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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Kyrie Eleison – Sermon for Quinquagesima on Luke 18:31-43

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Luke 18:31–43

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

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

The disciples are blind. Not physically but spiritually. Jesus plainly tells them where they are going – Jerusalem. Jesus plainly tells them why they are going to Jerusalem. So that everything written about Him in the Scriptures would be fulfilled. He will be mocked, shamefully treated, and spat upon. Jesus will be flogged, whipped, and beaten. He will be crucified, and He will die. But He will, He absolutely will, rise again on the third day.

Jesus gives turn-by-turn directions to His destination. But the disciples are blind, and Luke wants us to know this, and tells us three times. The disciples understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them. And they did not grasp what was said.

Jesus Heals BartimeausThe road to the cross passes through Jericho. In the city where the walls had come-a-tumblin’ down, lived a blind man. Mark tells us that his name is Bartimeaus (Mk. 10:46). Bartimeaus heard all sorts of commotion and asked what it was all about. He is told nothing more than that Jesus of Nazareth is passing through. As blind as he is, Bartimeaus sees his opportunity and cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And don’t miss this.

 

By recognizing that Jesus is the “Son of David,” blind Bartimeaus recognizes that Jesus is his King and Lord. And Bartimeaus requests mercy. In Greek, it would be, “Kyrie eleison.”

Each week, part of our normal service to sing the Kyrie after the Confession of Sins. We ask God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit to have mercy upon us. Maybe, you have done it so often that you don’t really think about it. Well, today, do think about it.

Think through our whole service. What would you say is the highest praise, the most worshipful thing we do? Is it when we sing songs and hymns or when we place our tithes on the Altar? Now, those things are good, and it is right to do them. But I would argue above them, and maybe the greatest worship we offer, is singing that God would have mercy upon us.

For one thing, asking God for mercy is one of the most common prayers in all of Scripture, trusting people who count such things. It also puts us alongside other people in the Gospels – two blind men (Mt. 9:27), the Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed by a demon (Mt. 15:22), and the ten lepers (Lk. 17:12-13). We take their cries for mercy and put them on our lips.

Now, maybe you think the Kyrie isn’t too worshipful and more like begging. You have a point because we are. But also realize that this is high praise. When we ask God to have mercy, we are recognizing God as He wants to be recognized. He wants to be known as the God who is merciful. His truest character is that He has steadfast love and compassion (Ex. 34:6-7). He desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hos. 6:6; Mt. 9:13). God’s mercy, His steadfast love, endures forever (Ps. 136).

When we cry out, “Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.” We stand with the blind men, with the unclean lepers, and with those who are oppressed by the devil and the demons. We are saying, “Lord, we want You to be our Savior too. We want you to be Jesus for us. We want to receive what You gave to them. We want You to be what all the Scriptures reveal You to be. We want You to come to us in Your truest character.”

And Jesus delights in that prayer. He answers that prayer and is merciful. He gives sight, healing, deliverance, cleansing, life, and salvation. And because of that, we follow Him and give praise to God.

Baptism 2Dear Charlie. Today, you are Baptized. Today, your God and Lord has had mercy upon you. Today, God joined all His promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation to water and poured out all His love upon you. The perfect, Divine love we heard in our Epistle lesson (1 Cor. 13) has been given to you and to all your brothers and sisters in Christ.

All you saints, hear this. The love of Christ you have received is not simply empty words that echo like noisy gongs or clanging cymbals. In His great love and mercy, Jesus gave away all He had – every last ounce of strength, every drop of His blood, and His final breath.

To you, Christ has been patient and kind. Though Jesus was mocked, shamefully treated, and spit upon, He was not arrogant or rude. Even in the midst of all this He was thinking of you praying, “Father forgive them.” Jesus did not rejoice in the wrongdoing but rejoiced in the truth that God, in His mercy, would use all of this for your eternal good. On the cross, your Savior in love and mercy bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things. His merciful love for you will never fail and never end.

And so, we sing in worship with Bartimeaus, “Kyrie eleison.” Lord have mercy. And He does. Amen.

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