Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
08. August 2010
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
“The Kingdom Ours Remaineth”
In the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.
In today’s Gospel text, we learn that anxiety over our earthly things can lead us to sin and ultimately destroy our faith. We know as Christians that God promises to give us all we need for this body and life. Even more so, we know that God promises to give us steadfast faith to prepare us for our heavenly treasure, the kingdom of God. We receive this kingdom of God now through His means of grace. We will receive His kingdom for all eternity when we are raised from the dead. God promises us the kingdom and we need not worry or be anxious. Dear Christians,
THE KINGDOM OF GOD COMES BY A TRUSTING FAITH.
I. Anxiety over earthly needs destroys faith.
The Gospel text for today is the continuation of the reading from last week. The emphasis of last week’s sermon was greed. Greed desires to keep the good gifts of God for ourselves. Greed is only concerned about me, mine, and what I want now. Greed leads to neglect our family and friends. Greed leads us to neglect our church. Greed leads us to neglect the neighbor in need whom God has placed among us. Greed trusts in earthly wealth, storing it in bigger barns, only to relax, eat, drink, and be merry. Greed is sin and sin is a rejection of God. Christians are given a different spirit. We share with those in need in their hunger, thirst, shelter, and clothing. We especially share with all the saving Gospel. We share the rich surplus of the Gospel here received in the Divine Service with all those who have not yet been blessed with same richness toward God (c.f. Lk. 12:21).
This week the text considers another vice that can lead us to sin and ultimately rejection of God. This week Jesus shifts our focus to the anxiety we often feel for our earthly needs. Jesus turned and said to his disciples, “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Lk. 12:22-23). Our clamoring for “stuff” frequently leads us to covet others, to be greedy, and sometimes even to resort to other sin to attain it. A lesser and yet still insidious vice that plagues us is our anxiety over what we need. Greed for our wants leads us from God. But anxiety for our needs can do the same.
With the exception of the atheist, all the faiths of the world believe in a divine being or beings who provide for the universe. But the character of this god is not universal. For some, this god is capricious, only providing for our needs when and where he/she/it wants. For others, this god only got the ball rolling, so-to-speak, leaving the worldly things to our own wisdom to govern and use.
The Christian God is far different. He is creator of the heavens and the earth. He gives seed time and harvest, the cool breeze, the warm sun, clouds, rain and all the fruits of the earth. “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them” (Lk 12:24). “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Lk 12:27). Even more so, God cares for mankind, the crowning jewel of his creation. He gives food to the hungry, sleep for the weary, and protection for the home (c.f. Psalm 146, Psalm 127). He gives food for our lives and clothing for our bodies. We are of the highest value to God. He promises to care for our bodies and life. He will preserve us and we need not worry.
It is far to easy for us to worry about God’s providential care. Maybe we are like the rich fool of last week who greedily store up barns of wealth, only to eat, drink, and be merry. That subtle vice of anxiety plagues our sinful flesh even more. Consider our culture: we have great and abundant wealth. We have large homes with two-car garages, food freely available around the corner, clean running water, modern sewer systems, the most advanced medical care ever available in the history of man. We are relatively healthy, safe, and cared for. Most of us have well-paying jobs and savings for the future.
And yet, how often are we anxious for these material needs? How often do we worry about whether food will be on the table tomorrow? God has promised to take care of these needs, even when it seems to the contrary. This is not license for us to be wasteful, to gamble, or to live outside our means. God has also told us to wise as serpents with that earthly mammon.
Jesus today in the Gospel is concerned for our rejection of His Father’s providential hand. This rejection creates a false anxiety. False anxiety says that God will not provide for us all that we need. False anxiety says that God will not provide for Christian families who believe according to His Word that children are a blessing. False anxiety says that God will not provide for us when we sacrifice our wealth for the sake of his Gospel.
This false anxiety creates doubt. Doubt does not trust in God’s mercy or care. Doubt cannot trust in another to provide for our needs. Doubt is the opposite of faith. Indeed, doubt destroys faith. Consider Abraham: He was anxious in the text read from Genesis. He was fearful that nation would wither because he and Sarah were childless. He worried that God’s promised savior would not come. Behold, in his weakness of doubt, the Word of the Lord came to him: “Your very own son shall be your heir” (Gen. 15:4).
God’s promise to deliver an heir, a savior, Jesus, is steadfast and true. Even in the midst of childless old age, God has the authority to bring about children for the sake of the world and His Gospel. “Look toward heaven, and number the stars… so shall your offspring be” (Gen 15:5). Not only did God promise the offspring that would save his people, he promised children to Abraham in great number. God promised to Abraham what he has promised to all of us. “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward… Blessed be a man who fills his quiver with them” (Psalm 127:3-4). This saying, “God will provide” is true.
