to move on from her first husband and was now married to his brother. Herod had more than willingly gone along with this plan and had divorced his own wife so that he could be married to his brother’s wife.

John the Baptist confronted Herod about this mess because God’s Law strictly forbid a marriage like this, but neither Herod nor Herodias were prepared to admit that they had done anything wrong. Herodias was so angry at John’s accusations of wrong doing that she wanted him dead, she was bound and determined to silence once and for all anyone who would dare suggest that she had done something improper or unlawful in God’s eyes. Herod was quite so violent in his response to John, but he also wasn’t willing to admit a thing. Rather than kill John he had John locked up in prison. I’m sure Herod had all kinds of excuses for why he had to marry his brother’s wife and I imagine that he just hoped that while John was locked up in prison this whole thing would blow over. In the end Herodias got her way when her daughter impressed Herod so much with her dancing that he promised her anything she wanted up to half his kingdom Herodias wasted no time in asking for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

It is easy to get caught up in the gruesome, sordid details of that story and miss the point. The violence of Herodias is not really the point. The weakness of King Herod isn’t really the point. The unfortunate fate of John isn’t really the point either. The point is this: How do we respond when God’s Law confronts us concerning our sin?

God’s Word contains two great doctrines of teachings: the Law and the Gospel. The Law shows us our sin. The Gospel shows us our Saviour, Jesus Chrsit who died for us, and the forgiveness we have in His name. It is a joy to hear the Gospel. The gospel places no burdens on us, requires nothing of us, and sets us free to live in Christ. But the gospel is meaningless with God’s Law. Unless we’ve heard the Law we cannot understand or comprehend the gospel. And hearing God’s Law isn’t always so enjoyable.

God’s Law confronts us, like it did when John the Baptist confronted Herod and Herodias, with our own sinfulness. God’s Law confronts us with the reality that day by day, moment by moment, hour by hour we sin and fall short of what God expects and requires of us.

God’s Law says that we should always be content with what we have and not desire things that we don’t have or belong to other people. God’s Law says that we should always use our words to build up the people around us and never speak words that only hurt other people even if they are true. God’s Law says that we should always help people keep what they have and never take things that don’t belong to us. God’s Law says that husbands and wives should always love and honor each other until death parts them. God’s Law says that we should always love other people and never think, say, or do hurtful things to them. God’s Law says that we should always take His Word seriously and gladly hear and learn it. God’s Law says that we should always use all of our words to honor Him. God’s Law says that we should always love Him more than everything else in life.

When God’s Law confronts us we are sorely tempted to respond with anger, to make excuses, and to ignore this unappealing message. Like Herodias we might get angry and refuse to believe that God’s Word about our sin could possibly be true. We might come to the conclusion that God’s Law is unreasonable or unfair. We might lash out against the messenger who would dare to say something like that about us and our lives. Or, Like Herod, we might make excuses for ourselves, trying to explain away our sin, or we might just hope that if we ignore God’s Word about our sin, lock it away in some prison somewhere, that all of this will go away in time. It won’t. But there is another option. What if we, when confronted by God’s Word that shows us our sins, simply confessed those sins? What would happen then? The gospel has an answer for that.

“If we say we have no sin (by our anger, excuses, or ignorance), we deceive ourselves, and the truth (aka Jesus “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”) is not in us (that is still Law). If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (that is Gospel).”

If we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Why? Because He has sent His Son into the world, into human flesh, into death on a cross, to forgive sinners like you and me. God did not send His Son into this world and to the cross to save people who have no problems or are generally God. Jesus Christ came into this world and suffered death on a cross to win salvation for us. To win for us a salvation that sets us free to be open and honest about our sins and shortcomings, to win for us a salvation that allows us to freely confess sins, and to win for us a salvation that means that we can rejoice in the free forgiveness of sins that we have in His name. This is why Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again. Because of His death, His salvation, you can confess your sins and be sure, 100% certain, of God’s forgiveness.

This is an amazing truth and it changes our lives. In Psalm 32 David says,

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent (denying sin, excusing it, holding back, refusing to confess it), my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer (the weight of sin, even as we try to ignore it or explain it away crushes us). I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

 

Let us, therefore, gladly, freely, joyfully confess our sins to God and one another. Let us not grow angry, conjure up excuses, or try to ignore the plain realities of God’s Law. Let’s confess our sins, let’s be honest about them, and let’s rejoice in the loving forgiveness of our gracious God who faithfully promises to forgive our every sin for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ. In His name, Amen.

The Familiar

Text: Mark 6:1-13

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Familiarity breeds contempt. You’ve probably heard that old saying or proverb before. The idea is that the more familiar or well known or common something is or becomes the less we respect and appreciate it.

