Monday, September 17, 2007

Trinity 15 Sermon

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

I think people often misunderstand the idea of growing in the faith. There seems to be this idea that to grow in the faith, to better understand God and His love for us means that somehow you understand the bizarre and the hidden. Books about the hidden sayings of Jesus or the secret mysteries of the Bible. Not so, dear friends. While there are great and wondrous mysteries, they are not strange, they are not bizzarre. Our Lord commends unto us a faith as of a little child – simply trusting what indeed He has taught us. That tends to be the hard part – to simply trust what our Lord says – yet that is what we are called to do. And so today, as we look at our Gospel lesson, we are again going to review that which is simple, that which is basic – and indeed, this is a good thing, for we so often forget it. God cares for you. Simple as that – and if we slowed down and remembered this, our understanding of God and His love for us would be so much greater.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Our Lord asks us this morning a question – is not life more than food, the body more than clothing? Is not your life about more than your stuff, your job, your things? We tend not to think this way often, do we? How many of you this week have been quite busy contemplating all the trappings of life – how to pay for the things you want, when to plant, who thinks what about me – so on and so forth. We get caught, we get fixated on the things of this life. We identify ourselves by our jobs, by where we live, by who we are friends with, by what we can do. We treat our life, our existence as simply the sum of the things that we have, the things that we do. But that is not who we were created to be. Man was created in the image of God, created to be in relationship with God. That’s a wonder of the Christian faith. In the garden, Adam walks with God. In the garden, Adam simply tends the creation, not wresting crops from amidst the weeds by the sweat of his brow. But sin makes us forget who we were created to be. Sin looks at and desires the trappings of this life – power, money, wealth, worldly respect. None of this matters, none of this lasts. Everything in this sinful world grows old and decays – it does not last. No, as Christians, our focus is to be on things that endure, things that last – our life with Christ, our life in union with all of God's saints from all times and in all places. As Christians we are to be content to be simple stewards of the gifts God provides for us so that we can show love to those who place God in our lives.

This is hard. Every day we struggle with sin, every day Satan tosses more and more temptations and lures in front of us – things to crave, things to desire, things we think are so important, are so vital to our life. This is why our Lord teaches us not to be anxious. Listen to the Words of Jesus. Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Again, it's one of those things that sounds so simple we assume that it is too good to be true. God will provide. But when it boils down to it – isn't it true – that indeed God provides for us? What happens so often is we see our work, the things we do, the actions we take – and we think that our possessions are about what we do. I've worked hard for everything I have. That may be the case – well done, hard worker. But who provided you with that talent that you could use? Who provided you with that strength that you could use? We rely upon God and His goodness to us – and the sad thing is we can take His simple and routine blessings for granted – and forget that everything we have comes from His goodness.

This past week, I have been sick, sick as a dog. I was spiking up over 102 for 5 days. I went to see the doctor for something other than injury for the first time in over a decade. I was so sick that I couldn't sit up long enough and concentrate to write this sermon until Friday – I tried and couldn't do it. Even then, I had to take breaks, and I didn’t finish until Saturday. I found this quite annoying. In fact, if I don’t have a rough draft of my sermon done by Monday, I tend to be cranky. But you know what? It didn't matter how much I fretted on Monday – the sermon wasn't going to get done. It doesn't matter how many of these I've written – my experience was for nothing. And so, I was left to sit in a feverish state through the week looking at this text – Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? That sort of put things in context. That whole “they are weak but He is strong” truth that we can forget in our pride. We worry, we get ourselves worked up, trying to control every little thing that happens – and sometimes our efforts just don’t work. Our worrying doesn’t add anything to our life. In fact, we know that worrying can shorten our life – that stress can kill us, make us crotchety. When we forget that God is in charge and rather make it all about me and my strength and what I can do – well, we set ourselves up for disappointment and failure.

And the thing is, we don't need to focus, we don't need to worry about the things of this life – that's not a burden we need. We don’t need to be the ones in control – for we know that God is in control, and we know that God provides for us. In fact, we should all be praying this several times a day. Right before our Gospel text in Matthew, Jesus teaches the Lord's Prayer. Fantastic prayer, of course – and what is there smack dab in the middle but this phrase – give us this day our daily bread. Everyday we pray that God provide us what we need for the day – and that's it. As simple as that. Jesus doesn't instruct us to pray something long or complex – we don't have to tell God whether we want wheat bread or white – we simply put everything into God's hands. Give us our daily bread – give, freely, out of Your own goodness, give because You are God and You are good – give us our daily bread. That which we need for this day, whatever that is. Do you see how simple that prayer is? All the complexities of life, all the drama, all the times we get all worked up and riled up with worries and cares – not needed. We know that God provides for us, just as He has in the past.

Indeed, we know that God provides us with all that we need not only for this life, but also for life eternal. This is what we see and trust by faith. The mystery, the wonder of the Christian faith isn't simply that God provides for our needs, but that God has had mercy upon us – that even as we so often fret and flitter and abuse His gifts to us – God restores us to Paradise. This same Jesus who tells us not to be anxious about our life will lay down His own – He will stride boldly to the Cross in order to be able to provide for You not just your daily bread, but His life giving Holy Supper. He suffers and dies not just to see that you have shelter against the storms of this fallen world, but that you have a home with Him for all eternity. This is the wonder which we see each week here in His house – that God has mercy upon us and gives us life in His name. That's why Jesus can tell us not to be anxious, why not to worry about what we eat or wear. Is not life more than food, the body more than clothing? Indeed it is! For you have been claimed by Christ – in the waters of Holy Baptism God declared you to be His own child – your life is more than just that life of a mortal man, doomed to die. You have been given the gift of immortality, that even though you die, yet you shall live in and with Christ for all eternity!

All the drama, all the burdens we worry about, all the things we fret and worry about – not needed. Not needed at all. God is the one in control, God provides for us, God holds us tenderly in His almighty hands, showing His love for us not just in the things of this brief sojourn we have in this sinful, fallen world, but God will be our God for all eternity, providing for us completely with all that we need for salvation and eternal life. God grant that we rest securely in the knowledge of His salvation. Amen.

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