September 16, 2007

Trinity 15
Matthew 6.24-34
September 16, 2007

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." +INJ+

Why do you worry? Perhaps you think you do not worry about the things our Lord mentions: what you will eat, what you will drink, what you will wear. Oh, you worry about shopping and preparing meals, and which set of clothing would be appropriate - but whether you will have a meal today or tomorrow is not a real concern; neither whether you will have clothes to keep you warm.

Your cupboards are stocked with boxes and cans you might never open.
Your medicines expire before you can take them.
Your refrigerator has to be cleaned out and spoiled food thrown into the trash, so greatly have you been blessed.
You discard televisions and telephones that still work so you can have the latest technology.
Your closets are crammed with clothes no longer in style or that no longer fit, and whole bags go to charity shops or simply the dumpster. You are overflowing with material abundance, yet still you worry.

I don't doubt you have many real causes for anxiety.
What will happen with your kids and your parents?
What will happen with your job?
Can you stay healthy?
How can you deal with the debts you took on because you had to have more?
How can you satisfy the demands of so many people around you?

Looking beyond yourself -
Western civilization is in decline, morally bankrupt, bereft of leaders who can address the grave perils of our age.
And in the most important arena of all, the Church, false teachers have the upper hand, while the Bible and the church's Confessions gather dust.

To you who are troubled by any or all of these things, our Lord Jesus comes and says, "Why do you worry?" He says it not to hurt you, to criticize you, or cause you more worry. He says it because He knows you worry, and He knows that your worry comes from forgetting who your God is. He knows your worries come when you stop listening to your God's Word and stop trusting His promises.

He says this to you, because He knows that you so easily slip back into serving other masters. "No one can serve two masters," but everyone has a master.
You have things, people, passions that hold you in bondage, make you their slave.
Alcohol. Pride. Porn. Gluttony. Rage. Scorn for others.
Instead of mastering these things, they have mastered you.
You have become a slave to your wants, to your ego, to the desires of the flesh. You have lived with malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. By the holy Gospel, God has called you to liberty - but have you used your liberty as an excuse to go on sinning?
Then God is not your master, but your own flesh, your own sinful nature is your master - for no one can serve two masters.

And what is happening with your life? Time ekes away, ticking away the remaining years, months, days, seconds of your life. But which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to the span of your life?

"Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them." Now consider that rich fool, whose farm yielded a great crop. His barns were so full that he was troubled, because he could not store all that he had. Then he took comfort in tearing down his barns and building bigger barns. He thought he had no worries, then. He had provisions for many years, and he could rest in the ease of his possessions. But the Lord said to him, "You fool!" That very night his life was demanded of him. What then became of all his possessions?
It is not the gathering into barns that relieves anxiety. The end of your worries is not in a comfortable retirement plan or a housing market that goes up instead of down.

"Do not worry," says our Lord to you, because He knows that you have been serving other masters, how easily you become enslaved by them. "Do not worry," He says, "because I am your Master. Do you not remember how when the ten lepers cried out to Me, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!' that I did have mercy on them? Do you not know that when I am your Master, I lead you through the valley of the shadow of death itself, and you need fear no evil? Do you not know that with Me as your Master, no one can pluck you from the Father's hand? Do you not know that you can come to Me for rest, that My yoke is easy and My burden is light? I am your Master, and whoever follows Me, whoever eats the food that I give, whoever drinks the drink that I give, has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day? Do you not know and remember these things, O you of little faith?"

And when we hear those words, "Little faith," our hearts are pricked, for our faith indeed seems so small we wonder if there is any left. But what comfort that He does not say, "O you of no faith," but, "Little faith." Jesus always addresses those words to His disciples.
  • When a great storm arose, the Lord was asleep in the boat, and the disciples fear for their lives. They woke Him, and Jesus said, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" And when He rebuked the wind and the waves, there was a great calm.
  • When Jesus was walking upon the water, and Peter began to sink, Jesus stretched out His hand, caught him, and said, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

So what great comfort, that our Lord comes to the aid of those with little faith. No faith--i.e., unbelief--is rejection of Him, despising His words and promises. Little faith is still faith, for they are crying out to Jesus or listening to His Word. Worry, anger, doubts might rise up against you as a mighty storm, but your Lord is still the one who calmed the tempest and feeds the ravens when they call. His rebuke is a gentle rebuke: "Stop doubting that I love you, stop forgetting that I made you, stop forgetting that I have given you everything you have had to enjoy. Stop going your own way, stop serving those other masters, for they have only brought you pain and anguish. Stop talking and listen, stop grasping and receive what I give you."

And what does He give you, O you of little faith?
While you are worrying about what you will eat, He has prepared a table for you. Open your mouth wide, and He will fill it; take and eat, His risen body that heals your dying one and brings you to the resurrection.
While you are worrying about what you will drink, He has prepared a cup filled to overflowing, His blood that cleanses you from all your sins.
While you are worrying about what you will wear, He has already clothed you with righteousness in Holy Baptism, for all of you who have been baptized have been clothed with Christ.
Do you not know that if you have been united with Him in a death like His, so shall you be united with Him in a resurrection like His? Why then do you worry about your body, and despair at the thought of bald spots and failing eyesight, surgeries and cancer? Do you not believe what you said in the Creed, that you look for the resurrection of the dead?

Fight against your sins, beloved, struggle against them - weep and mourn over your sins, and come to confession. But do not worry even about sins confessed and forgiven, for they are gone. When you come to Baptism, when you come to Confession, when you come to the Holy Eucharist, there is where you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, for there is where you get not your own righteousness but Christ's righteousness - His perfect life, His sacrificial death, His glorious resurrection. If you have that, you have everything. If you do not have that, though you gain the whole world, you have nothing.

Therefore do not worry about your death, for Christ has died your death. Do not worry about your life, for Christ is your life. Your life is hidden with Christ in God; therefore, do not worry. +INJ+

Rev. Christopher S. Esget
Pastor, Immanuel Evangelical-Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Alexandria, Virginia


William Weedon said...

Another outstanding homily. Thank you so much for sharing that - I needed to read it, and I so wish I could have heard it.

Eric Phillips said...

I did hear it, but I was just reading the last few paragraphs over, and wow, they really are good!

Great stuff, Pastor.