First Lesson: 2 Samuel 11: 1-15
Responsive Reading: Psalm 14
Second Lesson: Ephesians 3: 14-21
Gospel Lesson: John 6: 1-21
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The next five weeks of summer, we are going to be looking at John 6 known as the “Bread of Life” chapter. This study will provide us an opportunity to understand communion from five different angles: Communion as Miracle; Communion and This Life; Communion and Eternal Life; Communion as Belief; and Communion as Radical.
What exactly is a miracle? Last week at Bible study, we were talking about one of my favorite Biblical stories in Jonah and the really big fish. This is a really interesting story as we consider the meaning of a miracle. Ask the average Christian what they remember about this story?
They will remember Jonah being in the belly of a great fish for three days and then being spit out. But there are perhaps even more miraculous things that take place within the story: Jonah ends up in the belly of the whale because he didn’t want to go Nineveh. Taking a trip to Nineveh would have been as safe a proposition for Jonah as a Christian today traveling to a meeting of ISIS.
It would have made sense for Jonah to want to run in the other direction, never thinking that he would end up in a fish’s belly. Yet once Jonah gets to Nineveh something even more miraculous takes place than even surviving three days within the belly of a fish. Everyone in Nineveh converted, even the King once Jonah began to preach. Jonah who thought his preaching in Nineveh would be pointless became the world’s most effective preacher to a hostile audience.
So when I was asked whether I believe that Jonah’s story was true in that he spent three literal days inside the belly of a whale? My response would be that there are plenty of more unbelievable events that take place within the scriptures such as the conversion of violently anti-Christian Saul on the Road to Damascus. It’s not a question of whether God could act in such a crazy, way.
Jesus deals with the Jonah story in Matthew 12. Jesus when addressing the story doesn’t seek to provide an explanation for such a crazy story. Instead, Jesus uses this story as a reminder of the great lengths that God went to reach the people of Nineveh even if it involved Jonah getting a bit slimy. Jesus told this story to proclaim that just as Jonah spent three days inside a fish, he would soon spend three days inside the tomb to show how far that God will go to for his people involving either a big fish or a cross.
What exactly is a Miracle? Today’s gospel lesson contains one of the most famous miracles in the Christian Gospel in Jesus’ feeding of the 5000. This miracle is so important that the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all place it within their Gospels?
So why is this miracle so significant?
To answer this question, we need to consider exactly “what is a miracle?”
A few years ago, the author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book on another one of our favorite Bible stories in David and Goliath. Gladwell wanted to write about how this story perhaps didn’t have as unlikely an outcome as we might think.
Was David beating Goliath a miracle? Perhaps not. At first glance, the story would seem to be a miracle, the puny runt David taking down the scariest man in the world in Goliath.
Goliath probably was unbeatable in a sword to sword or strength to strength battle. David wrestling against Goliath would have been foolish. What David lacked in size though he made up for in brains. David used a slingshot because he could counter Goliath’s size advantage. David’s weapon was a stone because being a giant Goliath probably didn’t have the best vision. Was David’s win unlikely? Most certainly so, but this doesn’t mean it was necessarily a miracle.
Even within the pages of scripture, Miracles were not God’s common way of interacting with humanity. Miracles are confined to the Exodus, the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, Jesus’ ministry, and occasionally the apostles. Miracles from this point on seemed to cease, but does this mean that miracles are no more? Or are there no miracles any more because miracles aren’t what we think they should be. Perhaps God is working only in not the dramatic, visible earth-shattering ways that we think God should work.
To answer this question about the existence of miracles, we turn to our Gospel lesson for John 6. Today’s Gospel lesson is a common, human story. Everyone had heard about Jesus. Jesus was the talk of Bethsaida. People had heard all about Jesus healing the sick. Everyone wanted a piece of Jesus.
When I go home to Lindstrom and spend time with my dad, someone always wants a piece of his time. Someone might be calling about an insurance problem or someone having an issue with the City of Lindstrom, but my dad seems like he always has his cell phone next to his ear. We can complain about people being glued to their cell phones all we want, but in Jesus’ day he wouldn’t be called or texted by people. People would follow him everywhere that he went.
The crowd that followed Jesus on this day was so big that it was over 5000 people. 5000 people in the middle of nowhere, it was getting late, there were no fast-food or twenty-four-hour restaurants nearby. The Disciples and Jesus needed to figure out what to do with all these people.
Jesus asked the Disciples how much money they had to buy these 5000 people food? Two hundred denarii was Phillip’s answer or six months wages. The Disciples’ money was not going to come close to feeding all these people.
