“The Birds and Lilies Don’t Worship Idols” – Matthew 6:24-34

16. September 2012
The Sunday of the Birds and the Lilies
Matthew 6:24-34

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 faithdo 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
Dyer, Indiana

Funeral of Henry C. Klopp (Shrove Tuesday) – Romans 8:14-23

21. February 2012
Shrove Tuesday
Funeral of Henry C. Klopp
Romans 8:14-23

Dearly beloved—Mary and Christine, spouses, grandchildren Lisa, Kayla, and Sara, great-grandchildren, dear sister Esther, nieces and nephews, Betty, friends, and fellow redeemed—grace, mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The text for our meditation is the St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter eight, especially these words placed upon Henry at his confirmation: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sons of God. Sons and daughters of the King. Children of the heavenly Father. Little lambs. Faith like a child. It may seem odd for us to refer to our beloved Henry as a child. To us he is father, brother, companion, grandpa, friend, or fellow member of the body of Christ, the church. It may seem odd to speak of Henry, an eighty-seven year old, as infant cradled in our loving Savior’s arms.

Yet, it is true. I am fond of reminding young and old alike that they are always children of their parents. Those who procreated us through their blessed marital union—freely receiving children as a blessing from God—they are and always will be our parents. Thus, the fourth commandment “honor your father and your mother” is a command for both this life and into eternity. In this life, we honor our parents by being obedient children, serving, loving, and cherishing them both while they live and even when they die.

That is to say, even when you “flew the coop,” Mary and Christine, you still were dutiful children of your father Henry. St. Paul explained why. The command to honor your mother and father has attached to it a promise, “that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (cf. Ephesians 6:1ff). Even now, your father will continue to provide for you, even in death, as you honor, obey, serve, love, and cherish his memory.

God gave us parents and marriage as the highest example of the Father’s own love for you, his children. From Henry’s own faithful calling as Father, he taught you how it is to be patient and kind. He taught you how Fathers do not provoke their children to anger, but instead bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. So also, in faithfully loving his beloved wife Catherine, even as she suffered and died at a young age, we learned how Christ loves His church, suffering with us patiently as we all journey towards death.

Henry gladly would give his life for his beloved. We know this well, for he served faithfully in his duty in service to His country. He joined the ranks of warriors, there sheltering Catherine, Mary, Christine, and indeed all his friends and neighbors. So, Henry taught us how our God willingly laid down His life for the sake of the whole world, sheltering us from the bombardments of sin and death, sent by the evil one to destroy us.

Henry learned this noble trait from His own heavenly Father, who also brought him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our heavenly Father rescued Henry from death 87 years ago when He brought Henry safely from death to life in the waters of the Holy Baptism. He nurtured Henry through the His Holy Word, the pure spiritual milk and meat of salvation. He instructed Henry to fulfill his vocations of citizen, neighbor, husband, father, and most of all Christian. Henry cherished these things, honoring his heavenly Father.

Henry, or Mike, as the family calls him, loved and honored his heavenly Father not merely in good times. He honored his Father even when He spoke with a strong Word of rebuke. Henry loved and still loves his heavenly Father for discipling him with both the rod and the staff. It is true. None of us like it when our Fathers rebuke us, tell us where we’ve gone wrong, or even help us understand the severity with a bit of physical pain. Its hard to imagine actually cherishing the discipline of God.

We know that for the faithful this is true. How could Henry persevere through the pacemaker and rehab, stroke and more rehab, finally succumbing to pneumonia? How could Henry know that this even in pain and sickness, the Lord was training him in righteousness? Henry knew because this discipline came each week to him in the Divine Service.

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Sometimes it is called Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Pączki day. No doubt, here in the region, if you eat a bunch of those delicious fried pastries, you’ll end up with a few pounds to show for it. Yet, the older name is Shrove Tuesday. To shrove is to present oneself to their pastor or priest for confession, a practice now usually moved to the beginning of Ash Wednesday services.

This was the case for Henry, too. Each week he confessed his sins before his heavenly Father. Each week Henry faithfully admitted that he had not honor his Father in heaven as he knew he should. He had not always been faithful to his children, perhaps at times even provoking them to anger. He had not loved his spouse perfectly, perhaps with a wandering eye or a unclean thought. Henry confessed these things out loud before the altar of the Lord, knowing full well that he deserved punishment.

Yet, for Henry, there was no hope in merely confessing. Throwing yourself to the feet of God, pleading for mercy, has no guarantee or hope attached to it, unless this repentance is grounded in the promise of the forgiveness of sins. So also for us today—to shrove has yet a second component. It is not simply to confess before the pastor or priest but it is also to receive absolution from the pastor as from God himself. Absolution. Forgiveness of Sins.

By the blood-bought forgiveness of sins of Jesus Christ we are brought back into the loving embrace of our heavenly Father. Henry now rests in from all his labors, from his struggles, from his pain and grief, not by his effort or worthiness. No, Henry placed his hope in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. He was led by the Spirit of God through waters of Holy Baptism to be God’s own child.

Henry approached his death not with fear. No, his every confidence was in the adoption of sons, received by the Spirit, by whom [Henry] cried “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

There is no doubt that Henry suffered with our Lord in those last days. He bore the cruelty of sickness and death, finally giving up his spirit with a dying gasp, just as our Lord breathed his last from the cross. We grieve today with the whole creation waiting to finally be set free from the bondage to decay. We mourn the loss of a dear father, brother, companion, uncle, and friend in Henry.

We know and Henry knows fully the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Henry knows now what is like to be set free from slavery to sin. Henry’s eager groaning has finally reached its fulfillment in death. A death like Christ’s that will be but a blink of the eye. Yes, we will lay Henry in the tomb but only for a brief moment.

Then our Lord will call out with the voice of the trumpet and the sound of many rushing winds to Henry. He will call out Henry from tomb and raise him and all the dead. He will give unto Henry and all believers in Christ eternal life. It is true that this is a time for sorrow and grief, for mourning and even groaning.

We too, like Henry, will find these brought to an end in Jesus. The time of discipline will be complete in death. Then, in Jesus, we are made heirs with Him of crowns of victory, songs of triumph, and feasting with joy. We are, even now, adopted children of our heavenly Father, forgiven saints of God. We may wait eagerly now, living a life of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. For Henry this labor and warfare is over and He has already received what was promised to him so many years ago—For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Thanks be to God!

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana