Food For the Journey
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost Trinity Lutheran Church
2 August 2015 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Well, God lets His baptized-in-the-Red-Sea-wandering-in-the-wilderness-on-the-way-to-the-Promised-Land-people go hungry. He lets them feel emptiness and deep inner angst. He lets them grumble. BUT HE DIDN’T LET THEM STARVE! He is their God. He is God FOR THEM. They are His Israel. He redeemed Israel from the prison house of death called Egypt. He promised to take them to the land of milk and honey. He heard their cry, grumbling though it was. And He feeds them. “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt. And in the morning your will see the glory of the Lord because He heard your grumbling against him.”
At nightfall the quail came and covered the camp. God gave them meat. At dawn there was the thin layer of flaky substance that covered the ground. God gave them bread.
The bread was not like any other bread. White like coriander seed. It tasted like wafers made with honey. “What is it?” the people asked. “It’s the bread the Lord has given you to eat.” Manna. Bread from heaven. From God’s hand. The Lord is very gracious. He hand feeds them in the wilderness. Even though they grumble against Him.
The manna was perfect food for the wilderness. It was given every morning. Israel had to carry nothing. Prepare nothing. Wherever they went in the desert there it was!
What a gift from the Lord! However, gifts come rejectibly. It isn’t a gift if you are forced to receive it. God force-feeds no one. No matter how hungry people are. You didn’t have to eat the manna if you didn’t want to. But in the wilderness the only option was death.
God’s gifts are received according to His Word. In the way God gives them. At the times and places God determines to give them. Every morning the manna appeared on the ground after the morning dew dried up. If you were lazy and didn’t feel like getting up in the morning to gather your manna, you wouldn’t find any in the afternoon. The sun’s heat would have melted the manna by mid morning.
If you were greedy and gathered more than you or your family needed that day, or if you tried to save extra for the next day, you were in for an unpleasant surprise. The manna had no shelf life. It would stink and be full of maggots very soon. Manna was daily bread. Renewed each and every day.
The only day that manna kept overnight was the sixth day. On the sixth day you gathered twice as much as you needed because the seventh day was the Sabbath Day, a holy day to rest in the hearing of God’s Word. You were not permitted to work on the Sabbath. It was your day off. If you decided to go out and gather manna on the Sabbath, there wouldn’t be any! God rested too. In order to feed and sustain with His Word.
Some of the Israelites tried to gather manna on the Sabbath. They tested God’s Word. They tried to keep some manna overnight. It rotted. They tried to gather on the Sabbath. There wasn’t any. These Israelites learned that God means what He says. His Word is true. Receive the gifts in God’s way and you’ll be blessed. Try and get them your own way and you will die.
Do you think you’re any different than the Israelites? You’re not. You try to improvise with God’s Word. Play fast and loose with His mandates. Bend His institutions to suit your own agendas, timetables, needs, culture and circumstances. As if your words are better than the Lord’s. As if your words are divine.
So, New Testament Israelites who have been baptized into Christ and who are wandering in the wilderness of this world on the way to the Promised Land of heaven, stay away from the divine service because their idols will not allow them to have a Sabbath Day’s rest to hear God’s Word of repentance and forgiveness (Third Commandment) let alone eat and drink the Good Friday Christ’s most holy Body and Blood as He has mandated. Jesus says to eat this bread and to drink from this cup. He says that this is the new testament given for your forgiveness. Good Friday Jesus, God FOR YOU and for your salvation, hand feeds His New Testament Israel. But you have better words. You preach a different sermon. As if Jesus’ words are nothings. As if He doesn’t mean what He says.
As Old Testament Israel wandered there was only one food in the wilderness. Manna was Israel’s wilderness diet for forty years. The manna ended with the first harvest of grain in the Promised Land of Canaan. But for forty years it was the same bread from heaven. Day in and day out. Six days a week. Year after year. For forty years! Sound so monotonous. And guess what? The Israelites grumbled about that too! Just as you grumble about the repetitiveness of the bread/Body and wine/Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. I have news for you. Variety is NOT the spice of God’s feeding His people. A steady diet of manna in the Old Testament. A steady diet of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament.
Well, in the end, everyone in Israel had plenty to eat. No one had too much. No one had too little. God was good and gracious. GENEROUS! Israel was not always happy. Most of the time grumpy. But God always fed His Israel. Israel learned to trust God who brought them out of Egypt. They learned to repent of their sin and trust God’s Word of forgiveness. They learned that God was, is, and always will be God FOR THEM. They learned to receive His gifts and to pray with not only their lips but also their hearts: “Give us this day our daily bread” and to receive their daily bread with thanksgiving. Old Testament Israel also learned that “man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
In the New Testament Jesus is the manna for you as you wander in this world’s wilderness. Jesus is the Bread from heaven sent by the Father to feed you. To nourish you. To fill you. To sustain you on your pilgrimage from Holy Baptism through this worldly wilderness to the Promised Land of the resurrection to eternal life. Good Friday Jesus is your divine food. Jesus didn’t come down from heaven to deliver bread. He came to be bread. To be food that brings eternal life. Jesus came to give His life into death on the cross so that He alone is the source of eternal life for all who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Yes, brothers and sister, Jesus alone is the Bread of Life! “He who comes to me will never go hungry. And he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” Every other kind of bread is temporary. It spoils and you get hungry again. And sooner or later you will all die eating your bread. Jesus, however, is the Bread that does not spoil. He is the Food that endures to eternal life. Eat of Him, that is to say, believe in Him, and you will live forever. That’s His promise. Those are His words!
I’d better wrap up this sermon in a hurry. So let’s finish on this note. Think about what happens when you eat. When you eat bread you unleash and absorb all the nutrients and energies that are stored in bread. The nutrients of the soil, the energy of the sun and the rain, the vitality of the wheat – these are all taken in and become yours when you eat bread.
To believe in Jesus is to feed on the Bread of Life come down from heaven. To believe in Jesus is God’s work on you by His Word and Holy Spirit. To believe in Jesus is to feed on His life and death – to unleash and absorb all the blessings and benefits of His taking on your flesh, His perfect life lived under the law in your place, His innocent death on the cross, His victorious resurrection on the Third Day over death and the grave, His power over death and the devil – THESE ALL BECOME YOURS THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS!
Listen to His promise again. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son, and believe in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Now let’s put the finishing touches to this sermon.
Where is the heavenly manna, this Bread of Life to be found today? Is there any? Of course there is. It’s not far from you at all. It’s as near as the manna scattered on the desert floor in the wilderness. It is as near to you as your Bible. Open it and read it. It is as near as your congregation where the Word of God is preached. Come and listen. It is as near as your Baptism where God put His most holy and saving Name on you. It is as near as your pastor who absolves you in Jesus’ name. It is as near as the Supper of bread and wine, Jesus’ very Body and Blood.
It is here, in the Lord’s Supper, that you get a special and literal sense of what it means that Jesus is truly the Bread of Life come down from heaven. Under the form of ordinary bread, Jesus comes to you and hand feeds you with hidden manna (Revelation 2), heavenly bread, His own Body – born of Mary, sacrificed on the cross, raised from the dead, ascended and reigning over all your sin and death. Yes, His very Body given into death FOR YOU. He gives that to you as your bread!
So as you go to the Sacrament today and as Jesus says “This is my Body given for you,” you have your manna in this worldly wilderness. It will sustain you on your way to the Promised Land of heaven and the resurrection of your body on the Last Day.
In the Name of Jesus.