Thursday, September 30, 2021

Commemoration of Jerome, Translator of Scripture


Today we remember and give thanks for Jerome, Translator of Holy Scripture.  Jerome was born in a little village on the Adriatic Sea around the year A.D. 345. At a young age he went to study in Rome, where he was baptized. After extensive travels, he chose the life of a monk and spent five years in the Syrian desert. There he learned Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament . After ordination at Antioch and visits to Rome and Constantinople, Jerome settled in Bethlehem. From the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, he used his ability with languages to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of his time. This translation, called the Vulgate, was the authoritative version of the Bible in the western Church world for over 1,000 years. Considered one of the great scholars of the early church, Jerome died on September 30, 420. He was originally interred at Bethlehem but his remains were eventually taken to Rome.

Collect of the Day:

O Lord, God of truth, Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  You gave Your servant Jerome delight in his study of Holy Scripture.  May those who continue to read, mark, and inwardly digest Your Word find in it the food of salvation and the fountain of life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Mark's thoughts: Lamentations - Comfort in an unexpected place


With a name like “Lamentations,” you don’t expect to find much that is positive in this book of the Old Testament.  Lamentations was written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.  The Babylonians destroyed the temple, tore down the city’s walls, and took all but the poorest of the land into exile in Babylon.


As the name of the book describes, the author (who was perhaps Jeremiah) laments the conditions of Jerusalem.  He begins by saying: How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave” (1:1).  Lamentations describes the destruction as it states: “In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old; my young women and my young men have fallen by the sword; you have killed them in the day of your anger, slaughtering without pity” (2:21) 


There is no doubt about who had done this.  Yahweh had brought judgment and wrath against his people.  Lamentations 2:1-3 says:

How the Lord in his anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud! He has cast down from heaven to earth the splendor of Israel; he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger. The Lord has swallowed up without mercy all the habitations of Jacob; in his wrath he has broken down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; he has brought down to the ground in dishonor the kingdom and its rulers. He has cut down in fierce anger all the might of Israel; he has withdrawn from them his right hand in the face of the enemy; he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming all around.

While Yahweh has brought judgment, there is also do doubt why He had done it.  The writer confesses the sins of the people: “Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away.” He adds, “The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word” (1:18). 


The writer also laments how the enemies of Judah celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem:

All who pass along the way clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem: “Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?” All your enemies rail against you; they hiss, they gnash their teeth, they cry: “We have swallowed her! Ah, this is the day we longed for; now we have it; we see it!” (2:15-26).

Yet in the midst of this doom and gloom shines a passage that give tremendous hope and encouragement.  We read in 3:21-26:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 

The writer laments the tragedy of judgment and confesses the sin of the people.  Yet that is not all.  He returns in faith to the reason for hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; and the Lord’s faithfulness is great. Therefore, it is good to wait for the salvation of the Lord.


Lamentations confesses the loving and merciful character of God.  In this, the writer finds hope.  We have this hope too, because God has demonstrated this character through his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.  Jerusalem was important not because it was the place where the king lived.  Instead, it was important because of the temple which was the place of God’s located presence in the midst of his people. God demonstrated this fact at the dedication of the temple. We learn in 1 Kings 8, “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (8:10-11).


In response to Judah’s sin, God abandoned and destroyed the temple in his judgment along with the city in which it stood. As we have seen Lamentations describes the response of Judah’s enemies: “All who pass along the way clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem” (2:15).


Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the temple as God’s glory dwelt in the midst of his people through the incarnate Son of God (John 1:14).  Jesus told his opponents, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), as he spoke of the temple of his body (John 2:21).  On Good Friday, Jesus hung on the cross.  Matthew tells us, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross’” (Matthew 27:39-40).


The destruction of the temple in God’s judgment pointed forward to the judgment God poured out on Jesus Christ in our place.  Our Lord Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath against our sin (Matthew 28:39).  On the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  As God abandoned his temple in the Old Testament in judgment, so God abandoned his own Son as he received the judgment against our sin to win forgiveness for us.


But God had promised in the Old Testament that his Holy One would not see corruption (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:25:28).  On the third day God raised Jesus from the dead. Peter tells us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  In the death and resurrection of Jesus we have the forgiveness of sins, and the assurance of resurrection and eternal life.


God has revealed his loving and merciful character to us through his incarnate Son. Because we know this, we can trust in God and find comfort in the midst of all circumstances. We know that like the writer of Lamentations, we too can say:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:21-26).










