Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, AD 2021

Matthew 6:24-34

Last week I spoke about faith in times of crisis as opposed to times of ease with the example of the ten lepers. We heard the lepers call out to Jesus for help when in need, but upon being healed only one would return to give thanks. Our faith struggles in the good times when we tend to overestimate our abilities, to attribute our comfort and prosperity to ourselves and our own work. Christ does not wish us to have confidence in ourselves, but in Him, at all times, even in good times.

This week we learn that not only good times, but also hard times test our faith. Jesus tells us, “Do not worry.” Do not be anxious for anything. What is worry? It’s a lack of confidence in the future. It’s the opposite of hope. We worry because we want to avoid hard times as much as possible. So we prioritize to stop worry by appealing to our master to help us, the one whom we look to for stability, and often that master is money.

For we mentally agree that we cannot serve two masters, but our actions and our wallets betray us. God demanded ten percent in the Old Testament, and now in the New he asks for nothing less than our entire lives as sacrifice to Him. Certainly, then, He does not want less than ten percent of our money for the building of His Church. Now this is not compulsion. Nothing in the church is done by compulsion. The Lord loves a cheerful giver, he does not want any sacrifice done unwillingly. That is worthless to Him.

Where does the cheerfulness come from? How can we be freed from the worry of money?
From a practice of faith, a practice of knowing when worry comes that it is our heavenly Father who is the master, and not money. We look to him for our stability. If in the good times we act as if money is the master, he will also be the master when worries come and times are tight. If our church or our brother is in need and we prefer to have a boat, a new car, gifts, a nicer house instead of serving those needs, then when money is low the church will continue to be a low priority.

Jesus will not be a low priority. He will be the only priority. That is faith, that he is the full object of our trust and the top priority of our actions. Some may be weak in faith, others may be strong, but if the object is Jesus the strength is secondary. Jesus speaks to us wanting to strengthen the little-faiths. He encourages the ones who want Jesus to be their priority, but have worry. You are not out of the kingdom. Jesus wants to make you strong in him.

Whether weak or strong you can only serve one master. Anyone can have two masters until one of them tells you to disobey the other one. Money tells you to disobey God, that your heavenly father will not keep you and sustain you. Money tells you make yourself as secure as possible financially, focus on yourself and your assets and then worry will be defeated. Money tells you making Jesus the top priority does not make sense, is not safe. Under the mastery of money your heart is in a place to keep mastery for yourself.

Yet we know when money has the mastery, we never escape worry. The rich do not worry less than the poor. The times we have more do not bring less worry than the times we have less. Money, along with all other things in creation, is a gift, but as master is a false god that can never solve our worry. It leads to the feeling of “if only.” If only I had a bigger house. If only I had a more reliable car. If only I had this or that thing  - it really doesn’t matter. It’s almost universal from childhood to desire something we don’t have and become bored with it upon acquiring it. Then we seek the next thing, seemingly forgetting that this has happened every single time.

Money is the obvious one that often afflicts us, but anything can be that idol which promises to take away our worry, but never delivers. These last 18 months have shown many of us how exposed we are to worry, how our usual rationalizations do not bring the comfort we want. We knew thousands of people die in car crashes every year, but we think, I’m a good driver, I can depend on myself to prevent that. We knew people who died of sicknesses before but always thought we could control our own health. We had already taught ourselves to depend on ourselves, our own ingenuity, our mastery of the situation.

Now with Covid threatening everyone, we all must run to new refuges. Maybe it’s masks and vaccines. Maybe it’s thinking we’re too young or healthy to get it. Maybe it’s saying it’s all blown out of proportion. It doesn’t matter. The political argument is irrelevant. We may never know the true answer to any of this. And that offends us, to think there is something we can’t control. Because if we can’t control something than all we can do is worry. Worry is our last effort at control.

Jesus wants us to understand the futility of worry. Does worry bring more control of your life? We all know worry will not add an hour to our life. When we trust Christ, we know that our time is set by our heavenly Father – he will preserve us or take us home. The Lord gives and takes away, and we should trust in his timing.

We’re going to have doubts and worries. We’re going to be little-faiths, but faith says let’s believe God anyway. We aren’t condemned for having smaller faith as long as Christ is the object of our faith. Jesus wants to encourage us little-faiths with promises of his care. His care alone. He is the only master. His response to us is not “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable in life. Do what you can to feel as secure as possible.” That is dividing our allegiance between two masters. It is like the Israelites who worshiped God one day and Baal the next, just to be safe. Jesus doesn’t say, “cover your bases.” He says, “consider the sparrows and the lilies.”

We worry about food and what we will eat, how we sustain our life – Jesus says, look at the sparrows. They are worthless compared to you yet your heavenly father feeds them. We worry about clothing, how we appear, our bodies – Jesus says, look at the lilies of the field, they are worthless grass that fades in mere days yet your heavenly father clothes them. Even more, you have jobs, you see how you acquire food and clothing, you have more to your sight than the sparrows and lilies which live moment to moment only on God’s provision. How much more will your heavenly Father take care of you?

We all have duties in our various vocations in life. This is not to encourage sloth or laziness. The work we do is important, but we do it in hope and expectation, knowing our heavenly Father will provide for us. Luther says to pray the Lord’s Prayer every morning before we go to work. Why? So we know who is providing our daily bread. So we see God’s work in our work. So we are able to be busy with the tasks God has given us without worry about tomorrow. For our Father in heaven cares for us and has given us many great and precious promises.

Hear the promises of the Lord:
He gives to the beasts their food, and the young ravens that cry.” Psalm 147:9
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
” Psalm 18:2-3
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
” Psalm 46:1
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

When worry comes, seek the promises of God. Look at the Psalms. Search the Scriptures. Seek the Kingdom and his righteousness – pray for righteousness, love for enemies, reconciliation among the brethren. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know that we have been reconciled to God. We are at peace with Him in spite of our sin, for Jesus has forgiven us and made us sons of the heavenly Father in baptism. So we know all the promises of scripture are for us.

Faith does not look in worry and say “if only I had this, if only things are different.” Faith says, “if only Jesus died for me and washed away my sins,” “if only my brother who shared all my afflictions and troubles ruled over heaven and earth for my good,” or “if only my heavenly Father cared for me and desired me to bring my troubles to Him.” Faith realizes these things are all true. It works out in acts like teaching these children, the present and the future of the church, knowing that whatever may come their trust in the Lord is the most important thing.

To grow in faith is to see our need and dependence on Jesus grow more and more. We see more how weak we are, how little our faith is, how much we need to rely on our heavenly Father for strength. This is good. For the promises are for us, the little-faiths. For a little faith in the One who keeps his promises is greater than great faith in anything else in heaven and earth which will decay and end. We suffer with troubles until that end, but there is an end to trouble. The day when Jesus’ kingdom comes fully and we will no longer live by faith, but by sight. Until then, Jesus only asks us to bear the troubles of this day. Amen.

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