Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

                                                                                    Trinity 15
                                                                                    Mt. 6:24-34

            Many of you know that model railroading is my hobby and that I am building a layout in my basement.  As a model railroader, it has been fascinating to watch the changes that have taken place in the hobby during the last fifteen years or so.  In particular here have been two developments that have changed everything for the better … and for the worse.
            The first change has been the way that the model train engines are controlled.  In the previous decades, engines had been controlled in one way.  They operated on D.C. – direct current – and you controlled the engine by turning the power on and off from the power pack.  If you wanted to run more than one train, you had to divide your track into electrically isolated units, and then use a rotary switch to assign that section to one of several power packs.  This allowed you to run several trains at once – but you had always to make sure that each section was assigned to the correct power pack.
            The advent of DCC – Digitial Command Control – has changed everything.  In this system there is current constantly fed into the track.  The controller sends out a digital packet of information through the track telling a particular engine what to do.  Each engine has a decoder in it, and only the engine for which that information is intended can read it.  This means that you can control two engines independently that are right next to each other.  It lets you run trains like a real railroad.
            The second great change has been sound equipped engines. Advances in miniaturization have made it possible to put sound units in model engines.  And we aren’t talking about generic railroad sounds.  We are talking about the exact sounds made by a particular kind of diesel or steam engine.  Sound equipped engines sound like the real thing and they are blast to run.
            All of this is great.  But it does create some problems.  In order to run an engine on DCC it must have decoder in it.  This means that every engine you own and ran on the standard DC system is now useless until you buy decoders for them.  You can get a basic decoder for a little more than $20, which isn’t too bad. The problem was that when I made the transition you were talking about fifteen engines or so.  And since I have four children to feed, clothe and put through college, it has been a very gradual process of equipping engines so that they can actually run on my layout.
            The other problem is that sound equipped engines sound so good. The joke in model railroading is that if you have one sound equipped engine, then you only have one engine. It’s the only one you are going to want to run, and the moment it arrives on the layout all the other engines no longer seem that great. And let’s just say that the many of my engines don’t have sound because sound is expensive.
            So the hobby is better than it has ever been. And at the same time it has become more expensive than it has ever been. It’s more expensive, and you really aren’t satisfied if you can’t run all your engines yet or they don’t make that prototypical sound.  Thoughts turn to the answer  for this problem, which is money … and how you just don’t have enough of it.
            The experience in model railroad illustrates exactly what our Lord Jesus is talking about this morning when he says: “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.”
            This morning our text takes up a basic issue of the First Commandment.  And frankly, you aren’t going to like what I have to say.  Honestly, I don’t like what I have to say, because like all of you, I like nice stuff.  It’s fun.  It’s enjoyable.  And the truth is that we don’t want to admit how much the old Adam in us clings to the stuff of this world that money can buy.
            In our text this morning, Jesus says, “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?”  Our Lord introduces this statement by saying “therefore,” or more literally, “because of this.”
            His statement draws a conclusion that is based on what he has just said. Now I just quoted the verse that precedes it.  But actually, this is the third of three statements that together provide the foundation for all the Jesus says in our text this morning.
            First Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Christ reminds us that what we treasure and value is the true focus of our life – it’s where our heart is.  He urges us to treasure the things of God which are lasting and permanent, and not the treasures of this world which are transitory and perish.
            Next our Lord says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  The ancient world described light as coming out of the eye.  Jesus says that your choices and life reveal what is inside you.
            And then at the beginning of our text, in the third statement Jesus says, “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.”  The reality is that there can only be one Lord – one master.  Someone or something is going to be in charge – it is going to run the show. And as we live in this world there are two candidates for this position God and money.  Of course when Jesus says “money” he referring to all that goes with it.  This includes all the reasons we want money – all the things we want to own: the bigger house, the interior decorating, the clothes, the vacations, the car, the electronic gadgets … and yes, the sound equipped model railroad steam engine.
            All of these things become our lord – they become our god. They become the thing that is really important to us. They become the thing that really makes us happy. They become the thing that really gives us a sense of worth, value and success.
            Our Lord tells us today that this is wrong.  It is sin.  It is idolatry.  It is putting a false god before the true God.
            Instead, the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is to be our God.  Jesus tells us today that when God is our true God, we do indeed lose something: we lose worry.  Christ says in our text, “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?” Jesus says don’t worry about food and drink and clothing.  After all, God provides for the needs of the birds, and you are worth far more to him than they are. 
            Our Lord asks, “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?” 
            You need to understand that Jesus spoke these words to people who were far poorer than you are.  He speaks of food and drink and clothing – of daily bread.  The reality is that God doesn’t promise you must of the stuff you think is important and necessary for life.  Oh yes it is nice.  But all too easily it becomes a gilded cage.  The new iPhone6 makes you happy – until its current software problems make you want to pull your hair out.  You love your big flat screen TV and new furniture – until you look at your credit card bill and fret about how you are ever going to get out of debt. You make it your god – but this is a god that enslaves you.
            The answer to all of this are the words at the end of our text as Jesus says, “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.”
            Jesus says don’t worry, and instead seek God’s kingdom and righteousness.  When our Lord refers to God’s kingdom and righteousness, he is speaking about himself.  For it is in Jesus that God’s reign and his saving righteousness entered into the world.  By his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead he has freed you from the slavery of Satan, sin and death.  He has freed you to be the people of God. And God’s people can trust that the One who redeemed them with the death of his own Son will certainly provide them with food and drink and clothing.
            We seek God’s kingdom and righteousness by seeking Jesus. And we seek Jesus in his Means of Grace for it is there that Christ’s saving reign continues to be present for us.  It is through his Word; through Baptism; though Abosolution; and through the Sacrament of the Altar that we receive forgiveness for all the times we have made money and possessions our god.  It is through these life giving means that we are freed from the burden of guilt.  It is through these gifts of Christ that we are forgiven for all those time we have been people of little faith.
            And it is through these means, that Jesus enables us to be people of great faith.  For through the Means of Grace the Holy Spirit nurtures us so that we can begin to see money and possessions for what they really are.  The Spirit leads us away from worry and toward trust in God because the One who gives us forgiveness and salvation will not fail to give us the things we need to support this body and life.  After all, our heavenly Father knows that we need them.  He doesn’t promise more than that.  But he does promise that in Jesus Christ we have more than we will ever need.

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