Sermon on Matthew 14:13-21, for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost 2020 (A), "Life in 3D"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Lately I’ve been listening to the podcast “Word without Walls” by one of my New Testament professors, Dr. Michael Eschelbach. He describes two conflicting worldviews: worldly thinking vs. Biblical Christianity. He calls the worldly way of thinking a “one dimensional” world or “Red Pyramid” world, because it’s ruthlessly competitive and gets bloody as everyone tries to climb up the pyramid by stepping on others. It only sees our 1D material life and what we can get out of it. It’s blind to any spiritual dimensions of life. Just this flat material world where we compete for scarce resources and opportunity, and sin and selfishness rule. We all recognize this “1D” way of living. It’s promoted everywhere.

The Biblical worldview, he calls the “Green V” or 3D world. A life that is supported and sustained by God, and pours out from God’s bottomless resources of goodness, blessing, and love, to sustain a rich, full, and 3D life of selfless service to others. In the 3D life, we bear our crosses and face suffering with joy, because we come daily and weekly to God’s waters, to drink and be satisfied in His Word, in worship, and in communion. He offers wine and milk without money and without price (Is. 55:1-2) and we’re satisfied by God’s loving goodness. A 3D life understands we are body, soul and spirit; spiritually connected to God. It’s not crippled by narrow, selfish, and blinded thinking, like the 1D world, but set free to live for God and others.

Psychologists call this a “scarcity mindset” or “abundance mindset”. In a scarcity mindset we are uncertain about survival, so we compete, we’re desperate, distrustful, miserable, hoarders, we blame, we wage war, and experience death. On the abundance side of the equation, we are aware of our access to the necessities of life. So we collaborate, show confidence, trust, prosper, share, take responsibility, and experience peace and life.

You can easily see where the mindset of the disciples of Jesus was. A crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children—safely above 10,000 people—came to hear Jesus teach. They were hungry to be filled—spiritually—because they craved Jesus’ teachings. They went to extraordinary effort to get to His side and hear Him teach. But physical hunger soon followed after the long day of travel and remote location. Scarcity thinking descended on the disciples. 1D thinking infiltrated their mind. No local grocery store or fast food chain to feed the crowd. They were out in the fields, and even the nearby local villages probably didn’t have enough food to sell and feed so many people. 1D thinking showed the disciples one solution: disperse the crowd and send them away for food.

Jesus wanted to challenge their 1D scarcity mindset. He knew there wasn’t enough food to go around, but He wanted to test them. Why is God always testing us?! To grow our faith! To challenge us to see the 3D world that comes into view when we consider God and His infinite resources and love. Our small thinking is filled with selfishness, greed and unwillingness to help, but God wants to foster generosity, openness and kindness in us. So Jesus invites His disciples into His 3D life. He was their number one resource, and they left Him out of their 1D problem solving.

In Jesus’ 3D world, He felt His own exhaustion from long days, and He felt sorrow over the death of John the Baptist, that pressed Him to take time for prayer alone. Life in 3D doesn’t mean we escape physical weariness or spiritual need. Disturbed from His solitude by the crowd, Jesus didn’t slide into 1D thinking, and get irritated or shut them out. He didn’t become resentful. He had compassion on them. His heart poured out to their needs. And He was sustained by the life and will of the Father. He was nourished by doing the Father’s will (John 4:32-34). So Jesus turned His attention to help them. As God’s Son, all of God’s resources were at His disposal, and so He checked whether the disciples understood this yet or not.

Are we stuck in 1D thinking, and fear, scarcity and helplessness rule our thinking? Do we understand that God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, and that He hears and answers our prayers? 1D thinking might lead me to pray selfishly—to think about what we can get out of God. I call those “my will be done prayers.” But 3D thinking will seek “Thy will be done” prayers. Life in 3D, shaped by God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, looks for what Jesus is after. How is Jesus working in this situation, and what does He want? How can I join Jesus in that mission, praying, “Thy will be done?”

