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What Shall I Offer To The Lord

March 25, 2017

Verse: John 6:8-13

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
March 26, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Lent 4
What Shall I Offer To The Lord?

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. John 6:8-13

For as long as the baptized have been assembling, they have been bringing gifts and offerings to their God.

Whenever the gospel was lost they brought them in order to buy his favor. But whenever the gospel is intact, as it is among us today God Be Praised! the baptized bring their gifts and offerings in order to demonstrate their love for God who created us, redeemed us, preserves us, and sanctifies us in Christ.

Where did the church learn to do this? She learned it from today’s gospel lesson where Andrew brings the five loaves, and two fish to Jesus in order to feed the hungry masses.

We do the same today. We bring our gifts and offering to God not because he needs them, but because this is the way men have always approached God. It’s a natural instinct. Like when a small child brings a bouquet of dandelions to the mother he adores. But as we said earlier many see it as a quid pro quo. Something given, for something received. A tidy piece of business conducted with the Almighty. But that is exactly wrong!

St. John writes in his first Epistle that, “We love him because he first loved us.” That is the Christian order of things. So that our offerings are a matter of love given, for love received. Namely the love that God displayed by giving his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. Please be sure to get that right because if you don’t nothing else fits, nothing else works, and our religion becomes a burden rather than a joy: slavery rather than liberty!

What shall I offer to the Lord, for all his benefits to me?

Andrew brought bread and fish, and with it Jesus fed many thousands of people, and had more left over than when he began. This miracle demonstrates both the power and love of Jesus, but it does more: it serves to instruct us about the Lord’s Supper. It teaches us that Jesus can do what human reason, and Protestant theology consider impossible. That as he can feed thousands of people from little; he can also feed us today with his true Body and life-giving Blood in the Sacrament. A food that nourishes our souls, makes us immortal: and that manifests us, and constitutes us, as the Body of Christ! Which is to say that “we become what we eat,” no pun intended, and there’s nothing better than that! Especially for sinners who, as our Collect states rather starkly, “deserve nothing but punishment.”

What shall I offer to the Lord, for all his benefits to me?

Historically, as often as the Lord’s people gathered on the Lord’s Day to celebrate the Lord’s Supper they brought gifts of bread and wine, to be used for the Sacrament. As well as other offerings for the support of the clergy and to aid the poor!

We do the same today, albeit in the form of currency, and we formally offer these gifts to our God each Sunday in the portion of our worship known as the Offertory. Gifts which our God gladly receives, and richly returns to us as the true Manna from heaven. As the Living Bread that unites us to himself and to one another. That pardons our sins, gives us courage, makes us glad, and satisfies like nothing else on earth can do.

But the material gifts we bring are not the end of the story. But in the words of the hymn we, “lift high the cross” before our God as the one, sufficient sacrifice by which sinful men may boldly approach their Lord. Said another way we offer back to God what he first offered for us: the crucified and risen Lord. We don’t “offer Christ” in the sense of crucifying the Son of God anew: but the Eucharist we offer here is the memorial of, and the true participation in, the eternal sacrifice that Jesus commanded his church to “do” till the end of the age.

We offer God our faith, devotion, love, worship, prayers, praise and thanksgiving which rise before him like incense. These are all acts of worship, gifts and offerings, that God loves to receive from us. But there is yet one other important offering we make to our God. We learn from St. Paul in Romans 12:1 that those who commune at the altar should present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. That we should no longer be conformed to this world, but that we should be transformed instead by the renewal of our minds, always busy discerning, and seeking after the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.

The people we encounter in today’s Old Testament lesson did just the opposite, and so serve as a perfect negative example. They were faithless, ungrateful and complained bitterly against the God who had liberated them from the fiery furnace of Egypt. They became so hysterical that they began to hallucinate about what a glorious time they had, and how well they ate, when they were slaves in Egypt.

Don’t do that! Don’t look back! Don’t glory in the old ways of the devil, the culture and the flesh. But look forward, instead, with great hope, firm confidence, much joy and give thanks for all of the Lord’s magnificent benefits. Amen.