Feast of St. Michael and All Angels


Today is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.  The observance of a day to honor the angel St. Michael dates to the fifth century.  It was later expanded to include all angels. .  We confess in the Nicene Creed, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.”  Included in this are the angels who are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him and help His people.


The Bible mentions two angels by name.  Michael is mentioned in Daniel (10:13, 21; 12:1), Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7.  On the basis of these passages he has been honored as “captain of the heavenly hosts.”  Gabriel is mentioned in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21, and was the messenger of God in the annunciation to Zechariah (Luke 1:19) and Mary (Luke 1:26).  In the Scripture reading from Revelation 12, Michael and the angels cast Satan from heaven.  This casting out of Satan took place as a result of Christ’s victory in his death, resurrection, and ascension.  No longer is Satan allowed to appear before God and accuse His people (such as we find in Zechariah 3:1-5; the name Satan means “adversary” in Hebrew). 


Scripture reading:

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:7-12).


Collect of the Day:

Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order.  Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.




Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Commemoration of Jonah


Today we remember and give thanks for the prophet Jonah.  A singular prophet among the many in the Old Testament, Jonah the son of Amittai was born about an hour’s walk from the town of Nazareth. The focus of his prophetic ministry was the call to preach at Nineveh, the capital of pagan Assyria (Jonah 1:1). His reluctance to respond and God’s insistence that his call be heeded is the story of the book that bears Jonah’s name. Although the swallowing and disgorging of Jonah by the great fish is the most remembered detail of his life, it is addressed in only three verses of the book (1:17; 2:1, 10). Throughout the book, the important theme is how God deals compassionately sinners. Jonah’s three-day sojourn in the belly of the fish is mentioned by Jesus as a sign of his own death, burial, and resurrection (Mt. 12:39–41).

Collect of the Day:

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Jonah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the truth faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness.  Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist


Today is the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.  Matthew was a tax collector who was called by our Lord to be a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13) and was then appointed as one of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4).  He is the author of the first Gospel in the New Testament.  There is uncertainty about the areas in which he worked (some traditions suggest Ethiopia or Persia) and whether he was martyred.

Scripture Reading:

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.  And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  (Matthew 9:9-13)

Collect of the Day:

O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist.  Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity - Lk 7:11-17

                                                                                     Trinity 16

                                                                                Lk 7:11-17



          Funerals and funeral processions take place all the time.  Death is part of life in a fallen world, and so there are always people who have died and need to be buried. But that’s not to say that all deaths are equal in the response they evoke. 

When a person who is in their 90’s dies, there is often a small funeral.  Usually, someone who has reached that age has outlived most of their friends. Sometimes, they have outlived much of their own family.  The result is often a small funeral service attended by immediate family, and perhaps some congregation members who knew the individual when he or she was able to attend to church.  A small funeral procession then makes its way to the cemetery.

There are other deaths that because of the circumstances evoke a very large response from the community.  We have seen this occur recently in places like Logansport, IN and Wentzville, MO.  It has continued to happen in other locations around the country as the thirteen U.S. service personnel killed in the bombing in Afghanistan are returned home for burial.  Thousands of people have lined the route of the funeral processions in order to pay their respects to these Americans who died so young in the service of our country.

We learn about a similar circumstance in our Gospel lesson this morning. We are told that Jesus, his disciples and a great crowd were journeying into a city called Nain in southern Galilee.  It’s not surprising that a large crowd was following Jesus.  In the previous chapter, Luke reports, “And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.”

Jesus’ healing miracles and teaching attracted a crowd.  But as this crowd approached Nain with Jesus, they were met by another crowd that was leaving the city.  We learn in our text, “As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.”

Jesus met a large funeral procession that was leaving the city.  Luke’s description of the circumstances helps us to understand very quickly why this particular funeral procession was large.  A woman’s only son had died.  Her only son had died, and then Luke adds the information that she was a widow – her husband had already died.  We aren’t told explicitly whether the son was her only child, but that seems to be the implication.

The size of the crowd indicates that the community perceived the tragic nature of this death. Because of what the Old Testament teaches, the Jews of the first century considered children to be a great blessing. This woman had been blessed with only one precious son.  Her husband had died. Now, her son had also died.  This meant that she had no one who would support and provide for her.

In our Gospel lesson we learn that when our Lord saw her, he had compassion on her. The compassion of Jesus for those who are suffering because of the fallness of this world is a recuring theme in the Gospels.  The Son of God sees suffering and he is moved with compassion because he is love incarnate.  He is the Creator who knows that this is not very good. This is not the way things are supposed to be.  He knows that sin has caused what he is seeing, and he has compassion on those who are suffering because of it.

