The following is an excerpt from Sunday's sermon. Listen to learn more.
Men are lazy. I don’t mean to criticize men. But it’s true that a man will not give you his best without being challenged. There are those within our culture who are very adept at bringing out the best in us, we call them Coach, Drill Sergeant, Teacher, Dad, Mentor. These understand how to break down and build up a man to get the very best from him.
God in His sovereignty understood that Job was devoted to Him. He looks at the heart of a man, not the outward appearance. God had every confidence in Job that he would stand against any trial and not curse God, despite what the devil charges. But, we notice a He pus a limit upon what could be done to Job. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13).
“St. Gregory comments that the devil has already been defeated, the Lord is chiding him for the impotence of his pride. St. Hesychius teaches that the devil cannot even speak without first receiving permission from God.”
How many in history have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by witnessing the unshakable faith of one under persecution? One who trusts God under trial burns like a great fire for the world to see. It is Job who stands refusing to curse God despite losing all he had. He maintains his innocence, and refuses to give in to self pity. Listen to learn more.
Chapter 6 of the Gospel of St. John is where our Lord begins His teaching on the Body and Blood (verse 51), “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” It is this earlier feeding of the five thousand, with five loaves and two fishes that will become in John’s gospel the foundation of this teaching. But it is not something that is new to Scripture.
Jesus the “Christ” is the anointed one
The Apostle’s and Father’s highlight the spiritual meaning and underlying principles found hidden within what was written. It should be pointed out that the Church does not historically dispute the events recorded within all of Scripture, as some began to do during the reformation. The father’s, looking through the lens of apostolic teaching, examined Scripture from an allegoric perspective, that is, they understood the spiritual meaning had to be worked for.
It is possible to hold the Bible at face value, and also glean from it a profound meaning that can only be understood through the unction of the Holy Spirit. Jesus asked, “whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, blessed are thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17).
Old-Testament symbolism using bread
Remember there are two Old-Testament instances where bread is used and given to God’s people. The first is “Manna,” meaning “What is it.” Manna was given to the people of God while they were traversing the wilderness on their journey to the Promised Land. For 40 years the manna appeared, and people were sustained by it. The wilderness is where we await the crossing over into the Promised Land, for us that is either the Second Coming or physical death whatever comes first (allegory).
The second is the within the sacrificial system of the Law of Moses. The reading here is super dry, repetitive and tedious. But it is within its dry, repetitive, and tedious nature that the most powerful revelation is born.
When scripture is boring and repetitive pay attention, it is about to reveal something to you.
The law prescribes the ministry of the anointed one, the “Christ.” Each infraction of the law is dealt with through sacrifice based upon its category. Each category prescribes a certain innovation to the ritual (for the purpose of time I will not get into the details). But in all cases of sin the penitent would bring to the tabernacle several offerings, these outward offerings were to be vicarious offerings for the offending member of the community.
The Israelite would bring the prescribed animal: bull, lamb or goat, and also a measure (an ephah) of fine wheat flour. He would wash in the brazen laver, then present his animal sacrifice at the altar of burnt offering, where he would lay his hands upon the victim, confessing his sins before the priest. The victim would then be drained of blood in the prescribed way, quartered, and laid flat upon the alter to be consumed by the fire.
Then, the priest would take from the measure of fine wheat flour a handful of wheat, a handful of oil, and handful of incense and throw it upon the fire as well as a thank offering, called a Eucharist in Greek. The remainder of the fine wheat flour was now given to the high priest and became a part of his reserve. He would later make the flour into cakes to be consumed only by his immediate family. No one else was entitled to this.
In some cases, the fine wheat flour was made into cakes beforehand and the offerer would present the cake to be burned upon the altar with the offering. They offered bread in much the same manner as we do today. But with each sacrificial victim, the fine flour was offered as a thank offering unto the Lord, and the remainder of the flour was given to the priests.
The overall process involved a ritual “wave” offering, which was done for certain types of atonement. The wave offering, according to the Jewish Mishna, would involve the offerer guided by the priest waving the offering before God at right angles. One movement was known as a “heave” and the other a “wave.” This was done with both a portion of the victim, and the thank offering, then the thank offering would be consumed by the offerer with a portion of the victim.
