The Seventh Sunday after Trinity: Sing Praises

Jesus Feeding the Four Thousand
Jesus feeds the 4,000 with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Afterwards, seven baskets of leftovers are collected (Mark 8:1-9). From Martin Luther’s Church Postils (sermons), published in 1563.

Lessons: Psalm 47, Isaiah 62:6-12, Romans 6:19-23, Mark 8:1-9
Hymns: LSB 790, 819, 636, 732, 850

Listen to the entire service here along with the blessing of the organ (the sermon alone is above).

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

      Jesus was out in a desolate place. Usually, desolate places involve few people. But not this time. A great crowd had gathered. What did they go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaking in the wind? (Matt. 11:7-15) No, they went out to the desolate place to listen to Jesus. And they had been with Him for three days.

      Why so long? Was it like watching a magic show? Was He wowing them with smooth talk? Were they all there to be enamored by His looks, charm, or wit?

      No, they were there for something much greater, profound, and life changing. The crowd was with Jesus because He was preaching the Word of God. They were listening to His life-giving, life-saving Word. He would back up His preaching with miracles, signs, and wonders.

      And now Jesus is about to perform another miracle. With seven loaves of bread and a few small fish, Jesus feeds the crowd of 4,000. Even though He had previously fed the 5,000, this is just as astonishing. Seven baskets of leftover pieces are collected—far more than what He started with. Simply amazing!

      This account teaches us two important points. First, Jesus imparts heavenly gifts that far exceed earthly losses. Second, Jesus provides for the needs of this life.

      Consider the earthly losses the 4,000 were willing to endure as they spent time with Jesus listening to Him. They weren’t earning wages during those three days. They weren’t vacationing at some beautiful place. They weren’t expanding their reputations or possessions. In fact, they were endangering themselves for being so far away from amenities. Instead of looking out for their earthly lives, they were focused on the heavenly crown Jesus was granting them through His Word.

      If you were guaranteed that you would suffer many earthly losses for following Christ, would you do it? If a pandemic happens again, would you accept your church closing and disallowing you from gathering with God’s people just to give you some temporary feeling of safety? Through that experience, I learned not to shut down again. The Church is necessary; in fact, it is needed more than anything else in this world. For through the Word and Sacraments, Christ meets us with His gifts and prepares us to meet Him in glory. Prior to his conversion, St. Paul (known then as Saul) was trying to arrest Christians and consented to their death. If you had to endure those persecutions for clinging to Christ, would you do it? And when St. Paul was converted, the Lord said of him, “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16). If you knew that that would be your future for being Christian, would you still follow Christ?

      And so remember, my dear fellow redeemed, what you have in Christ: peace with God. And remember what you confess: I believe in the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

      After all, if your life is shortened because you follow Christ, will you really lose anything since you will gain eternal life? If you lose some material possession for being Christian (whether by tithes, loss of income for reserving Sundays with the Lord, or by enduring loss through those who hate the Gospel), will you really lose anything when you gain heavenly treasures from Christ? If you must become a beggar in this life, what have you lost when you are crowned in Heaven? What have you lost if you never obtain a home in this life but obtain a mansion in Heaven? If you must lose a penny today to gain thousands tomorrow, you’d be foolish not to lose that penny. But so many want to hang on to their paltry earthly possessions and lifestyles instead of gaining heavenly treasures.

      For that, we must repent. We confess that we have not loved God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. We confess that we have not allowed God’s Word to dwell in us richly. We confess that we have loved the fleeting things of this world more than the eternal blessings offered by Christ.

      Remember these words of the Bible: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:18-39).

      We must also remember that the Lord takes care of us, just as He had compassion on the 4,000 who would faint on the way if He let them go without eating. Never forget that Jesus loves you. Not even a sparrow falls from the ground apart from the will of the Father. And you are of more value than they (Matt. 6:25-34). The Lord causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:43-48). God promised, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).

      In fact, the Lord has blessed us beyond what we deserve. We live in a place that is peaceful. We don’t need bars on our windows to keep criminals out. We live in a beautiful land with fertile soil. We have amenities that kings in Bible times never dreamt of, like air conditioning and anything else that uses electricity. We really have much to be thankful for.

      Above all, we are thankful that the Lord saw us in our sinful state and sent His Son to pay for our sins. We heard in our Epistle, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). What do we earn for each sin we commit? What do we earn every time we fail to do what is right? What do we earn when we disobey God or doubt His providential love? It is written, “The wages of sin is death.” We earn death—eternal death. It’s what we deserve for our sin.

      But God sent His Son to pay for all our sins. He died on the cross to redeem us. He shed His Blood as the ransom payment for our transgressions. Jesus atoned for our sin. That means “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Last week, we heard the beginning of this chapter in Romans, that, as the baptized, we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection so that we die to sin and rise to newness of life. That is what we received from Christ our Lord. For free! We are now set free from our sin by God’s grace. The gift of God is eternal life!

      When we hear a message like this, how can we not but want to be in God’s Word like the 4,000 were for several days? How can we not but want to come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for our forgiveness? How can we not but want to dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6), to gaze upon the beauty of His temple (Psalm 27:4), and abide in the Word of Christ (John 8:31-32)?

      And how can we not but want to sing?

      Today’s Introit is from the Ascension Psalm—Psalm 47. This psalm suggests that our Lord and Savior will not remain dead but will be raised from the grave, for this psalm announces that our Savior will ascend into Heaven where He will be seated in glory at the right hand of God the Father. What is our response for this most stunning work of God? “Clap your hands, all people! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! Fear the Lord, the Most High. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!”

      How fitting that the Sunday in which our rebuilt and expanded pipe organ is blessed is the same Sunday the Church sings this psalm of praise! How amazing it is that the last time we heard our organ was during Ascensiontide—the one Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost. How fitting it is that the Hymn of the Day recommended for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity is “Sing Praise to God, the Highest Good!”

      My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God has blessed us with voices. Let’s uses our voices to sing praises to God. Our new pipe organ was designed primarily to aid congregational singing, providing much variety of sounds to match the words we sing and the seasons of the Church Year. The reason for this is simple. Our focus is on the Word of God—whether that Word is read, preached, or sung. The Word of God must never take a back seat to the music. Yes, music is a most wonderful gift of God. Having real pipes that match the human voice better than any other instrument is a blessing. Having that air flow through those pipes instead of vibrations coming out of a speaker is a blessing. But far above these blessings is that the voice of God continues to be sounded through the Scriptures, the preaching by the pastor God has sent, and even by you as you sing His praises.

      We have every reason to be boldly singing—filled with joy—here in God’s house—regardless of what earthly losses we may endure for doing so.

      For Christ Jesus comes to us and blesses us with His gifts. He is present through Word and Sacrament. He forgives us and grants us eternal life. Let’s always be a part of that multitude who gathers where Christ locates Himself so that we receive the eternal treasures He abundantly offers. Amen.

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