In response, Jesus did two very unexpected actions that at first seem to be completely inappropriate. First, our Lord said to the widow: “Do not weep.”  Now who in the world tells a grieving mother in a funeral procession not to weep?  And then Jesus did something even more shocking.  He came up and touched the bier on which the body was being carried, and those carrying the body stopped.  Jesus stops the funeral procession in its tracks by actually touching the implement that was being used to carry the dead body.

But Jesus had done these things because he was about to do something that would take away the widow’s weeping and cancel the need for a funeral procession.  Our Lord said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Next Luke reports that “the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”  Our Lord raised the widow’s son from the dead. Then we learn in our Gospel lesson: “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’” 

In our text this morning, Jesus raises a young man from the dead.  His action prompts the people to say, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”  They are right. They also don’t understand what this really means.  And if we are honest, at times we don’t like what it means.

I had a professor at the seminary who described Jesus as “the great sucking sound of the New Testament.”  By this, he meant that Jesus is the fulfillment of an incredible multitude of Old Testament prophecies, types and themes – they are all sucked into him as the One who fulfills them in his life, death and resurrection.  We confess that Scripture is “Christocentric” – that is it is all centered around Christ.  But sometimes it is easy to overlook what this means.

Moses had announced Yahweh’s word when he said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers--it is to him you shall listen.”  God had promised a future prophet like Moses who would be part of God’s end time salvation.  Jesus was this prophet like Moses.  Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus announced God’s word to the people.  And especially in his miracles, Jesus’ ministry reflected the actions of some of the greatest and most notable prophets. We see this in our Old Testament lesson today because Jesus’ raising of the widow’s son repeats what Elijah did for the widow at Zarapheth, as he raised her son from the dead.  Many of Jesus’ miracles find predecessors in the miracles of Elijah and Elisha.

The people were also right when they said, “God has visited his people!”  That is what happened in Jesus Christ, as God the Father sent his Son into the world.  Filled with the Spirit, Zechariah prophesied about Jesus when he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 

and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”

          Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, Jesus Christ the incarnate Son was God visiting his people to bring them salvation.  Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Then at the synagogue in Nazareth he read these words from Isaiah and declared that they were true of him: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

          Jesus’ ministry fulfilled these words as he proclaimed good news – the Gospel. He fulfilled this as the blind received their sight, the lame walked, lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, and the dead were raised up. These were the kinds of actions that prompted the crowd to follow the Lord. They were the actions of a prophet – of the end time prophet like Moses sent by God.

          Yet while we think about prophets as mighty figures who worked miracles, we easily overlook another aspect: the prophets suffered; the prophets were killed.  Moses suffered the burden of constant complaining and attacks by the people of Israel. Jesus said the Pharisees, “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs.”

          Jesus acknowledged that he was a prophet, and he was very clear about what this meant for him.  He said: “Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”  Jesus Christ showed that he was God visiting his people by miracles that helped others.  Yet the greatest act of his visitation was something that did not look miraculous.  It happened as Jesus died on the cross in order to win us forgiveness.  His enemies mocked Jesus on the cross saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”

          Jesus was the saving visitation of God by staying on the cross for us.  Now this is not the way we would have done things.  We want Jesus the prophet who works miracles of power, not the One who dies in weakness and shame on the cross.  Beyond that, we want a Jesus who works in overwhelming power today before those who reject the Gospel, not one who works through the Word, and water, and bread and wine.  We want a Jesus who gives us a life free from hardships, difficulties, and suffering, not One who works in the midst of those things as he crucifies the old Adam in us and forces us to trust him in faith.

          But the cross was God’s way of doing things.  On the road to Emmaus Jesus said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then in what is our Learn by Heart Scripture verse for the month we learn: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” 

          In today’s Gospel lesson we learn of how Jesus raised the widow’s son at Nain from the dead.  The resurrection performed by Jesus pointed forward to Jesus’ own resurrection on Easter. But his resurrection was different because it was not simply a return to life.  It was instead the resurrection of the Last Day – the transformation of his body to one that can never die again.

          The resurrection of Jesus on Easter is the demonstration that the cross was the not the absence of God, but instead his saving presence for us.  Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, our sins are forgiven.  Because Jesus has risen from the dead, death has been defeated and our Lord will raise and transform our bodies on the Last Day so that they can never die again.

