Sunday, July 14, 2013

Seeing All of God’s Blessings

Seventh Sunday after Trinity
July 14, 2013
There is universal truth and there is truth that is appropriated. Universal truth is a fact. Something that is true is true, whether you believe it or not. But even though it’s true, if it is not appropriated by you, it doesn’t do you any good. It is good, in and of itself, but it still doesn’t do you any good personally.

The sun rises every day. That is truth, and it is universal. But what if you close your eyes to that fact, literally. What if you say, “I am going to cover my eyes my whole life just to prove that the sun doesn’t rise every day. I can’t see it rise every day, and therefore it is not true.” The truth remains, but you have not appropriated it. The fact of the sun rising every day is not a fact, a truth, for its own sake. God didn’t create the sun to operate that way for the simple action of it rising every day. He created the sun to shine its light. The sun rises so that we may see and work and enjoy the beauty of this world. Making use of the sun’s light, opening your eyes and using them, appropriates the truth of the rising of the sun to your personal life.

It is universal truth that God has accomplished salvation for everyone. It is also true that not everyone is saved. The reason is that the universal truth of God’s salvation for everyone is a fact, but it is not appropriated by everyone. Just as a person closing his eyes to the rising of the sun does not get the benefit of the rising of the sun, so the person closing his eyes to God’s salvation doesn’t receive the benefit of that salvation.

Now we can see the sun rising each day. There’s not much faith involved there. I know it rose today, just as it has every day of my life, and I am confident it will rise again tomorrow. I am equally confident it will continue every day for the rest of my life. Now somewhat more difficult to grasp this is with the person who is blind from birth. This person has never seen the sun rise. He must take it on faith that what everyone tells him about the sun, that it rises every day and gives light to the world, is true. The fact of it is true even though that person cannot see it. It is also true that that person cannot appropriate the truth of it as far as some of the benefits of it, as he cannot see to make use of the light. The warmth of the sun, the balance it gives to the maintenance of the solar system, those are benefits even the blind person receives even though he has never seen this thing we call the sun.

Regarding the universal truth of salvation, we are not just blind—like a person who is blind and cannot appropriate some of the benefits of the sun—we are utterly blind in that we cannot appropriate any of the benefits of the salvation God has secured for us. The blind person can’t see by the light of the sun, but can live comfortably because of the warmth of the sun. We are spiritually blind from birth and therefore not only cannot see the light of salvation, we can’t experience any of the warmth or balance it provides for our life now and eternally. Far from being blind and not being able to get around as easily in this life, spiritually we are blind and in a cave with no way to get out and no source of any help or benefit.

This is the universal truth, and most people deny it. Truth be told, all of us deny it, for we are sinful from birth. Our sinful nature does not see this truth and does not wish to acknowledge it. The disciples exhibit this in their response to Jesus. He knows the people are hungry. They’ve been with Him for some time. They’re hungry, they won’t be able to make it back home unless they are fed. The problem is that they are out in a place where there’s no food. The disciples recognize the simple fact that there’s no way these people can be fed in this situation.

But Jesus truly sees. He is spiritually aware. The disciples are blind. They are seeing things in their sinful flesh. They deny the plain truth that Jesus is Lord and brings salvation. He tells His disciples that He has compassion on the people. God’s salvation for everyone is in body and soul. It is with temporal blessings as well as eternal. It is with the things we need in this life as well as for what we need eternally. He has compassion. This is how God sees. He sees in compassion. We see through our sinful eyes, which means we don’t see at all. We deny the plain truth of God’s salvation in His Son. “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” the disciples said to Him.

What Jesus does next is feed the people. Here you see that your spiritual blindness can only be conquered by the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. Here you see that in taking a few loaves of bread and a few small fish, your inability to feed yourself, both physically and spiritually, can only come by your Lord feeding you. It is when those who don’t believe in Jesus deny this that they do not appropriate the truth of it. In other words, they go along in this life, perhaps even just fine by human standards, but never receive the benefits of what their Lord gives in salvation. They will claim, I am able to feed myself by having a job and working and doing what is necessary to live a very good life. And that is true as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go very far, because it goes only as far as themselves. Or perhaps even as far as all people in history. But the fact is, what they are denying is the God who brought them into existence. The God who created them and gave them all the blessings of this life. Without Him and without His creating all of this, those people would have nothing.

So often we who should know better take for granted the blessings God gives to us in this life. Yes, we do all the things we do to eat and make a living. But it is all from God. It is because of His compassion on us, His love for us. His salvation of us is not just far off into the future, it is here and now. It is in body as well as soul. He gives you food. He gives you a home. He gives you leaders. He gives you family. He gives you many blessings in this life. It is all from Him. Anything we do to bring these things about is also from Him. He gives us the ability to do what we need to do to take care of ourselves and our family.

There’s another blessing that comes along with this and it is one our sinful nature also does not see. It is that because our Lord gives us so much that our focus and energy does not constantly need to be on ourselves; what we need, what we need to do. It can be on others. It can be on helping and serving others. It can be on giving to others in their needs. If my focus is always on myself, what I do to provide for myself, then I am denying that it is my Lord who gives me everything I need. If my focus, rather, is on my Lord, who gives me what I need, I can see from that Light that there are many people in this world who have needs and who need help and that God calls me to serve and love them.

The Bible says that for us Christians this begins with the Household of Faith. If we cannot love and serve our own brother and sister Christians, how do we expect to love and serve those outside the Christian Church? As a congregation, this begins with our own congregation. We love each other. We help each other. We pray for each other. We encourage each other. We use the time God has given us to do these things, the talents He has given us, and the treasure He has given us. Individually, we cannot carry on the mission of Prince of Peace. But collectively, we can. Each of us giving of our offerings enables the mission and ministry of Prince of Peace to continue. Because God has blessed us so much, our focus doesn’t always need to be on ourselves individually, but rather, it can also be on us collectively, as congregation.

That’s where it starts, with the Household of Faith. It continues on from there. We love and serve our family members, our neighbors, those in this community, those we work with, those we socialize with, and many other people in our lives and who come into our lives. Whether they see it or not, God is working through us to love and serve them. Just as Jesus used simple things like bread and fish to feed many people, He uses simple things like our time, our talents, and our treasure to feed people physically and spiritually.

All of this is God in action. When He looks out at the people He has created, He has compassion on them. He loves them. He serves them. He feeds them. He nourishes them. Jesus came for this purpose. When He fed the crowds that day, He showed that this is why He came. They were unable to feed themselves, because they had been taking in the Word as He was preaching and teaching it to them. The disciples did not see that His salvation He was making known was all-inclusive. And so He feeds the crowds with food. How much more was He yet to give! His very life. His very body. His very blood being shed.

Looking back on it now, we see that it was a great miracle Jesus did in feeding thousands with a little bit of food. We see it was a wonderful blessing, as He desires to feed us in our need, and have us live a life in which we may enjoy His blessings. Looking back on it now, we see with new eyes, new sight; eyes that have been enlightened by the Light of the World. Our sinful flesh having been crucified with Christ. A new man rising forth. We now become a new creation in Christ. As Jesus fed thousands with a little bread and fish, He has fed everyone with Himself, He has given His life on the cross for our sin.

As He gave His life on the cross He continues to feed and nourish us. With simple bread and simple wine He feeds us with His body and blood. He nourishes us with Himself, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World. Now we can see what He sees. Opportunity. Blessings. Gifts received, gifts to share. Eternal life even in the midst of this earthly life. Blessings in body and soul. Amen.


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