The Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost, August 5, 2018
Old Testament: Exodus 16:2–15
Epistle: Ephesians 4:1–16
Gospel: John 6:22–35
In the Old Testament Reading, a community of faith (though unwilling and grumbling) desired food, and the Lord, out of his faithfulness, promised to give bread from heaven, manna (Ex 16:2–15).In the Gospel reading, the first of three Sundays we will spend in John chapter six, Jesus proclaims Himself not only as the giver of the true Bread of Life, but also identifies Himself as that very Bread in His Person.The Introit from Psalm 78, along with the Exodus reading, both point us to the “food which endures to eternal life,” the crucified Son who is the Lamb of God.
The Old Testament Reading recounts God’s covenant with Noah and all living creatures never to destroy the earth by flood again. It also speaks of the sign of that covenant, the rainbow. The Gospel reveals the power God’s Son displays during a storm on Lake Gennesaret. He demonstrates his power over the storm first by walking on the waves, and second by quieting the wind and calming the waves once inside the boat. Safely ashore,Jesus demonstrates his power again as he heals the sick who were brought to him. The Ephesians Epistle is a continuation of the letter, speaking of God’s power, albeit of a different type.
One of the predominant themes for the day is that God is the agent in the preservation and salvation of his people.The Introit(selected verses from Psalm 143) focuses on God and his work in saving those who are troubled.The Gradualmagnifies the wisdom of God, placing his thoughts and ways above our own.The Old Testament Readingfinds Amaziah forbidding Amos to speak, and the prophet responding that it was God who chose him from nothing to be his spokesman. Finally, in the Gospelwe find King Herod believing that John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that in the person of Jesus he is performing miracles.
In our Gospel reading from St. Mark Jesus returns to His home town and finds that familiarity can breed contempt. Once the locals remember the diminished social standing and lowly position of honour Jesus held in their society they turn against His ministry. We come to the Divine Service to receive God’s gifts in order that familiarity may not breed contempt in our own lives. Although like Paul we have affliction in this life, God’s grace, power, and mercy stand opposed to our weakness (Epistle). We return again and again to the familiar words of the liturgy and there we find the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Pastor Jean Claude Manirigaba of the Reformed Lutheran Church of Rwanda has shared the ongoing struggles with building codes for churches in his country. The nascent Lutheran church in Rwanda has experienced the closure of a number of parish buildings, and needs additional financial resources to address these issues for the remaining parishes. Pray for Pastor Jean Claude and all the saints in Rwanda.
Jesus has the power over death, for He brings salvation and peace. This is the message from our Gospel reading this morning, shown through the healing of the haemorrhaging woman and the raising of Jairus’ daughter. Through the healing medicine of HIs Word and Sacraments Jesus continues to bring to us this same salvation and peace so that we may have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
As Lutherans, we give honor to the saints for three reasons: for thanksgiving, for the strengthening of our faith, and for the imitation of their faith and virtues. Today we celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, thanking God not only for sending His Son to save humanity but for sending His prophet John to prepare the way. Not only will God graciously visit His people in order to redeem them with the “horn of salvation” but He has chosen to send a messenger before Him so that all are prepared to receive the Good News. The Collect of the Day appropriately captures this emphasis upon John as “the forerunner of Christ,” the one who “proclaimed salvation,” in order that we might know God’s gracious visitation in Christ.
The Word of the Lord grows. It may seem imperceptible and insignificant at first, like the tiniest grain of mustard seed (Gospel). But the Word is sown and therefore grows, and it does not return empty (Isa. 55:11). In today’s readings we see how the Kingdom of God spreads out like a large tree in which His people have sanctuary from all that would harm them (Old Testament). The action of the Word is powerful and happens without human assistance, but instead is the work of the Holy Spirit (Gospel, see Luther’s Small Catechism, Article 3 of the Creed). God gives prosperity to what appears insignificant, beginning with Jesus Christ Himself who was made man and became Sin for us, in order that we might flourish in the righteousness of God (Introit).
The Pentecost season underscores the central and critical role of the Holy Spirit in our personal life and in the Church’s corporate life. In our Gospel reading this morning the religious authorities assert that the work the Spirit through Christ is really the work of the devil, and so they oppose the work of the Father who sent Him. This is the worse kind of blasphemy, for Christ Jesus brings release from sin, death, and devil. Jesus binds up the powers of darkness and frees you from your sins, He is your strength and your shield (Collect, Introit).
We pray in the Collect, “O God, on this day You once taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the light of Your Holy Spirit. Grant us in our day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things.” Jesus explains the work of the Holy Spirit: “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” (Gospel, Jn 16:8). In the Second Reading in Acts 2, the Spirit is made manifest through the mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire as he gives the apostles the gifts needed to spread the Gospel, namely, the ability to speak in languages not known to them previously. And in the Old Testament Reading (Ezek 37:1–14), the prophet is led to the field of dry bones where he is given the very words to prophecy. The Spirit’s breath of life causes dead bodies to come alive with flesh and breath. All this is the necessary work of the Holy Spirit. And especially precious to us: our Comforter, our Helper, who gives us God’s Word to bear witness to the world (Jn 15:26).