          And now, the resurrection of Jesus means that we trust and believe God’s saving power is at work through his Word as it is preached.  We trust and believe that in the water of baptism God gives us a share in Christ’s saving death and washes away our sins.  We trust and believe that Jesus’ word causes bread and wine to be his true body and blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.

          Because Jesus Christ has died on the cross and then risen from the dead, we are able to trust and believe that God still loves us and is at work in our lives in the midst of hardships, difficulties, and suffering.  We know that his Means of Grace are the way he forgives and strengthens us as he works out his purposes in our life. We can trust that this is what God is doing, because we have already seen him work in the way of the cross through his own Son. We know that the cross was the not the end.  Instead, on the third day the great prophet rose from the dead, and the saving results of his visitation continue now for us through the Means of Grace as we look for the his final visitation on the Last Day.










Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Holy Cross Day


Today is Holy Cross Day.  Holy Cross Day commemorates the cross of Christ and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem that was built over the site of the crucifixion and tomb.  Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, was believed to have found the original cross on September 14, 320.  In conjunction with the dedication of Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Constantine made the festival day official in 335.  The day is called “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross” in the Eastern churches and the Roman Catholic church.  In the Byzantine church is it one of the twelve great feast days.

Scripture reading:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25


Collect of the Day:

Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself.  Grant that we who glory in His death and resurrection may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

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

                                                                                      Trinity 15

                                                                                Mt 6:24-34



          About a month ago, our dishwasher died.  It had a good really good run – after, all we had it for fourteen years.  So we accepted the fact that we needed to get a new one.  The problem was that in the fourteen years since the old one had been installed, the expected practices for installing a dishwasher had changed.  Before it could be installed, we had to have an electrician install a separate electrical outlet for the dishwasher. We also had to have a plumber change out the soldered copper fittings for ones that allowed the use of the new dishwasher water feed that screwed on.

          These arrangements took some time, and so we were without a dishwasher for two weeks. For the rest of the family, this concept came as a bit of a shock. They had never known life without dishwasher.  Amy and I had experienced it – we didn’t have a dishwasher in the settings we lived during vicarage and seminary – but it had been a long time since we had lived that way.  I was reminded of how the conveniences of life become something that we then consider to be “normal.”  We think of them as something that is a necessity in life.  And so when they must be repaired or replaced, the unplanned expense becomes something that bothers and stresses us.

          Now perhaps you don’t have a dishwasher, and so at this point you aren’t feeling all that much sympathy for the Surburgs.  So let me add this: Wednesday we learned that our washing machine has died and needs to be replaced.  Clothes do have to be washed, and I doubt that there is anyone out there who washes their clothes by hand.  We all use washing machines.  And so you can probably understand that we viewed this as an essential but unplanned purchase.  Needless to say, Amy and I were not happy about a second large expense in the course of a month.

          In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus tells us not to worry because our heavenly Father will provide us with the things we need to live.  He teaches us that our worry regarding the things of life reveals a deeper spiritual problem about whether God is truly God in our life, or whether wealth is a false god.  And Jesus doesn’t say anything about dishwashers and washing machines – a point to which we will return.

          Our text is part of a new section in the Sermon on the Mount. And while our reading begins at verse twenty four, the start of this topic really goes back to verse nineteen, and so we will pick things up there as 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.”

          Our Lord warns against viewing the things of this world as our treasure. After all, they are things that do not last and can be lost.  Instead we are to live in ways that lay up treasures in heaven – ways that are guided by God’s will and the eternal outcome of life with him. And then Jesus provides the reason for this as he says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  That which we consider to be our treasure – that which we view a being really important – is where our heart is.  It is the thing to which we are really committed.

          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!”  This statement is based on the ancient idea that light and sight came out of the eye.  The way we live shows what is in us. It reflects our true spiritual state.

          Then, in the first verse of our text, Jesus drives home the point he has been making as 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.”  When it comes to wealth and money, there is no middle ground.  Either God is your Lord, or wealth is your lord. Either wealth and money drive the priorities and decisions of our life, or God does.

          Jesus says that God must be our Lord, because, of course, he is the only true God. Since God is our true Lord, Jesus then proceeds to set forth in very practical terms what this means for our life.  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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” 

          Our Lord says because God is our God, don’t worry about what you will eat and drink, and what you will wear. He says don’t worry because God will provide you with this.  He uses two examples to illustrate this.  First he states, “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?” God provides food for even his smallest creatures. If he does that for them, how much more will he do that for us, the ones who have been created in his own image?

