Monday, August 18, 2014

Heaven in Nebraska: Reflections on the LCMS Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music

“How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven.”

Genesis 28:17

This July, several of Redeemer’s music staff and I attended the 2014 LCMS Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music. Now, spending five days in Seward, Nebraska in late July may not sound like heaven on earth, especially for someone so acclimated to California weather, but it was. Why, you might ask?
Well, it wasn’t because the weather was incredibly perfect – no humidity, clean country air, and a refreshing breeze – though that was a welcomed surprise.

It wasn’t due to the fresh corn (Nebraska is called the Cornhusker state for good reason!) and home-style hospitality, though we were all satisfied.
It wasn’t on account of the excellent trip planning by Wayne Pereboom, though his organization was greatly appreciated.

It wasn’t even because of the beautiful sights and sounds of Lincoln, NE – home of the state capitol, though the magnificent structure is topped by a 19 ½ foot statue of Jesus the Sower (and it’s the third largest building in all of Nebraska).
How then did we find heaven in Nebraska?
Because Christ’s people were gathered to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His Word through liturgy, preaching, and church music.

Because the choirs, voices, and instruments resounded with the song of heaven here on earth.

Because we sang with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
Because we were fed day in and day out the wholesome word of Christ by the Gospel’s handmaiden, music.

Because comfort was given to our consciences in the preaching and liturgy of the church; God was busy enacting consolation directly to our hearts and mind.
Because Jesus was there in his holy presence, to bring us the comfort we so desperately need. Comfort in sins forgiven. Comfort in a good conscience, absolved and prepared for the Lord’s Supper. Comfort in our Holy Baptism. Comfort in Jesus’ body and blood. Comfort in every bar, note, and word of the Divine Service. Comfort because Jesus was present for us.

And wherever Jesus is, there’s heaven. Heaven in Nebraska? Absolutely. Wherever Jesus is he brings all of heaven with him. Think about that the next time you come to Divine Service. You don’t have to go looking for Jesus in the far off fields of Nebraska. You simply have to go where Jesus promises to be present for you. Jesus brings heaven comes on earth in specific locations. So heaven comes to earth in your Baptism as the water is poured, the Word is spoken, and the Spirit descends. Heaven comes to earth, indeed is wide opened to you in Holy Absolution. Heaven comes to earth as Jesus feeds us with His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins at His table, whether that’s located in Seward, NE or Huntington Beach, CA, or wherever His Word is preached and His Sacraments administered.
If you’re looking for consolation for a troubled conscience; if you’re looking for a safe haven in a wicked world; if you’re looking for rest and peace that knows no end; if you’re looking for heaven on earth – then come to the one place you can guarantee that Christ is present to give you comfort, forgiveness, shelter, and reconciliation in body and soul. Come to Redeemer, where heaven comes to earth and where Christ freely gives you comfort in his death and resurrection.

Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-2
And now for something completely different...

Sermon for Pentecost 10: "The Canine Canaanite"

Pentecost 10 – August 17th, 2014
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A, Proper 15: Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-8; Romans 11; Matthew 15:21-28

 In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Matthew’s account of the Canaanite woman is full of contrast.

The disciples, who are supposed to assist Jesus in showing mercy to others, are embarrassed. Either they’re embarrassed for the woman because she is annoying and needs to be sent away, or embarrassed by Jesus because he isn’t living up to their messianic expectations.
Jesus, an Israelite, is beyond the borders of Galilee. A Jewish rabbi is going out to spend time in Gentile territory, to seek out Gentiles and save them just as Isaiah prophesied while the Pharisees are still having a food fight about what defiles a person. The Pharisees blinded themselves to Jesus. And who is it that sees? In Matthew 15 it’s a woman.

She’s a Canaanite. Canaanites were Gentiles, idolaters, enemies of Israel and God. She knows all this. She knows a Canaanite woman has no business talking to a Jewish rabbi. But she has nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to. She’s desperate. Her daughter has a demon. And though she may not be able to articulate why or how, she knows Jesus can help. She’s heard the strange accounts of healing and miracles. So she comes with all boldness and confidence.
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David...”

