Anxious – Sermon on Matthew 6:24-34 for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

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Matthew 6:24–34

24 “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.

25 “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? 26 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? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 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? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In 1988, Bobby McFerrin offered us “a little song [he] wrote.” He thought we “might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry; be happy. In every life we have some trouble. hakuna-matata-don-t-worry-be-happy-1But when you worry, you make it double. Don’t worry; be happy. Woo, ooh.”

As chipper as Mr. McFerrin’s song was, apparently the ditty didn’t work because in 1994 the lovable characters, Timon and Pumbaa, came along to teach us a “wonderful phrase.” Hakuna Matata. In case you didn’t know, “it means no worries for the rest of your days. It’s [their] problem-free philosophy. Hakuna Matata.”

As catchy as those jingles are, their philosophy and approach to anxiety is terribly simplistic, and we still find ourselves getting worried.

Mothers worry when their children wander off and get lost. Fathers worry when an unexpected expense comes up and the bills pile up. Children get anxious about the first day of school with new teachers and higher expectations. The evening news and papers get your attention by reporting on the worst stories first. Television shows will end with foreboding cliffhangers to make you anxious about what will happen next week. And to get your vote, politicians have become masters at creating worry and anxiety then telling us that they are the ones who can save us. “If we don’t ban straws, the turtles are going to die.” “If we don’t reduce carbon emissions, the planet is going to die.” And both political parties are guilty of this. Years ago, it was, “If Obamacare gets passed, people will die.” Today, it’s, “If Brett Kavanaugh gets a seat on the Supreme Court, people are going to die.” Or, “If we don’t do something about the border, people are going to die. If we don’t do something about ISIS, people are going to die. If we don’t do something about taxes and the economy, people are going to die. Our country is divided, people are going to die.”

“Don’t Worry Be Happy” and “Hakuna Matata”? These seem to be nothing more than trite, naïve dismissals of the anxious world in which we live. But here, Jesus seems to be just as dismissive. He tells us, “Don’t be anxious about your life. Don’t be anxious about what you will eat, drink, or wear. Don’t be anxious about tomorrow.”Maybe Jesus lives in the same fantasy land as Bobby, Timon, and Pumbaa.

Well, there is a significant difference between Jesus’, “Don’t be anxious,”and Bobby, Timon, and Pumbaa. Jesus recognizes how serious of a sin worry and anxiety are. You see that in how this whole text is related.

First, Jesus points out that your anxiety is evidence of idolatry. 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 you have two masters, you are always going to be torn between the two because they will never fully agree on the service they require of you. FranticAnd Jesus addresses the most common master that you and I serve – possessions and stuff.

The word translated as ‘money’ here is the word ‘mammon’ which means more than ‘money.’ But since you get your stuff with money, ‘money’ is a fine translation. Jesus here is addressing your most common idol. You worship your stuff. Idolatry isn’t simply bowing down to statues. Idolatry is fearing, loving, or trusting in anything that isn’t God.

The God who created you, gives you everything you need to live, and sustains it all isn’t seen. But you can see how much money in your wallet or purse. You can look at your balance in your bank account and investments. You spend lots of time at your job. You probably know your boss and the person who signs your checks. And so, you are tempted to you trust those things rather than God who is hidden behind them all. And anxiety is the liturgy and worship that your possessions demand.

We think if we have enough we are secure, so we worry when we think we are running short. Or we think that if we have a little more money, then we’ll be happy. So, we get anxious to accrue a little more. But this is sinful idolatry, and these words from Jesus expose our lack of faith. Scripture says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Repent.

Repent and then laugh at yourself. I think that is what Jesus wants us to do with our sin.

Don’t laugh because your sin doesn’t matter or isn’t serious. Your sin is deadly serious. Serious enough that Jesus will go to the cross, suffer, and die for that sin. But He also wants us to see how foolish and downright silly it is when He tells us to look at the birds and the lilies. He asks, “Do you trust God as much as a crow trusts God? Do you trust God as much as a lily trusts God?”

