Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sermon -- 15th Sunday after Trinity (September 28, 2014)

MATTHEW 6:24-34

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus would have you consider the birds and the flowers.  It is a good time of year to do that.  The birds are starting to make their way south for the winter.  They do not pack suitcases or even a purse.  They do not have a GPS.  They do not make reservations.  But year after year, they migrate thousands of miles to the same places where they find food and shelter.  And after winter, they will come back.  The birds do not fret over these things.  They live, flittering about from one place to the next, confident that the Lord who has always taken care of them will continue to do so.
     Regarding the flowers and plants, we see that they are starting to fade and wilt.  A good hard frost will probably put a number of flowers away for the year.  The flowers sprout and grow each year.  Each year, they add beauty to God’s world and to our lives.  But they never last.  The flowers bloom in vibrant colors, and then whither and die.  They bring beauty, but only momentary beauty.  Now, if God has this much concern for sparrows and marigolds, don’t you think that he has a greater concern for you?  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned for you.
     But our concerns are always turned in on ourselves.  The first verse in the gospel lesson lays the ground work for everything that follows.  Jesus said, 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.” (Matthew 6:24)  The Greek word translated here as “money,” is “Mammon,” meaning any kind of material wealth.  You cannot serve God and mammon.  One has to rank higher than the other.  Only one can be lord.
     The First Commandment tells us to fear and love and trust in God above all things.  Yet, we trust in mammon more than God.  We fear the loss of our money, possessions, and property more than the loss of God.  We never have enough mammon, but we warn ourselves about having too much religion.  Even people who call themselves good Christians are content to go months without coming to God’s house to receive his blessings in the Divine Service.  Anyone willing to miss even one paycheck this year?  “You cannot serve God and [mammon].” (Matthew 6:24)  So, which one do you love?  Which one are you devoted to?  Which one do you serve?
     We are all guilty of loving and trusting in mammon or fearing the loss of it.  We are no different than the pagans who believe that joy is found in buying the next thing.  But like the very things we buy, the joy does not last.  Technology advances and soon we are generations behind in our e-things and i-gadgets.  Cars need constant repairs.  Houses need new carpeting and new roofs.  Even things we need to survive do not last.  Children outgrow their clothing.  Dress shirts get stained or ripped.  A great meal will only sustain you for a number of hours.  And the leftovers grow moldy because they are forgotten in the back of the refrigerator.  Nevertheless, we fret and carry tremendous concerns about goods which were never intended to last that long.  Like the pagans, we run after such things, and we are never satisfied by them.  Mammon is a deceptive and cruel master.  It will not satisfy, and it cannot save.
     Therefore, do not pay attention to the pagans or the smooth talkers from Madison Avenue.  “Look at the birds of the air... Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow….” (Matthew 6:26,28)  The birds do not fret.  The lilies of the field are incapable of worry.  And they have no need to.  The Father in heaven who created them also cares for them and provides their needs.  You are much more valuable than birds.  God has far more concern for you than for wildflowers.  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you.   
     Jesus declares “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:32), that is, all you need.  He is your heavenly Father.  He has created you and knows what you need to live.  As a loving Father, he will always give you enough.  He will expect you to recognize when you have to scale back on your extras, but he will always supply your needs.  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you.
     But he is your Father for a much more endearing and comforting reason.  Your Father does not merely bring you daily bread.  Your Father brings you into a kingdom that is eternal in which the gifts and goods never wear out, get moldy, or become outdated.  To secure your place in that kingdom, the Father sent his only begotten Son.  To secure your place in that kingdom, God the Son did not become a bird or a flower, but a human being.  God’s concern for you is demonstrated in God’s becoming man.  He has united himself with mankind in order to save mankind. 
     As a flesh and blood man, Jesus submitted himself to the same fear, love, and trust that are expected of all flesh and blood people.  In Gethsemane, Jesus feared the Lord and called on him to aid him in carrying out his will.  On the way to Calvary, Jesus loved his Father and pressed on to serve him and us.  Even as he was hanging from the cross under the darkness and forsaken by his Father, Jesus trusted that his Father would receive his spirit and raise him from the grave.  Jesus’ perfect submission to his Father has won his Father’s good pleasure.  In turn, Jesus pours that favor out upon you.  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you. 
     Therefore, Jesus urges you, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)  Jesus implores you to make your greatest concern the things which are eternal and unshakable.  The day will come when you will no longer need food, drink, or clothing because you will be dead.  But your place in God’s kingdom is not disrupted even by death.  Jesus went into death for you and overcame death by his resurrection.  This flesh and blood Savior assures you, who are flesh and blood, that your life will not fade out with death.  Rather, you are children of the resurrection.  You, who already bear Jesus’ righteousness, will be raised from the dead and will shine in splendor and be visibly righteous forever.  And Jesus will bring you into a kingdom of righteousness in which the flowers will not perish, the gifts will not need warranties because they will never be broken, the bodies will not become sick or weary because they will be incorruptible, and the feast will not end because the joy will never cease.
     Now, if the Lord has that much concern that you receive a place with him in his kingdom forever, will he not also care for your momentary needs now?  Jesus promises you he will: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you. 
     And so, God’s blessings are already for you.  The birds are here to entertain you.  The flowers are here to make your world more beautiful.  God supplies you with food to satisfy both your taste buds and to sustain your body.  God gives you clothing to keep you warm and to cover yourself in modesty.  You will always have these things, so you need not concern yourself over them.
     But even more, your Father has covered you in Jesus’ righteousness so that you are beautiful in his sight.  He supplies food from this altar for your forgiveness and as a sacred feast even before you have entered heaven.  These have everlasting value, and so you seek them first.  So do not worry about your blessings, whether temporal or eternal.  Your heaven Father supplies both without fail.  You need not be concerned about anything because God is concerned about you. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.