A Sermon Preached on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, 10 March 2013
by Zachary Braddock
Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI
In the Gospel reading this morning, Jesus does the unthinkable. And yet, it is typical Jesus. (if you can describe anything that Jesus does as “typical.”)
Philip has already told Jesus that there is not enough money to buy bread to feed them. Even if there were, they’re on a mountaintop. There is no bread, no food, no way to get any, and a multitude; we are told, five thousand, people. Andrew brings him a young boy who has in his possession five barley loaves and two fish. Two small fish. And Andrew looks at his Master… his God…. and he says, “but what are they among so many?” Take note here, they have so little to give to so many. So Jesus tells them to sit down. He takes the bread and he gives thanks. This ought to be sounding familiar. And then he takes the fish and he does the same. He gives to the disciples who give to the multitude. When the people are finished eating, Jesus tells the disciples to gather up what remains, and there are twelve baskets left. These baskets would have been more like satchels than what we think of as bags. Each of the Twelve was given just enough to keep going. So here we see the disciples not having enough for themselves, but following still our Lord’s commandment to give, in and through him, and so they do, and they have not only been able, by God’s grace, to feed others, but to keep a little for themselves as well.
Jesus is giving of himself. There is some quite explicit Eucharistic imagery. But this is not only a lesson on the Eucharist. This Jesus who here feeds the multitude is the same one who will soon after tell the Pharisees, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
This is the same Jesus who says that he will (and he ultimately does exactly this)… That he will lay down his life for his Sheep.
There is no question that Jesus gives himself to us. We’re going to receive him in physical form in a few minutes. But if we are truly going to accept him, must we not conform our lives to his? If we recieve the Eucharist but don’t walk with Jesus arent we living a sham? If we approach the Bishop for confirmation, but don’t make an effort to grow in the faith, what are we doing? If we tell others about Jesus but have our hands behind our backs with our fingers crossed… What are we doing? Have we really let Jesus into our hearts and lives? Have we, or are we just paying him lip service, like when we say good morning to the cashier at the coffee shop, or the guy we buy our newspaper from? Are we being authentic Christians or are we just going through the motions?
What’s stopping us? We know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We know that ultimately, all that is, IS because of God. So what is in the way, what is standing between us and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
It’s SIN. Sin is what is between us and Jesus. There are many people who do not believe sin exists. In a way, they’re right, because in some sense, sin is a negation of true existence. It is a negation of the reality of God. But that isn’t what they mean, they are saying that sin is merely a fragment of our imagination, that we are simply paranoid and that God loves us and so we shouldn’t worry.
The fundamental flaw in that is that they fail to recognize that sin is not just us not being nice to each other. Sin is the act of us not living in the Will and the Way of God.
DO NOT LET THEM TELL YOU THAT SIN IS NOT REAL! Because when you no longer believe that you are affected by sin… When you no longer recognize the power that sin can hold over a person… THAT is when you are most enslaved. That is when Satan has the greatest hold over you. C.S. Lewis once said that the greatest lie the devil had ever perpetrated was to convince people he didn’t exist.
It’s hard to defend against a threat you don’t believe is real, isn’t it?
When you are proud, remember the humility of Christ on the Cross. When you are envious, trust that God will make all things sufficient. When you are Angry, give yourself over to the Love that loved you enough to die in your stead. When you are Gluttonous, unite yourself to Jesus, who spent forty days in the desert, resisting temptation, and resolve to follow him. When you are Greedy, think of Peter and Andrew, who laid down their nets, and followed Christ, having enough in his presence. When you lust, refocus your heart on Christ. When you are slothful, remember that Jesus is worth all that you can give.
As has been mentioned in our Discussions on the Prayer Book, there are prayers of confession in our liturgy. We will say one together in a few minutes. There is another in the Form of Morning Prayer. If you need, Fr. Slagle will hear your confession and pronounce the absolution and the forgiveness that Christ offers. If we are truly sorrowful, there will be no condemnation. Christ himself has already suffered on our behalf.
We must turn to Christ. Again and again, and again, when we fall, we must turn to Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God. The one who fed the multitude with fish and bread, and who feeds us with himself under the forms of bread and wine, will give and give and give of himself to us as much as it takes, and as long as it takes, to unite us to himself. Do not give up on the Good Shepherd- He will not give up on us.
To God be the Glory. Amen.