Seventh Sunday after Trinity
LORD of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things; Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The opening of the Collect (using Gelasius translation) formerly used the honorific: “O Lord of Host” as its introductory opening; however, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer referenced the Lord as described in James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
This Collect asks four things of God which we are incapable of doing ourselves: 1) “Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name”; 2) “increase in us true religion”; 3) “nourish us with all goodness”; and, 4) “keep us”. We can neither receive, nor retain, the love of God’s name without the efficacious working of the Holy Spirit therein. We are helpless to supply a thing of which we can claim no ownership. The love that permeates our hearts is from the overflowing Fountain and Source of Love which is in God through Jesus Christ. Like our bodies, we cannot add a single inch to the stature of our spirits and souls. All of the increase we enjoy in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding comes from that same Source from which the Love of God overflows. Our nourishment is forever from God if it is wholesome and good. We daily partake of the Bread of Heaven given by that Giver of all good things found in the Word of God which is preserved for us as a gift to all who believe. Who is our Keeper? Why, it is the Lord Himself. He is our Good Shepherd to keep us in the good way. He is the Rock of our Salvation to keep us from drifting. He is the Ark into which we flee for salvation in the day of ruin. And He is much more…so much more that we cannot mention all in the scope of a short devotion. Since He is the Word in total, He is also the Author and Giver of Life itself, and the Preserver of Life in Love.
6 Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. The righteous of the Lord are steady as a well-steered ocean vessel on the seas of life. The Captain knows well the course, and His Compass is true to the North Throne of God. Those who are everlastingly ‘remembered’ by God cannot be moved from that faith and grace which has saved them, and preserved them.
7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. The immovable North Star has long been used by seafaring vessels as a constant reference and guide across the vast oceans. The navigation of the vessel is based on clear vision and physical sight; but there is a means by which the soul of the Christian may be guided in both light and darkness by means of an indwelling compass of the heart. That compass is the Holy Ghost. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)
A sailing vessel may be many hundreds of tons. It may carry a large cargo and take on a great draught of water. It’s sails are extremely important for they provide the vessel with the means of movement based on prevailing winds. When errors in navigation are discovered, the sails, like our motivations, can be adjusted to correct to a right course. The ship’s structure is also vitally important. It must be made of sturdy materials and its design commensurate to cutting through the blasts and billows of the storm.
But there is one device on the ship that is of far greater importance than the quality of canvas comprising the sails, or the species of timber defining its hull. That device is the magnetic compass. Though the captain of the vessel may use a sextant under clear skies for navigation, it is worthless under a cloudy sky. But the magnetic compass performs under every condition of weather or light. It may temporarily deviate when attracted by a large mass of metal on a passing ship, or by the electrifying impulses of the lightning from a storm, but it will always move back to magnetic north. That magnetic compass is so very similar to our Conscience, guided by the Holy Spirit, with which God has equipped us. It may be attracted temporarily to the passing things of this world; or it may deviate from true course briefly in the storms of life; but it will always return to its true reading and point the way to safe harbor of the soul.
When our hearts are fixed and trusting in the Lord, we may waver at moments of temptation. But that will only be a rare and temporary deviation. Our hearts, as did David’s and Peter’s, return to the true course of our love and safety in Christ. A heart whose foundation is that Rock of Christ is stayed and immovable. It may shake with the blast of ill winds against its walls, but it is fixed in place and cannot be moved. Do you have such a heart, reader?
The Gospel for the 7th Sunday after Trinity:
“1 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, 2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: 3 And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. 4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? 5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. 6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. 7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. 8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. 9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.” (Mark 8:1-9)
I would caution the reader from believing the false inquisitors who try to make a direct comparison between this text and another in in Mark 6 (feeding of the seven thousand). These are two distinct events even as related in this 8th chapter of Mark and John 6:13 according to the very words of our Lord in Mark 8:18 &19. The idle minds of would-be theologians are blinded by doubt of Scripture and by pride of position to discount the very words of our Lord.
The text from mark today follows in every important detail the same event described in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chap 15, verses 29-39. Each Gospel sheds a variant of beauty to the occasion. The setting is both serene and majestic – a mountain overlooking the pristine waters of Galilee. The crowds have flocked to hear Jesus, far more hungry for the Word of God than for the physical bread required to nourish their own bodies. The miracle of Jesus in feeding so many souls from meager crumbs is preview for that Last supper which He served the night of His betrayal. It is to be observed that these thousands of soul-hungry souls represent our own souls if we have thirsted for that matchless grace and love of Christ. This is the second such miraculous feeding of the multitudes. In this act are represented two perspectives: 1) that of the crowd (you and me); and 2) the perspective of our Lord in dealing with the multitudes.
Though I have preached from this text many times, the Word of God lends itself to variant colors of brilliant light when held up to the sun, as a diamond with many facets, and turned about to view those complementary colors of stark gold, blue, green, and blue – each represented a single component of that white light of the Sun of Righteousness.
Let us first observe the nature of the MULTITUDES that followed Christ:
1) The hunger was great in those days to hear the Word: “In those days the multitude being very great.” Why is it not so in our own day? Those attending churches that adhere to the Word of God have dwindled significantly due to the self-righteous nature of modern man. They come in dozens to worship in true reverence today rather than by the thousands in those days in which travel was difficult.