From the Exodus to the feeding of the five thousand to today
So what does this have to do with today’s gospel lesson? One commentator summarizes it as like this: The feeding of the five thousand “parallels the story of the Passover and Exodus of Israel from Egypt in several important ways.
(1) In the Exodus account, God first performed His signs against Pharaoh, then gave instructions on how to be saved at the time of the Passover. In this passage, the multitudes follow Christ because of His signs, and this too takes place at Passover (verse 4).
(2) In the Exodus, the Jews were said to eat unleavened bread because they were hastily driven out of Egypt and had brought no provision for themselves. Here, Jesus feeds the multitudes with earthly bread because they had brought no provisions, having rushed out to see him.
(3) In the Exodus, Moses leads the people across the Red Sea, walking on dry ground in the midst of the water. Here, Christ sends His disciples across the sea and then walks on the sea as if it were dry ground.
(4) In the Exodus, God fed His people manna and gave them drink from a miraculous water source. Here, Christ declares Himself to be true food and drink, the true bread that has come down from heaven.
These parallels demonstrate that Christ our God is the fulfillment of the Old Testament law, and that the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood, which free mankind from the slavery of sin, fulfills the sacrifice of the Passover lambs, which brought the people out of slavery into the Promised Land.” 
The breaking of the loaves prefigures the Eucharist. He took the loaves, gave thanks and distributed them. Ultimately, this deliberate action would set the stage for His teaching at the Last Supper, when “he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, this is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
We bring a sacrifice of praise and thanks
What all this points to is that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one. He came as a sacrificial offering for the sins of the world that through Him we may have life. He is both priest and victim. We, as His adopted family, are entitled to His portion of holy bread and are required to give thanks to Him, it is our “bounden-duty and service.”
Just as the penitent brings his sacrifice with confession and offers his fine wheat flour as a thank offering so Christ, our Passover, has given himself for us. But now He requires that we partake of His sacrifice—the Eucharist—and through the thank offering which we ourselves bring, here, today. This is true worship, and a fulfillment of the Law through Jesus Christ.
 Sparks, Jack Norman, The Orthodox Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008) p. 1434
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
Our Standing In Eternity Through Christ
In Ephesians chapter one, St. Paul gives us an excellent teaching regarding the reality of our standing with God the Father, through Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.
You must understand that St. Paul intends to build upon this foundational information addressed to the Church at Ephesus. Therefore, the rest of the epistle expounds upon this notion of who you are in Christ. This letter addresses the spiritual understanding of our nature, which is the reality of who we are. While it is abstract because it is based upon notions of the unseen kingdom of heaven, it is solid, addressing the psychological and philosophical voids, which exist in every human soul.
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You exist because God the Father first thought of you…
St. Jerome wrote, “The former [verse] refers to those saints who did not previously exist and who before they came into being were thought of and subsequently acquired existence. This [verse] speaks of God, who was preceded by no thought or willing but always existed and never had a beginning for His existence. Therefore he rightly used the term destined for those who, having once not existed, subsequently acquired existence. But of the Son, that is, of our Lord Jesus Christ, he wrote ordained in another place also.”
This is a very Jewish perspective and we need to understand where it comes from. The Hebrew word for remember is zakar, which is not passive but active. If God remembers you, you have salvation and life. If God does not remember you, you have no salvation. The best example is of the thief on the cross next to Jesus asking, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
So you have existence in the first place because God the Father thought of you before the beginning of the world. If He did not think of you, you do not exist. Also, in regards to salvation, if He does not remember you, you have no salvation.
. . . So He Sent Jesus Christ
It also must be understood that the Father, when He thought of you/us, understood the nature of mankind, that we would fall becoming twisted in our minds and nature, unable to help ourselves. He reasoned that He would have to rescue us from death. Therefore, the Father begot the Son before the foundation of the world, ordaining Him to be the answer to our dilemma of death.
Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the nature of fallen man not only rejects the knowledge of God; but also our reasoning becomes unsound because we have been cut off from the spiritual. We only reason in the flesh and therefore our mind operates on a base level only considering what we can touch, see, smell, and feel. We become one dimensional and concerned with only with sensation. Unable to comprehend the abstract things of the Spirit, which sound like nonsense.
St. Chrysostom wrote, “The wonder is not only that he gave his Son but that he did so in this way, by sacrificing the one he loved. It is astounding that he gave the Beloved for those who hated him. See how highly he honors us. Even when we hated him and were enemies he gave the Beloved, what will he not do for us now?”
God, loving us so very much, understood that our fallen nature would struggle to comprehend His actions and intensions. Therefore He gave us the free will to choose.
St. Chrysostom wrote, “Everywhere the purpose or good pleasure means God’s antecedent will. Yet there is another will. For God’s first [or antecedent] will is that sinners should not perish. His second or consequent will is that those who become evil should perish. Hence he does not chastise them from necessity but due to their own willing.”
In Christ We Are Remembered
For those who would trust Christ Jesus, believing in Him through the hearing of the Word, you were sealed, through baptism, with the Holy Spirit. “Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.”
This “seal” guarantees God the Father will never forget you. In this wise understand that to forget us after we receive the seal of the Holy Spirit would be to forget his Son. Because we are in His Son it is impossible for Him to forget us. We have, according to St. Paul, been adopted by the Father through the redemptive price of the blood of His Son. And this was understood in the Godhead before the foundation of the material universe.
The Father’s plan was adoption through Jesus Christ. “Everything comes from God, and everything should be drawn back to Him. God’s original intent for the Incarnation was not redemption from the fall but adoption as Sons of God, that is deification. For when contemplated creating the world, He planned on bringing it into union with Himself through the incarnation of His Son, that is, through the Son’s union with human nature. That is why St. Athanasius can say, ‘God became man that man might become god.’”
The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all flesh is evidence of the last days.
St. Chrysostom said, “The fullness of time was the Son’s appearing. When, then, God had done all through angels, through prophets and through the law, yet nothing had improved, there was a danger that humanity had come into being for nothing. It was not going merely nowhere but to the bad. All were perishing together, just like in the days of the flood but more so. Just then he offered this gracious dispensation – to ensure that creation should not have come into being for nothing or in vain. The fullness of time is that divine wisdom by which, at the moment when all were most likely to perish, they were saved.”
Our response to this profound knowledge can only be joy. As this sinks in can you think of any reason why you would not want to boldly share this with any and everyone you know?
Can you think of any reason why you would not want to study the Scriptures further to peer into the Spirit and have a greater understanding of God’s full intent for your life?
The example of the horse whisperer
Picture if you will a horse, mistreated, malnourished, forgotten. The whisperer comes along and remembers it. He reminds the horse that it was created for bravery, to be fearless and strong. He nurses the horse back to health but not to pasture it. He knows that the worst thing you can do to a noble animal such as a horse is to rob it of the dignity of the valor for which it was intended. It craves the dignity of discipline, rigor, and service. It thrives under pressure and becomes fearless when it has a mission. The whisperer restores its mission by asking through command to fall under discipline. Man is like this. This is the purpose of the church, and the practice of religion.
In the gospel of John, chapter 16, Jesus says "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." There's three important points we can discern from this passage. First, we learn that Christ had to go away so that his disciples could grasp "the understanding of the invisible". Second, the role of the Holy Spirit is to comfort and console the hearts of God's people. Finally, we see that the Holy Spirit also inspires our faith, enlightens our minds and enables our witness. Watch this Sunday's sermon to learn more.
Starting this Sunday, St. Mark's will begin an adult catechism offered weekly at 9 a.m. Sunday Mass will be moved to 10 a.m. and shortened slightly to accommodate this new learning opportunity. The class will work through the ACNA's approved adult catechism, "To Be A Christian." This in-depth study of the faith is sure to enrich your christian walk and deepen your love of Jesus and his church. We hope to see you there!