I tried this week to find out where that saying or proverb comes from, but I didn’t have much luck. Apparently the earliest known reference to those words is in a book of poetry written in the year 1386, nearly 700 years ago, but it is more than likely that the saying already existed long before that point. It is almost a universal human truth, probably going right back to Adam and Eve and the fall into sin. The more acquainted we are with someone or something the less we value them or it.

Our gospel reading today demonstrates just how true this proverb is and always has been. Jesus goes to Nazareth, the town in which He was raised, and He preaches at the local synagogue. Now, you’d expect that everyone there would be happy to see Jesus. He is undoubtedly the most significant, influential, and famous person to ever come out of their little, tiny, insignificant village. This ought to be a grand-homecoming party for the ages. But it wasn’t.

Jesus preached in the synagogue that morning and the people were amazed and astonished. They said to each other, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And then they “took offense at Him.”

Taking offense or being offended in the Bible doesn’t mean quite the same thing that it means in the world today. In the world today everyone gets offended about everything. You look at a person the wrong way and they get offended. You share your personal opinions too loudly and people are offended. But these “offenses” really are just hurt feelings. In the Bible taking offense or being offended is not a matter or hurt feelings, it is about being scandalized or stumbling in faith. When the people of Nazareth took offense at Jesus it was not simply because something He said offended them or hurt their feelings, it was because they refused to believe in Him.

The question is why, why did they take offense, why did they refuse to believe in Him? The answer is because familiarity breeds contempt. Jesus was so familiar to the people in Nazareth. They had watched Him grow up, they seen Him as a boy who was just like all the other boys in town, they had hired his (earthly) father, the carpenter Joseph, to do work in and around their homes, perhaps Jesus had even helped his father as an assistant or taken up the family business as a carpenter for a few years Himself. Regardless, the people in the Nazareth synagogue that day looked at Jesus and saw the same old Jesus they had always known. They saw a carpenter from Nazareth. They could not believe His words about the Kingdom of God. They could not believe that the son of Mary who lives just around the corner could possibly be doing all miracles that they had heard about Him doing in other places. He was just so ordinary, so familiar, and they could not see past their familiarity and they held Him in contempt refusing to believe in Him.

Now we have to ask ourselves what this has to do with us today. We are not, after all, members of the synagogue in Nazareth who watched Jesus grow up and are so familiar with Him that we find it hard to believe in Him. No, we look back on Jesus and know that He was not just some carpenter, He was the Saviour of the world. We look back on Him and know that He was not simply the son of Mary, but also the Son of God in human flesh. We know and believe these things, so what does this have to do with us?

We need to look at the ways that Jesus comes to us today to see the answer to that question. Jesus walked into the synagogue in Nazareth that day and started preaching, but that is not exactly how Jesus comes to us today, is it?

Jesus has ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God on high. As such, Jesus fills all things and is in all things and surrounds all things. But Jesus has promised to come to us today in very specific ways. In fact, you could say that Jesus has promised to come to us in very ordinary or familiar ways. He has not promised to come to us through flashy miracles that will draw the eyes of thousands of people or through great displays of power that will impress us and embolden us in faith. Jesus has promised to come to us through simple, ordinary, familiar things like water, bread and wine, and words.

Let’s start with the water. In the water of Baptism Jesus has come to us. In that water He washed us and made us clean, cleansing us from each and every sin. In that water He reached down from heaven, marked us with the sign of the holy cross, wrote the triune name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on our hearts, and made us His own.

            Then there is the bread and wine. In that bread and wine Jesus comes to us with His own body and blood to forgive our sins, strengthen our faith, and fill us with His love so that we might love God and love one another. In that bread and wine He feeds us with Himself with the food of everlasting life.

And then there’s the Word. The Word is in the other two (with the water and the bread and wine) too, but in His Word, in the words of Scripture as we read it, as it is read in the service, and as the pastor preaches it, Jesus Himself comes to us and speaks to us. He announces to each of us each and every time we hear it the forgiveness of sins that we have in His name through His suffering and death on the cross. Each time He declares His undying love for you that sent Him to the cross to bear your sin and the sin of the entire world.

These things are so simple, so ordinary, and so familiar that there is a very real danger that we might overlook them, underestimate them, or take them for granted. It’s even possible that we, like the people in the Nazareth synagogue that day, might take offense at them (in the biblical sense of that word) and not believe in them.

I want to share with you two examples from quite recently in my own life of how real a possibility this is. Both of these examples are specific to God’s Word, but the principle applies to Baptism and Holy Communion too.

First, I was reading a bedtime Bible story from a children’s Bible to my kids. This is something we do every night. I happened that night to choose the story that we read last week in our gospel reading, the story of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead, that night. When we reached the end of the story and read the part about Jesus taking the little girl by the hand and raising her from the dead I heard all of a sudden a gasp from beside me. One of the girls had been holding her breath. She was enthralled by the story, almost in tears, caught up in the drama of the events that we had just read about, fully in awe of the power of Jesus to heal and save and His compassion and love that would bring Him to this little girl’s bedside so that she could be restored to life. This made me think, how often do we read the same old familiar stories and not take them to heart?

Then, just a few days later, I was doing my morning devotions and discovered that one of the readings was from the book of Acts. It was one of the same readings that we had studied in Tuesday/Wednesday morning Bible study not long ago. Instantly I found myself thinking about skipping that reading because I have already studied it and I know it. Surely such a reading would have nothing left to teach me. But then it hit me, “How arrogant can you get?” I thought to myself, “This is God’s Holy Word, surely it has more to teach you than you can ever know!” But familiarity breeds contempt.

Brother and sisters in Christ, Jesus comes to you today. He comes to you in such familiar things, in water, bread and wine, and words, with mighty works of power. He comes to you in these familiar means to forgive your sins and give you life. He comes to you in these familiar means to heal and save your sin sick soul. He comes to you in these familiar means to pour our His love and compassion on you. He comes to you in these familiar means to assure you of His constant presence with you and to strengthen you for the living of this life so that you may endure into the life to come. These familiar means are a reason to rejoice. Let’s not let the familiarity breed contempt, let’s let it breed joy. Let’s let it breed joy that knows and rejoices that our God would come to us to save us now and forever. Let’s let it breed joy in knowing that Christ Jesus is here now among us to heal and save. The joy of the familiar. In His name, Amen.

Waiting

Text: Mark 5:21-43

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our Old Testament reading today from Lamentations 3 says, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” In our gospel reading we see this truth played out in action.

In our gospel we met a man named Jairus. Jairus comes into our gospel reading today because his daughter, who we learn later on is just 12 years old, is dying. We are going to work our way through Jairus’ story this morning and I would like us to try and put ourselves in his shoes. Let’s image that we are Jairus and we have come to Jesus looking to have him come save our dying daughter.

Imagine Jairus’ relief when he hears that Jesus has just crossed the Sea of Galilee and is standing on the shore just outside of town. This poor father who is worried to death about his little daughter and feels so helpless because nothing he does seems to improve her situation all of a sudden has hope. Jesus is coming.

Jairus has heard about Jesus. He has heard about the healings that Jesus has performed. Everywhere Jesus goes the sick are healed, the blind are given sight, the deaf have their ears opened, and He even casts out demons. Everyone has been talking about it. Whatever is ailing his little daughter, no matter how severe it might be, Jairus knows that Jesus can help. So without a second thought, there wasn’t a moment to lose, Jairus sets off running to find Jesus and bring him to his little girl.

It probably didn’t take Jairus long to find Jesus. He just had to follow the crowds, they would lead him to right to where Jesus was. And when he did find Jesus the crowds probably all stepped aside to let an important man like Jairus (he was a “ruler” of the local synagogue) get through. So before too long Jairus found himself standing in front of Jesus, but he didn’t stand there long. Right away Jairus fell down at Jesus’ feet and said, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come lay your hands on her so that she may be made well and live.”

As Mark tells the story here Jesus doesn’t say a word. He just starts following Jairus off towards his home. As our Old Testament reading today put it, His steadfast love never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, and His compassion knows no bounds. His love, mercy, and compassion extend to all who come to Him in faith. Jesus gladly goes to Jairus’ home. But He doesn’t go quickly.

Jairus probably ran out to find Jesus when he heard that Jesus was in the area. His need was urgent. And I think Jairus probably would have liked Jesus to move quickly as they set off towards his home where his daughter lie dying in bed. But Jesus moves slowly. The crowds are still pressing around Him and Jesus slowly but surely makes his way through the throngs of people to Jairus’ house.

Imagine how Jairus is feeling as he watches all this happen. Imagine the fear, the panic, the frustration, and everything else he must have been feeling as he watched Jesus slowly pick his way through the crowd. The waiting must have been killing him.

For us I think the best comparison would be if we called an ambulance for our loved one and then watched as the ambulance driver refused to use the siren or lights, stopped at every red light, and then got caught in a traffic jam. We would be losing our minds watching that happen and we would be writing up a draft of the lawsuit that we would throw at them if this didn’t all work out in the end. Jairus, I’m sure, felt the same way.

