Sunday, September 20, 2020

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


Trinity 15

Mt 6:24-34




            On the surface of things, Jesus really has nothing to say to you this morning.  In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount he 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.”  He says, “And why are you anxious about clothing?” He concludes our text by saying, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”

            Perhaps I am mistaken, but I sincerely doubt that anyone here this morning has been anxious about what they were going to eat, or drink or wear this week.  Now maybe you faced the question, “What are we doing for dinner tonight?”  That is an issue that often arises in the Surburg house as we try to figure out what we are going to have for supper based on what food is in the house and how much time we have that night.  I suspect we are not alone in this.

            And maybe you had to make a decision about what clothes you were going to wear that day based on work or some activity you were going to attend. For example, school pictures have been going on during the last two weeks and so parents have had to convince their kids to wear something that is, perhaps, a little nicer than the clothes they would normally wear.

            Yet this is not what Jesus is talking about in our text.  Our Lord is speaking to first century residents of Palestine.  Just before the Sermon on the Mount begins, Matthew tells us, “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 

And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”

            Great crowds followed Jesus.  Those who came to hear Jesus were people who - for the most part, lived a life of subsistence.  Whether farmers, or fishermen, or craftsmen they had just enough to live.  They lived life on the edge.  A season of drought or some kind of blight could ruin crops and cause a famine like we hear about in Acts chapter eleven.  It could cause economic devastation to cascade through the economy.  Or at a personal level if the fishing was bad, or crops didn’t do well, or business wasn’t good, or if you got sick you could easily find yourself with not enough food and struggling to replace clothing that wore out.

            Honestly, you are just not worried about whether you are going to have food to eat or clothes to wear. Perhaps I am wrong, and if I am then please come and talk to me privately because as a congregation we have funds available to help you.  We know that there certainly are people in our area who face this problem.  But I doubt that this is true of anyone here this morning.

            Yet in spite of this fact, Jesus certainly does have something very significant to say this morning that applies to every one of us.  The sign for this is found in the word “therefore” with which Jesus introduces the statement, “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.”

            Literally, the Greek says, “because of this.”  Jesus has provided the reason that people are not to worry.  Just before our text he said, “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 what is your treasure? What do you value most?  It is your house and your perfectly manicured yard and garden? It is your collection of guns, or trains, or woodworking tools?  It is the interior d├ęcor, furniture and decorating in your house?  Is it your car, or your “big toys” like a boat, or a camper?

            Jesus says that these are not to be our true treasure.  Instead, the treasure that we are to lay up for ourselves are the ones in heaven – the ones that are secure with God.  These treasures are the life of faith.  They are the way we value, use and receive the Means of Grace. They are the life of prayer, as we invest time coming to God as we call upon him in every trouble, praise him and give thanks.  They are the life of love and service that we direct toward others, instead of focusing on ourselves.

            Our Lord says this matters because, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Your treasure – what you value – shows where your heart is really at.  And this leads directly into the first verse our text in which 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.”

            You can have only one Lord. And Jesus says that it is either God or money. Remember, a god is whatever you value most.  It is whatever gives you a sense of security, meaning and value. And it is here that money competes as a god in our lives.

We live in a culture of wealth.  According to Credit Suisse Research Institute, if you have a net wealth of $93,000, that is, the value of financial assets plus real assets (principally housing)owned by households, minus their debts, then you are richer than ninety percent of the people in the world.  If you have a net wealth of $4,000 you are richer than half of the world’s residents – your are richer than 3.9 billion people. We live lives in which we just assume that things like cars, smart phones, big screen tv’s, surround sound, and air conditioning are part of ordinary existence.

The money needed to maintain this existence? Now that is what is essential. That is what gives us a sense of security. Oh, and of course, beyond that we should be able to take great vacations and do home improvements.

This is a god.  It is a false god that presents a great spiritual challenge for each of us.  When a rich young man came to Jesus, he asked, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  Jesus told him to keep the commandments, and when the man confidently asserted: All these I have kept. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 

So Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  Jesus was saying that there is an inherent spiritual danger in wealth. This is a danger we all face, because by the standards of the people in our text; by the standards of billions of people in this world, we are wealthy. 

We see in our text this morning that God has only promised you food, drink and clothing.  That’s it.  We don’t want to hear it, but almost everything that we consider to be a financial crisis just doesn’t matter to God.  It doesn’t count because it has almost always has been created by the craving for all those things that having nothing to do with what God has promised.

So what does matter?  Jesus says in our text, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  Our Lord says that we are to seek the reign of God that Jesus has brought into the world.  We are to seek God’s righteousness – his saving action to put all things right.

What matters is that God sent his Son into the world to suffer and die for all of the times and ways we allow money and wealth to act as a god in our life. What matters is that by his sacrificial death on the cross Jesus Christ has won forgiveness for this and every other sin. What matters is that on the third day God defeated death by raising Jesus from the dead.

This is what matters.  And it matters because this reign of God, the righteousness of God, is present in our midst right now.  The Spirit of the risen Lord brings this reign to us through the Means of Grace that Jesus Christ has given us.  What are our real treasures?  It is the Word of the Gospel that is proclaimed to you now and that you can read at home.  It is Holy Baptism by which we know that our sins have been washed away.  It is Holy Absolution, as the Lord Jesus speaks his forgiveness to us. And it is the Sacrament of the Altar in which the risen Lord comes into our midst and gives us his true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, and assurance that our bodies too will share in Jesus’ resurrection on the Last Day.

These treasures give us forgiveness for all of the ways that we allow money and wealth to act like a god in our life.  But they do more than just that. They are also the means by which the Holy Spirit changes and moves us to use our money to seek the kingdom of God.  He leads us to see our money as the means by which we seek to have the reign of God shared with others.  It is the means for supporting mission work here in our own country and around the world.

The Spirit leads us to see how God works through us to share his love – the love he has given us in Jesus Christ.  God has promised food and clothing to those who believe in him.  It is the blessing that we should want all people to have.  And God uses us as the means by which he provides it to others. We, the Body of Christ, use the money with which God has blessed us – the money that goes so far beyond the food and clothing he has promised to us – to help feed and clothe others.

Our Lord has given you all the things he promises in our text this morning.  He has blessed you in ways that surpass anything those who first heard Jesus’ words could have imagined. Yet in that great blessing we also find great temptation.  Jesus warns, “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.”

We are called to serve God, and the way to do this begins with receiving the greatest treasure of all.  Our Lord says, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” This we do in Christ’s Means of Grace for there we receive forgiveness and the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads us to use God’s abundant blessings to help others. 









1 comment:

  1. Law and Gospel in the Lutheran way! I just love how it relates to those so long ago contrasted with how it relates to us today! I am convicted by the law and saved in the moment by the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins.

    I was wavering in my commitment to the "Manna Project." However, my commitment is confirmed and strengthened by your sermon.

    God Bless my remote Pastor Surburg!!