16. September 2012
The Sunday of the Birds and the Lilies
The source of every anxiety is idolatry. Your fear, panic, and every trembling comes from trusting something or someone other than your heavenly Father. As long as you are sinner, you cannot avoid anxieties nor the idols that drive them. So it was from the beginning with Adam, Eve, and you, their children.
To the woman [God] said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:16-19)
From the first act of idolatry, trusting our own word about a tree and its fruit over the Lord’s own Word, our lives are full of anxious labor. Children are come into the world with pain. Then we wait anxiously for the heartbreak they often inflict. Wives impatiently overrule their husbands, while husbands refuse to love their wives. Each sit on a pins and needles, anxious to avoid the next blow-up. Our toil does not always yield enough money to pay the rent, feed the flock, or keep the lights on. We struggle with what tomorrow may bring.
Is our anxiety manageable? Can we get a grip on the panic over what hardships the next presidency might bring, the changes at corporate, the ignorant choices of our children, the retirement benefits running out, the tanked portfolio, or the rising cost of fuel and corn? What about the fear that tomorrow may be our last day, through accident or tragedy or heart attack, we breathe our last breath? Idolatries. We have placed our hopes and confidence in our stuff—the mammon of this life. We’re okay if we’re safe, employed, loved by our obedient children, well fed, comfortable, and our future is certain. If the rug is pulled out from any one of these, what then?
Anxiety. The idol fails and we panic. Such it will always be in this body of flesh, just as it was for our cursed parents. Sorrow, pain, domineering, toil, and sweat mark everyone who trusts in their pantheon of idols. It’s not that we don’t love God. We certainly call on his name at least a couple times a month, maybe weekly, or even daily. It’s that we do not love and trust in Him above all things. We do not call upon Him in every trouble. We do not listen attentively to Him when He speaks. We have mammon that we trust. We call out to others for help. We listen to advice of world and demon.
We’ve created a soup of mixed loyalties. We turn to our heavenly Father only for churchy stuff and then infrequently. In the next breath, we turn to government for protection and economic welfare, friends for comfort, children for love, spouses for companionship, doctors for health, capitalism for employment, and the like. Once you taste this soup, all the bitter idols overwhelm the sweetness of the Father. Only when we’ve got a taste for God, then we fish Him out of the soup. The rest of the time we swallow Him without a thought of even needing His providence.
Thus we are utterly captive to our anxiety. God is not some extra aid, a tasty frosting for the cupcake of life. He’s not the spoonful of sugar that will help the bitter medicine go down. He isn’t the emergency service you call when life’s toilet won’t drain. When your doctors and specialist throw up their hands, is that when you start praying? Every anxiety of body and life is the ugly child of our trust in something other than our heavenly Father.
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 mammon. It’s all or nothing. If God is not our God alone, will be anxious about everything: money, conflicts with family and others, our work, and even the laundry. We go to bed worried about the morning and forget to even take the God-given rest the darkness grants us.
And so Jesus says emphatically: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Jesus is the stubborn pastor who allows no excuse for forgetting to pray, failing to teach the children the faith, using the Sabbath as a vacation day from God, or ignoring the church in her need. Jesus doesn’t care if your friend is leaving town, you’ve got work to do, plans to make, packing to do, or the like. His friend Martha was scolded for busing herself with the idol of chores when she should have let Jesus be her God. If God is to be our only God, then the old man that loves his idols must be put to death. Every idol trashed, burned, or eviscerated.
O you of little faith… do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Right now, Jesus is here, God in the flesh, to give you every good gift of His kingdom. Every idol is cast down from its throne. He suffers, dies, and rises on the third day so that you may never die, sins forgiven, and eternal life inherited. Jesus sits enthroned between the cherubim. He sits upon His mercy seat. He speaks and forgives. He sheds His blood. He gives to you bread from heaven. He washes you of every spot and blemish. He claims you as His own. He is your refuge and strength. He is your hope in every struggle. He is the provider of every good thing for the life to come and even now.
We work because God gave us work. We carry each others burdens. We share with the one who teaches. We do not grow weary of doing good. Especially for those of the household of faith, we never grow weary. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. For he lives in us and we walk by Him. So also, the Spirit has crucified the flesh in us, along with its nagging restlessness and painful worry. Can we do our part? What will tomorrow bring? God only knows. Cast your burdens on the Lord and He will sustain you.
Your are children of the heavenly Father, safely in His bosom gathered. There within the arms of the Father, you rest as beloved children. His rod and His staff guide you. He knows your needs and well provides for them. Our hope is not founded on today or tomorrow. Our days are full of toil and trouble, sorrow and heartache. Our hope is grounded in the eternal future of heaven. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Your anxiety is cleared when your walk is heavenward all the way. There is no need to worry about today or tomorrow. In Jesus Christ you are forgiven. By His death and resurrection, death is destroyed and the gates of heaven are opened to all believers. Our eternal fate is assured in Christ’s righteousness, washed over us in our Baptism, declared over us in Holy Absolution, and given to us to eat and drink in the Holy Communion. We share together in this hope.
Not only that, look at the birds and the lilies! Look how your heavenly Father takes care of them and they work without anxiety, fear, or panic. They serve God and God clothes and feeds them. So our Lord thinks of us, we who are of more value than they. He knows our needs and well provides for them. No need to worry. No need to rely on idols like a crutch. He will provide in part now and completely in eternity. On that day, we will be clothed in His righteousness, feast in His heavenly mansion, and be restored to vitality forever.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church