Our God Rains…for You!

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) / August 5, 2018 / Deacon Rex E. Watt

Exodus 16:2-15 / Ephesians 4:1-16 / John 6:22-35

Our God Rains…for You!

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

Food.  We can’t live without it…and some of it, we probably shouldn’t live with!  Without food we die.  Our bodies burn the stuff, we oxidize it and turn it into energy which moves our muscles and pumps our blood.  It powers our brains and makes life itself possible.  We need it to live.  Unfortunately our bodies also like to store up some reserves just in case we can’t find the refrigerator tomorrow, and many of us suffer from an excess of those reserves.  Food binds us together.  Our most cherished family times are centered on meals, like Thanksgiving or family reunions.  Not all that long ago, the dinner table was the one time of the day that family sat down together and took respite from the rat race of life.  We celebrate with food.  It is an essential part of joy.  Try throwing a party without food!  Birthdays need that cake.  Christmas needs cookies.  Wedding participants leave the ceremony and go to the reception.  And we all are familiar with comfort food.  We turn to it when we are anxious, sad, or otherwise experiencing a negative emotion.  The image of a young woman dumped by her boyfriend binging on a box of chocolate isn’t far from reality.  It happens.

All of these things that we relate to with food as part of our physical life and being: life itself, community, celebration and comfort; God intends for our spiritual life.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “A cat has nine lives?”  Well, it’s not true!  A cat has one life.  Only human beings have, or are meant to have, more than one life.  God intends that you and I have two lives: one physical and one spiritual.  In God’s design, we are to be born, and then born again.  Jesus, earlier in John’s Gospel once told Nicodemus that unless this second birth takes place, one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Jn 3.5).

In our Gospel text for today, Jesus begins to teach us about what our true need in life is.  It’s not just food, as important as that is.  It’s the food that endures to eternal life.

We need the bread that gives eternal spiritual life.

To be sure, we need the daily bread that gives us bodily life, and God is not indifferent to this need.  We just read in our Old Testament lesson about God miraculously providing quail and manna to the Israelites in the wilderness.  A few weeks ago we saw Jesus miraculously feeding 5,000 people in another wilderness.  And today, as we travel through this vale of tears we call life, He provides farmers, processors, transportation and grocery stores where we can go and get this food.  We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and He does.  We bow our heads at our dinner tables and say, “The eyes of all look to you, [O Lord,] and You give them their food at the proper time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing,” and He does.  Our catechism teaches us, “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition (7th) that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”  But as Jesus reminds us, we cannot live by this bread alone (Mt. 4.4).  Why?  Because there is more to life than just food.  There is a spiritual dimension to our lives.

When God created Adam and Eve, He endowed them with two kinds of life, bodily life and spiritual life.  They “walked with God.”  But when they sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, they immediately lost their spiritual life; typified by their removal from the presence of God in the Garden of Eden; and in time their physical lives.  They eventually died.  By committing this act of spiritual suicide, they plunged the entire human race into Sin.  And we all die, which the Apostle Paul says is proof that all of us are infected with Original Sin.  Everyone born into this world is born alive in the body, but dead in their soul, separated from God.  The Bible says, “Enemies of God” (Rom 5.10).  Everyone born into this world is in desperate need of being born again if he or she is to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Tragically, we are unable on our own to acquire this bread that gives eternal spiritual life.

The Bible describes natural man, man who has experienced physical birth only, as “…dead in trespasses, and sins…”  (Eph 2.1).  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”  Just as a corpse cannot raise itself up and come to the table for a meal, so also we are unable to raise ourselves and acquire this bread that gives eternal spiritual life.  Now to be sure, there are some who think they can.  Just look at the question the people asked Jesus in our text after He told them to labor for the food that endures to eternal life (which by the way, He said He would give them), “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  They had missed the point!  They are thinking they need to be going about doing something to get God’s blessings.  They had just been fed bread and fish on a remote hillside that they didn’t work for, but was given to them.  Look at the rich young ruler (Mk 10) who came to Jesus asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Or the Philippian jailer who asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  (Acts 16)  The answer to all three of these questions is the same: believe.  Believe Jesus.  Yes, there are still people today who think that they have to do something to get right with God.  Yet the Bible tells us that no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by doing works, by observing the law (Rom 3.20).  No, we are unable by our own efforts to acquire this bread that gives eternal spiritual life.  Luther writes in the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed that, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”  This second birth, this new life, this bread from heaven that gives eternal spiritual life is a gift… from God…for you.

Only Jesus can provide the bread that gives eternal spiritual life.

Jesus tells the people, and us, not to “labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.”  The pursuit of material things, worldly recognition, and the pleasures of this life will only disappoint us in the end.  In the end, they will all be burned up and dissolved (2 Pet 3).  They won’t last.  But the food that endures to eternal life?  That food will last.  That food is not only for this life, but for the life to come.  And Jesus, in a sense, tells us that we don’t really need to “work” for this food.  God does the work in giving it to us.  God, via Moses, gave the people the quail and the manna in the wilderness.  Jesus, God in the flesh, multiplied the loaves of bread and the fish, and through the apostles, gave it to the 5,000.  And now, Jesus says, God wants to give you this bread from heaven.  In fact, Jesus Himself is this “true bread from heaven,” which the Father gives to you!  It is He “Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (vs 32-33).  He is the “bread of life,” who gives Himself to you as “the food that endures to eternal life.”  The Giver and the gift are one and the same!  Whoever comes to Him “shall not hunger,” and whoever believes in Him “shall never thirst.”

By the gracious working of God, you, dear saints of Redeemer, believe in Him by the calling of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.  God comes to you in the proclamation of His Word and gives you the faith to believe.  “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” writes Paul (Rom 10.17).  By the gracious working of God, you, dear saints of Redeemer receive the forgiveness of your sins, all of your sins, every last one of your sins, which Jesus nailed to the Cross as He suffered and died in your place, in the words of Absolution.  By the gracious working of God, you, dear saints of Redeemer received the Holy Spirit as the down payment, and the guarantee of your inheritance with all the saints at your Baptism.  And by the gracious working of God, you, dear saints of Redeemer receive the strengthening of your faith, and this very bread from heaven, Jesus Himself, in a very real way every time you partake of His body and blood at this altar.

In Exodus 16:4 the Lord told Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you….”  My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus is the true and living bread from heaven.  He rains down abundantly on you each and every day through His word and sacraments so that you may belong to the one Body of His Church, in which you receive every spiritual blessing, and in which your are to “grow up in every way into him who is the head” (Eph 4.15).  What shall we say to these things?  What better response than the cry of our text, “Sir…from now on give us this bread” (v 34).  Or maybe we could paraphrase the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day…the bread of life!”   Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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