These are strange words coming from the lips of a Canaanite. “Son of David” is Israelite talk. This is the language of the faithful expecting the promised Messiah. She has no right to address Jesus this way.

But isn’t that how it is for us? That we – who have no right to claim any favor from God; God gives us the right to be called sons of God. That’s the promise of Holy Baptism. We were gentiles, idolaters, and enemies of God by birth and deed. And God throws you into the water, cleanses, and gives you a new identity. We’re transformed and given the faith of Abraham. That is how we pray Our Father in all boldness and confidence as dear children ask their dear father.
And though she has no right to do so, the Canaanite woman prays the same way.

“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
We’re not told how the demon came to oppress her daughter and torment her house. Could’ve been years of false worship to a false god. False teaching invites demons. But one way or another, her house had become a beachhead for demons.

It’s a word of caution. As Jesus warned the Pharisees and disciples earlier in chapter 15, we’re defiled by the evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander that come out of our sinful heart. Sin is more than a flesh wound; it’s deadly and specific: gossiping about our fellow members, coveting our neighbor, pornography, drunkenness, even those little grudges we all have. Repent: do not return like a dog to its vomit. Keep watch. And pray: Lord, have mercy.
And what is Jesus’ reaction to this Canaanite woman’s petition? Silence. Perhaps that’s why the disciples ask him to do something. “Give her what she wants and send her away, Lord.” Problem is we’re not told why he’s silent. Just as we’re not told why our prayers seem to be met with silence at times. There’s no use in psychoanalyzing Jesus or trying to say more than the text says. Jesus is silent. But don’t take Jesus’ silence as his absence. Look what his silence reveals.

Jesus’ silence reveals his disciples’ embarrassment.  Either they’re embarrassed for the woman’s sake and want her quickly dealt with and sent away. She’s a bother, a nuisance, and don’t forget, a Gentile. Or they’re embarrassed by Jesus himself; he’s not acting the way they think a good little Messiah should act.
Jesus’ silence reveals something deeper in the woman. She is persistent. She does not leave. Even as Jesus breaks his silence saying:

I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. She is a Canaanite
Yet this woman will not give up. Like Jacob she wrestles with God and will not let Christ go without a blessing. She will not take Jesus’ silence for an answer. She comes closer to Jesus. She falls at his feet. She touches her face to the dirt. She is humble. She worships Jesus as a lowly beggar before the great king. Now she drops all pretenses, loses the “Son of David” Israelite accent, and speaks out of her brokenness.

Lord, help me.
We pray the same way. O Lord, I am a sinner. I am a beggar. Apart from you I have no good thing. Lord, help me.

And Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”
There’s no way to soften these words. Jesus’ words are plain and blunt. It was no nicer to call someone a dog in the first century than it is today. Maybe it’s dangerous to ask Jesus to speak because he might say what we don’t want to hear from him: the truth.

But even more shocking than the truth is that the woman agrees.
Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.

Yes, Lord. I am a dog. Yes, Lord. I am a beggar. Yes, Lord; I am a sinner. You’re right about me. She sees her own unworthiness. And yet she sees in Jesus something which she can cling to.
“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!” (Matthew 15:27). Yes, Lord, even Rahab, the Canaanite, Rahab the prostitute, that Gentile dog, turned to the Lord for mercy and found it. Isn’t that Canaanite, Rahab, your own great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother? Yes, Lord, dogs don’t deserve to sit at the table with Abraham’s sons. But wasn’t Naaman, the Syrian, cleansed with water and healed, so others would know that a prophet was living in Israel?

Yes, Lord. You’re right about me, Jesus. I am a poor miserable, mangy mutt of a sinner. And yet He cleanses you from all sin. Your Baptism is a divine flee bath, flooding all sin in you which you have inherited from Adam and which you have committed since.
This Canaanite woman catches Christ with his own word, and he is happy to be caught (Luther). She holds onto his words knowing that God’s business is feeding his people. She does not want the children’s bread. She wants food straight from the source, the Master of the Table, Jesus himself.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Better to be a dog in the house of the Lord than to be a chew toy for demons.

