Sunday, October 2, 2011

Homily for The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 15)


Matthew 6:24-34; Galatians 5:25 – 6:10; 1 Kings 17:8-16

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Everyone has a master, and most of us have many masters; but, nonetheless, everyone has a master. As Americans, however, we don’t like to think that way. We don’t like to think of our boss as a master and we don’t like to think of our possessions as a master. But, we do like to think of ourselves as masters of ourselves. Indeed, the American dream is to work hard, to earn a respectable wage for your labor, to purchase for yourself a home and a car and to put food on the table for yourself and for your family. We think that at the end of each eight hour day a man ought to be able to sit at the dinner table with his wife and his children and say “Life is good. I’m the master of my house. I have built for myself a family, a home, and a life. I am the king of my castle. Life is good.” But, we deceive ourselves. We are not kings unto ourselves and neither are we masters of ourselves. And yet, everyone has a master, and most of us have many masters, but, everyone has a master.

What it comes down to is this: You cannot serve God and mammon. Yes, I know that many Bible translations say money, and that’s a fair translation, but the Greek word is mammon and it denotes much more than just money. Mammon is all manner of material wealth and possessions. Further, the connotation of the word mammon is negative: lust, greed, and avarice. In the New Testament, mammon is often personified as a false god that is worshiped by men in their lust, greed, and avarice and in their anxious worrying about acquiring and preserving material wealth and possessions.

You cannot serve God and mammon. And you cannot, despite what you think and feel, you cannot serve two masters, for either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Whether you are a willing servant of your master or an unwilling slave, it doesn’t really matter, for, either way your master is he (or it) that you depend upon for your life and for your livelihood, and thus you fear him (or it), and you trust in him (or it), and maybe you even love him (or it). And so, you cannot serve God and mammon, and you cannot have two masters, for, if your master is not the true and only Triune God, and if it is not He alone that you fear, love, trust, serve, and worship, then your master is the false god mammon and you are an idolator who worships that which has been created rather than the One who has created all things.

We Americans cherish our freedom, but we deceive ourselves, for we make ourselves to be slaves to the false god mammon. We worship mammon by fearing the loss of our material wealth and possessions, by loving our material wealth and possessions, and by trusting in our material wealth and possessions for safety, health, and happiness. But who amongst you has not felt at times that the things you possess, in truth, possess you? Who amongst you cannot relate to the idea expressed in that anti-drug commercial on tv several years ago where the cocaine-addict dialogues with himself saying, “I do coke so I can work longer, so I can earn more, so I can do more coke, so I can work longer, so I can earn more, so I…, so I…, so I….”? Particularly in this time of economic uncertainty, three years now into a recession, when fuel prices and food prices keep going higher and the stock market keeps going lower, when your personal income has plateaued, if you managed to keep your job at all, and the cost of everything you need and want keeps climbing higher and higher, people are afraid and they are worried and they are anxious about tomorrow. Well, when you fear, love, and trust in mammon, that is what you are left with – fear, worry, and anxiety. You are servant and a slave of a false god that cannot hear you or answer your prayers, that cannot comfort you, relieve your fear, worry, and anxiety, or add an hour to your life.

When you worship the creature you cannot worship the Creator; you cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon makes you a slave to material wealth and possessions. You are in chains to these because you can only be concerned with acquiring more and protecting what you have. Mammon keeps you incurvatus in se, turned inward to yourself, therefore you are not, and cannot be, concerned about your neighbor. In contrast, the true worship of the true God frees you from these chains so that you are not worried and anxious about food and drink, house and home, clothing and shoes, and all other material and bodily needs because you recognize that God provides all these out of Fatherly divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in you. Only by serving God alone as your master are you freed to live and love without fear, worry, and anxiety and to love your neighbor freely and without coercion. And, in serving your neighbor, you serve your God – not the false god of material wealth and possessions, but the true God who lovingly provides you with all that you need to sustain your body and life now and forever.

God has made you and all creatures and still takes care of them. He provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field which are here today and gone tomorrow, and you are much more precious to God than they. And God provides for the Gentiles and unbelievers as well as you, but how much more will you receive if you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? All the things of creation are passing away. The money you work so hard to earn is worth less today, and less still tomorrow, than when you earned it. The car, tv, computer, and appliances you purchase today will last five to ten years, but they will be out-of-date and out-of-style long before that. The clothes that you wear get a little thinner and less beautiful with each wear and wash. Your home needs constant repair and maintenance and still it slowly decays. And need I remind you of your body and your health? No, you know the transient nature of the flesh well enough. Like the prophet has spoken: All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

But your Father in heaven, your Creator and God, has not created you to wither, decay, and die; that was not God’s will for you, but Satan’s will for you. Rather, God has created you for life, eternal life in communion with Him. You were conceived and born in sin, and the wages of your sin is death, thus, you die. But in Holy Baptism, your sin-corrupted spirit has already died and has been raised to new life in Jesus Christ. Your new spirit, your new man, knows his God, fears, loves, and trusts in his God and therefore loves his neighbor as well. But your flesh, well, that’s a different matter altogether. The flesh is still corrupted by sin and it will die. But it too will be raised in the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. Until then, however, God has called you to live and to walk by the spirit, bearing one another’s burdens, sharing all good things with one another, and doing good, especially to those of the household of faith. To live according to your corrupted flesh is to serve mammon and to worship mammon in fear, worry, and anxiety. But to live according to the spirit is to live Christ’s holy life in thought, word, and deed, to know the Truth incarnate and to be truly free. If you abstain from your fleshly desires and passions and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all that you need to support your body and life will be added to you and you will be content and at peace, which is unspeakably better than the fleeting pleasures and peace that the world and material wealth and possessions can give.

And, as the flour and the oil belonging to the widow of Zarephath was not depleted or spent, but nourished those of her household throughout the prophet’s stay, so even now, where God is feared, loved, and trusted above all things, these simple elements of mammon are pressed into bounteous service in bread, which is Jesus’ body that you may eat and be of one flesh with Him, and in simple wine, which is Jesus’ blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Likewise, the oil of the Holy Spirit has christened you to be God’s own beloved child in Jesus Christ so that you are clothed in raiment more glorious than that of Solomon, the holy and perfect righteousness of God’s own Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. For, you are of more value to God than anything else in the world that He has made. May He, likewise, be of the greatest value and of love to you.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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