The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
September 28, 2014 A+D
St. Matthew 6:24-34
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In this life, there is a struggle in our flesh that was not there in the Garden of Eden and will not be there when our sinful flesh is removed and we are taken to heaven. But it exists today. It exists on account of our sins and the transgressions of our fathers. That is why Jesus has to give us this instruction in Matthew 6. His instructions are on purpose, and they are for us. He did not talk only to the people around you, as you’d sometimes like to assume. He is talking to you—to convict you and instruct you, and ultimately to give you comfort. He spoke because you needed to hear it. He spoke because He loves you and wants what’s best for you. Even if it’s painful for you now.
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. That anxiousness is sin. It is idolatry. That anxiousness despises God and loves money. It does not bring happiness.
Eating consumes our thoughts. We make many false gods for ourselves today, but our preoccupation with food has to rank in the top two or three (maybe just behind sex and family). Not everyone struggles to the same degree as everyone else, because everyone struggles against sin in varying ways (not different ways, mind you—for we all have weaknesses of the flesh—“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” 1 Cor. 10:13) But make no mistake about it, almost everyone in our society struggles terribly against the sin of gluttony. We over eat; we eat terrible things; we go on diets that make food foremost in our thoughts all day long; our stomachs growl, not so much because our body needs more food, but because we have over-indulged and enlarged them so much, we have trained them to want more food constantly. We do not eat to live, we live to eat. And so we are condemned by Jesus’ statement in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is admonishing us to recognize our sin, our idolatry, our lack of faith, and to confess it.
Your life is more than food and drink.
After the Exodus, the children of Israel grumbled in the wilderness for food and water. They had nothing to eat or drink in that desert. Yet God provided. He gave them bread from heaven and water from a rock. In a miraculous way, He fed them and nourished them. We hear from the prophet Nehemiah that the clothes on their back and the shoes on their feet did not wear out even after 40 years of traveling.
God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, brought them through the Red Sea, was with them day and night in the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire, gave them His Word from the Mountain, instituted worship, and all the while they grumbled and rebelled. They set up false gods. They turned away and sinned over and over, but still God was gracious and merciful to feed them, give them water, clothe them, and lead them to the Promised Land.
This is a snap shot of your life.
God has rescued you from slavery to sin and death, brought you into His family through the waters of Holy Baptism, is with you daily by the giving of the Holy Spirit, gives you His Word through the prophets and apostles on your ears, in your hearts, and in your mouths, gives you a church in which to worship. And all the while, you grumble and turn aside. You forget His mercies to you and easily grow anxious about your life, your children, your spouse, your future, your health, your house, your job, and your retirement. You quickly set up false gods by the things you turn to in times of trouble. If you doubt this, just consider the vast majority of your daily thoughts and conversations. Are they consumed with thoughts of God and of your neighbor? Or are you planning your next pleasure? Your next purchase? Your next vacation? “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6). This is a terrifying statement, because it hits us right where it counts.
But still God is gracious and merciful to you. He continues to give you means to survive. He gives food, and water, and clothing, and shelter, and protection far beyond what you deserve. At all times in your life, through the hard times and in the happy, God is molding you into the Christian He wants you to be. In the hard times, He teaches repentance, patience, prayer, and dependence upon Him. Unbelievers are not being molded like that. If you find yourself crying out to God in the hard times, in the desperate times, in the depressed times, in the fearful times, then count those times a blessing, because they have served the purpose of bringing you back to your faith (no matter how weak) in the one, true God. The God who is there for you. The God who cares. The God who knows what you need even better than you yourself know. The God who has the ability and desire to hear and to help.
This Sermon on the Mount is preached by a God who came for His people, a personal God who was born in the flesh, a God who is a shepherd herding His sheep together to teach them, to speak kindly to them, to feed them, and to nourish them. Jesus took these people up on a mountain to teach them about the purpose of His coming. To show them that He was the Messiah. To show them that after Him they and the world would never be the same. He did not come to condemn; He came to comfort.
He did not just talk. He put his words into action as He himself often went hungry, thirsty, and had no place to lay His head. The Lord Jesus did not come to live in luxury in this world. He did not come to live like a king on earth. He is the king of Heaven, who came to open up His heavenly kingdom to sinners. The key to His kingdom was the cross. He had to die in order for sinners to live. His death is the foundation behind all of His teaching and preaching. Without His death, His words are simply moralistic, idealistic speech that might lead to a good life in this world, but definitely to eternal death in the end—because we fall short. With His sacrifice on the cross, His words are the instruction of a new life in faith. A new life that was given to you. A new life that is daily at war with your sinful flesh. It’s not a life of this world. It’s a life that is bigger than food, drink, and clothing. It’s bigger than your sins and the sins of your fathers. It’s bigger than your anxiousness. It’s as big as the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
You’re more precious to Him than the birds of the air or the lilies of the field. He did not come to rescue them. He came to save and redeem you. He came despite your weaknesses, despite your idolatries and wanderings. His love for you is not like yours. It does not waver, fall, or fail. He remains true to His promise to you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He gives ear to your prayers. He is full of compassion and gracious. His mercies are continually with you. He knows what you need, and generously provides it.
Your sinful flesh lusts after more of what is in this world. But the Spirit of God resides in you—you who believe and are baptized. And the Spirit yearns for you for the things that transcend this world. He does better than just provide food for your stomach; He provides food to nourish your soul. He gives you more than clothes for your body; He clothes you with Jesus’ righteousness forever. Soon all your anxiousness will be removed for good. That is why your Lord came. That is why He died. And that is why He will never leave you alone.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
The Rev’d Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana