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A Rich Feast 9/1/19

Sermon for September 1, 2019

Texts: Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; John 6:1-14

Sermon: "A Rich Feast"

We have come to worship God. But we have come with many different joys and burdens in our hearts. Why did you come today? Look deeply into your heart and acknowledge what you seek.

Did you come to experience God?

Did you come to give thanks to God for blessings as he supplies every day?

Did you come to be lifted up, maybe out of some grief or sadness, some fear or anxiety, some burden that you cannot get off your heart?

Maybe you came without really knowing why, but just because God's Spirit led you to come. I say to you -- whatever the reason, you have come to the right place.

God is present with us. God wants to hear our praise and our thanks. God will bless us for our prayers and for the love we extend to him in blessing his name.

And God is here to feed us, to nurture us, to fill us full if we open our hearts and our minds to his holy word.

God is present to you so that you may cast your anxieties at the foot of his throne. You may give him your worst fears and your deepest longings.

The good news for you, for me, for every one of us is this: God is here to accept us as we have come, whether we have come to give, to ask, to share, or just to receive hope and grace.

My friends: That is the good news that God's word gives you today. These are not my words for you. These are Almighty God's words for you. So listen. And know that God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit speaks to each of us.

Hear again this verse from Psalm 81:

"I would feed you with the finest of the wheat and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you." (Psalm 81:16)

It is not the sensual pleasure of food the psalmist lifts up. Rather, it is the soulful, spiritual flourishing of his heart when he remembers the feast of God's bounty, the goodness that surrounds him, God's word and generous love that never fail to show up, again and again, at the right time. The psalm meshes beautifully with God's words spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

"I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land springs of water."

Isaiah gives the thirstiest of the thirsty, the neediest of the needy these words from God:

"When the poor and needy seek water and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them. I the God of Israel will not forsake them."

God's word and God's presence feed our souls.

On a day when Jesus was teaching and gathering big crowds following along with him, he was reminded by the disciples that the time was getting late, that he should be concerned about the hunger of the crowd. Maybe they should be fed; but there was no food at hand.

But Jesus found just enough -- just a little bread and a little fish; and it was enough to feed everyone. Jesus took a little bit of food the disciples found when faced with a hungry crowd on the hillside. And Jesus taught them that day one of the hard lessons of discipleship, one of the difficult lessons for the church -- for all of us in our various churches.

We struggle to figure out: What do we do as disciples when we are called to do the work of the kingdom and the resources seem meager? How do we teach others what it means to enjoy God's rich feast of love, faithfulness, and mercy? Here's what we do:

*We bring to others and share what we have in our hearts -- what we know about God and his great gift Jesus Christ.

*We show by our generosity what it means to have hearts full of faith and hope and love.

*We offer compassion to those in need.

*We give to others knowing that even the limited resources we have are God's to manage, God's to make grow, God's to use in the way of his kingdom in this world.

As a little bit of yeast makes the bread rise and become a nourishing loaf of bread, so, too our hearts grow as we allow Christ to make his home there, to dwell within us and among us, to feed us with his word.

Where now does God call us to meet the people in the world who are needy -- not just hungry for food but hungry for the good news of the Gospel?

Where do we find people who are starved for hope, maybe like some of us today -- looking for some way to make sense of a world that seems to be changing every day in ways that we can't control, a world that makes us fearful and erodes our faith in the God who is in charge of this world?

Where do we find the comforting words, the promise, and the gift that is above all gifts given in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ?

We find all of that in the Word of God given to us as free food, as rich feast, as nourishment that is never in short supply.

Rich feast? Believe me -- there are people who know nothing about the rich feast prepared by God for all people of the world. They know nothing about that.

But you know.

Is it enough for you today to know that, to know that Jesus Christ died for you, took away in his pain and agony all the sins of the world, took them into his own death and then was raised from the dead to reveal God's eternal love for each one of us?

But we know what God says through the prophets. And we know God's faithfulness in giving his Son for the sake of the world. We know the words of Jesus when he tells all who will listen to him:

"I am the bread of life." Do you hear what he is saying?

"I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)

Here is another way we deliver the gospel message -- we can tell how Jesus feeds us.

He makes this promise. His faithfulness, obedience, pain, death, and resurrection are nourishment for our otherwise starving bodies and souls. There is no other way.

Nothing feeds us as Jesus does.

Do you believe this? Will you help others to believe it?

Every man, woman, and child can hand over to God in Jesus Christ whatever pain or sickness, emptiness or grief, hunger or thirst that might lead them to think that God does not love them.

God loves each one of us. God wants every person, each of his treasured human beings, to thrive, to flourish, to live in love.

And he has given us the church, the community of believers, as the place where that love grows and shines God's light into the dark world.

We put what we have in the hands of Jesus. We put our gifts of money and our gifts of time and talent into the hands of Jesus. Jesus gave his best for us -- his very life. He calls us to give our best to others in his name.

And when we give our best, even when it seems meager, it is enough. It is enough -- like the bread that began with just a little bit and grew to be enough to feed thousands that day.

"Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!" God said through the prophet Isaiah. "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Incline your ear and come to me; listen so you may live." (Isaiah 55: 1, 2, 3)

Well, here is your invitation to a big dinner with God. It is happening every day that you turn to him to be fed. It is a dinner that will be the richest feast you can imagine.

And further good news is this -- you don't have to dress up. And you can take your whole family and meet the Creator of the Universe there. You matter. You are invited.

Why did you come to church today? Did you come to meet God? Did you come to experience God? Did you come to praise and thank him? Or did you come because you were needy -- hungry for what God might give you to nourish you?

Believe. Come and taste and see that the Lord is good. The Lord will fill you with good things. Open your heart to him and let the Lord Jesus Christ fill you full with the richness of God's very word.

You are invited to God's rich feast. And we give him thanks and praise.

The good news for you, for me, for every one of us is this: God is here to accept us as we have come, whether we have come to give, to ask, to share, or just to receive hope and grace.

We give him honor and glory. We give him our lives so that he may live within us and we may do his will.

For all of this we give thanks in the living presence of our great and one true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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