Then it got worse. All of a sudden Jesus stopped in the middle of the crowd. “Who touched me?” He said, “Who touched my garments?” At least before He was moving slowly, now He isn’t moving at all. Imagine how Jairus is feeling!

Jesus’ disciples pick up on how Jairus must be feeling too. They look at Jesus and say, “You are surround by people and they are all bumping up against you, rubbing shoulders, and reaching out to touch you. How can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ Keep moving, Jesus, Jairus’ little girl needs you!” But Jesus still doesn’t move.

Finally, out of the crowd, one woman came forward and, like Jairus, she fell down at Jesus’ feet. She’s the one who touched Jesus. She explained to Him that she had been bleeding for twelve long years and tried every cure known to man. Nothing had worked. She had prayed and waited, but for twelve long years nothing had happened. She had all but given up any hope of a cure. But when she heard Jesus was coming she had hope again. If anyone could heal her it was him. She didn’t dare to talk with Jesus, but if she just touched Him she knew she would be healed. So that is what she did. She touched him. She reached out in faith, touched the corner of his cloak, and immediately, she was healed. Jesus looked at her and said, “Daughter (interestingly, this is the only time Jesus ever calls anyone “daughter”), your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

Now imagine how Jairus was feeling as all that happened. They were running out of time and he knew it. If the waiting wasn’t killing him before it must be now.

If I were Jairus I think I would be thinking something like “Can’t you see, Jesus, that my daughter’s situation is an emergency? Her situation was far more urgent than this woman’s! My little girl is going to die if we wait any longer! Surely this woman could’ve waited one more day or one more hour for her cure. My little girl doesn’t have that long!”

And then it happened. Someone came from Jairus’ home. It was too late. The girl was dead. Jesus had lingered too long. He hadn’t come quickly enough. The waiting had killed her. It was no use now. Don’t bother Jesus any longer.

Imagine the sadness, the pain, the anguish. Some of you don’t have to try hard to imagine it because you’ve been there. You’ve lost a child or someone close to you has lost a child. The grief is immense. And in the midst of that grief Jairus is standing there looking at Jesus, the one in whom He placed His faith, the one who was supposed to be able to save His daughter, who willingly lingered, delayed, and did not make it in time. Imagine what is going through Jairus’ mind.

Jesus doesn’t need to imagine, He knows what Jairus is thinking and feeling. He knows the grief, the pain, and even the anger that Jairus is feeling. He knows that Jairus thinks there is no more hope. He knows that Jairus’ faith in Him is waning or maybe gone altogether. Jesus knows all of it. He looks at Jairus and says, “Do not be afraid. Only believe.”

If I were Jairus I’d be thinking something like, “Don’t be afraid? My little girl is dead! I’m beyond afraid, I’m broken! Only believe? Believe in what? In you? I did put my trust in you and look where that has got me!” But Jesus just kept walking to Jairus’ house.

When He got there he left most of his disciples outside, walked in the front door, asked all the people why they were wailing and crying, said the girl was only sleeping, went upstairs into the girl’s room, took her by the hand, said “Little girl, get up,” and immediately the dead little girl got up and started walking around the room.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Jairus waited. The waiting nearly killed him, it did kill his daughter. But when Jesus came the healing, the new life, was immediate.

The woman who had been bleeding for 12 long years waited. She waited and waited but her situation only got worse. Then Jesus came and she touched Him. Her healing was immediate.

Waiting is an exercise of faith. It tests our faith, our confidence in God’s promises to us. Waiting is a test that we often fail. As we are forced to wait we wonder if God really cares, if Jesus is really there for us and with us, if there really is hope beyond this vale of tears filled with sickness and death. Doubts creep in and confidence in God’s goodness starts to wane. Frustration builds and faith starts to dwindle. But when we are faithless, when waiting has reduced our faith to nearly nothing, the one we wait for remains faithful.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

The one we wait for sent for His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law. Thousands of years after the Promise was made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, after generations had passed and God’s people had truly started to wonder if there ever would be a saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. The Father fulfilled His promise. That same Saviour gave His life on Calvary’s cross for you, me, and all mankind. He is the eternal sign of God’s steadfast love that never ceases, His mercies that never come to an end, and His great faithfulness. In His death we have forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation.

None of this means that all our worldly problems will be taken away or solved. All our diseases are not going to be healed in this life and our dead are not going to be raised right here and right now, but even on this Canada Day it is worth remember that, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Jesus will come. He will come and His healing will be immediate. On that day our waiting will end. On that day we will be healed. On that day he will take us each by the hand and say to us, “Little child, I say to you, arise,” and we will rise.

 “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” In Jesus name, Amen.