Christ Lutheran Church
July 25, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
It Is I
“Then he got into the boat with them and the winds ceased and they were completely dumbfounded; for they did not understand about the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” (St. Mark 6:51-52)
When it comes to the ocean some people are satisfied to dip their toes in its shores; but others can never rest until they have explored its deepest mysteries.
When it comes to God’s Holy Word we find the same. Some are happy to know a few of its brilliant verses such as the Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer; while others will never be content unless they can study (Psalm 1) the Scriptures night and day,
When it comes to today’s readings we can say the same. We could skim the surface and come away as if fed as with light lunch. Or we could dig deeper and come away sated as from the finest Thanksgiving Dinner!
Today we will do the latter, and so zooming out let us remember that the church year is divided into two semesters: the semester of the Lord, and the semester of the Church.
In the first semester, beginning with Advent and ending with Pentecost the church revels in God’s many promises to save us from our sins, and we see the entire plan of redemption accomplished before our eyes in Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection!
Then beginning with Pentecost 9 weeks ago we entered the semester of the Church in which we, who are the church, receive the Holy Spirit anew; and obtain fresh joy to continue our blessed work until: every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:11)
Now zooming in a bit and finding ourselves in the middle of the second semester mother church suddenly takes our focus into a very particular direction: namely to the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion which both constitutes and defines us as the church of Jesus Christ! The case is just as Jesus says, “This CUP is the New Testament.”
All else that the church is or does orbits around this Blessed Sacrament; this Holy Communion which the church of heaven celebrates endlessly, and the church on earth from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day.
In last week’s gospel the church began to steer our focus when she had St. Mark teach us about the feeding of the 5,000. This miracle teaches us beautiful things about our Beautiful Savior: such as his compassion, his enduring love and his boundless power to supply our every need.
But it also teaches us about the Holy Communion we enjoy here every Sunday. For while the cross is the power of God unto salvation, and without the cross we have nothing, and without the Lord’s resurrection even less than nothing … the Sacrament is our connection to both, and to all the benefits God gives us by them: the remission of sins, life, salvation, the will to live the baptismal life, wisdom, glory, peace, calm, gladness and consolation – even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. “For if God be for us, who can be against us!”
Jumping ahead a bit, beginning next week we will enjoy 3 glorious weeks in St. John chapter 6 which teaches us in the clear terms exactly WHO and WHAT we receive in Holy Eucharist.
But for now we are still heading there by the mysterious events of today’s gospel. We learn in it that Jesus sends his disciples into the boat which is the church, and into the stormy seas in which she will always sail; while at the same time he remains behind to dismiss those who had enjoyed a foretaste of Holy Communion with him – even as he dismisses us from the altar every Eucharist:
(And how incomplete it would all seem if we did not hear: “Now may this true body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in the one true faith, unto eternal life.”)
But by the Lord’s dismissing of the people, and his simultaneous command to the disciples to enter into this floating church – last Sunday’s gospel and today’s gospel are intimately connected. And especially when we hear St. Mark’s troubling word: “For they did not understand about the loaves, but their heart was hardened.”
What did they not understand? To what fact had their heart been hardened? Only one, Beloved, the most important of all: to Jesus present among them as both host and meal.
Like so many factions of the Christian church (and like our own flesh always) they were focused on the wrong thing. The food. But not the Host. In a crowd of 5,000 men Jesus might have been forgotten. But in truth even in a crowd of 2 or 3 he is forgotten if that tiny crowd does not boldly confess the authentic Body of Christ, and the authentic Blood of Christ that is received in the Blessed Sacrament.
When the church forgets about the Lord’s bodily presence within his worshiping community, and thinks he is only an apparition like the disciples did! Then the church faces nothing but opposition, storms and headwinds.
Without Jesus embodied among us, incarnate and validly present in the church, in the Bread and Cup given for us Christians to eat and to drink: without this we have no stability no certainty no consolation as we face our rapidly passing days; our sin, our hopeless frailty, and our inevitable mortality.
But we notice that when the Lord who saw his Christ-less disciples laboring but getting no where – like the church as often as she tries to preserve her existence by her own programs – we notice that when he enters the boat which is the church – and says “it is I” (and not an apparition) – then the storm ceases, the futility is over, and the wind of the Spirit carries us along, even as he did men of old.
This is the gospel of the Lord.