Trinity 15 – September 23rd and 24th, 2017 – Matthew 6:24-34
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
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. Well, that's a great way to start a lesson, isn't it? It just sort of drops a great big bomb on our laps. Two things are set against each other – God and Money. And we are made to think about this, to ask ourselves the question. How often would I rather serve money than God. Oh, these are dangerous waters, aren't they? Money sermons in church can hit too close to home, too close to the wallet, too close to my hobbies and all the other things that I really, really like to do.
The fact is we all love money. It makes us feel powerful. We'll do stupid things for money, and then we'll do even stupider things with our money. But here's the thing. Money, wealth, mammon, stuff – they're a cruel master. Right after bringing up this distinction, Jesus talks about worry and being anxious – worrying about what you will wear and what you will eat and all those everyday humdrum fears we have. You do realize what Jesus is pointing out. Money, loving money, serving money, will only make you anxious and worried. Even the world recognizes this. You get this in pop music, even in rap. Mo Money, Mo Problems. You spend your money to buy something really nice, then you have to buy even more insurance because what if something happens to it. You get a decent car instead of a beater, and then suddenly the ads tell you that you need an even nicer car, and you're no longer content. When money dominates our lives we just get thrown into a never-end cycle of fear and discontentment. Think about it – how many times this past week were your fears and anxiety based upon money, based upon stuff – whether there was enough for all the things you “need” or for all the things you want to do? I paid bills this week – I didn't sit down and cheer when I paid them, I cringed.
This is because we think that Money is power, that money gives us control. We think that if we had just a bit more cash then we'd be in control, that we would be able to make everything the way we want it to be. We think money is power, never recognizing that is takes control and rules over us and becomes our master – and money is a terrible master. Makes you work and sweat and fret, and it's never enough. Do you see, do you understand how many stupid and wretched things your sinful flesh will do to just try to be in charge? I know at the temptation of Jesus, when Satan says, “I'll give you all the kingdoms of the world if you just bow down and worship me” we can think, “That's a silly temptation.” Yet, how often do we jump through hoops for cash, thinking that cash will let us control our lives? Then the money doesn't bring us happiness, it doesn't bring us joy. And even the world will finally admit that in the end, you can't take it with you.
You cannot serve God and money. So what does this mean, Pastor? If I'm being honest about myself, it's clear that entirely too often I want to serve money, that I want to be all about the Benjamins and cold hard cash. Does that mean that I'm up the creek without a paddle? Listen. Jesus says: You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life....” This is one of the happiest “therefores” in all the Scriptures. So often people will present “You cannot serve God and money” as a chance for a choice, for a call for you to make a better decision. The only thing is that if we're talking about “money” and decisions, we tend to make terrible decisions. But Jesus doesn't tell you to choose between Him and money. He says “Therefore I tell you.” You can't have two masters – it doesn't work. Therefore I will be your Master, I will be your Lord, and I will be the one telling you how things will be, not money. Money tells you to fret and worry and be anxious – but I, Christ Jesus, your Lord and Master, say unto you, don't worry about stuff, because stuff, your food, your clothing, your life – that is all in My hands, not money's hands, and I will take care of you. Period. Because I am your master, and you will listen, not to your fears and anxieties driven by money, but you will listen to Me. You don't have two masters; you have One. His name is Jesus.
And here's where our sinful flesh wants to chime in with a giant and loud “BUT!!!” Okay, Jesus, we get that God is in control, we get that we pray for daily bread, and yeah, we talk about in the Small Catechism in the Creed how God has made me and all creatures and given me my body and soul... BUT what about this? And then our flesh throws out some fear in front of us. Sometimes, in hindsight, the things we worry about are flippant and silly. I remember when I was devastated because my mom bought me the wrong Transformer toy – how am I to get my daily bread when my mom can't tell one transformer from another! Sometimes the fears are big and nasty. Maybe this is the second notice on that power bill. Or “your position has been eliminated and your services will no longer be required.” Or Dad just had to buy a hospital bed for mom. Those are scary things. But let's ratchet it up. What about the day, our flesh cries out, what about the day when I'm the one who needs the hospital bed, what about when it's my eyes that can't see anymore, what about when I die, huh? What about then, huh?