For the disciples, that looked like counting their resources, and finding out they forgot Jesus. How often do we forget Jesus, and we face the enormity of the challenges in front of us, and we shrink back in fear? Or maybe our heart pours out in compassion for the suffering of the world, but it’s so massive and widespread that we just do nothing, because we can’t see how it would make a difference. If we forget Jesus, and just count on our own strength, even if we do everything we can, it won’t be long before we are exhausted, burned out and empty. If, like Jesus, we are fueled by God’s will—that spiritual bread—we will mount up on wings like eagles and be renewed in His strength. Life in 3D takes into full account God as our strength and resource, and never goes into battle without Him!

When Jesus had done His miracle, and the crowds were all fed, and there was more left over than they had to begin, it says they all ate and were satisfied. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and created abundance out of scarcity, He didn’t just make enough so each could have a mouthful, and be able to push on with a growling, empty stomach. They were full and well fed. Jesus invites us to come and feed on Him and be satisfied! One of our well-loved communion hymns sings these words: “I come, O Savior, to Thy Table, for weak and weary is my soul. Thou Bread of Life alone art able to satisfy and make me whole: Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood, be for my soul the highest good!” So Jesus invites us to come to Him, the only Bread of Life that can satisfy us and make us whole. Let’s dig in more.

1D life only pays attention to physical hunger. 3D life recognizes spiritual hunger. Jesus cares about both, as this miracle shows. He met people where hungry hearts and hungry bellies intersected, and the day after this miracle, He told His disciples not to labor for bread that perishes (1D, earthly food), but to labor for the food that does not perish (3D, heavenly food!) (John 6:27). Jesus was saying there’s a lot more to life than filling your stomach! And as the verse I just read says: “Thou Bread of Life alone art able to satisfy and make me whole.” There’s no one else but Jesus, the very Bread of Life, who can properly satisfy the hungry heart. We should pursue Jesus with the same hunger and enthusiasm that the crowds did! Earthly bread will leave us hungry again, but Jesus satisfies and makes us whole. So come to Him in worship, and remember why we gather! Come hear His Word and teaching, that speaks to your hearts! Come eat His body and His blood, for your soul, the highest good! Come pray with the church and encourage each other in the faith, so we do not walk around with heads hung in fear or defeat, like a 1D world might face, but living in the joy of a 3D life, filled, strengthened, satisfied and sustained by the Holy Three in One, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In His Name we pray, Amen.


Sermon Talking Points

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1.       What is the “one-dimensional” worldly way of thinking? What does it focus on, and what fruit does it produce? What are some of its characteristics?

2.       What is the “three-dimensional” Biblical way of thinking? How does it expand and open our world, and what does it include or focus on? What’s it’s fruit and characteristics? Where is the source of that 3D life? Isaiah 55:1-3.

3.       How were the disciples subject to a “scarcity mindset” (1D thinking)? What kind of hunger brought the people to Jesus in Matthew 14:13-14? Psalm 42:1-2. What kind of hunger developed soon after? Matthew 14:15-16. How did Jesus want to create a “abundance mindset” (3D thinking) in His disciples?

4.       What “resource” did they forget to take into account? How did that make all the difference? Does life in 3D mean that we escape suffering, hardship, and exhaustion? How was Jesus nourished/fed when He faced such things? John 4:32-34.

5.       Contrast how 1D or 3D thinking could influence/affect your prayers? How does it affect your strength and courage to face life? 2 Timothy 1:7

6.       How much did Jesus supply when He opened His abundance to the crowd? What does it mean to be satisfied? What is spiritual satisfaction? Cf. John 6:26-27.

7.       Reflect on this hymn verse: “I come, O Savior, to Thy Table, for weak and weary is my soul. Thou Bread of Life alone art able to satisfy and make me whole: Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood, be for my soul the highest good!” LSB 618:1   How is Jesus the only One Who can satisfy and make us whole? How does He feed us spiritually?


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