So while Phillip’s plan of buying all these people food was poor, Jesus’ other Disciple Andrew hatched a seemingly even worse plan to talk to this one young boy with “five loaves” and “two fish” to feed the crowd.
Feeding the crowd with such a small amount of food was to be an even more improbable plan of success. We all know how people get when they’re hungry. Those at the back of the line were going to be up in arms once the bread ran out.
Jonah surviving three days inside a fish is nothing compared to feeding 5000 people with such a small amount of food.
The Disciples figure that this was the only plan they could try. So the Disciples started serving bread and fish, people started coming then they kept coming, yet the strange thing is it that they never ran out of bread or fish.
The interesting thing about this story is the crowd wasn’t given only a small amount of “bread” or “fish”, the crowd was instead given as much as they needed. What this story ultimately reminds us of is the nature of God’s grace. People will be given just as much as they need.
What’s worth noting is how Jesus served the people the five loaves and the two fish.
A. Jesus looked up to heaven.
B. Jesus broke bread.
C. Jesus fulfilled his promise to feed these people.
D. Jesus had the Disciples gather all the leftover bread for later.
The feeding of the 5000 is an extraordinary story because Jesus is interacting with his people in an extraordinary way. Why doesn’t Jesus act like this today? Who are we to say that he doesn’t?
You see Jesus during the Last Supper took bread no different then today and promised a miracle. Jesus took bread proclaimed it to be “his body” and gave it to the Disciples promising the forgiveness of sins. Jesus then encouraged the Disciples to keep having this meal again and again.
The Lord’s Supper is a miracle because God promises to reach us in an extraordinary way.
I think the reason that so many Christians struggle with the Lord’s Supper is they just look at it as “bread” and “wine”, nothing special about either of those things. Wonder Bread and Mogen David, I can hear the snickers now as people proclaim the Lord’s Supper to be a miracle. The Lord’s Supper is a miracle because Jesus promises to be uniquely present within it.
Luther realized that miracles maybe didn’t happen in his life just like they did in Jesus’ day, but this didn’t mean that God was no longer present. Luther looked at faith as being the greatest miracle of all. Luther looked at the fact that people believed after the world crushed them, after they committed sins that they dare not say, and after they struggled with unbelief nearly every day of their life as the greatest of miracles. Luther saw Baptism and the Lord’s Supper to be the greatest of miracles because Baptism dared to create “faith” where as the Lord’s Supper dared to sustain “faith” against all odds.
Luther knew that the Lord’s Supper was just “bread” and “wine” but this was no ordinary “bread” or “wine”. For bread is just bread and wine is just wine but when connected with words of Gospel promise great things take place “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”. The Lord’s Supper is a miracle because God promises to reach us within it in an extraordinary way.
The thing about miracles is that they are at the center of our faith life, regardless of what type of church you attend. The thing about miracles is that they go against every bit of sense and sensibility that we might have regarding their outcome.
People wouldn’t go to church if they didn’t believe miracles reached them in some, small way. The question to ponder would be “Is something a miracle because we think it to be so, or because God promises to deliver us from all evil?”
One might have many reasons not to believe but at the moment they approach the communion rail all those reasons seem to vanish away. One or two moments during the month, God’s presence seems to encounter us in a unique way that we could not previously fathom.
The great miracle that takes place at the communion rail is all our brokenness and sin encounters all of God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness keeps coming and coming, just like five loaves and two fish fed 5000 people. God’s forgiveness seemingly never runs out. This miracle doesn’t come because of the church, this doesn’t come because the people sitting in the pew next to you are particularly good Christians.
We have no idea what the stories were approaching the feeding trough of the 5000 people that Jesus fed, yet he was going to feed them without exception and expectation.
The reason that the Lord’s Supper is so miraculous has to do with the various places that we gather from in life when we approach the communion rail. We are then fed until we are full of God’s mercy.
Bread is just “bread”, Wine is just “wine” but if God wants to do something with it beyond meeting just human needs, but also spiritual needs then this would seem to be God deciding to do the outrageous no different then sending Jonah to Nineveh through any means necessary.
What is a miracle? The difference between a “miracle” and “coincidence” is faith. A miracle can point us to see a grand spiritual purpose in a world that often leaves us longing for answers. What makes something a miracle is the fact that our human brains can not even begin to fathom the reasons why God might be so generous: five loaves, two fish, 5000 people and one gracious and ever loving God.
 Matthew 12:38-45.
 Gladwell’s book is entitled David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants published by Little, Brown, and Company in 2013.
 John 6:1-21
 John 6:7
 John 6:9
 The connections between this story and the Lord’s Supper is made by Ed Markquart in his commentary in his Series B Gospel Analysis of this passage found at sermonsfromseattle.com.
