A Sermon for Series A Proper 13 2017 “Economics and Grace”

 

Old Testament Lesson  Isaiah 55:1-5

Second Lesson  Romans 9:1-5

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 14:13-21 

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read. [Matt. 14:13-21]

I’m definitely dating myself, but I can remember when the Dow Jones Industrials were a whopping 3000.  And I remember when the economic experts, the talking heads, were saying that the Dow would never ever go above 8000.  And I remember when the thought of the Dow being over 20,000 was unthinkable.  But all that is in the past.

Some people say the market is vastly overinflated, and someday there’ll be a huge correction as we get back to reality, and stocks again reflect the true value of the companies they represent.  That type of speculation fuels investors’ nervousness, and certainly the day-to-day ups and downs of the stock market are effected by the worries and the anxiety of major investors; but the bedrock of the marketplace has always been supply and demand.

Supply and demand really has a big effect on our lives. It can make us unconsciously limit our choices, and place a sort of self-imposed rationing on ourselves.  We worry about the scarcity of goods and services.  We fret over waste and perceived extravagances.  We get anxious about how much certain essentials like gasoline and energy will be costing in the near future.  And all this deliberating can make life feel overwhelming.

Imagine if God worked by supply and demand.  Would the supply side ever find itself limited or overwhelmed by demand?  If God’s grace had a max, or a cap on it; would sins only be forgiven up to the limit and no further?  I guess we could just curb our desires and reduce our sinfulness to stay under the cap.  We’re used to supply and demand, we understand rationing and limiting.

If we were really good at limiting our sin maybe we could even sell credit; you know, like those carbon credits the small polluting companies can sell to the larger polluters to minimize the taxes and penalties the government levies on them.  Small sinners could sell credit to big sinners and everyone would be saved.

But what if God applied his grace in a limited, but universal sort of way, and those big sinners used up so much of God’s grace that there was none left for you, even though you’d been so good, limiting your sinning and rationing those displeasing thoughts, words, and deeds?  What then?

Would God condemn you, even though you played by the rules?  Well, if God worked by the rules of supply and demand … he would.  But God doesn’t work by the rules of supply and demand.  God, our God, works in ways that are not our ways.  He knows the demand of sin is limitless and undeserving of any grace whatsoever; but even so, he sent his Son.

He sent his Son, his only Son whom he loved, and he sacrificed him in the place of those whose sin condemned them; and with this sacrifice, he forgave the sins of all mankind.  For the sake of his Son, all sin is forgiven; without limit, without ration.

In the feeding of the five thousand, one of the great miracles of Jesus, we see God’s ways collide with man’s ways and we discover that, thankfully for us, God does not abide by the rules of supply and demand.  God’s view of a good sound economy is not our view at all.

Mankind is very needy; and God knows it.  Its demands are very high.  Five thousand men, not including women and children; that means there were more like twenty thousand people trekking deep into the wilderness, bringing their sick, and I’m sure not so ambulatory, relatives in the hope that Jesus would cure them; and he did.  No one was charged for this service, not even a deductible or co-pay was charged.  High demand, endless supply.

And after all the sick were cured, and the teaching was finished, it was too late to expect this throng to make their way back out of the wilderness to find food; so Jesus told his disciples to feed them; and, through Jesus, they fed them all.  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

He fed them, until they were satisfied; and these weren’t people on a diet, or light eaters.  These were people who ate until they stuffed themselves, until they could eat no more.  That’s what the word we translate ‘satisfied’ truly means; it’s a Greek word that’s used to describe how hungry animals eat!  No rationing, no limitations, full satisfaction.  Everyone got all they wanted, not just the bare necessities, but feasting, gorging themselves.

After the feast, twelve baskets full still remained; one full basket for each of the twelve apostles.  Their Lord and master was showing them, with this sign, that no matter how often, no matter how much of his blessing they gave to their neighbors their lives, their baskets, would still be filled to the brim with his love and blessings for them.  No matter how much forgiveness we give, God’s forgiveness, for us, is still full and complete in our lives.

The feeding of the five thousand shows us that God doesn’t abide by the rules of supply and demand.  His mercy and grace are superabundant, never failing, always there for us.  And his grace and mercy extends to all mankind.  Despite the many who reject him, God would not have even one sinner lost.

Even as he fed their stomachs, Christ Jesus fed their souls; teaching them, giving them the Word of God, the proclamation that in him the kingdom of God had come down to earth and was walking among them.  This miracle was the fulfillment of a covenantal promise made over seven hundred years before Jesus was born; a covenantal promise made by God to all people in all time; and that means it’s a promise he made to you and me too.

Jesus fulfilled what Isaiah had prophesied when he said: “Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and you labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live….

God gives us his grace, his mercy, his love …without limit, without ration, without any strings attached.  We are creatures driven by supply and demand, but God is not.  We know our sin and we know our need, our demand, for forgiveness, and it is great; but never worry that your sin is too great for his full and complete forgiveness.  God’s love is always greater.

Today we will eat and drink and be satisfied; satisfied with the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  We will eat without money, without price.  We will eat what is good and delight ourselves in the rich food of God’s forgiveness.  Today, as Christ continues to miraculously feed his people; we step into scripture and join the five thousand, filled with God’s grace and mercy.

Today we see that he has come down from heaven to earth to rescue us, to be present with us; and that’s the greatest miracle of all.

Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle