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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

“Spiritual Food”

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost


On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:6-9


In our Old Testament lesson today, Isaiah tells of the Great Messianic Feast at the end of the age: “The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.” Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Food fit for a king! Prepared by God for us!


I like food. I like to eat. I know I look like a connoisseur of culinary arts. Actually, I just have a low metabolism rate. 😉


You know, food ads don’t tell you to eat, they just assume you will. What they do is tell you why you should eat their food: because it tastes better; it’s made with real cinnamon, extra creamy, naturally sweet, melt-in-your-mouth moist. Stays crips to the bottom of the bowl; or it’s good for you: zero cholesterol, no salt added, less sugar than leading brands, no caffeine, high in fiber.


Why is it that it’s so easy to eat chips and nuts and junk food, but takes effort to eat food that’s good for you? Have you ever seen a note on a head of broccoli that read, “Bet you can’t eat just one floret!” When we’re young, we eat all the junk food we can get. But when we begin to mature – and get a few zits – we begin to learn what’s good for us and eat those things.


It's the same with spiritual food. We all do eat food that affects our spirits and our souls – that is, our minds, our wills, and our emotions. So, I don’t need to tell you to do that. We feed our souls with books and magazines, with movies and television, with conversations and activities. Some are junk. Some are good for us. And a big part of the spiritual food that’s good for us is in the word of God – also known as the Bible.


I have a letter at home from my father. It’s full of wisdom and good advice. It tells me how to be a good son, a good husband, a good father. It tells me how to be a good friend, and how to reconcile with enemies. The letter is full of hope and encouragement, suggestions – and love! I’d like to share the letter with you, but I can’t. I haven’t opened it yet. I’ll show it to you if you come over. I keep it on the coffee table. Now before you call me “stupid”, tell me where do you keep the book your heavenly father has written to you? And how much have you read?


I could stand up here all day and tell you how enjoyable God’s word is – or how spiritual food tastes really good. I could tell you how reading and studying the Bible will change your life – or how good it is for you. But it probably wouldn’t do much good.


So, I thought I’d speak a few minutes on two points:

1) What did Jesus say about the Bible? And,

2) What does that mean to us today?


And then you can decide what should be included in a balanced diet.


What did Jesus say about the Bible? Well, on the Sermon on the Mount He said, “Don’t think that I’ve come to abolish the Law of the Prophets; I haven’t come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until Heaven and Earth disappear not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matt. 5:17,18)


Introducing a scripture quotation He said, while teaching in the temple courts, “David… speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared…” (Mark 12:36) Jesus says the scriptures are inspired by God the Holy Spirit.


In a statement about marriage Jesus quotes from Genesis: “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,” and said, “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?” (Matt. 19:4,5) In scripture the Creator speaks!


And Jesus didn’t just talk about scripture, he used it. The Devil asked Jesus the same kind of questions in the wilderness that he asked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He suggested that Jesus doubt God, disobey God, desert God. But Jesus said, “Away from me, Satan!” Why? Because “it is written, it is written, it is written!”


Jesus knew the scriptures and believed them. He endorsed them, quoted them, taught them, used them, lived them, and fulfilled them.


Now, the scriptures Jesus referred to are what we call the Old Testament. The New Testament hadn’t been written yet. He was living the Gospels, and the Acts hadn’t been lived, nor had the Epistles been written. But that didn’t stop Jesus from speaking of them and endorsing them.


All Christians have the Holy Spirit, but the Apostles received special inspiration. In John 14:25-26 we hear Jesus speaking to His Apostles: “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”


The Holy Spirit taught them all things – and brought to their remembrance everything Jesus had said to them for three years!


Then in John 16:12-13, Jesus says to His Apostles, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come!”


The Holy Spirit guided them in all truth and told them of the future. Jesus’ promises to the Apostles looked forward to the Gospels – Jesus’ teaching remembered. And forward to the Epistles – Jesus’ teaching supplemented by the Holy Spirit.


The authority of the Apostles was recognized by the early church. In the new, Spirit-filled church at Pentecost, we read that “they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching.” (Acts 2:42)


Clement of Rome wrote to the church at Corinth at the end of the first century: “The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So, then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ.”


Listen to Martin Luther: “Jesus subjects the whole world to the Apostles, through whom alone it should and must be enlightened. All the people in the world – kings, princes, lords, learned men, wise men, holy men – have to sit down while the Apostles stand up!”


Listen to what the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod wrote: “We believe that the ultimate criterion for the church’s confession of faith is the inerrant scriptures, always viewed in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”


Our church body accepts the Bible as God’s word written, uniquely revealed, inspired and authoritative. And we see that our Lord Jesus Himself endorsed the Old Testament scriptures and made provision for writing the New Testament scriptures.


Now you may ask, does it really matter if the Bible is God’s word – if it is infallibly true – if it has real authority? Yes, it does matter! The question of biblical authority is relevant to every Christian’s everyday Christianity. Submission to the authority of scripture is fundamental to Christian discipleship:

· How can we worship God if we don’t know His character?

· How can we trust God if we don’t know His faithfulness?

· How can we obey God if we don’t know His will?

· How can we hope in God if we don’t know His promises?


So, worship, faith, obedience, and hope – all ingredients of Christian discipleship – all depend on our knowledge of God!


Submission to scripture is part and parcel of the submission to the Lordship of Christ. We can’t agree with Jesus in one doctrine and disagree with Him in another one. Selective submission isn’t submission at all!


Sure, we’ll have problems and questions, and we need to wrestle with them. If God is love, how come there’s evil and suffering and death and unanswered prayer and “acts of God”? Despite problems, we believe God is love because Jesus taught it, by His words and His deeds. Nothing is more true than that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”


Now, if the scriptures – the Bible – are truly God’s word as Jesus taught and as he used them – and if submission to the authority of scripture is fundamental to Christian discipleship, then it would seem that we all had better be making them a larger part of our diet, reading them daily, studying them regularly – on our own and in groups.


I pray that we all might come to see the importance of knowing God’s word so that we might grow stronger in our faith, in our Christian life and in our witness. May God help us!


Amen

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