The Canaanite woman was content to receive a crumb. One crumb of God’s grace is more than enough for us. One crumb of Jesus’ mercy is more than enough to end the starvation of our sin and send the demons running. But it is not enough for Jesus.
Jesus gives more than a crumb, to this Canaanite woman and to you. He gives you himself. Jesus became the outsider and the dog for you. He became sin and death for you. He died for idolaters and blasphemers and sinners like you and me and that Canaanite woman. He died in humility in order to raise you up and seat you at his table, not as dogs under the table or even as children, but as his beloved bride.

Jesus feeds you with the best food, the bread of life, his very own body. And the choicest wine: his blood shed for you. Where we would settle for a crumb, Christ gives a feast.
“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

By faith in Christ this woman is no longer a dog. She is not lost. She is a member of new Israel, Christ’s holy bride: spotless. Clean. Undefiled. Without blemish. Pure. Holy.
Jesus makes the same promise to you. You are no longer dogs or Gentiles. The stain of your idolatry is wiped clean by his blood. The defilement of our lusting, coveting, gossiping, sinful hearts is cleansed. Jesus died for you. He became your sin so that you would be his bride. You are spotless. Holy. Clean. Undefiled. Without blemish. Pure. Holy.

Rejoice! The demons are on the run. Sin and death are defeated. Christ, your Master feeds you. You are at peace. Rejoice with the Canaanite woman in the gift of great faith that clings to Jesus’ greater salvation for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Funeral Sermon for Shirley Grober: "Be Not Dismayed"

+ In Memoriam – Shirley Grober - August 13, 2014 +
Isaiah 41:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-7
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
    and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Though these words were spoken by the prophet Isaiah almost 3000 years ago he could just as well have said them today. That’s one of the marks of a good prophet: he declares God’s Word for all people in all seasons, people like you and I today, who are in need of consolation and strength in God’s promises. God’s word of comfort is for you: Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
Shirley knew these words well. This was her confirmation verse:
fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
These words strengthened her faith not only on her confirmation day, but throughout her life, especially these past weeks and months battling with cancer and chemo and doctors’ visits. “I say this verse every day” she told me. And in her last hours, when it looked to all earthly senses that her strength was gone, God spoke his promise, strengthening her faith even in the face of death.
Yes, Death is an ugly enemy; it causes us fear and anxiety; we grieve and weep because of it.
But there are a few other things you should know about Death. Death is not final. Death does not win. Death is weak. Death is dead. Death could not hold Jesus for three days, and neither will it hold Shirley, or you, or me forever.
For the same Lord who promised Isaiah and Israel that he would be with them and uphold them with his righteous right hand is the same Lord who laid bare his righteous right hand on the cross for Shirley, for you, and for life of the world. Jesus is also the same Lord who showed his righteous right hand to his disciples after his resurrection: Do not be afraid; it is I. Look and see the scars. Jesus was upheld on the cross so that you would be upheld by his righteous right hand in his resurrection.
That is why Paul writes, we do not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
This is no abstract hope. Our hope is a person. Our hope is in the God who took on our human flesh and blood: Jesus born for you. Jesus’ life for you. Jesus Crucified for you. Jesus risen for you. Jesus ascended and reigning in heaven for you. Jesus who will come again and bring resurrection to Shirley and to you. Jesus who will breathe the breath of eternal life into our lifeless bodies.
Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
Shirley clung to these words in death and in life. This is why Israel’s name of “servant” is also a fitting one for Shirley. Whether she was at home or work, church or school, behind the desk at church or assisting children with special needs, Shirley was synonymous with servant.
She learned about service from Suffering Servant Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for Shirley, and for you, and for all.
This is the kind of loving, self-giving service God gave Shirley at her Baptism: “I am your God. You are mine. I have called you by name and washed your sins away. You are holy. And by water and Word I declare that, “You, Shirley, are my servant whom I have chosen; you whom I took from the farthest ends of the earth; “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”.
But Shirley is not alone in that promise. In fact, she’s not alone at all. She is with Jesus. And you are there too. In Baptism we are united to Christ in life and death – just as Shirley is. That’s one of the great joys of Christ’s death and resurrection for us: you are never alone. Jesus is with you today, and every day as we wait the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. We live and die as Shirley did, at rest in God’s promise:
fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pentecost 9 Sermon: "Hearing is Believing"

