The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
Looking over the texts appointed for today, the words of the Small Catechism kept flooding my mind. Our heavenly Father “richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” We see this in spades with the miraculous feeding of the four thousand, but we also see this already in action at the very beginning of time. God takes His newly created man, created in His own image and likeness by means of His own hands and His own holy breath, and places him in the garden, which was especially created for him to work and keep. (God gives the gift of work. Work is a good and godly thing, contrary to what many people tend to believe. But… that’s a different sermon.) God places His highest and most cherished creation in that garden and then tells him: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden.” Talk about providing! Every fruit of every tree was available for Adam to eat! Nothing was out of season. Nothing was stale or old or mushy or bruised. It was all fresh; as fresh as it could possibly be! Ripe for the picking! “All that I need to support this body and life.”
But… we know that there’s more to the story, isn’t there? “You may eat of any of this fruit… except for the fruit of that one single tree; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For in the day that you eat of that fruit you will surely die.” Okay… so God also provides a death trap? That doesn’t seem very loving. If God truly desires the death of no man, then why did God provide that tree? If He’s all-knowing, He had to have known they would eat and die. Why provide something that does not support, but rather destroys body and life?
Folks: I don’t have the answers to those questions. God doesn’t tell us these things. That alone is a loving “stop sign.” Go no further. In the words of Deuteronomy: “The hidden things belong to God, and the revealed things belong to us.” God doesn’t tell you all you want to know, nor does He have to. He tells you all you need to know. Besides, I would caution anyone who dwells on these questions because these are questions of unbelief. “IF God truly desires the death of no man…. IF God is truly all-knowing….” Those questions are no different than the questions straight from Satan’s mouth: “IF you really are the Son of God, prove it. Turn these stones into bread. Throw yourself off this rooftop. Save yourself and come down off that cross.” God provides us with all that we need; not all that we want.
But here’s the thing: Focusing on all those “IF’s” is not only wrong, but it causes us to miss God’s good and loving providence staring us in the face. Just listen to what God Himself says to His beloved Adam in regards to that particular tree. “In the day that you eat of that fruit, you will surely die.” God IS providing for Adam! It’s as plain as the nose on your face. He’s providing all that Adam needs for this body and life, including (and especially) eternal life. It’s a loving warning. It’s not a threat. It’s a statement of reality. “Adam, if you eat this, you will die, and I don’t want this for you.”
Of course, we all know how that turned out, right? The problem wasn’t with God’s providence, was it? The problem was with man’s pride; with man’s doubt. Adam wasn’t content with all that he needed. He wasn’t getting all that he wanted. And look what happened. Man turned a deaf ear to God’s loving Word; Word that provided him all that he needed for his body and his life; and instead trusted his own eyes. Chapter 3 tells us that Adam and Eve looked at the fruit, and seeing what a delight it was to their eyes, they took it and ate.
What about you? Consider your own lives. I’ll ask, just like St. Paul, consider the fruits you get from your sinfulness. And don’t fool yourself: We still long for these deadly fruits, even as we stand on this side of the cross. Why? Because they appeal to our Old Adam senses. Let’s face it: We have our wants and desires; our pride, and humility and suffering just isn’t on the preferred menu for us. It’s true, whether we want to admit it or not: We who have been justified and grafted into the Vine of Life that is Christ still tend to prefer the fruits of sin. It feels good. It makes us “happy.” Life just seems so much easier when we’re swimming downstream with everyone else; when all our “wants” are satisfied; when we don’t have all those pesky crosses to bear.
Folks: The end of all those things is death. Those earthly things don’t save you. Those sinful fruits and desires kill, “for the wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Look to this cross; this tree. I know this may sound a bit strange, but looking to the cross of Christ we see both the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as well as the tree of life. In terms of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, by faith we look to this tree of the cross and we see just how truly deadly our sin is. Our sin isn’t just a malady or an imperfection. Our sin isn’t something we can somehow overcome if we just buckle down and try harder. Our sin is evil. It is death, and we are dead in our sin. DEAD! We are by nature corpses of sin. Dead men tell no tales, and dead men also can do nothing for themselves. They certainly can’t make themselves any less dead!
Look to this cross. Here is just how serious and deadly your sin really is! This is precisely why God Himself took on flesh; for the sole purpose of taking that flesh to the cross to suffer and die; to pay your wage of sin in full. And He did just that, paying that wage in full with His own holy and precious blood. That’s why in faith we refer to this event as “Good Friday.” It is God’s holy and righteous “good” that puts to death our sinful evil, paid in full by our good and gracious God. And in this way, looking to this cross we also (through faith) behold our tree of Life; our very good tree of life. All that we need for this body and life indeed!
Look to this font. Look to this altar. Here is where God Himself nourishes you with the life-saving, life-giving fruits of this wretched yet holy tree. God brings His victory over sin, death, and the grave to you! Here is where He grafts you into the Vine of Life that is Christ. Here is where He nourishes you with the fruit of the vine; His very blood. Here is where He nourishes you with the fruit of His bounty; the Bread of Life Himself. Here is where He freely and unconditionally gives to you the gift of eternal life in Christ.
Recognized in this light, I have to ask: What more do you need? What more do you want? I understand that you don’t get everything your little heart desires. We always want just a little more money, a little more of this and a little less of that. Our Old Adam is never really contented. We’re content (we tell ourselves and everyone else), but we could be more content if we just had a little more of what we wanted and a little less of what we don’t want, right? In the words of Jesus: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Do not be anxious (discontented) about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father know that you need them all. Seek first the kingdom (the reign and rule of God), and all these things will be added to you.” All that I need for this body and life.
Folks: You belong to Christ. No matter what this world throws at you; no matter how bad things may get or things may seem, you belong to Christ, and no one and nothing can ever take that away from you. The most important thing you need God gives to you freely and unconditionally, purely out of His good grace and love. Look no further than this rail as proof. Look and listen to all that your Lord tells you regarding this mystery right under your nose. In just a few minutes, when you leave this communion rail and enter out into this dark valley and veil of tears, you will have the Body and Blood of Christ within you. Your Lord will dismiss you with His Gospel promise and blessing; His benediction of peace. God Himself will have satisfied you with fullness of His grace and peace; the fullness of the Bread of Life that is Christ and His Word/Promise. I pray that you eat that which He blesses with His presence and places into your mouth. I pray that you hear, mark, learn, and inwardly-digest all that He richly provides, and I pray you are truly satisfied/contented with His life-giving, life-preserving satisfaction.
In His most holy and life-giving name… AMEN.
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