Sermon for February 27, 2011

Matthew 6:24-34 (8th Sunday after the Epiphany—Series A)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

February 27, 2011

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

Our text is the Gospel Lesson for today recorded in Matthew 6:

“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, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 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? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

             There are plenty of things to worry about.  We could each probably come up with a nice list of at least 10 things that we are worried about right now.  Some of those things might be the necessities of life—food and clothes.  In the economy that we are facing and the financial situations we find ourselves in, we might be even more tempted to worry about the necessities of life.  But today God’s Word for us takes away the need to worry about these things as we are empowered to trust in our heavenly Father’s care for us. 

            One of the reasons we tend to worry so much about the necessities of life is because we live with the idea that those things are ours.  We talk about “my” clothes, “my” shoes, and “my” food.  We say things like, “It’s my house.”  We speak of the necessities of life as things that we have earned.  “I worked to make the money to buy my food.”  “I earned the paycheck so I can buy my clothes.”  We are people and a society very focused on what is mine.  We are quite centered on what we want and how we want it.  And so we worry when “I” can’t provide for “my” self.  When faced with the prospect of trimming the household budget, we go into panic mode.  “What if I can’t make ends meet?  How will we survive without me getting the basic needs of life—food on the table, clothes on our backs?” 

            When you and I worry about life’s basic needs we worry about something that we have no business giving so much negative attention to.  When you and I are anxious about food and clothes, we are worried about things that don’t even belong to us.  Yes, you heard correctly.  We worry about things that aren’t even ours. 

            This is a totally radical Biblical truth that we so often forget.  Society has us conditioned to think in terms of mine and yours.  The Bible, however, re-conditions us to think in terms of “God’s” and “gifts”.  God is the absolute owner of everything by right of creation and preservation.  We confess in the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed that “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.  He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and I have.”  Think about this.  Not only are the physical parts of your body not your own, but your heart is not your own.  Your thoughts are not your own.  Your time is not your own.  Your abilities are not your own.  Your material possessions are not your own.  They are all God’s.  They all belong to Him.  He is the owner; not you and not me. 

            Everything that exists belongs to God.  The Bible says in Psalm 24, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” (Psalms 24:1)  The prophet Haggai writes, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:8)  So in reality, whose clothes do we wear?  God’s clothes.  Whose food do we eat?  God’s food.  Whose houses do we live in?  God’s houses.  Whose car is it that we drive, whose computer is it that we use, whose cell phone that we talk and text on?  They are all God’s.  Job said it well about what we come into the world with, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.”  And even Job’s naked little body was God’s. 

The truth of what God’s Word teaches us is summarized so nicely in Hymn 781, which we use sometimes as an offertory hymn, “We give You but Your own, Whate’er the gift may be; all that we have is Yours alone, a trust, O Lord, from You.”  What we wrongly consider to be ours really belongs to God.  God gives what is His to us to use for our blessing and for the benefit of others.  Think of it this way.  God gives you the necessities of life and everything else as a gift to use on His behalf.  In other words, you are taking care of God’s things for Him. 

Let’s start with the things closest to us—our bodies.  They are God’s creation.  He made us.  We sing with the Psalmist, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . . . My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16) 

God, the author of life, gave us the gift of life in our bodies so that we might use our bodies to serve Him and our neighbor as we use God’s other possessions on His behalf.  God our Father gives us everything of His that has to do with the support and needs of our bodies.  God gives us His food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and things like these. You and I have been entrusted with life and life’s resources so that we can use them and manage them for God’s glory and the benefit of other people. 

That’s an awesome responsibility that God would give to people who are by nature selfish, claiming that God’s things are their things.  It’s an amazing amount of trust that God would give people who by nature don’t trust God and so worry about the things they have been given and whether or not their basic necessities will be met.  But God did give us this responsibility and trust, not simply because we are His creation, but precisely because we are His new creations in Jesus Christ. 

God is our Lord, the Holy One, our Savior.  Our Father gifted us with His only Son to be our Redeemer.  Jesus’ death on the cross bought us back from all our sins of selfishness, greed, and worry.  Jesus’ death purchased and won us back from death and the devil’s power with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death so that you and I might be His own, and live under Him in His Kingdom, and serve the Lord in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as Jesus is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity. 

You and I have been bought with the blood of Christ to be new creations of God.  Because we were buried with Christ by baptism into death, we walk in newness of life because Jesus is risen from the dead!  Our sins are all forgiven.  Our wrong thinking that what we have belongs to us and not to God is forgiven and changed.  The Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts and has opened to us the Scriptures so that, as disciples of Jesus, we know and confess that God is the owner, God is the giver, and we are the caretakers of His creation, starting with our own lives.  And that’s why we don’t need to worry about the necessities of life. 

Believers in Jesus don’t need to be worried about clothing and food.  That’s what unbelievers do.  And we are not like the unbelievers.  We know that God is our Father because Jesus, the Son, has shown us the Father and invited us to call upon Him as “Our Father.”  We know that our Father in heaven knows that we need all these things and has promised to give them to us all by grace.  If God takes care of His birds and flowers and grass, will He not take care of you, the people for whom Jesus died, the people whom God has made managers of His creation?  Of course He will!

God makes the earth fruitful and blesses us with the ability to work in this world for the things that we need.  We are called to share with those who are unable to work and to include them in our prayers.  1 John 3:17-18 reminds us of our responsibility from God, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  As new creations in Christ Jesus, we are not to be greedy or wasteful, nor are we to worry about the future.  We live content with what we have been given to use on God’s behalf, confident that the Lord will give us what we need from His bounty.  After all, He has already give us His Kingdom, and all these other things flow from that gift of Jesus Christ. 

So there’s no need to worry about tomorrow or today.  God our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ His dear Son, gives us from His treasures food and clothes, home and family, work and play, and all that you and I need from day to day.  All He does this all out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy because He loves us.  Not only does He give us the material blessings we need for this life, but also the more important spiritual blessings of complete forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation which are ours by grace through faith in Jesus.  So in a way, we really do have it all—all of God’s blessings as free gifts for us to use on God’s behalf—our bodies and souls, our very lives, redeemed by Christ the crucified, along with food, drink, clothes, and everything else.  Amen.

Let us pray:  Lord, You have made us stewards.  You gave us life in birth and new life in Holy Baptism.  You give us everything.  Give us strength and wisdom to return those precious gifts to You in gratitude, sacrifice, and praise.  Direct us to use the gifts You give to Your glory and the benefit of Your people so that more and more may come to know You as we do.  Lord, make us a blessing to others.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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