+ Pentecost 9 – August 10th 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A, Proper 14: Job 38:4-18; Romans 10:5-17; Matthew 14:22-33

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Seeing is believing we say.
“I’ll believe your room is clean when I see all the Legos picked off the floor.”
“I’ll believe the economy is in recovery when I see my bank account in recovery.”
“I’ll believe the church is strong when I see more people in the pews.”

Seeing is believing we say. But that’s not always true.
What if we applied the same thinking in our readings today?

What did Job see? Goods, fame, child, wife – all of it wrenched away. He saw faithless friends condemn him and Satan accuse him. He saw boils and plagues, death and disaster. Trial, suffering, and sorrow flooded his vision.

What about Paul, what did he see? His saw his people, God’s covenant people - who had received the Law of Moses and all God’s promises of the coming Messiah - reject, disobey, and close their ears to the saving Gospel, as he himself had once done.

What did Peter see? He saw Jesus walking on the water around 3 AM. He saw his look of panic and terror mirrored on his fellow disciples’ faces. Then he saw Jesus. But he didn’t believe. So he saw his feet hit the water and step towards Jesus. Then he saw the wind and waves and began to sink.

What about us? What do we see? Family members wrestling with relationships and divorce. Illness. Dementia. Inexplicable diseases that baffle doctors and patients. Loved ones on hospice care. Untimely deaths. Christians martyred for the faith in horrific ways. Faithless churches. Faithless peddlers of God’s Word. Faithful churches struggling. Financial worries at home, work, or church. Uncertain futures. Troubled consciences over our own sin. Failure and weak faith. Doubt. Despair.
Is seeing really believing? No it is not.

For if seeing is believing Job would have concluded that God had abandoned him after all.

If seeing is believing Paul would have given up altogether on delivering the Gospel to his Jewish brothers and sisters.
If seeing is believing Peter would have drowned and died in the Sea of Galilee.

If seeing is believing then this entire Gospel reading is one big allegory. And the moral of the story is: Peter didn’t have enough faith to walk on water; if you only had enough faith you could walk on water too! Sadly, this is how a lot of folks have interpreted this reading: as a faith-o-meter. If you only prayed harder, gave more, were nicer to people and had a better attitude, you too could have a heroic faith, you wouldn’t have financial problems, your church would be growing, your loved ones would be healed and on down the list. But that’s not what this reading is about at all. Seeing isn’t believing.
Peter isn’t held up as an example. He failed. And so do we. The first time Peter doubted whether it was really Jesus. The second time Peter doubted whether Jesus was able to do what he said he would do for him. And we’re no different.

This reading is not about what you see but who you hear. And who is speaking the words. This reading is about who Jesus is and what he says.
Seeing isn’t believing…but hearing is. In the Christian faith you see with your ears. It’s not what you see but who you hear. In the midst of persecution the baptized hear the voice of Jesus: I am with you always. In the midst of illness we hear the voice of our good physician: behold I make all things new; I AM the Good Shepherd. In sorrow and grief we hear his promise: I AM your resurrection and life. In the face of the manifold fear we see, we hear Jesus promise: Fear not; I AM here; Do not be afraid.

And in hearing we truly see.
For Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ.

And what do we hear in these readings?
From the prophet Job, we hear that the righteous do suffer. But they do not suffer alone. Hear the Word of the Lord…

…I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God…
Job’s Redeemer is your redeemer. Job’s confession is your confession. You do not suffer alone. For Christ your Redeemer lived, and died, and lives again for you. He, the righteous One suffered all your sin, all your disease, all your death, and all your unrighteousness. And nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord.

From the apostle Paul we hear: the Scripture say, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The same Lord who sent Paul to Jew and Gentile is the same Lord who send you to your neighbor to speak the Good News. And you go with words on your lips, and in the Name of God given you in Holy Baptism.