 John 6:11
 John 6:11
 John 6:12
 John 6:12
 Great reflection on Communion that I came across written by Sarah Condon entitled “Low Anthropology is My Love Language”. MBird (Mockingbird Ministries). 28.Apr.2015. Web. Jul.24.2015.
First Lesson: 2 Samuel 7: 1-14a
Responsive Reading: Psalm 89: 20-37
Second Lesson: Ephesians 2: 11-22
Gospel Lesson: Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56
“When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”-Mark 6:34
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin this sermon like I begin a lot of sermons. Last Thursday, I went down to the cities to see the Twins play. So Friday, I went to visit my grandma. Grandma was in a foul mood. Grandma was mad at nearly every member of her family. Grandma vowed that she was going to break out of that “pig sty” of a nursing home where she lives. Grandma was going to move to California, and she had no intention of coming back to Minnesota until she was buried when she wouldn’t know any better since she’ll already be dead. Grandma in her typical defiant matter said even though she’s 91 years old and confined to a wheelchair that she planned on living for a long, long time. The reason that I bring Grandma up is because she is like plenty of people that we know. You know the type, mad at everyone in the world for their problems and constantly wanting to run away from it all.
Today’s Gospel lesson has Jesus being swamped! Many of us celebrated Bay Days last weekend. There were races, fundraisers, church services, class reunions, parades, and people to talk to that we haven’t seen in a long time. I know that by the end of the Bay Days parade last weekend, I just wanted to go home and watch baseball. As swamped as we may have been last weekend this was nothing compared to Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson. Our lesson describes Jesus as “For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat”.
The last few weeks of Jesus’ ministry had been quite hectic. Jesus had been chased out of the synagogue within his hometown of Nazareth, John the Baptist had just been executed, so people had mourn his loss, and the Disciples had just left for their first missionary journey. Jesus suggests a get away for a few days.
Earlier this winter, I was in Mexico for my friend Ben’s wedding. The groom and most of his friends and their spouses were my age around 35. When we were down in Cancun, there were two different approaches to life and the outside world. My bachelor self-turned off my phone upon leaving Minneapolis, turned the IPAD off upon exiting the plane and spent the next few days disconnected from everyone else. No one was going to be able to reach me, and there wasn’t much that I could do if they did. Whereas the married people at the wedding had to have WIFI and international service plans for their phones. They did this to not only send pictures to their kids or spouses but keep in contact with them via phone because they knew their contact was going to be the most important thing in their kids day.
Jesus was not going to get a moment of disconnect though for the rest of his ministry as the stakes were too high. Too many people were out there hurting. So what did Jesus do to those who were the most hurting? Jesus began to teach them many things.
They were like sheep without a shepherd. My friend Warren Baker had been to all kinds of churches. Warren’s heart though lies with small churches not unlike this one. Warren will think nothing of driving from his house in Jackson, Minnesota to some small mountain town in Idaho with maybe 200 people within 50 miles. Warren goes to churches with so much hostility in the air that he’s literally worried that people are going to bring baseball bats to church. Warren visits churches where pastors have been forced out with petitions and Warren’s been to churches divided into two. Warren steps into messes of churches where the pastor has had to resign for inappropriate sexual behavior or drug and alcohol abuse. Warren goes to these places because he knows that not many pastors are going to dare to go there. Warren’s reasoning in putting himself out there rather than living a comfy retirement is that sheep no matter how many or how few always need a shepherd. Warren always quotes this verse from Mark 6 as to why he does what it does even if people might not understand why Warren cares so much about a twelve member church in Capitol, Montana. Warren knows the leadership that a people receive makes all the difference in one’s soul.
Jesus uses the analogy of sheep being without a shepherd to compare himself to false leaders of the day. When I was in Seminary, I knew a guy named Iver. Iver was a farmer from West Central Minnesota. Iver was probably the oldest student at Luther Seminary. Iver begins to attend classes when he hears all these high flatulent terms tossed around such as exegesis, hermeneutics, and eschatology. Iver after a while got frustrated by the general academic attitude of the seminary. Iver one day in the cafeteria just says and I’ll clean up Iver’s language to make it church appropriate when he says “You can do all the Biblical exegesis you want, but if people think you don’t give I’ll say “hooey” about them then it won’t matter one bit. There are two kinds of shepherds out there those that want the sheep to listen to them for their intellect and those who don’t mind spending time in the pig sty of people’s lives unafraid of getting dirty.
