Sunday, September 20, 2009

Trinity 15

Trinity 15 – Matthew 6:24-35 – September 20th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
30, 40 years down the road, when the economic historians write about this recession or whatever it ends up being that we are in, they will probably mark the beginning of it to be right around a year ago, when Lehman Brothers, a company I had never even heard of before, went belly up. And it’s been a year of panic, and angst, and worry. Whether you are of a more liberal leaning or of a more conservative leaning, there has been more fear and worry in the past year than any I can remember in a goodly long while. We have tea parties, and we have commercials warning against obstructionism. If we don’t do this, everything will fall apart; if we do do this, everything will fall apart. And all around people have become prophets of dire consequences, calling out doom on every TV channel. And in the middle of all this, we hear this Word from our Lord – Do not be anxious about your life. “Well, obviously Jesus just doesn’t understand what it’s like to be an American living in 2009. Aren’t we supposed to worry now, because depending upon who you listen to, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, we’re all going to lose our health care and our freedoms and all our money and a score of other problems” – and yet our Lord still says, “Do not be anxious about your life.”

Pause with me a moment, and consider when our Lord first says this and who He says it to. Our Lord is preaching to Jewish people who have been conquered by the Romans. They are second class citizens – they don’t have the full protection of the law – remember, Paul was unique in that he actually was a Roman Citizen – most Jewish people weren’t. The Centurions could have come for any of them. The taxes were considered high and harsh. There was constant threat of sedition and rebellion. There was rampant poverty and disease – no side in our health care debate thinks the best answer today is to just toss the lepers outside the city walls – but as we saw last week, that’s the way it was in Jesus’ day. It is to those people, living in that society, that our Lord first says, “Do not be anxious about your life.” If He can speak like this to them, than surely we who live in the richest and wealthiest society in the history of the world can take heed of His Word as well.

And yet – it seems so easy to be anxious. Why is that? The first verse of our Gospel shows us. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” This is the problem. Where is your trust? In whom do you trust, or perhaps, in what do you trust? The simple fact is even with all the technical advances and all the neat do-hickeys of the day, we are still sinful people living in a sinful world, and in a sinful world things break. Things fall apart. Things don’t work right. And none of us likes that. None of us likes it when lousy things happen. But here’s the rub – how do you deal, how do you cope with the fact that bad things happen, even to you, in this sinful world? How do you cope, where do you place your trust, or to use the language Jesus uses, who is your master, whom do you serve?

The temptation is to serve, to trust in the things of this life - money, power, wealth. The solutions so often offered to us today revolve around money and power. We can have insurance, a rainy day fund, a nest egg – spend money and invest and that will protect us. And yes, it’s nice to have insurance – but if you have to use it, it means you’ve already gotten sick, it means the crops have already failed, it means your loved one is already dead – insurance just softens the monetary blow, nothing more. Yes, the rainy day fund helps, but if you use it, it means that the rainy day is here, and that’s never enjoyable. And this is the sad thing, when we get focused on the things of this life, trying to safeguard ourselves against the worst – we just end up becoming enslaved to money, enslaved to the almighty dollar, where our thoughts are no longer about what is right and good, what we ought to do, but end up controlled by the bottom line. We end up being devoted to greenbacks – and when this happens, we end up despising God. What He says in His Word is no longer as important as our material wealth and financial well-being. You cannot serve God and money.

This is what our Lord points out – that the hopes and dreams and promises of money in this life, of power in this life, social power, political power, whatever – if your primary focus is there, there will always be disappointment, for these are the things of this world, and in this world there is always going to be disappointment. Princes of this world are always but mortals, and they and their plans always decay. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, what you will put on.” Did you catch the word? Therefore. Because of all this, because the world will try to be your master and replace God, because of the fact that the plans of the world are always empty and dissatisfying, because money and power always fails – do not worry about your life. Why do you set your sights so low, O Christian! Why do you worry about the things that will assuredly fail at some point in your time here on earth? Have you forgotten what you are? “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Aren’t you more than just your stuff? And we get the famous examples – the birds of the air – God cares for them. The lilies of the field – God cares for them. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Things pass, things fade away, but for the days you have here, be they long or short, is not God still God? Is not your Creator still your Creator? As we confess in the Catechism, does not the God who has given you your body and soul still take care of them?

Here’s the rub. When we worry about money, about stuff, we really are thinking about how our own power and planning will make things okay, make things safe. But our focus should not be upon mere earthly things, as though our plans will somehow triumph over a sinful world and make it somehow all nice and neat. That’s a goal we can’t accomplish – a burden none of us can bear. Bad things happen in a sinful world. Period. Simple as that. And so our Lord instructs us saying, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘what shall we eat?’ or ‘what shall we drink?’ or ‘what shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Quit thinking like the people of the world. Quit thinking like those people out there who honestly think that it’s all up to them, who think that they only way they are going to get something is if they grab it for themselves. You have a heavenly Father who cares for you, who knows your needs better than you yourself do – and for as long as He chooses to keep you here in this life, He will provide you with what you need. Not necessarily what you want – you can’t always get what you want – but God will provide you what you need. Put your cares in God’s hands.

So, rather than worrying about your wants for this life – seek ye first the kingdom of God and Christ’s righteousness. And here is the wonderful, profound, beautiful thing. The source of all these problems, the root cause of any distress and ill is sin. Sinners in a sinful world. Now, consider the righteousness of God. What does it mean that God is righteous? It means that God does what is right – and your heavenly Father sees this world of sin and death, He sees you within it, and so He says to His Son, “I will preserve them for a time there, but You, do what is right – rescue them. Save them. Go to the Cross, suffer and die, and rise again, so that they might be delivered from this world unto My heavenly kingdom.” That is the Kingdom of God, that is God’s righteousness – that He saves sinners, that He forgives you, that He gives you salvation and heaven and eternal life.

And here is the wondrous thing. Do you want proof that God cares for you? The proof isn’t in your bank account. Do you want proof that God cares for your life? The proof isn’t in any doctor’s office. Do you want proof that God cares for your body? The proof isn’t found by looking in the mirror. There – the font, that is the proof that our Righteous God cares for you, for your life, for your body. There at the font, He took simple water, and He attached His word of life and salvation, and poured that now most Holy of all waters, that life giving water upon your body, and there He promised you that you, body and soul, would live in His presence in His kingdom for all eternity. Your body – this one – was marked by Christ as His own, claimed by God for all eternity. You are His, and you are forgiven. Is isn’t about your plans, what you can given to God, but the love He has given to you.

Yet do you seek more proof? Do not worry about what you will eat or drink – for our Lord Christ Jesus invites you to His table, where you will dine on something all the money in the world could never provide – You receive His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins and for salvation. You receive the feast of heaven – a foretaste of the everlasting feast to come. Our Lord, after He institutes the Supper says to the disciples, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” Here, my brothers – have this meal of forgiveness and live until that day when We all, in perfected and resurrected Bodies delight in the heavenly feast of the kingdom of God! This supper is the proof, the evidence that Christ Himself will give you His resurrection and eternity with you in God’s Kingdom forever.

Therefore, my friends, dear people of Zion, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, what you will wear. You have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, you have been clothed in the robes of Christ’s righteousness, and come whatever may in this life, you shall stand among the white robed saints for all eternity, enjoying the heavenly feast, living true life in the presence of God. Thus, we are right to pray at all times, and not just before we eat worldly food, Come Lord Jesus – Come and bring us your eternal life. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

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