From Peter we hear a prayer. Peter looks around at the wind, the waves, and starts to sink. And he prays faith’s little prayer: “Lord, save me.” Jesus is all that Peter has at that moment. And Jesus is all he needs to save him.

That’s our prayer too. When it seems as if we’re going to drown and there’s nothing to hold on to but Jesus. “Lord, save me.” And immediately (immediately!) Jesus reached out His hand and took hold of Peter. Freeze that moment in your mind. Peter sinking, panicking, praying: “Lord, save me.” Jesus reaching out His strong and sure hand and grabbing hold of Peter. Whose grip matters most at that moment?

The answer is the same for you as it was for Peter. Jesus’ grip matters most. Jesus’ hands gripping your sin and death on the cross for you. Jesus gripping you in Holy Baptism. Jesus’ hands pulling you out of your grave.

Jesus didn’t let Peter sink in the consequence of his own foolishness and sin. And neither will he let you drown in your doubt, sin, and death.
The point of this story isn’t for you to work on your building up your superhero faith. There’s nothing to admire about Peter’s faith here. He is weak. He doubts. He failed. But that’s precisely the point. No, the point is that Jesus rescues you from weakness, saves us from drowning in our own sin and death. Jesus’ doesn’t promise that you’ll walk on water, but that you’ll walk out of your grave.

The solution to Peter’s problem wasn’t in what he saw, but in who he heard. It was simply to listen to Jesus’ Word. Peter’s weakness is revealed so that Jesus’ grace and mercy would be seen more clearly. Along with the disciples, we’re given faith to believe in Jesus, not faith to defy gravity.
We’re called to hear Jesus’ Word. Faith comes by hearing Christ’s promises. We hear his word of Law which rebukes our sin: oh you of little faith, why do you doubt? And we hear his word of gospel that comforts us in our doubt and weakness. Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.

Jesus speaks the same promise to you today. Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.
Seeing isn’t believing; hearing is believing.

Hear the Word of the Lord: I forgive you all your sins.
Hear the Word of the Lord: Take, eat; this is my body. Take, drink; this is my blood shed for you.
Hear the Word of the Lord: Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Pentecost 8 Sermon: "Come and Get It!"