Birds in a nestWhen was the last time you saw a bird driving a tractor or operating a combine? A bird cannot plant and harvest like we can. But God didn’t design them to do that. He designed us to do that. Birds simply do what God designed them to do: have chicks and raise them and sing.

A bird wakes up, finds a branch, and sings the song God put into its beak. While that little bird sings, it isn’t worried about food even though it has more reason to be worried about food than we have because it doesn’t know where its food is going to come from. It can’t go into the store and buy food. The bird just sits there and sings for a while. Then, when it is hungry, it flies off and finds the food God has set out for it. Jesus says, “Those birds don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

Did you notice that? Jesus doesn’t say, “Their heavenly Father feeds them.” He says, “Your heavenly Father feeds them.”Your Father cares enough about the birds to feed them. Jesus wasn’t born to save birds. Jesus wasn’t crucified to save birds. He did all of that for you. You are the peculiar object of God’s saving love. If He feeds birds, He is going to feed you.

Same with the lilies of the field. God hasn’t given them anything more to do than to grow and look and smell nice. God provides everything they need even though they are alive today and tomorrow are shriveled up and burned. If God clothes the grass like that, how much more will He clothe you?

Worry is useless. It doesn’t help at all. In fact, it makes things worse. Jesus hasn’t given you permission to worry. Worry is the worship that money demands. So, what should you do when you have worry and anxiety?

Philippians 4[:6]says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Take your worry and turn it around don’t let it be the slavish worship you offer to your idol, money. Instead, when you are worried about anything, make it your prayer. Pray, Open Prayer Hands“God You have told me not to be anxious. You have told me not to worry. Well, I’m worried about ______. You take care of that. Help me. Protect me. Etc.” Then your worry becomes a true service to God.

God loves you. He has provided you with everything you need for eternity. In His mercy, He sent His only-begotten Son to shed His blood on the cross to make you His own so that you will live forever in His kingdom. So, there is no reason to doubt that He will take care of the things you need today or tomorrow.

And then, be free. Free to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness – the righteousness He delivers to you in His Word and Sacraments. Jesus has promised that all these things will be added to you. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Table for 4,000, Please? – Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Trinity on Mark 8:1-9

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Mark 8:1-9

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The last food you ate came from God even though it didn’t come directly from God. An exception will be made if you gathered up manna in your yard this morning. If you did, let me know. I’d like to come over this afternoon, so I can have a taste before it goes bad tomorrow. Talk to me after the service.

Your food comes from God, but God in His infinite wisdom has seen fit to give you that food through a long food-pipeline. Through farmers and ranchers who grow and raise the food. Through factories and workers that process, grind, and package. Through truckers and train engineers who haul. Through construction workers who build and maintain the roads and buildings. Through plumbers, electricians, engineers, and mechanics who design, make, and keep the roads, railways, machines, and buildings working. And even through insurance agents, accountants, and computer programmers who make all the work efficient and organized.

In fact, I bet if you and I sat down and put our minds together, we could figure out how every wholesome task performed in the world ends up putting food in our mouth. (Maybe we can do that while we enjoy that manna of yours.)

Now, God doesn’t have to use this massive, intricate food-pipeline. He could feed us directly as Jesus does in this text. God is the author of all good work and a master at it all.

This crowd has been with Jesus in a desolate place for three days hearing Him teach. They were so excited to follow Him that these silly people didn’t bring any food with them. Jesus tells the disciples that He has compassion on the people because if He sends them away, they won’t make it home. Some of them will faint and die of hunger. The disciples ask, “How can one feed these people (4,000 men plus women and children [see Mt. 15:32-39]) with bread here in this desolate place?” Their question is legitimate. Even if you had the means to pay for it, I bet you’d have a hard time buying enough bread for a crowd that size if you went to Hugo’s right after the service.

