Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crying Out for Christ

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 22nd, Year of Our + Lord 2012
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, Montana
Mark 6:30-44

It seems this week that the lectionary, from which we take our readings, is at cross purposes with the events of our life together in Christ. Today before our eyes little Matthias Emens Castro was declared holy by God through the washing of Water and the Word, a day fairly begging for some passage about Baptism.  But our readings instead tell us of overabundant banquets of heavenly bread, the Good Shepherd feeding His flock, bringing to mind the Holy Supper, not so much Baptism.  However, as those of you who have been fortunate enough to join him in worship these last few weeks have heard, the character of Matthias lends itself quite well to a discussion of God’s banquet, even on this, the day of his Baptism.  For, as some of you have heard, when this new little saint of God gets hungry, he’s not shy about letting you know. 

In fact, when Matthias is hungry, or has anything else not right in his world, he is quite vocal, making sure that all around him know that feeding him, or changing him, or rocking him, whatever he needs, should immediately take first priority.  Three weeks ago, the time to feed Matthias and the time to receive the Supper coincided here at Trinity, and Matthias won out.  Laura his mother missed the Sacrament because his fussing and building cries of starvation, which simply demanded to be met. 

Now that’s o.k. for a Sunday here and there, but Laura knows that to be the best Christian mother she can be, she needs to get as much of Jesus as she can, especially to eat and drink His Body and Blood for the remission of sins, for the Supper strengthens Laura and all faithful recipients to love their neighbors.  It’s a bit of a Catch 22, though, as very high on Laura’s list of neighbors these days is of course little Matthias.  Still, to care best for Matthias in the long run, both Laura and Jon need the Supper, and so last week they were determined to make sure they could both commune, no matter what Matthias had to say. 

Oh, what a glorious day last Sunday was.  The parents and I had consulted a bit beforehand, and so, after the elder and I had taken communion to the organist and a few other members in the pews, we headed back up to the sanctuary via the side aisle, enabling me to glance over at the Castros, to see if perchance we needed to commune one of them in the pew, just in case Matthias wasn’t cooperating.  A glance and nod from Jon indicated that all seemed fine, so we continued back into the chancel and began serving the gathered guests coming forward to the Altar. 

We had served the first table, I think, maybe two, when, just as the Castros headed up to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, Matthias realized that his priorities were being relegated, however briefly, to second fiddle.  The protest began.  I don’t know if Matthias was hungry, or if there was something else disturbing him, but as his father carried him toward the altar, a chorus of wrath and woe  began.  If you missed it, just let me say that given his complete comfort with boldly proclaiming what is on his heart, even up in the front of the Church, perhaps we should reserve a spot for Matthias in the Fort Wayne Seminary’s summer Greek class for the year 2034 or so. 

Matthias vigorously protested his parents delaying, however briefly, the satisfaction of his needs.  Jon and Laura were doing the right thing, but from the perspective of Matthias, something was not quite right, and Matthias wanted things put right in his world, right now.  When Mom and Dad did not immediately respond to his cry, he took it up a notch, or two.  By the time Jon made it to the rail, father and son had matching red faces, and I was locked in a duel to see if I could make myself heard to the people gathered at the rail, a foot or two in front of me.  It was great.  Matthias’s volume was impressive, definitely a future preacher’s lungs if I’ve ever heard some.  We really should begin praying now that the Lord of the Harvest will send Matthias as worker into His harvest field, to use that voice to proclaim the Gospel to every nation, perhaps all at once. 

I loved the whole thing, Christ with His Supper inserting Himself right into the messiness of our very real human lives, the Lord our Righteousness delivering His gifts right into the midst of our need.  It doesn’t get much better than babies crying in Church, adding their voices to the chorus of earth and heaven, reminding us all that Christ passed through every stage of human development, because every stage of our lives needed to be redeemed. 

I suspect that Matthias will be one of those blessed children who, when their parents bring them to the rail, reach out for the bread, and grab at the chalice, that he will want to be fed at the table as soon as possible.  Which is as it should be.  The Supper is for the baptized, the only limitation being the need for all who commune at the altar to rightly confess the faith proclaimed there, and to discern, that is to understand and confess what God is doing in the Supper.  For the Supper is the very Holy of Holies, to be handled with care, for God Himself is present to save.  The supper a gift meant for the gathered faithful, for only faith in Christ enables us to safely and beneficially receive it.  The Supper is also a meal which Paul tells us is a proclamation.  As we eat, we proclaim the Gospel, and we of course want to get it right, to proclaim the same truth, so that all who participate can do so with joy and confidence.  So it isn’t yet time to commune Matthias, because we cannot yet hear his confession of faith.  But that every baptized Christian should want the Supper, that is meet, right and salutary. 