+ 8th Sunday after Pentecost – August 3rd, 2014 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A, Proper 13: Isaiah 55:1-5; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today’s Gospel reading begins and ends in abundance. Abundant compassion. Abundant food. Abundant Jesus.     
That’s the way of the Gospel, always more.
5000 men – and more counting all the women and children, all fed from 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. All were satisfied. And there were more than enough leftovers: 12 baskets full. With Jesus, there’s always more.  More food. More forgiveness. More compassion than we ever deserve or imagined.
Jesus was tired, grieving and needed rest but what did he do? Send out a disciple to announce, “Sorry crowds; take a number and have a seat in the waiting room while you fill out some paperwork; the Great Physician will see you when he can; he’s running a bit behind today?” No! Jesus looked on the great crowd and had compassion on them.
He didn’t wait. He didn’t set up a committee. He didn’t talk about it for hours on end. He simply healed their sick. Abundant compassion in body and soul. And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus fed them all too. Jesus never stops at, “That’s enough.” Jesus, our Greater Elijah, always makes sure the chalice, the font, the absolution – is always overflowing. Jesus keeps pouring out His forgiveness. Again and again and again.
To any sensible person this whole scenario seems utterly crazy. The disciples even call Jesus out on it. “Jesus, look, we’re in the middle of nowhere. The day is spent. The people are hungry. Send the crowds away to the villages to buy food for themselves.”
The disciples were right. The sensible thing would’ve been to send them away. There was no 24-hour Vons or Gourmet Galilean drive-thru nearby.
That’s our way of doing things: the sensible way. We measure. We limit. We decide what is fair. We live our lives quid pro quo: I help you, you help me. “Oh you shouldn’t have, now I am socially obligated to give you a gift in return.”
But it’s not just the day-to-day things that work this way. Showing mercy to others seems too risky, too uncomfortable. Will they really truly appreciate what I do for them? What if I show mercy to that homeless person or that family on Slater St. or that neighbor in need? What will they say? How will they react? Will they appreciate all I’ve done for them?
Yes, we live sensible lives; we compare and measure others by our own standards and rarely look in the mirror. Because the mirror reveals the ugly truth: deep down we think we’re better than others; I live as if I mattered most, not my neighbor.
Thank God Jesus doesn’t do things the sensible way; we’d never make it through the checkout line. He doesn’t pull out the scales and weights and measure out each according to their wages. Isaiah knew it well too: abundant pardon. Abundant food without price.
Jesus takes a recipe right out of Isaiah’s cook book: “Come! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come; buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
How ridiculous! If Jesus was a grocery store he’d be broke and out of food in no time. But that’s the kind of Savior you have: abundant compassion. Abundant food. Abundant, gluttonous forgiveness.
There beside the still waters and green grass of Galilee, the Shepherd fed his sheep. “They don’t need to go away. You feed them.”
            “But we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish; it’s not enough,” the disciples cry.
“Bring them to me; it’s more than enough.”
Jesus prepares the food, sets the table, and seats the people. Then, looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Jesus blesses and gives thanks so the people are blessed and give thanks. He took bread. Broke it. Gave it to the disciples. And they distributed it.
Do those verbs sound familiar? They should. On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to His Disciples. “Take eat My Body given for you. Take drink my blood of the new testament shed for you for the remission of sins.”
Although that Galilean diner was a good, it was only an appetizer of the real feast of heaven on earth. Jesus blesses and gives thanks so you are blessed and give thanks. The Lord’s Supper. The Eucharist. The true Thanksgiving dinner.                    
Jesus feeds you the same way he fed that Galilean crowd; without price, without limit. Abundant Compassion. Outrageous forgiveness. Reckless, unabashed love in body and soul.
Christ Crucified tips the scale in your favor. All your debt is his. And all his life is yours. For all the sinful pettiness you measure out to others, He pours out his blood without measure for all. For all the times you are unmerciful; He looks on you in compassion. For all the times we lived as if we mattered most, Jesus lives and dies because you matter most. Jesus loves you with uncommon-sensible love.
That’s why you feed your children, isn’t it? Of course, because it’s good for them. Food is an enjoyable part of God’s creation. And family and church fellowship happens around the table. It’s all of this and more. You care for and feed your children because you love them.
And while our earthly parents may tell us - “That’s enough; if you don’t eat your meat you can’t have any pudding” - Jesus never says, “That’s enough forgiveness for one day; No compassion for you.”  When Jesus gives, he gives bountifully. Abundant compassion. Abundant food. Abundant Jesus.
That’s the life of the church to eat and feast on Christ’s gluttonous forgiveness, like hobbits and teenagers. Eat as often as you can; you can never get enough. With Jesus there’s always more forgiveness than there is sin.  More forgiveness than you have sins; more compassion than you could possibly need. So much that there’s leftovers: abundant love, abundant compassion, abundant forgiveness overflowing for your neighbor. Without limit.
For how can we, who have received Christ’s blessings, say to our brother in need: “Peace be with you,” yet leave him hungry, naked or in need?  Our Great Physician calls us to be abundantly compassionate to all in need.  Our Great Chef calls us to wait on those in need of daily bread, feeding them food that lasts into eternity and food that lasts through the night.  Our Great High Priest calls and ordains pastors – to feed his sheep with his forgiveness. He doesn’t stop there. He calls all Christians to be priests, to offer your lives as living sacrifices. Your priestly work is as close as your neighbor in need.
From the shores of Galilee to the shores of Huntington Beach, by hillside and bedside – Jesus is feeding his people.  Jesus heals, feeds and Saves - in body and soul. He does the same for you.
That’s why we confess the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. We eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. He strengthens you in body and soul in order for you to be a blessing to others in body and soul.
So, come, the dinner bell is ringing: “The Lord be with you; Come and get it!”
Come, Lord Jesus be our guest and let your gifts to us be blessed.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.