But watch what Jesus does in slow motion. He becomes the master of many trades all at once. He plows, plants, harvests, threshes, grinds, and bakes bread in a moment. Then, He sails, fishes, processes, cleans, and cooks fish to give the crowd a second course.

Yes, Jesus does this with what the disciples have among themselves. So, in a small way, He works within His creation and preserves the food-pipeline. But He certainly didn’t need to use what the disciples had because when it is all said and done, there are seven baskets of leftovers. The disciples end up with more than they had at the beginning.

This is a miracle. No one can feed such a large crowd, but Jesus can and does. But this miracle of feeding the 4,000 pales in comparison to the miracle of food that will be on your plate at lunch. The same Jesus is working through hundreds if not millions of people to make sure you have a bite later when He could simply make the food appear on your plate without any of them.

You are constantly surrounded by miracles. But you have gotten so used to seeing them that you don’t see the splendor and glory of God’s provision for you.

Do you realize how miraculous farming and gardening is? You take a seed – a tiny part of something, put it in the ground, and you get more of that same thing. How many thousands and even millions of tomatoes are in a single tomato seed when God uses His creation to nurture and grow that seed? We hardly give tomato seeds a second thought. But in each of those seeds is a lifetime supply of tomatoes for you and your family. But it is a lot less work for you to simply go to the store and purchase more tomatoes.

We are too easily bored with God’s miracles. And worse, we even grow to despise God’s work among us.

We get excited when a child takes her first steps. Her body has miraculously formed and developed the muscles, bones, and tendons needed to support her frame. Her mind has learned to control all those parts of her body so she can keep her balance. But how many weeks pass before her parents are tired of keeping her from walking to the garbage can, tipping it over, and rummaging through the contents? They wish she were still stationary.

Think for a moment of the miracle of life. Your body is made up of somewhere around 35 trillion individual cells that serve various functions. If the DNA in those cells were laid out end to end, it would travel from here to the sun and back 100 times. From the moment you were conceived, the information in your DNA would fill 600,000 pages. And right now, in each of the 35 trillion cells of your body, biological “machines” are copying volumes of information into amino acids which are taken by other machines and folded in very specific ways into proteins. So, don’t let anyone tell you that you are lazy.

These miracles are going on all around you and inside of you. And as we are able to learn even more about how this all works, it will simply get more intricate and amazing. You are fearfully, wonderfully, and miraculously made. And the fact that all of this is done because of your Creator should cause you to fall on your knees in reverence and praise.

From a seed producing a plant that produces more fruit and more seeds to a child learning to walk to your cells writing and rewriting the information that keeps you alive, God keeps this creation working. But because all of this happens every day, it doesn’t capture our wonder and amazement as much as if it only happened once.[1]

The feeding of this crowd does show us that Jesus is God in the flesh. But that is not Jesus’ purpose in feeding the crowd. Jesus did not do this miracle to show the crowd that He is divine. Rather Jesus’ purpose in feeding and providing for them is His own compassion.

If Jesus provides so richly and abundantly for a crowd who got themselves into trouble by something so simply as forgetting to bring their lunch, how much more compassion will He have for you, sinner? You who are rightful recipients of death – the wages of sin – will Jesus not have compassion on you?

He does have that compassion and He has given that compassion. He has come in your flesh after your likeness. He died on the cross and shed His blood for you to give you His forgiveness and righteousness. And this same Jesus will provide for your needs in this body and life as well.

To this hungry and dying crowd of 4,000 in a desolate place, Jesus brings life on the third day. Just as He fed the people on the third day, He has risen on the third day for your justification.

So, rejoice and trust your Savior. When Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things…,”your food, drink, clothing, shelter, and everything you need for life, “all these things will be added to you,”He meant it. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1]Revised from a quote by John Donne, “There is nothing that God has established in the constant course of nature, and which therefore is done everyday, but would seem a miracle, and exercise of our admiration, if it were done but once.”