15 – September 11th and 12th, 2021
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
on from last week's Epistle dealing with the evident works of the
flesh as opposed to the fruit of the Spirit, St. Paul says in today's
Epistle – If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the
So, as Confirmation Class is starting up this weekend, let's ask now
the old Catechism question – What does this mean? What does it
mean to live by the Spirit, to walk by the Spirit? I mean, if you
hear people say that they are spiritual today, it can mean almost
anything as long as it's smug and condescending. Or “I'm
spiritual, but not religious” - which Paul would have thought to be
as dumb as saying, “I'm a human, but not a person.” In our
culture today and in our society today we so often think of
“spiritual” as being something high faluting or up there, maybe
in our minds, or meditate in a Lotus position and transcend your body
or whatever the latest claptrap is. And all that misses the point.
Listen again to Paul - If we live by the Spirit,
let us also walk by the Spirit. This
isn't imaginary, this Spirituality stuff isn't in your head – we
live by the Spirit, we walk by the Spirit. Living and walking are
some real, tangible things. Down to earth things. Paul gives a list
of what this tangible real Spiritual life, living and walking by the
Spirit looks like – don't provoke each other, help each other out,
don't boast, learn the word of God and pay your preacher, keep on
doing good things. He doesn't say “go sit under a waterfall” or
“take an expensive vacation to India”. It's life. The fact that you are a Christian, that Jesus' forgiveness has been given to you, that you are baptized, shapes you.
And to contemplate this further, and indeed, to rejoice in Jesus' forgiveness even further, let's consider now our Gospel lesson. And it doesn't seem like this would be a Gospel lesson to rejoice over. I mean, Jesus tells us not the worry – and then lists a bunch of terrible things. And He drops an “O you of little faith” on us. How is this a rejoicing sort of text? How is this a Spiritual life text. Very simply. Alright Confirmands, you're getting a heads up on Sunday night's lesson, so listen up. Adults – the question for you is this: What is the First Commandment? (You shall have no other gods.) And what does this mean? (We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.) Jesus says, “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.” We're used to hearing this, we're used to jumping on into consider the lilies of the field, but pause for a second. Did you hear what Jesus just said. He said, “Don't worry, even about starving to death naked.” That happens more often in history than we'd care to admit. It happened often enough in the Roman Empire of Jesus' day – it would happen in Jerusalem in 70 AD, it happened in our lifetimes in the Concentration camps of Germany, or to our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Siberia, or even now in China and other parts of the world. And that's human cruelty, that's to say nothing of natural disasters, floods and famine and earthquake where the work of lifetimes are turned to rubble. What do you mean, do not be anxious, what do you mean do not worry? Isn't that something to be afraid of, Jesus?
You shall have no other gods. We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Fear. Fear is a spiritual thing. You hear all the time in the Old Testament that we are to “fear the LORD” or “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” - and that sounds so strange to us because we as modern Americans hate the idea of fear. But fear is there, there's always something that one fears, something that one understands as the biggest threat, the highest priority. And fear is Spiritual. Spiritual doesn't mean disconnected to your life – if something is Spiritual it is tied to your life and permeates all parts of your life. And as such, Satan will use the fear of various things to drive you, to torture and twist you. After Pearl Harbor President Roosevelt had fantastic insight when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” Fear drives you. FDR didn't want the American populous driven by fear to stupidity after Pearl Harbor, and in that sense he was right. We see a fear, and we will do anything, anything, to avoid it or counter it. And if the fear is big enough, we will jettison all morals, all sense, we will throw our neighbor under the bus. Fear will make us turn on friends. Fear turns people into informants. Fear turns people into killers, whether it's the stranger, or even the child in the womb. All driven by fear, driven by what-ifs and we have to do something. All driven by Satan who wants us focused on anywhere and anything but Christ Jesus and His love for us. All seeking to make us live in fear, walk in fear. This misplaced fear of Satan's is in the air today, it's all around us and palpable.
And Jesus says no. We shouldn't fear first and foremost this trash Satan throws us, whether it's our health or what our friends and family think of us, what will the neighbors say. First and foremost, we should focus on what God says – He's the One we should fear above all, because He's the One who can do the most. And what does the Triune God say of you? 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?” Are you not of more value... Jesus says you have value, great value. That in the eyes of God Almighty, you have deep value. So much value that when Satan tempted Adam and Eve into sin, when Satan used them to unleash death and destruction and all the things we fear – that God planned for your salvation. That Jesus would become man and die for you, in your place – that He would rise on the third day to win you everlasting life because you have value to God. The Holy Spirit makes you to know this – the Lord and giver of Life Himself makes you to understand the value that God places upon you, upon your neighbor for whom Jesus died. You live by the Spirit as a redeemed, forgiven, and valued person – and when you walk around don't just see fear, see that you are valued by God and that the person next to you is valued by God, even if they don't see it and treat themselves like trash.
So whose words, whose opinion will you fear, will you give priority? Because that's what fear does – it assigns a priority in your life, and if you choose a dumb priority, bad things happen. So what is the priority – what Jesus says of you – that you are more valuable than His own life and that you are forgiven and bound for everlasting life, or the stupid worries and fear that the world is peddling? What is the priority – seeing your neighbor as someone Jesus died for, or seeing them as an enemy to be defeated, an obstacle to be overcome? If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. That's the point Paul is making here, that's what Jesus is teaching – remember who you are in Christ Jesus's eyes, and let that shape how you see the world and your place in it.
And this doesn't mean that you won't see troubles. Jesus Himself saw plenty of trouble – that Cross up there is a big old sign trouble if ever there was one. And He openly tells us “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Seeing the value God has placed upon you and your neighbor actually brings trouble and hardship – you don't get to treat life as cheap. You don't get to view your neighbor as expendable or disposable, toss them away when it's convenient to do so. And there's still sin swirling around, and there are still fears and words trying to make you forget who you are in Christ, make you forget the dignity we as His children have. And that's all hard. But remember here that God knows this, and He knows what you need. And He is the One who is in control. Listen again to how our Gospel lesson starts.
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. Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life. Yeah, money and stuff can drive a lot of fears – how many people will be silent and not speak the truth because it might get them canceled and hurt their pocketbook? Money is a fearful master... but Jesus says you can't have two masters... Therefore, I tell you, because I, Jesus, am your Master – I have purchased and won you from all sin, from death, and from the power of the Devil with My own blood, I have baptized you and poured water and My Spirit upon you, and you are part of My Kingdom, and you live by My Spirit. Did you hear Jesus just take charge right there? And He is in charge, and He's in charge for you good. And whatever comes down the pike, even if it is fearful and scary, Jesus is still in charge, and He still conquers over all things, and He does so for you good, because you are of value to Him beyond our ability to understand.
So my friends – walk by the Spirit – that is, walk around your life understanding who you are in Christ Jesus and what Satan is trying to do to you and to your neighbors. There's fear out there, crazy making evil driving fear. See that and know that as a spiritual thing, the work of Satan... but more importantly remember who you are as a baptized and forgiven child of God, alive in the Spirit, fed this day on Christ's own Body and Blood, and bound for eternal life. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Eyes upon Jesus, Words proclaiming the Christ and Him Crucified, fear in it's proper place and Jesus in charge – for you are forgiven. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +