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Let faith take a bite out of your worry! Sermon, May 25th 2008

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Second Sunday of Pentecost May 25th 2008 by Pastor Peter Krey

Isaiah 49: 8-16a Psalm 131 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 Matthew 6:24-34

Let faith take a bite out of your worry!

Whenever we say the Lord’s Prayer, we Protestants conclude with: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever! Amen.” Do we just say it or do we also believe it? Do you and I believe that Christ reigns because God sent him to take charge over us and make us part of the Kingdom of Heaven and when we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, do we attribute the power and the glory to him over our lives? Having that faith is the challenge.

The first verses of the Gospel lesson must have made me uptight, because I forgot to see how the stock market was doing. Later I found out it went down another 146 points. That takes another big bite out of our pension! But hold it, Jesus says, “either / or”! You either serve me or mammon. Usually we understand “Mammon” as the god of materialism and money. But in Hebrew “mammon” merely means the accumulation of wealth. “Unrighteous mammon” from that notorious text about making friends with unrighteous mammon” needs to be explained (Luke 16:9). Your wealth is unrighteous if you have surplus, more than you need, but you won’t help save the lives of the needy with it. Make friends with unrighteous mammon means to save those lives with that surplus, so that the poor, whom you have saved, will welcome you into their mansions in heaven!

When I watch the business channel that operates from the floor of Wall Street, a goodly number of people seem to have the accumulation of wealth as the sole purpose of their lives. But that means to serve Mammon and makes you hate Christ, because Christ wants us to serve him alone. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will be added to you. If making money is the first priority of your life, then God will subtract all things from you. When Jesus speaks of having a single eye, he means that we can either choose the one purpose or the other.[1] So let’s keep our eye on seeking the Kingdom of Heaven and the justice it stands for, and then God will provide for our every need.

Now often we look over our shoulders and become jealous of those who are raking in the doe. That is because we think that money will fulfill their lives. Looking over our shoulders like that makes us slip and fall.[2]

Now I ask myself, “How come I have so much road rash?” (When the boys fall off their skateboards and get all scraped up, they call it “road rash.”)

Well, it’s easy to say “Don’t worry!” but there are a whole bundle of things to worry about. “How will we pay our bills if the gas price keeps going up? What good are dollars if their value keeps going down? What happens if I can’t pay my mortgage and they foreclose on our house? How can we afford to pay for college tuition, when it is so high? How do I keep my medical coverage should I get laid off? What if my pension money runs out?” Wow, it is hard not to worry about all these questions in our lives. Jesus boils the questions down to, “What will I eat, What will I drink, What will I wear?” and says, don’t worry. But my worries overflow: “How will I pay off my credit cards? If I’m unemployed, how will I find a job?”

In our society we certainly have reason to worry; but not if God is our champion. That is the reason we can be as trusting as the birds and get dressed more beautifully than Easter Lilies. God rules over us through Christ and he will fulfill all God’s promises to us. “Christ is our champion, my friend! He’ll fight for us to the end.” The American dream might fail, but not the dream of the Kingdom of Heaven; that dream will come true. Thus we have no need to worry. We only have to worry if we think Obama, Hilary, and John can keep their promises. They can’t. I don’t have to be a prophet to predict that.

A president does not have that kind of power – nor a power elite, if you are into conspiracy theories. Nor do people at the grass roots have the power. Would you repeat the words of the prayer with me: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever! Amen.”

We don’t have to worry or get anxiety attacks, because in the words of Isaiah, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘In the time of favor’” (and God is always in time, that’s the kairos,) “I have answered you, I have helped you with the day of salvation.”

Check out all of the promises God makes to you in that Old Testament lesson. I‘ll mention only two. God cares about us like a mother nursing her child and God did not only have an exodus back with Moses. He had one through the wilderness in Isaiah’s time and God has an exodus for you and me as well.

So like a mother tenderly nurses her infant at the breast, God will tenderly love us and care for all of our needs. Even should a mother forget her child, God will never forget or neglect us.

Hello! This is the Maker of heaven and earth speaking. Jesus says, “O ye of little faith!” Do you really think someone in Washington will think of you, let alone care for you tenderly? They might if they seek righteousness and have Jesus Christ as their champion. If they too are seeking the Kingdom of God and its justice, then the Creator of heaven and earth can also work through them. But usually they have taken the other way.

If you believe that money will fulfill your needs and all you need is more of it. Jesus will say, “O ye of little faith!” (And I’m preaching to myself as well, do you hear me?) No, first seek the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. Confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and allow him to orient your life and get into the campaign that Christ is running to make the Kingdom of Heaven real amongst us. But you have to believe it. It takes some faith. When that becomes the first priority of your life, then you have no need to worry. Isaiah speaks of an exodus that God will perform for you, should you be pushed to the place where you find no escape.

Luther has an interesting take on the exodus. In the creation story, God separated the waters from the waters and then divided the waters of the oceans to form the continents. God commanded the wind and the waves, “You can pound on the shore, but you cannot reach my people! They shall walk and live and have their being on dry land.” That is the miracle of the exodus God performed for all the nations of the world even before the one God performed over the Red Sea for the Children of Israel. So don’t you think he can find a place for you feet to go?

Ah, we worry ourselves to death, we go under the water, because we do not trust the God of the exodus, who draws us out of the water as his people and keeps us safe on dry land.

We certainly have lots to worry about if we trust in our money. Remember, even on our money, it says, “In God we trust.” Well, you say, “The dollar is now only 57 cents on the Euro and countries are converting their money into Euros instead of dollars and the United States has lost a good deal of its standing in the world!?!” But we are seeking the kingdom of heaven, remember? And we confess Jesus Christ to be our champion, to be our Lord. Our lives are committed to his righteousness, to his way of loving and sharing. As we say in Christ Lutheran Church, “God calls us to live and share the amazing love and grace of Jesus Christ with all people.” What a wonderful mission statement!

Doing that at home, at work, at school, at play and we can shake our worries and become worry-free. No anxiety attacks necessary! In their place we have a robust faith, a full measure, packed down and overflowing bushel basket full of faith, the good faith through which God provides for us. And what a wonderful God! Even when we are faithless, Christ is faithful. Even when we are untrustworthy, Christ remains trustworthy.

Just look at the birds. They neither reap nor sow. They are justified by grace. And see how the Father in Heaven cares for them. They don’t accumulate wealth and put it into the bank or risk their seeds on the dogs, horses, Las Vegas, the lottery, or the stock market. They don’t put their seeds into hedge funds, but God takes care of them.

They are justified by grace and don’t have to sow or reap; like the lilies, don’t have to toil or spin, but their good faith lets God provide all kinds of gifts through them. Yes, consider the lilies. All the movie stars posing on the red carpets with their expensive gowns and dresses are not arrayed like one of these. Coming back from Philadelphia, I’ve really gotten into the flowers here, especially the roses. Gaze at them and let them fill your soul with their beauty. Just take in the fragrance of a rose and it will witness to the One who is richer and wiser than Solomon and whose Kingdom of Heaven you’ve been baptized into.

That’s why we need not worry. Jesus makes it clear that our Father in Heaven knows our every need and through the Kingdom of Heaven, ruled by the Creator of heaven and earth, all our needs will be met, and our souls will be quieted, like a baby is quieted at its mother’s breast.

It is so easy to lose sight of the heaven of grace over us and lapse into that little faith that places its hopes in money or the government in Washington, or even makes our private lives be an end all, while we are supposed to be campaigning for Christ. We fix on this world as if Jesus never proclaimed that the Kingdom of Heaven, never baptized us into it, never taught us that “we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”[3]

Jesus knows how hard this faith is. You and I need to pray God for a big new measure of it, an increase of good faith in the One God sent to save us. That faith will take a big bite out of our worry. Because Jesus knows how hard that is for us, he says, “Take it one day at a time.” The old words were: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Don’t import all the troubles of tomorrow into your today. God will provide for us, as God did in all our yesterdays. With utter confidence, let us also place all our tomorrows into God’s hands. And when God raises up his hands to bless us, we will see our names inscribed on the palms of his hands, Isaiah says, for God does not only know our names, but also all our needs in order to provide for them. Amen.

[1] Matthew 6:22 and Luke 11:34 used to be translated “single eye,” now it is translated “healthy eye.”

[2] That is the point of Psalm 73.

[3] Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4.


Written by peterkrey

May 26, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Posted in Selected Sermons

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