Trinity 15 2016

Trinity 15 (Baptism of Harrison Summers; Grandson of Nancy Gerding)
St. Matthew 6:24-34
4 September 2016

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

In chapter 13 St. Luke records one of our Lord’s healing miracles. He writes: “And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”  13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God” (11-13).[1]

This woman is a picture of the entire human race. She had been afflicted with a disabling spirit that caused her to be bent down toward the earth. She could not stand up straight or look around. Since the Fall into sin, all mankind has been afflicted by original sin that causes us to be bent down toward earthly things.

David writes in Psalm 49 “Man that is in honor, and understands not, is like the beasts that perish” (20). Adam was created in the greatest honor. He was made in the likeness of God. But he gave up understanding for a lie and became like the beasts of the earth. Now, like a cow, his whole being is turned toward the ground looking for his food and sustenance. By birth, we are incapable of looking up to God on our own. No strength of body, mind or spirit can come to Jesus Christ the Lord or believe in Him. That is, unless our dear heavenly Father first renews His image in us, unless our dear Lord Jesus Christ first comes to us, has mercy, stretches out His hand, and heals our infirmity. This our Lord Jesus does in you [like He just did for Harrison William Summers,] in Holy Baptism. Your spirit of infirmity has been displaced by the Holy Spirit. God’s image is being restored in you by faith. But this is no magic trick, or slight of hand. Your old man, that spirit of infirmity, is resilient and needs daily drowning through contrition and repentance, through the preaching of the Law and Gospel. The Lord Jesus continues to renew His image in you by His teaching and doctrine, for which you ought to come in the Divine Service and Bible Study. For just like an animal or even a baby that is neglected and left unfed grows weak and would die, so too the faith that is begun in you would shrivel and die if it is not fed with the Word of God. That’s what I mean when I say that Baptism is no magic trick. Your faith needs continual feeding by God’s Word.

That’s what we have before us in our text this morning, the Word of Jesus that shows us how we are to think about and use the temporal blessings that He has given to us in this world.

When we think of food, drink, and clothing we immediately think of the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer—“Give us this day our daily bread.” We also immediately think of the meaning of the 1st Article of the Apostles’ Creed—“He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” But upon a closer examination of this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, we understand our Lord’s primary intent here better when we see this as a 1st Commandment issue—“You shall have no other gods.” That’s why it starts with vs. 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.” Then Jesus proceeds with “Therefore I say to you…”

Our Lord knows that we need food, drink, and clothing. He is the one who provides them; and then in the Lord’s Prayer He himself exhorts us to pray for them. But what Jesus is warning against in this teaching is the innate weakness and affliction in us that takes the good that the Lord gives and turns it into evil. Food is good, but how quickly we turn it into gluttony. Drink is good, but how quickly we pervert it into drunkenness. Clothes are necessary, but how quickly we move to envy over what others have, or obsession with the right clothes, or pride in our own things. These perversions of what God gives affects more than our stomachs, minds, and bodies. They affect our soul.

Materialism, self-absorption, entertainment, self-indulgence, power, and control become our gods, our mammon. They seem much more sophisticated than carved idols, but the effect is the same—our hearts are turned from trust in God, service to God, toward trust in ourselves and service to our possessions. (A Year in the Old Testament, CPH, p. 296).

This is your state oh sinful man, bent down toward the carnal pleasures of life, seeking satisfaction and pleasure in the creation rather than the Creator. Oriented this way, you will never find happiness or contentment. You will only find the empty promises of temptation and the sorrow and shame of sin.

It was into this situation, your sorrow and shame, that our Lord entered the world. It was while we were bent down toward our sinful pleasures that our Lord loved us and came to us. Our Lord did not leave us in our sinful condition. He came down as a man, subjected himself to the temptations of this world and overcame them. He lived the perfect life under the Law for us. The only man to walk uprightly after the Fall was our dear Lord Jesus Christ. He walked straight to the cross knowing full well what it meant for Him. He walked straight to the cross in order to save us from our sins. He walked straight to the cross so that we could follow after Him straight to heaven. He raised us up in the participation of His death and resurrection through Baptism. Now we can live by the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. We can stand up straight and look to God, our heavenly Father, and ask and expect good things. We can ask for food, drink, house home, spouse and children with confidence. And even if His hand withholds, or takes those things away for a time, we rest secure knowing that He loves us more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. For He did not take up feathers and leaves to save them, He took up flesh to save you. In the midst of hardship or struggle in your life, He is there with you comforting you and pointing you ahead to a life of salvation He has planned and prepared for you. He points you ahead, so that you are not left staring at the earth, lost in your own sin. He points you ahead and up to a place He is preparing for you in heaven.

Having been raised up straight, you can rejoice to be counted among God’s children. You rejoice in His mercy toward you, even as you wait patiently for the glories of heaven. You seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. You come to the Divine Service where He lifts you up in Absolution, clothes you in Christ, and feeds you with the body and blood of your Lord. You come to the house of your Lord, where you stand next to your brothers and sisters in Christ, where you kneel next to them at the table of your Lord. You see, God has not raised you up to stand alone. You stand among your brothers and sisters whom He has raised up beside you in the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). When the world seeks to drag you down into carnal things, you have one another for support. Do not grow weary of doing good. As you have opportunity, do good to everyone, especially those who are in this household of faith.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” But also sufficient for the day are your Lord’s gifts and support. Yeah and more than sufficient. His mercies to you are greater than you either desired or deserved. He never gives you just enough forgiveness or hope. He never strengthens your faith just barely enough. He is always giving you gifts from His divine abundance. “The Lord is a God full of compassion and gracious.” He gives you of His divine strength. His mercies are new to you every day. His continual pity cleanses and defends you, keeps you in safety and preserves you in His goodness. He raises you up out of the font, sets you at His table, feeds you and strengthens you for the rest of the journey that He has prepared for you to His promised land.

In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.

 

[1] Analogy from Johann Gerhard “Sermon for Trinity 15.”

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