What did Jesus teach people that day on the Lakeshore? Our lesson doesn’t really say. What we can say is what we know about how Jesus taught people. Jesus probably talked to them about their life. Jesus probably looked people into the eyes to ask them about their pain. Jesus probably spoke to them about their life. Just think of how Jesus speaks to crowds during the Gospels. He tells stories of men being mugged (Parable of the Good Samaritan), he tells tales of a rebellious son who basically curses out his Father (Parable of the Prodigal Son), Jesus talked about frustrations such as losing things such as coin or sheep; today he might he talk about losing TV remotes. Jesus talked about money and all its frustrations a lot. Jesus talked about planting trees and scattering seed. Jesus probably told the crowd a story about how their life ultimately relates to the Kingdom of God. Jesus wanted the people on the Lake Shore to know that he was not just some distant shepherd living in a far away land, Jesus had lived every second of their experience.
We know the people that Jesus was talking to on this day. We live in a world with a great many hurting people. People don’t always understand how Christianity fits into all this. I spend many a night thinking about what type of Pastor do I want to be, what kind of church do I want to lead. Do I want to dare be able to speak the Gospel to the ones society deems as undefendable?
This week there was a major story on the news about a teacher at our local school. Many of us in this room know this teacher. Many of us have been grieved upon hearing this news. I’ve led services at the Veterans Home with this teacher. This teacher and I would always exchange greetings when I ran by the school in the morning. I do not wish to judge whether this man is innocent or guilty of the crimes that he is accused? I have no doubts that this man has made some bad choices in life, and the legal system will ultimately play its course. I ask this morning that we pray for everyone involved in this situation.
What I want to speak about is the spiritual nature of these charges. What I do know is that because of the nature of the charges that he faces that people will consign him to the fires of hell. People will define this teacher every day for the rest of his life because of the nature of these charges. Many people will assume this man can never meet redemption because of the alleged nature of his crimes.
I think of the story of Jesus encountering the Woman caught in adultery in John 8. People had picked up their stones to throw at this woman. This woman was as guilty as could be! Jesus knew that she was as guilty as could be! Everyone in the crowd knew that she was guilty as could be! Everyone thought their instincts had taught them the proper way to react to a situation such as this one. They thought she was “sick”, they thought she was “twisted”. Jesus figured that he needed to say something standing in the presence of a homewrecker such as this woman.
Jesus upon seeing this scene bends down to the ground to write “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus then turns to the woman and says,“Has no one condemned you?...Then neither do I condemn you.”
A shepherd is only worth following if he will stand beside people when they’re at their absolute worst. A shepherd is only worth trusting in if they will defend you from the scariest of attackers including judgment of the whole world itself.
What is the motivation behind "We are an imperfect church for imperfect people.”
We have a great many people out there longing for a shepherd. We see these kids at the school, we see these neighbors at the supermarket. These people might feel cut off from their families; these people might feel isolated from the world around them. We have people out there who go through everyday fighting against a crippling insecurity over not being young enough, pretty enough, or gifted enough to measure up in this world. What I say to these people this morning is that you are not alone, we do not condemn you, and you are never alone!
Many people wrongly think that what they need in life is to hear sweet words of affirmation every morning that they are wonderful, and everything will soon be alright. Every single person knows that picture does not paint an accurate picture of us. Why I long for Church is because I long for confession. I long to stand before God and Man and admit that I don’t have it all together. Life is full of gray areas. Ten years from now is a pile of uncertainty. We face the world every day with uncertain answers. Our tension in life is ultimately O.K. because we have a shepherd who guides us along the path. A shepherd who promises to lead us through and out of the grave itself.
The thing about this passage is that Jesus never got a vacation within his ministry. The reason for this is Jesus’ promises do not disconnect from the realities of our lives. The reason that the Shepherd is so good is because he ultimately lays down his life for the Sheep.
Today as we consider what it means to go through life as a Sheep without a Shepherd. We reflect upon the words of our 23rd Psalm. The Lord is My Shepherd I shall not be in want. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus promises not only to care for us, but to protect us, lead us, and guide us no matter what life throws our way.
Grandma might not like living in a “pig sty”. Plenty of people don’t like their current living situation and wish the world around them would change. We go forth with the assurance that our Shepherd does not stand idly by watching his sheep even for a minute. Amen
 Mark 6:31
 Mark 6:1-6
 Mark 6:14-29
 Mark 6:7-13
 Mark 6:34
 Luke 10:25-37
 Luke 15:11-32
 Luke 15:8-10, Luke 15:1-7
 John 8:1-11
 John 8:7
 John 8:10b
 John 8:11b
 Psalm 23:4
 Psalm 23:1
 John 10:1-21
First Lesson: 2 Samuel 5: 1-5, 9-10
Responsive Reading: Psalm 48
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 12: 2-10
Gospel Lesson: Mark 6: 1-13
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.