Sunday, September 12, 2010

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.

Do you notice how our Lord links together the sins of idolatry and anxiety? Listen to Him once again: 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, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

I ask you then, is your master anxiety, worry, and fear about what you will wear, about what you will eat or drink, about your health and your life? Is your master anxiety, worry, and fear about whether or not your children will be successful in school, will they make good friends, will they be safe? Is your master anxiety, worry, and fear about making your next mortgage payment, being laid off, having enough savings for retirement? Is your master anxiety, worry, and fear about getting cancer, terrorist attacks, or falling out of love? For, if anything or anyone other than God is your master, then you are an idolater and you sin. For, an idol is anything that gets between you and your God; an idol is anything you put your fear, love, and trust in above, beyond, and before your God who commands “You shall have no other gods before me.”

But, the Son of Man did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. Jesus came to set you free from your tyrannical masters. Jesus came to set you free from your anxiety, worry, fear, and death, that you may live in Him and in His kingdom to the glory of His Father. Therefore He calls anxiety, worry, and fear what they are, idolatry, which is nothing other than slavery to a false god. And, He shows you the truth that these false gods keep you from seeing, that you are truly free of these things, for God knows what you need and He graciously provides you with everything that you need to support and sustain your body and life.

Thus, learn from the birds of the air, for, they do not sow, and yet they eat, they do not reap or gather into barns, and yet they have food for tomorrow, should it come. And does not God, your Father, love you more than these? Yes, indeed, He does, but, perhaps, not in the way that you think. For, He loves you in such a way that He will not let you remain in bondage to anxiety and worry, idolatry, sin, and death. So, He will allow you to pass through times of lean and times of plenty, times of weakness and times of strength that you may call upon Him at all times and in all places, in faith, confessing that He is God, ever faithful, almighty, and unchanging.

Thus, learn from the lilies of the field which cannot even move as can the birds of the air. They are root-bound in the earth, totally dependent upon rain and sun, and in the right amounts, to live. They are alive today and thrown into the oven tomorrow. They grow in fields of their own kind, indistinguishable one from another. And yet, how they are arrayed so that any one of them is more glorious than a king dressed in his finest robes! And, if God so clothes these whose life is but a breath, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

And, besides all that, asks your Lord, can you add a single hour to your life by being anxious? Can you add a single minute to your life by worrying about tomorrow? No, of course you cannot. And, like all tyrannical masters, anxiety, worry, and fear actually rob you of life: minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades. Your heavenly Father knows the things that you need and He graciously provides you all that you need to support and to sustain your body and life now, and into eternity.

The problem arises when the gifts of God’s grace are seen as the fruits of our labors, when we perceive ourselves to be the lord instead of the steward. Then we are tempted to hoard our possessions, to be envious of the possessions of others, to begrudge what we don’t have, and to be discontent with what we do have. Do you see, then, how we become enslaved to our possessions, how we make mammon, money, our god? And god mammon is a tyrannical master, controlling you by making you fearful of losing what you have and anxious of getting more tomorrow, making you miserable all the while. And, the end is worse than the beginning, for nothing lasts forever and you can’t take it with you, for, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever."

But, don’t worry. You don’t have to live like that. You don’t have to search for worth and meaning in deaf and mute idols. You have worth and meaning because your heavenly Father created you and loves you and has given His Son Jesus to free you from bondage to sin, death, and the tyranny of mammon. You have died to that tyranny in Holy Baptism and you have been raised to new and free life in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Still, the old evil foe, the devil, would have you believe that it’s all about you – what you do, what you earn, what you need, what you own. Through lies and deception he would mock God. But, do not be deceived, God is not mocked. Indeed, God has mocked the devil and has shown him to be a pitiable fool.

God fooled the devil, sending His own Son in the form of weakness and poverty, unlike the birds, for which He provides, having no place to lay His head. God fooled the devil, sending His own Son into the oven of His wrath against sin to quench that fire so that is finished and there is no more. And, God fooled the devil, raising His own Son from death, snatching Him out of the lion’s jaws, and making Him King over heaven and earth that all who believe in Him might live and have eternal life.

All this is yours through baptism and faith, for you have died with Christ and you have been raised with Him, thus, there is nothing to fear. Jesus has clothed you with His own righteousness, there is no need to worry. And, Jesus feeds you with His precious body and holy blood, there is no need to be anxious. And, He has given you a family, His body, the Church, so that you are not alone. Each of you is called to serve one another. Through each of you God provides for all. Let us do good, then, to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Do not be anxious about today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all that belongs to Him in Jesus will be added unto you.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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