Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Ephesians)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM (begins again in September)
               Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM

Private Confession: By appointment.



The Dismissal

August 12, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

jesus praysChrist Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
August 13, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 11
The Dismissal

“Immediately thereafter Jesus compelled the disciples to get into the boat and precede him to the other side while he dismissed the crowds. And when he had dismissed them he ascended the mountain by himself to pray. It was evening and he alone was there.” (Matthew 14:22-23)

One of the hidden blessings that God bestows on his church is the Lectionary, which is the set of readings that we follow each Sunday. It’s not something people usually think about, but it provides us with the most important readings from Sacred Scripture and repeats them every three years. The readings we hear today are the same ones we heard on Pentecost 11 in 2020, and God willing will hear again in 2026.

But it isn’t only order that the Lectionary provides us, but many of the readings are continuous, such as the ones we’ve heard over the last number of weeks in Matthew chapters 13 and 14. From that vantage point we get the larger picture of exactly what our Lord does “for us men and for our salvation.”

Today let us consider the connection between last week’s gospel where Jesus feeds many thousands of people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish; and today’s gospel where Jesus dismisses the crowd, goes off to pray alone, and then rescues his disciples who were lost at sea.

Last week we noted that Jesus’ feeding miracle was not done simply to demonstrate his power and love: though it does in spades; but that it was an actual liturgy in progress, much like the one we partake in today. There was the Liturgy of the Word in which he first taught the people; followed by a rehearsal for the Liturgy of the Sacrament in which Jesus feeds his people with Living Bread. Bread that is Alive and gives Life to all who eat it in faith.

And from it we learn that worship comes first!

Whenever man encounters God, or hopes to encounter God, it must be with maximum awe and deep reverence – which necessarily means silence, slow movement and heads bowed. And if you come here with anything less it is something other than God you are looking for. Consider the Magi.

When the Magi came to meet the Newborn King they did not come in jogging clothes and travel mugs to drink coffee with the Holy Family. But in their encounter with the Word made Flesh, they fell down on their knees and worshiped with all their heart, soul, mind and strength; with gladness unspeakable; and bringing gifts worthy of a king: gold and incense – and thus it must be with us.

Contrary to the notion that the Holy Christian faith consists of a list of doctrinal propositions – worship comes first; and precious doctrine flows from it. And so if we want to understand the Bible we must recognize that it is not B.I.B.L.E. But rather the Divine Word that teaches lost mankind how to worship, rather than rebel against our dear Father. And this is the case from Genesis1 to Revelation 22. The Bible opens with worship, and closes with worship.

And the one who makes true worship possible for us is none other than our True Liturgist, Jesus. And so in last week’s gospel we find him leading a Service of Worship, but worship is not the end of the story neither for them or us because Jesus also dismisses both his disciples, and the crowd – and then goes up to a high mountain to pray!

But what is the meaning of all this? Why did the Spirit move St. Matthew to write these details, and include them in the Holy Gospel for all time to come? Why? So that we would do the same.

When the Service was over Jesus dismissed the crowds back to their lives, to carry out their God-given vocation however mundane, difficult or inglorious it might have been. And he dismisses us as well! Back to our bills, back to our jobs, back to our unruly children, to our doctor’s appointments and the people in our lives who rub us the wrong way every day.

But there was a difference in the before and after. Because Jesus dismisses us with his blessing. Now wearing “the full armor of God,” the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and with our seraphim-like feet covered with the wings of the gospel. As Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the gospel.” We are those people.

But he was tougher on the 12. St. Matthew says that Jesus “compelled them” to get into a boat, and meet him on the other side.

Now if you are a “landlubber” you are a very intelligent person, because sailing is not for the faint of heart. When the water gets angry there is no reasoning with it. Did the Lord know what fate he was sending them to? Surely he did. Why? Because they were still disciples, still in boot camp, and boot camp is designed to make you hard and brave. Now if you feel as if you are in boot camp, it’s because you are. Saint Paul summarizes our woes it like this: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor. 4:17)

Yes, Jesus was sending them on the ride of their life, and he knew it. And while they were worried, scared to death, and with faith as constant as a turn signal, Jesus had already planned their rescue. And he has planned yours as well, long before the troubles because tribulation has an expiration date.

And then there is one more vital notation in today’s gospel: that Jesus climbed a mountain by himself to pray; from which we should learn that our own dear Lord Jesus Christ is our intercessor before God. Not the Blessed Virgin Mary as holy as she is. Nor the saints, martyrs or prophets as faithful as they were. But Jesus and Jesus alone. We have no other. We need no other. Than he who climbed the Mountain of Calvary alone, to do what no man would and no man could.

Marching into hell for a heavenly cause!

To atone for the sins that ruin us, and destroy everything we touch so that it is beyond repair. Hear this O politicians! Hear this O social media influencers! Hear this O deniers and haters of Christ, O elite! O “transgender” scorchers of the earth. The world cannot be fixed. You cannot be fixed. But you can be redeemed by Jesus who climbed the Holy Mountain where he planted the Tree of Life, and became its very fruit! The forgiveness of your sins, a clean heart, and a right Spirit.

This same Lord also overpowered death, returned to life, and now “sits at the right hand of the Father” as we confess – always interceding for us, purifying us from our sins, and giving us new power, new resolve, new vision and the peace which surpasses understanding. Remember THAT when you wake up on Monday morning.

Now over the centuries the church has employed many formulae of dismissal. One of the earliest Christian dismissals is found in the Book of Jude where he says:

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24&25)

In Lutheran Liturgy it is the one that we all know, love and have come to depend upon, first used by Aaron the Priest to put Christ’s blessing on them, “The LORD bless you and keep you, the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

That said, you should also be more sure than Peter, that the dismissal does exactly what it says. It sends us on our way in the knowledge and faith that Christ our God will bless us, and keep watch over us at all times, and in all places. Moreover by this blessing our Lord’s face shines upon us, and shares his very own light with us so that we will never walk in darkness. And by this blessing the LORD lifts up his countenance upon us, which means that God smiles on us because in baptism we too became God’s beloved sons in whom he is well pleased. And finally he keeps us in peace.

And this is why, like the disciples in the boat, we too fall down today to worship him, and confess with our Eucharistic mouths: Truly, this is the Son of God.