Well, first of all, the day I'm dying money isn't going to do anything for me. Money's a vain and fleeting master – when I kick the bucket any money I have will just go to some other folks; hopefully they won't fight over it too much. But more important than the powerlessness of money is the greater truth – Jesus Christ, O Christian, is your master. Even in the face of death, Jesus is your master. And do you know how you know that He is your master no matter what comes in your life? We saw it today. A few minutes ago, we saw Christ Jesus publicly declare that He was Lord and Master of (Bennet and Gunnar / Jax). He joined them to Himself in the waters of Baptism, placed His name upon them. You see, Baptism isn't just some cutesy ceremony, it isn't just a photo op (although baptismal photos are cute). Baptism is where the Trinue God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit publicly says that you, the baptized, are His own child, now and forever. And why does Jesus stake this claim upon you?
Well, when Adam sinned in the garden, Satan had his nasty little fingers on us – Satan had a claim on us. We had sinned, and the wages of sin is death. We were consigned into Satan's kingdom of death. And Jesus does not want that – He doesn't want us just stuck in death, and so He would have to rescue us. And you know what that rescue means? He had to go where we were. If my son gets stuck in a slide and I have to rescue him, I have to climb into the slide and drag him out. Since we were stuck in the kingdom of Death, Jesus had to enter into death itself. That is why Jesus became man, that is why He went to the cross. He suffered and died because you and I were going to die. And if we were left to die on our own devices, that would have been it – the grave would have been our last stop. But no, Christ went to the Cross and He died and He entered a tomb of His own. Then He blew the kingdom of death apart by rising on the third day. And what Jesus does in His Church is takes what He has done with His death and resurrection and brings it to us in Holy Baptism, He brings you out of the kingdom of death and brings you into His kingdom of everlasting life.
Whatever comes in your life, whatever trials and doubts or fears or problems you face – even up to and including your death, because if the Lord tarries and doesn't return soon, death will come for all of us – whatever comes – you know for certain that Jesus Christ is your Lord because He has baptized you, He has joined you unto Himself. And in fact, He spends your life preparing you, training you to face down the fears Satan throws at you... even the fears of death. You've already died and live with Christ. Remember the lesson from your Catechism days – what does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Where is this written? St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” This is the greatest and highest reality of your life, who you are. You are one who has died to sin and is alive to God in Christ Jesus.
And we forget that sometimes, don't we. We get turned away from Jesus and get focused upon other things. Like money. That's the example in the text. We start thinking money will fix our lives. There are others. Our ego, lust, anger, pride. All these things try to make us think they bring us life, try to make us forget that Christ is our life. And so often we run after these things and slam headlong into the muck and the mire and get burdened by fear and shame and guilt and worry. Those fears, those worries, that guilt and shame are what we end up focusing on, no matter how hard we try to pretend they're not there. We start acting as though money were our master – or whatever other idol tells us that it is our Master. And that is when Jesus says to you again, “No - I am your master, not money, not Satan, not sin, not the flesh.” He pulls our eyes off of all that other junk and says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Seek first the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that you were made a member of when you were baptized. Seek Jesus' own righteousness, the righteousness that He gives you whenever He forgives your sins!
Do you see? No one may serve two masters – and while we might forget that, Christ Jesus does not, and He always remembers that He is your kind and gracious master, your good and gracious King, and so He will always call you back unto Himself, back to His Kingdom. How could He not – for you are His own, baptized into Him. You have life in Him. This the reality of your life – not your cash. You can't take your money with you, but Christ Jesus will take you with Him for all eternity, for He has purchased and won you from those lousy masters Sin, death, and the devil, all so that you will be His own and live under Him in His kingdom forever. You belong to Jesus, and He will never abandon you. God grant us ever more to remember this! In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +