Sermon for August 8, 2010

Luke 12:22-34 (11th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

August 8, 2010

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

Our text is the Gospel Lesson recorded in Luke 12:

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.  Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

In his book God’s Psychiatry, Charles L. Allen tells this story: “As World War II was drawing to a close, the Allied armies gathered up many hungry orphans.  They were placed in camps where they were well-fed.  Despite excellent care, they slept poorly.  They seemed nervous and afraid.  Finally, a psychologist came up with the solution.  Each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he was put to bed.  This particular piece of bread was just to be held, not eaten.  The piece of bread produced wonderful results.  The children went to bed knowing instinctively they would have food to eat the next day.  That guarantee gave the children a restful and contented sleep.”

Jesus begins our reading this morning by telling His disciples not to be anxious or worried about their food and clothes.  There are, believe it or not, more important things than unnecessary concern over what you will eat and what you will put on.  But try telling that to one of those orphans.  Try telling that to the homeless person.  Try convincing one of the clients who need to use the Food Shelf.  Try to make someone who has just lost their job say that they don’t need to be concerned and they will probably laugh at you.  Those of us who “have” much more readily accept the words of Jesus, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  But those who “have not” are going to balk.  “Jesus says that God feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies and grasses of the field.  Why doesn’t He take care of me?  If I’m of “much more value” than birds, why am I struggling just to put food on the table and clothes on my back?”

First, let’s understand what Jesus is NOT saying.  He is not saying that we don’t need to care.  He is not saying that there will never be any concern over paying the bills, buying the groceries, or clothing the family.  We live in a world that is totally messed up by sin and bad things do happen.  People, including Christians, suffer loss and want and need and hunger.  Worry is going to happen.  But when situations arise that cause us anxiety and concern over the physical things we need, how do respond?  Excessive worry and concern over the needs of the body manifests a lack of trust in God, a serious failing.  Rather than seeking what we are to eat and drink and wear, being worried about such things as if they are priority number one, Christ offers a better option—to seek God’s kingdom first and let God worry about taking care of these other needs.

The better option is to trust in God’s grace.  Sadly, when we are fat and happy, we tend not to think much about the fact that all we need to support this body and life is a gift from God.  When we are in need, we tend to worry so much about it and try to fix things ourselves that we don’t think much about the fact that all we need is a gift from God.

The apostle Paul wrote from his prison cell, “I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)  This is the lesson the Lord also wants us to learn.  God understands our needs better than we do.  Perhaps it is best for me to be humbled by God so that I learn what it means to be brought low and face hunger and need.  Perhaps I have been too worried and focused on physical things and have not been rich toward God.  In His loving care for my whole person, body and soul, it may be best for me not to have so much for a time.  Like Paul, that work of God in my life would stop me from being dependent on myself and would call me to more firmly trust in God, depending completely on Him to give me the things I need to support this body and life.  Listen to what St. Peter writes in his first letter, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)  In other words, “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

We have a Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who today calls us away from our unnecessary concerns over the things of this world to a lively faith and trust in our heavenly Father who simply gives us His kingdom.  God’s kingdom comes among us by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.  During His earthly ministry, Jesus repeatedly proclaimed the Good News message, “The kingdom of God has drawn near and is here now.”  God’s kingdom comes in the person of His Son, Jesus.  Jesus went to the cross to pay for all of our sins of excessive worry and concern about physical needs, the things that God knows we need and gives to us by His grace.  Jesus died and rose again so that, through the Holy Spirit, He might bring us personally into God’s kingdom through baptismal waters.  As baptized children of God, with faith and trust in our Father who promises to meet our physical needs, we pray as our Lord taught us, “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”  “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

We are called to believe His holy Word that promises, first, that God’s kingdom is ours and, second, that God has given us a heavenly treasure in addition to the things we need in the here and now.  In the here and now God gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, with faith in Jesus our Savior, that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving—seek first His kingdom and He gives us all the rest.  What is all the rest?  What is this daily bread He gives?  Everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

So look what happens when I find myself in need.  By God’s grace, while I may be lacking in money or clothes, food or goods, God blesses me with good friends and faithful neighbors who provide for me from their daily bread.  Is not God still seeing to it that I have what I need?  Certainly!  It may be not in the quantities I would prefer, but God, through His means, provides our daily bread.  He gives us the ability and faith through His Holy Spirit to trust that He will do just as He has promised.  Consider what happens when I find myself well-off.  I have the joy of first thanking and praising God for all His gifts, serving and obeying Him.  I am able to be the one who shares with those in need, providing the basic things others need out of my supply of daily bread.

In Christ, God the Father has made us members of His kingdom, whether we find ourselves with plenty or in need.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, no matter what our situation in life, He enables us to make life in the Kingdom our priority—faithfully using His Word and Sacraments, growing in faith toward God and love toward our neighbors.  All these other things that God knows we need, He will provide.  We will have enough.

As Christians, we learn what it is to have plenty and to face hunger with the Lord by our side.  We know what it is to have abundance and to have need as the Lord with us.  In all this we do not need to be afraid, whether we are rich or poor by the world’s standards.  We have Christ our Savior, our Shepherd, who will always guard His little flock.  We have our heavenly Father whose good pleasure it is to simply give us the kingdom of everlasting life, and along with that, everything we need in this earthly life.  We also have the Holy Spirit, who calls us by the Gospel to seek the Kingdom, trusting by faith that God’s Word is faithful and true.  We will have, by God’s standards, abundant life both here and in eternity.  Amen.