Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
July 17-18, 2021
“Body and Soul”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I’ve titled this message, “Body and Soul”. By that title I want to convey something that is complete and whole. The spiritual and the physical. I want to express what it is like when someone is fully engaged, “all-in”. Body and Soul.
I believe that listening to a sermon is a difficult task. We are not trained to stay and pay attention to one person speaking for 15-20 minutes, or longer. Think about when you watch a TV show or a movie or see a sporting event. Shows and movies have a different scene or a different angle every few seconds. How many different cameras are used on one football or baseball game? Sometimes dozens of cameras and a few drones, as well, keep us engaged. And one voice at those games is not enough – but a whole booth full of experts give their opinions. But this is all you get when you listen to a sermon. One person, stationary. It takes work for you to stay fully engaged.
Last Sunday I became even more aware that keeping the congregation with me during a sermon is a large task. Michael Lawrenz and family were in the 10:00 service, sitting in their pew – way in the back on the lectern side. Toward the end of my sermon, when I’m making that point that is supposed to change your lives, I see Michael stand up, pick up Ellie or Norah, one of the identical 6-month old twins, turn her around and he sniffs her butt. After the service I confronted Michael, “What were you doing?” He told me that that is how he knows if an explosion is ready to begin and he wants to get ahead of it. I continue, “No, how could you listen to my sermon if you were doing that?” And Michael said, “I’m sure I didn’t miss a thing.” Amazing multi-tasker, those young fathers!!
Body and soul. Fully engaged. All-in. That is what the account of the feeding of the 5,000 gives us. The scene begins with Jesus looking for some rest of His body and soul. The large number of people who had followed Him with their needs had exhausted His body. And He had just heard the news that His friend, John the Baptizer, had been beheaded under the weakness of Herod Antipas, the trickery of Herodias, and the dance of Salome. This section begins, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13)
But the crowds found Him. In fact, they got to where He was going before He got there. Lots of people. 5,000 men and some of them brought their spouses and children with them. Though He had planned to have some time that was “alone time”, that did not happen. But Jesus, body and soul, was fully engaged with the people. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14) Compassion – having pity, feeling sympathy, providing mercy.
Too many times the view that people have about God is poor and incomplete. Some think that God doesn’t have feelings or emotions. That’s just not true. God does have emotions toward people – toward you and me. His heart can hurt and be pained. He can have joy. God has feelings toward you. He has affections for you. When we live without faith, without letting Him be involved in our lives, His heart hurts – it is pained. When we choose ways that are wrong and evil, they hurt the heart of God.
In Matthew 9:36, in a different setting, that same word, “compassion”, is used. It reads, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” They were neglected, wandering, lost, exposed and Jesus had emotions toward them. They were lost sheep and He was a seeking shepherd. He had compassion on them. And He still does today.
In that remote setting Jesus taught them. I wonder what He said. He cared for their soul. He taught them about God’s rule and reign in their lives. He warned them how evil and sin could take over their life and destroy it. He preached repentance and change. He told them that there is nothing as precious as God’s love being received and then being given. He told them that God’s way was a new way to live. He took care of their soul.
But then a problem came up. It was a problem of the body. “By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place and it’s already late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding country side and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36). Makes sense. The thousands of people have to be starving. They had better leave before it gets too late.
Body and Soul. Soul and Body. They go together. God doesn’t take care of the soul only. His redemption is a total package. We confess that in the Creed regularly. We talk about God being our maker and provider. We say that we believe in life everlasting and also the day when our bodies will rise from our graves and body and soul will be united and both made whole.
Jesus spent the day talking to the souls of those 5,000 men and their spouses and their children. But His work was not over. Jesus takes care of both soul and body. When the disciples were going to send the crowds away Jesus wouldn’t allow it. “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37) What? Impossible. They didn’t have the money to do something like that. It wouldn’t have been possible to make this happen. But Jesus who can take care of the soul can take care of the body – and He does. He has the folks sit down in groups of hundreds and fifties and then the disciples go looking for food. In John’s account of the life of Jesus we find out what they found, “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’” (John 6:8-9)
Do you know what happened? Has anyone ever told what happened next? Jesus looked into heaven, prayed and sent the two fish and five loaves out. The food multiplied. Everyone had a full meal. Everyone had plenty. They all got fed. And they collected more leftovers than what they started with.
God’s reign in this world is much more than matters of the soul. He is much more than a God of the spiritual. Body and Soul. This week I asked Kathie Harvey, our Administrative Assistant, to print out lists of those who are 80 and older in our congregation and those who are above 90. What she provided me confirmed what I already knew: If you want to live a long life you should join Ascension Lutheran Church. We have about 560 baptized members – 90 of us are 80 and older (25 of those 90 are 90 and above). I know that age isn’t the only factor for some ailments to the body but it is one of them. Who is going to take care of all of you – body and soul, as you live your life? I vote for the One who cares about us in total. I vote for the One who had compassion on the crowds and invited them to stay to feed on His word and delight in His miracles for their daily needs.
Our God takes care of body and soul. Jesus fed the souls of the people and He took care of their bodies, their bellies. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus instructs us to ask God, and thank God, for daily bread – all that we need to support this body and life.
Our God is compressive. He addresses every need. We take to Him our sin and know that Jesus has paid for them by His sacrifice. He calls us to trust in Jesus for eternal life for our souls and the day of resurrection of our bodies. He lifts our soul and spirit and body by His full salvation.
All-in. Fully engaged. That describes our God. Our God, our great God, blesses our body and soul everyday and eternally. Trust in Jesus for every need of body and soul. Amen!!