Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity - Mt 6:24-34

                                                                                                Trinity 15
                                                                                                Mt 6:24-34
I am sure glad that this past week was not like two weeks ago at the Surburg house! Two Sundays ago in the evening Amy I and were in the kitchen after dinner as I washed the items that would not fit in the dishwasher. Suddenly, as I drained the sink we both noticed that there was water gushing out on the floor. Some investigation revealed that the garbage disposal was twisting when it ran and the movement had caused the pipes to leak.

On Monday I walked out into the garage to take the kids to school and realized that the garage door would not open. I could see that the wires for the door were hanging limp and some investigation revealed that the large garage door spring had snapped.

On Thursday I got home from work and learned that the air conditioning was not working in the lower part of the house. The repairman came on Friday and we heard that the motor and a capacitor had to be replaced. The work was done and everything ran fine … for about two hours. And then suddenly the air conditioner unit outside began to make a terrible screeching sound. It was so bad that my next door neighbor called because she was afraid that I was not at home and did not know that there was something very wrong with my air conditioner.

On Saturday the repairman came and on investigation he discovered that with the new motor running as the motor should, it had broken the internal weld where the fan blade attached to the motor shaft. After replacing the motor on Friday, we had to replace the fan blade on Saturday.

Talk about the joys of home ownership! That week left Amy and me a little shell shocked as we contemplated the unplanned expenses that had piled up. What’s more the experience with the air conditioner had revealed what I already feared: it is old and on its last legs. The thought of having to pay the large cost to replace it at some point in the not too distant future is enough to cause worry.

But then this past Monday I went to the quarterly Circuit Visitors meeting at the Southern Illinois District office in Belleville. While there I talked with a pastor who earlier this summer had visited Lutheran Theological Seminary in Pretoria, South Africa – the same seminary where we help to support a student. He told me about the visit and mentioned one thing that really caught my attention. He said the living conditions were different. The dorm rooms and bathroom had no heat. In June and July in South Africa it gets down to around 35 degrees. He did have a space heater that kept his room around 60 at night, but using the restroom was an experience. The pastor noted that in South Africa they just have different cultural expectations about comfort.

I was frustrated by the expenses of the past week and was worried about having to pay for a new air conditioner in the near future. And then the conversation with this pastor reminded me that a number of these expenses are not really essential. I may think of them as things that we need to have – but they are not really.

In the Gospel lesson today, Jesus confronts our false god of money and wealth. He reminds us that our worry stems from the fact that we don’t allow God to be God. He calls our attention instead to the saving action that God has carried out in Christ. For when we focus on Christ, we can also see all the ways God works to support our body and life. 

Our text this morning is found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Once in awhile we run into occasions where the lectionary drops us into a line of thought that has already started – and that is the case here. Jesus has already started his argument by saying, “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.”

So where is your treasure? Is it in the things of this world – the “stuff” that provides comfort and entertainment? Or is it in God and his gifts? As Jesus says in the first verse of our text, “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.”

God and wealth compete for your attention – for your devotion. It’s not supposed to be that way. God is the Creator. The stuff of wealth is his creation. But since sin entered into human lives in the Fall we have turned away from God. We have created false gods, and it’s hard to find a bigger false god than wealth.

Money provides a sense of security. If I have enough money, then I can always take care of my needs. But in our wealth, those needs become a devouring monster. There are so many glittering things that we want: a big house with interior decorating that would make any participant in a HGTV show want to buy it; a trendy brand of vehicle with all the bells and whistles; the latest version of the latest gadget; that stunning wardrobe; the ability to eat out as I want; the trips to all of those great placed I want to visit.

But all of these wants become needs in our world. They become the things that run our lives. And when they are god – when wealth is god – then we become enslaved to worry. Jesus 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?”

Jesus says, “Don’t worry.” After all God provides food for the birds, and you are certainly more important to him than they are. God clothes the flowers with beauty and in a short time they wither and die. And then our Lord adds, “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?”

We are of little faith. You see it in our offering. When it comes to the wealth God has given to us, we hold on and keep the biggest chunk for ourselves, and return a small crumb back to him. For example, ask yourself this: How does your monthly income today compare to your income five years ago, and how does your monthly offering today compare to your monthly offering five years ago? Or consider this: What percentage of the income God gives you is returned to him in thanks?

We are those of little faith. But we are here this morning listening to Jesus because we do have faith, even if at times it is small and struggling. And so Jesus says to us, “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 be anxious. Seek God’s kingdom and righteous and know that God will provide the things you need for life.” When Jesus mentions God’s kingdom and righteousness, he is talking about himself. As we have seen during the last several weeks, God’s kingdom is his reign that was present in Jesus to defeat sin, death and the devil. In the same way, God’s righteousness is his saving action in Jesus to put all things right.

Why can you be sure God will provide your needs of body and life? Look at what he has already done. He sent his Son into the world in the incarnation to take your place. He offered him as the sacrifice for your sin. But then on the third day he raised Jesus from the dead. He has solemnly promised that because Jesus has risen from the dead, you will too. The God who has done this will not fail to provide what you need for life.

To seek his kingdom and his righteousness means that we need to put Christ’s gifts first. It means that we see the Word of God and the sacraments as our greatest treasure. It means that we cherish the opportunities to receive and make use of them.

And in turn we seek to use what God has given us to bring Christ’s gift to others. That’s what your offering does. It provides for the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments here in this place for you and those gathered here. It provides that same ministry during the week for those who are not able to come to church.

In Jesus and the Means of Grace we have received his saving love. We have received this salvation by grace – that means you didn’t earn it; you didn’t buy it. It is the gift of God to you. And because we have received this undeserved, unearned love, we also seek to share it with others. Our wealth is a means that we use for this as well. For example, this morning you will see in the bulletin that the congregation’s Emergency Fund that we use to provide assistance to those in need in our community has been depleted. Jesus helped us when we were helpless. And now the wealth God has provided becomes the means we use to help those who are unable provide themselves with basic needs like food or water which a person uses to drink, cook and flush the toilet. 

In the Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus confronts us with a truth that also reveals the sin in our life. 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.” 

But the good news is that Jesus is the One who has brought God’s kingdom and righteousness to us through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. He gives us forgiveness for the false gods in our life, and he strengthens us to live as his own in this world. Because he is the risen Lord, we can trust him when he says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

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