2) These thousands did not come to satisfy the physical, but spiritual, senses: “they have now been with me three days.” It is a great accomplishment in our day to hear a minister preach longer than 20 or 25 minutes, but an even greater accomplishment to witness worshippers willing to sit through a sermon that is as long as the Holy Ghost would have it to be. These multitudes came to hear the Word until it was finished being spoken. They did not mind their physical needs during the preaching of the Word.
3) Their sustenance was not physical, but spiritual: “have nothing to eat.” There is no record of any glances often at their watches, or running to and fro for water or other nourishment. They were fixed on the Lord, and nothing else mattered in their hearts.
4) Though they were actually famished for bread, they had not murmured or complained of it: “. . if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way.” The soul is always satisfied when coming into the Presence of the Lord, but faints in His absence. In our partaking of the Supper of the Lord, do our hearts not burn in our breast when the meaning of the elements of Bread and Wine are contemplated?
5) Many of the multitudes did not take a casual stroll to hear Jesus. Most had traveled from far villages and lands to hear the Words of Jesus. How far, friend, did you travel to hear this Word, and how far are you willing to travel if necessary? “. . for divers of them came from far.” How far will we go in questioning the power of God? “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” A mere man cannot satisfy, but a man who is the Son of God can, indeed, feed all who are hungry.
6) The multitudes came not only to hear the Word, but to obey it as well: “. . he commanded the people to sit down on the ground.” They obeyed not even knowing what to expect later. Is our own obedience so prompt and unquestioning? After standing to hear the Gospel for three days, why would they now sit upon the ground? They didn’t know the reason, but they obeyed any way.
7) The multitudes were filled both spiritually and, now, physically, at the hearing of the Word. “So they did eat, and were filled.” We are always filled when it is the Lord that feeds us: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) I will add that the Bread which came down from Heaven is also the Word (from beginning to end). (John 1:1) Do we hunger and thirst for that Bread (Word) daily, or do we presume ourselves well-fed upon the bread of our own unworthiness?
Today we live in abject luxury and opulence compared to the people of Jesus’ day, yet we have no time to
drive a few minutes to Church on the Lord’s Day, or to take 15 minutes only from our leisure to read into the depths of the Sea of God’s Word. Shameful! We need not traverse desert and mountain to hear Christ – His Word is conveniently at our finger tips. We cannot even sit patiently in worship until the Holy Spirit has spoken His Word to us. We are a people in a hurry to go nowhere. We dare not deprive our souls of any desire compared to our duties to God. We ask for short, simple sermons, fast food style worship services, and a prompt release to go about our worldly pursuits. We are not like those people who hungered for the Word of god, traveled great distances by foot to hear it, lingered for three days without food, and left filled with both the Bread of Heaven and the bread of sustenance. Those who came at personal effort went away filled, and so will we if we approach worship in the right disposition of mind, body, and soul.
We will now examine the manner in which our Lord viewed the multitudes:
1) Jesus recognized the need of the multitudes. He not only resolves to satisfy their needs, but also allows his disciples (you and I) to assist in satisfying His works of Mercy and compassion: “In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him.” Jesus takes note of our personal needs, and points out to us the needs of others.
2) Jesus has COMPASSION on those who have grave needs. Compassion is not sympathy only, but the kind of sympathy that evokes ACTION to satisfy. Compassion means to feel the pain of the sufferer as that one one’s own pain, and to take action to remedy the need or pain. Jesus ALWAYS had compassion on the sick, the crippled, the blind and deaf. And He demonstrated His greatest compassion for the sinner in His last act of mercy at Calvary in dying in our stead. “. . . because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.”
3) Jesus asks us to serve Him with whatever resources we have, and those resources will always be enough. “And he asked them, How many loaves have ye?” Truly, there were scarce resources, in the eyes of man, to suffice; but God needs only our small resources combined with a mighty faith in Him. “…And they said, Seven.”
4) “6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.” Jesus asks us to rest in Him when He works because it is only by His works, and not our own, that we are benefitted. Moreover, though He was God in the flesh, He still gave thanks to His Father for every blessing. He also allows His people to participate in serving others the Bread of Heaven and of life. He allows His ministers to serve as servants to the people. Jesus not only used the small supply of bread, but added variety to the feast by multiply the few small fish that were there. “7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.”
5) Jesus ALWAYS provides a full meal. “8 So they did eat, and were filled:” All of the thousands present were filled and satisfied. Numbers matter not to the Lord, it is abiding faith that He expects of us.
6) Jesus does not desire that we waste aught of any blessings He showers upon us. “and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.” They did not leave the scraps in the field, but took up all that remained and, interestingly, that which remained was many times the amount with which they began. God takes the meager mites of the widow woman and multiplies those thousands and millions of times.
7) It would be such a joy to fest with the Lord always, but there is also a component of service that must be satisfied by the disciple. Not only are we fed, we must seek others to be fed as well. “9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.” We must leave the mountain of our daily feats and go into the valleys and meadows to spread the good news of the mercy and grace of the Lord.
Were we not present in that mountainside multitude to be fed by the Lord? Have not the multitudes of Christians since that time fed of the same Bread and drank of the same Cup? Have we become more like that Bread of Heaven by consuming it through God’s Word….so much so that we, too, have compassion on the multitudes and are moved to take action? These are questions no other man can answer for us. It is directed to the heart of every Christian.