          Next Jesus speaks about clothing as he says, “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?”  God arrays the flowers of the field in beauty – flowers that soon perish and are gone. If God does that for them, how much more will provide clothing for us, his highest creation?

          After illustrating his point with these two examples, Jesus returns to his main thought as he says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”  Of course, the reality is that we are not anxious about any of these things.  What we are worried about is whether we are going to be able to have enough money to take that vacation. We are worried about those credit card bills that arose as we bought all that stuff we had to have and did all those things that just had to do.  We are worried about whether we will have enough money to retire so that we will be able to live the kind of life we want to live.

          Our worry reveals again and again, that wealth is our false god. We allow wealth to be our lord.  And here’s the thing about wealth – it’s a relentless lord.  Wealth rules us with the constant pressure of diminishing returns.  As I mentioned earlier, Jesus doesn’t say anything in our text about dishwashers and washing machines.  He also doesn’t say anything about cars, computers, smart phones, big screen tv’s, surround sound systems, or streaming video services.

What these all have in common is that they are exciting when we first get them. But once we have them they become “normal.”  They become things that we consider to be necessary.  And they become sources of stress because they all cost money.  We have to maintain them, upgrade them, and replace them.

Our Lord 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.” 

The first thing Jesus’ words in our text do is that they cause us to confess. We know that we focus on the wrong treasure.  We know that we allow wealth to be a false god that rules our life.  We must confess this sin. It is something that we must confess daily, because we live lives in which the old Adam is constantly drawing us back to the wrong treasure; to the lordship of this false god.

          The second thing his words do is that they give us a true understanding of what God has actually promised us.  Remember, Jesus was speaking to people in first century Palestine.  He was speaking to people who knew none of the conveniences that we take for granted in our lives.  God has only promised to give you food and clothing.  He has only promised you daily bread -the things that are necessary to support life itself. He may bless you with far more than that.  But when those things aren’t there, or he takes them away, he is still being absolutely true to his word.

And finally, Jesus points us to what must be out true focus. This is the one thing that provides forgiveness for our sin of having wealth as a false god.  It is the one thing that promises eternal and lasting treasure.  He says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

With these words, our Lord points us to himself and his saving work for us.  Matthew tells us that Jesus began his ministry by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Jesus announced that in his person the kingdom of heaven – which is just a more Jewish way of saying “kingdom of God” – was present.  Shortly after this Matthew adds, “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.”

The Son of God entered into our world as he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.  He came to bring God’s kingdom – his reign – as he reversed all that Satan, sin and death have caused.  He came to bring God’s righteousness, which we learn in the prophets and the Psalms is God saving action to put all things right.

All of Jesus’ ministry pointed toward the single great action by which he accomplished this – his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.  Our Lord came to defeat sin and win forgiveness by dying as the sacrifice in our place.  He came to drink the cup of God’s wrath against our sin – our every sin by which we treat wealth as a god.  Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus did this as he died on the cross of Good Friday.

But the incarnate Son of God had also been sent to defeat what sin brings to all people – death.  On the third day – on Easter – God the Father raised him from the dead.  Jesus’ resurrection has defeated death.  In Jesus’ resurrection, God has begun the resurrection of the Last Day. He will bring its consummation when Christ returns, and raises and transforms our bodies to be like his. 

We seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness by believing and trusting in Jesus Christ.  We seek it by returning daily to our baptism in faith for there we were baptized into his death. There we were buried with Christ. Through baptism we receive the forgiveness Jesus has won.

But baptism does more than that.  In baptism the Spirit has given us rebirth and renewal.  The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead – the same Spirit by whom God will raise us from the dead – is already now at work in us.  He gives us strength to put to resist and put to death the old Adam. There are many different ways he does this as we reject the false god of wealth.

One very obvious way this takes place is in the offering we return to God.  God blesses us with daily bread – and so much beyond that.  The question then becomes how much of that we return to him in thanksgiving for his gift. The false god of wealth says that we need to hang on to all that we can.  The new man in Christ responds by always looking to return more – especially as that offering keeps pace with blessings God gives.

In our text today, Jesus tells us, “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.”  Our Lord warns us about the false God of wealth, and assures us that there is no need to worry.  God who provides for the birds and the flowers will certainly give us what we need to live.  Jesus promises, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Yes all these things will be added. But in seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness as it is present in Jesus Christ and his Means of Grace, we know that we have forgiveness, salvation and resurrection – the treasure that will never be taken from us.