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.   












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