Certainly Matthias seemed distraught last Sunday, as Mom and Dad got to eat, but he didn’t.  We as yet can’t understand everything Matthias is communicating, but he certainly seems to be hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  That is, Matthias is very keenly focused on having everything right in his world, and righteousness is having everything right, not just with the world, but with the Lord.  Being right with God requires holiness, a righteousness and a love for God which we sinners cannot produce, but which God gives as a gift, delivered by Word and Sacrament, creating faith in Christ’s blood bought forgiveness.   

This gift of righteousness Matthias has, fresh from the waters of Holy Baptism, where the Lord, who is our  Righteousness, placed His robe of righteousness over Matthias, covering all his sin, making him spotless and pure in the sight of God the Father.  Today is truly a special day for Matthias, the day we can point him to for the rest of his earthly life, the day when God publicly proclaimed:  Matthias is mine. 

Now, the Lord has been privately been making that claim for some time now, writing Matthias’ name in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world, and speaking to Matthias since his beginning.  Yes, Matthias has been hearing the Lord call him for 10 months now.  For nine months in the womb, and in the month since, Matthias has been a regular hearer of the Word, so certainly the Word of Christ has been dwelling in him richly. 

And by the Word of Christ, the Holy Spirit creates a hunger for more, a hunger for the putting right of things wrong, for the filling of the stomach of faith with the promised good news bread.  By God’s grace and power, those who regularly hear the Christ’s Word of Law and Gospel have created in them a hunger and thirst for righteousness, a hunger and thirst for Christ Himself. 

This is as it should be for the Baptized.  And also for those approaching Baptism.  Every sinner whom the Lord is calling to Himself should be demanding Christ.  Those who have heard the promises of Baptism should demand to be given the new birth of the Holy Spirit, and those who are baptized should be reaching out for the Supper.  Every sinner who hopes in Christ should be crying out to be given Him, through His Word, through His Sacraments, now, and often, and always. 

Because we need Him.  Oh yes, we need Him, day by day.  I really do think we should pray that Matthias will be called into the Holy Ministry.  But even more we should pray he be one of those steady, boring, always in Church Christians, a person who when he’s sixty will say he can never remember not being regular in Church.  We should pray this for him, because Matthias will need it.  Despite his promising start, despite his faithful parents, Matthias will need to be reminded, he will need to be pointed to this day.  He will need to be challenged, confronted when his actions brings shame on the Name placed on him today, confronted, so he can again be comforted by the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection, receiving again the word of forgiveness he received today.  Forgiveness is always available for Matthias, because God has promised to forgive all who trust in Jesus.   

God counts Matthias righteous for Christ’s sake, but Matthias will sin, and the world will lure him away, and the devil will seek to devour him like a roaring lion, and the only defense our Lord has given Matthias, and you, is His Word of promise.  We are so often plagued by doubts.  Could God really love me?  Is His way really true, and truly best?  Don’t I have to make my own way, now that I’ve fallen away, again?  Will God forgive me, again? 

Against these and a thousand other doubts and temptations, all we have is God’s promise, made in Christ, delivered by the Spirit through proclamation and the Sacraments.  The Gospel in Word and Sacrament is all we have to fight sin, guilt and death, but it is enough, for the Good News is that no sin can be too great for Jesus to forgive.  We poor miserable sinners can always come back to Him, confessing our sins, because on the Cross, Jesus shed His blood and gave up His Spirit, in order to win forgiveness and new life for every sinner.  The journey of faith on which Matthias embarked today, the path that all of you are walking, is one necessarily built on daily forgiveness.  And it is God’s great joy to lead you on that path, to daily and richly forgive you, for this is just who God is.   

Matthias, since his mother is a teacher and singer and fiddle player, may be naturally inclined to singing and speaking publicly, good traits for a future pastor.  Certainly he has good volume.  And perhaps from his dad he has inherited the habits of a steady, hard worker.  From grandpas and grandmas he no doubt has other fine traits.  But better than all of these, today God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has put His Name on Matthias, and made promises that last forever, promises of forgiveness and eternal joy.  These are the promises that faith lives from, and my prayer, for Matthias, and for you, is that the Lord will grant you a daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, a hunger and thirst for His Word and Sacrament, a hunger and thirst for Jesus, who is your life, both today, and forever and ever, Amen. 

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