II. Righteous anxiety fears death.
If the only good news is that God provides for us material goods, you might as well have worshipped at a Jewish synagogue or Muslim mosque. The Jew and the Turk both accept and believe that God provides for all creation. The Christian good news (or Gospel) is not simply that there is a benevolent God in heaven. All the world faiths believe this to some degree or another. All people want to know why we live and what will happen when we die. All the world suffers under the worry of that ultimate question, the meaning of life.
This one anxiety remains. Death. We fear death. We try our best through vitamin supplements, diet, exercise, and medical treatments to avoid death.There is wisdom in caring for our bodies so as to not be a burden on ourselves and others. We ought to do our best to preserve our life for the sake of service to others. Yet, we ought not be anxious about the length of our life. As Jesus said, “Which of you, being anxious can add a single hour to the span of his life?” (Lk. 12:25). Our Father knows our need and the needs of others. He will preserve us until the end in His good pleasure.
Still, knowing this, we hide death. We keep its gruesome detail away from our children, we have funerals with closed caskets or urns of ashes so we don’t have to witness the inescapable conclusion of our lives. Death is a cruel and ugly end to our lives. Anxiety keeps us up at night worrying about those final days.
III. God gives us steadfast faith for our heavenly treasure.
Only the Christian faith gives the trustworthy answer to the question that makes the whole world anxious. And while many have an answer, none have the comfort that truth of the Holy Gospel provides. Reincarnation is life under the same toil. Nirvana is death into nothingness and thus life is meaningless. The distorted heaven of Islam is just another life of toil and suffering under the oppressive law of Allah. Even for those Jews who believe in a resurrection, their picture of God has no Jesus and thus is without Gospel, without freedom from the Law, and the captivating eternal love of the holy Trinity in heaven.
You recall the final stanza of “A Mighty Fortress” that we sang last week. Luther confesses: And they (that is, the world powers of evil and Satan) may take our life, “goods, fame, child, and wife, though these all be gone, our victory has been won; the Kingdom ours remaineth” (LSB 656/7 st. 4). Though the world can take all our material wealth and even family, they cannot take from us the kingdom of God. “Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Fear not, believers in Christ! God has promised you his kingdom. Do not be anxious for this world, for your possessions, for your moneybags. God given you his kingdom. We can pray the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer with confidence “Thy kingdom come.”
We confess God’s kingdom has come to the world in providential care, despite our ignorance or frequent rejection of his earthly gifts. But even greater, God has given us the answer to death. We do not need to fear or be anxious of our last days. Our Lord has had mercy on us and has forgiven us through the shed blood of Jesus.
This is His kingdom coming through the Church and her means of grace for you and for me. In the kingdom of His church, the Father gives us His Holy Spirit so that we believe His Word and lead godly lives (Luther’s SC, Lord’s Prayer, Second Petition). Through His Holy Word God calls many to this kingdom of grace. Just as God provides adornment for the ravens and the birds, God has adorned you with the beautiful gift of faith. In faith and through your baptism, you are clothed in Christ’s body. Your whole life was and is being made new in Jesus. This richness of grace compels us to be merciful towards others, caring for others with alms and charity. His kingdom spreads when we share the saving Word of forgiveness of sins with our friends, family, and neighbors. His kingdom comes when on the final day, all believers will be welcomed into the heavenly mansion, to dwell and eat with God and all the saints.
As we learned last week, the treasure and riches of God are His means of grace which creates faith by the preaching of His Holy Word, the washing of rebirth in Holy Baptism, the sustaining forgiveness of His Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper. By these Holy gifts, God grants faith to us so that we might believe. In faith, we know that God has saved us and redeemed us from our sin and our death. In faith, we know that God will grant us that better, heavenly country. Faith is the treasure of our heart that “no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (Lk 12:33).
Dear Christians, do not be anxious for food or clothing. Do not be anxious for life or body. God in His wisdom has promised to take care of you. Dear Christians, even more do not be anxious regarding death. The span of our years may be short or long. For you, death is not the end. It has no sharpness or sting. Christ has redeemed you and purchased and won you from all the decay of sin and death. Christ has crushed the head of the greatest thief. No one and no thing can rob you of the treasure of the heavens. This treasure will not fail nor be stolen away. It is the Father’s good pleasure that you receive new life in the kingdom of God which will never end. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.