SERMON FOR THE 15TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 9-9-2018
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
In short, this Gospel text is about the evil sin of greed and incessant worry – a sin which clings deeply to all of us. The whole world is engulfed by a hunger for more, nearly everyone is discontent is some way with what he has received from God and everyone wants more. No one is truly content.
Our closets are bursting with clothes, but our souls are empty. And our anxiety is just as great as our greed. As soon as the apple crunched in paradise we have been scared stiff at the sound of a rustling leaf. We worry about everything. We doubt whether God is capable of caring for our own children. We worry about our aging parents and how we can possibly care for them. We worry about the future of our church even though He has said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Students imagine the worst about classes, grades, and being able to survive the semester.
Yet more than anything else we worry about money. We don’t think we have enough of it. We think God is holding out on us. The dirty little secret is that we don’t trust in God to take care of us. That’s why worry occupies our thoughts. And we are worrying ourselves to death! Our wrinkles and stomach problems bear witness to that. And so do our medicine cabinets.
In Greek mythology the most famous king was named King Midas. Everything he touched would turn to gold. This king was so greedy that he wished everything would turn to gold. So he touched his coat, his table, his bed, doors, and pillars of his house. Everything immediately turned to gold. The knife which he ate, the bread, the wine, and the cheese turned to gold. As a result the king, in his addiction to wealth had no bread or drink and starved himself to death. Even if you stock pile your riches. We cannot eat our gold, our stuff, or mutual funds.
So the Lord teaches us: Man does not even live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. A God who in loving kindness gives us everything we need.
This morning Jesus gives us a wakeup call. He wants us to put the brakes on our incessant worry and misplaced trust. He wants us to learn to stockpile up riches in heaven rather than stockpile treasures on earth, where neither moth or rust destroy. He wants to restore our weary souls and find comfort in our Father’s loving arms. He wants our hearts to find rest in him. Knowing, with confidence that God shall provide.
Provide, such as He did, for Elijah, when He sent ravens to the brook to feed him. Provide, as when the Lord sustained that that poor widow of Zarephath by the promise of His Word. The jar of flour was not spent. The jug of oil did not run out. Provide as when the Lord Himself gave the sacrifice of the Ram on Mount Moriah – showing us the sacrifice to come in the giving of His Son.
This morning Jesus preaches a magnificent sermon about birds and flowers. He says “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Our dear Lord holds before us the example of birds, that we might model our lives after them. Birds don’t have a care in the world. They don’t worry. They don’t stockpile any seed. They trust that God will take care of them. They consider their kitchen table as long as the earth is wide. Their barns are always full as they look from sea to shining sea. They believe they have a heavenly Father, who will provide – the same heavenly Father who wants nothing more than to feed you. Birds don’t worry like us. When a storm, and a devastating wind comes their way in the dark of the night and shakes their little nest to the ground, they still chirp and sing a hymn the next morning when the sun rises.
The birds of the air ought to shame us. We should learn to be like them. We should learn to believe like them. We should sing like them. Like the birds we should let God be God. We should allow our heavenly Father, actually to take care of us. And only then can we truly be as happy and joyful as the birds of the air.
And then our dear Lord starts talking about flowers. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin. The flowers that bloom on the side of the road as we come to church are preaching a magnificent sermon to us. These flowers that bloom are endowed with beautiful colors, reds, and violet, blue, and pink. Their loveliness should put us to shame! If God so adorns flowers with such beauty, which barely lasts a couple days in the field, how can you doubt whether he will clothe you and feed you!
But dear Christian, you are more valuable to God than birds. And to Him you are more radiant than the brightest flower.
The Lord himself has already worried about your salvation so that you wouldn’t have to. In the garden of gethsemane, he was so anxious for what was coming that his sweat became drops of blood. He has already toiled on the dusty and blood-soaked path toward the holy cross. He has toiled and spun on the cross in agony that you would be spared the darkest night and fiercest storm of God’s wrath. This Son of God was clothed with your shame that you would be dressed to the nines in His righteousness! His mouth was dry on the cross and he thirsted for vinegar – so that you would be able to whistle and sing like a bird of the heavens. And the morning has now come. The eternal Son has risen.
The storm has passed over. The demons have been cast down, and death has been destroyed. St. Paul writes in Romans chapter 8: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
In other words, God did not withhold his most precious treasure from you. He did not spare His only Son. So if God can be trusted with your greatest need, how can you possibly doubt whether he will meet every little need as well.
Jesus says do not be anxious, saying, “what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or what shall you wear? Your Heavenly father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Dear Christian, in Christ your future is most certainly bright. In the Kingdom of God, like Gaohua ("gow-wha") and Yicheng ("ee-chen"), in Holy Baptism this morning, you are richer than Kings and Queens. You have plenty. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. Body and blood, food and drink, unspeakable riches, and God’s divine approval.
He bespeaks you holy and righteous, cleansed and forgiven. And for you there is no need for worry, for you have a God who has already done that for you. And what’s more, He has triumphed over it all in his resurrection.
So whatever it is that you’re facing right now: More demands at work, uncertainty about the future, or for university students, with studies, and papers, and grades – keep calm and remember your baptism. Namely, that your Father in heaven loves you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself, sufficient for the day is its own trouble. In the name of Jesus. Amen.