Sunday, September 12, 2021

Do Not Be Anxious

 Matthew 6:24-34

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?

"And why are you anxious about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.  But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?  Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we drink?' or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?'  For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."

"Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Sermon for Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity                                      09/12/21

Do Not Be Anxious

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

There are times when preaching this text is simple and safe.  Life is good, and everyone is happy and telling people not to be anxious or worried about life is a comfortable thing.  This is not one of those times.  We have just witnessed another hurricane devastate Louisiana and flood New York City.  Our nation has just surrendered to an army of terrorists in Afghanistan, equipping them with 86 billion dollars worth of state-of-the-art military equipment.  We still face a pandemic funded by our own government and unleashed as an act of war by our major global adversary, and our national economy stinks.

The long-term effects of these events are still unimaginable.  We have seen a jump in gasoline prices.  Long term it looks even more expensive.  In short, the aftermath of all of these things could be devastating for the whole country.  It is in the face of these conditions that the Word of God speaks to us today and tells us, in the words of our Lord, Do Not Be Anxious.

It is a matter of faith.  Our Lord reminds us in our Gospel of the familiar facts that God feeds the birds, and He clothes the fields in beautiful flowers.  Neither one of them labors for what they get.  The flowers of the field simply grow there.  They are, nonetheless, beautiful.  The birds do not sow or reap or store up grain, and yet God feeds them.  In the same way, we may depend upon God.  He knows what we need, and He will provide.  But to get there, and find comfort in these circumstances will take faith.

O.K. So there are a lot of birds dead in the face of our recent drought.  God knows we all have need of food and clothing and shelter, and yet all of those things are in short supply in Afghanistan, for example, today.  It is tempting to look at the human needs of our nation and those we left behind and say, "how do such things square with the text?"  "Where is the supply of which Jesus was speaking?"

Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  To be honest, we are not witnessing a lot of seeking of God or His righteousness in the midst of the world events recently.  But that isn't the answer - at least not the whole answer.  Part of the answer is in the fact that whether we experience every moment as richly supplied or not, we experience it.  God has preserved us.  We currently do not have to deal with the deprivations of a war-torn region.  We see it, and we can respond to it - we should respond to it somehow.  But it is not our suffering, and so God has been true to His promises and provided us with all that we need, even if it is not all that we want.

He has also preserved those who have survived there.  They might have preferred to have survived in comfort, and have their worldly possessions preserved - but, as in the book of Job, when we start judging God on the basis of how we respond to how He is blessing us, we are trying to suggest that we could do a better job of being God than He does.  Of course, that is silly - and blasphemous - on its face.

Besides, we want to remember what Jesus actually said.  He did not promise that we would always have everything we desire just the way we want it.  He said that God knows where we are and who we are and what it is that we need and that all of our fretting and worrying cannot make it better.  Jesus asked, "Which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?"  While I am not certain how much 18 inches - a cubit - of life adds to your span of life, when measured in years, the point is that our worry doesn't empower us to change the immediate circumstances of our lives any more than the clear frustration of the victims of the Kabul mess has made them able to make safety and peace appear out of nowhere.  Someone has to bring it into circumstances like theirs, and when they do, that someone was sent by God - whether they realize it or not.

And of course, some of them will die for lack of water, or food, or shelter, or because of Covid.  If they die, it is because God has appointed that moment for their death - and death would have found them in Minnesota, fishing on a clear and cool lake - if it was their time - just as certainly as it found them struggling in the midst of the wreckage of Afghanistan or facing the pandemic.  God will take care of each of us while we are here, and summon us out of this world when our time is done.  It is precisely at that moment that the kingdom of God and His righteousness will become of paramount importance for us.

The promise of our Gospel is that when we have sought the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things - the stuff of life - will be added unto us.  Now Jesus knows that we cannot search for God or choose to believe - so He is telling us to pay attention to the most important stuff, and trust God to handle the rest.  As the beloved children of God, can we imagine that God will short us on the necessities?  I would say no - and looking about the room, I see that all of us have had all that we have needed for life up to today - and many of us have enjoyed a whole lot more than simply what we needed.

We are the chosen of God.  He has set His love upon us.  He has loved us with the greatest love: a greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for His friends.  Jesus laid down His life for us on the cross, to redeem us from sin and death and hell.  Because of Jesus your sins are forgiven, and when your body dies, that is not the end, nor is it the worst moment - but merely the beginning of the better and more lasting life with Christ in glory.  He has promised that you will even get your bodies back, refreshed, renewed, and repaired; better than when you laid it down.  He has taken care of you here, and has planned and executed your rescue and redemption for the hereafter.

While we live in this world, we live as God's favorite people - favored with His love and under His watchful care.  Nothing can happen without God's care for you.  All of your needs will be met, and many of your desires, right up to the time appointed for your home-going.  At that moment, it may appear to the world around you that your needs have failed to be met.  It might seem that you lack the needs of the moment.  But the truth is that your greatest need will have been fulfilled: life beyond the grave, a life that has no ending or sorrow, or sickness - only fullness of joy and glory with Jesus Christ.

Between this day and that, you can trust God.  You don't have to worry about what you shall eat or what you shall drink or what you shall put on.  Your heavenly Father knows that you have needs of these things.  Everyone is looking for them.  The ungodly in Kabul, by the kindness of God, are searching for food and water and shelter.  The chosen people of God who have survived the pandemic this far are searching for them.  God knows – and He will provide.  He says so – and by faith, we may trust Him and depend on Him and not worry.

So, do not be anxious.  Just look around you.  Breathe in and out.  Take note.  You are alive.  You have food enough for the moment.  You have plenty of air to breathe.  The needs of this moment are taken care of, and the reason that they are taken care of is the goodness and kindness of God.

Tomorrow may present new needs, but that is tomorrow.  Jesus says that the troubles of today are enough for today.  We take it one day at a time.  You cannot fix tomorrow until you get there.  I imagine that many of those who lived in Kabul thought that they had next week pretty well in hand until events changed their situation forever.  You cannot do tomorrow today, nor can you fix yesterday tomorrow.  You have one day, today, and a loving heavenly Father who will take care of you.  So, do not be anxious.  Live in today's blessings today, and have a little faith in God.  He loves you with a proven love - and He has promised to add all the rest that you need - now that He has clothed you in His righteousness and marked you as one of His chosen and beloved children.

Do Not Be Anxious.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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