Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Sermon by Pastor Gary Schultz

15th Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 6:24-34)

The Rev. Gary W. Schultz, Pastor
Mount Calvary Ev. Lutheran Church - Eagle Grove, IA
Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church - Rowan, IA

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

We have a lot of things that we think we need. We cling to things that it seems we can’t live without. For example, probably all of us have some savings or investments set aside somewhere. This is really a remarkable thing in the history of the world: for regular, common people like ourselves to have extra money – money that we really don’t need right now. And so, we set it aside. And we watch it. And we become anxious over it. When the stock market falls, or interest rates go down, we become very anxious.

It’s true of other things, too. We all – children and adults – have toys. We have collections of things and possessions that are our pride and joy. If they are taken away, we feel we’ve lost something great. Yet, life still goes on.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “No one can serve two masters, for wither 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.” It’s a matter of what our god is. It’s a matter of what we look to the most for peace of mind and comfort.

Jesus does not say that we have to get rid of all of our stuff. But we do have to get rid of our trust in those things. We have all learned the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods,” and that we are to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. This is commanded for our own good. Our wrong trust in other things actually causes our anxiety.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Jesus knows that anxiety plagues us. He uses the word “anxious” six times in this short section. Although we believe that God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayer, even to all evil people, we pray that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. We still doubt. That’s the work of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. We always think “Oh, if I could just do it myself, If I could just have this one more thing I want, just a little more money,” I would not be anxious.

There is a lot of doubt about these words of Jesus: Do not be anxious. “Oh, sure, Jesus, that’s easy for you to say. You have connections. Oh, sure, Jesus, that’s easy for you to say, you don’t know about my bills, my credit card statements, my doctor visits and medical problems, the bullies I deal with at school, the jerks that I work with, how difficult my life is at home or with members of my family. God, you really have no business telling me not to worry.”

And that’s where we go wrong. For Jesus does know how things are here.

There is a big error out there that says the Gospel, the good news of the church, is basically that God is nice, like a kindly old grandfatherly person smiling down from the clouds. There is a big error out there that says that the Gospel, the good news of the church, is that the Gospel is about warm and fuzzy things, pleasant things, or witty sayings like in Reader’s Digest.

I often receive these calendars in the mail, with nice pictures and Bible verses on them, like this stream and beautiful white rocks and the fall leaves beginning to change. And at the bottom it says, “The Lord showed miraculous signs and wonders – Deuteronomy 6:22." But if you look up Deuteronomy 6:22, it is talking about the miraculous signs our Lord did when He delivered the Israelites from bondage and slavery to the unbelieving heathen Egyptians.

We do not look to nature to find God, like this beautiful picture from New Hampshire, or in sunsets, or the Grand Canyon. Those are wonderful things, but they are not the Gospel.

We can’t say “God, you don’t know about my life, You have no business telling me not to be anxious.” Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost by the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried. The third day He rose again from the dead.

The Gospel is not separated from Body and Blood. God became Body and Blood in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This is the incarnation: God became man. The Gospel is not separated from Body and Blood. This is why Jesus offered up His Body on the cross, for the atonement – the payment for sins. As the Israelites were delivered by the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes so that death would pass over, so Jesus’ Blood is painted on the doorpost of your heart, that death passed over you. This is why the crucifix is such a wonderful Christian symbol, the center of all Christian art and images.

The Gospel is not separated from Body and Blood. The night before He was betrayed, our Lord said: “This is My Body, this is My Blood, shed for you for the remission of sins.” His Supper is the Gospel delivered to you. “This Sacrament is the Gospel” (Luther). Jesus’ words: “This is My Body, This is My Blood” are the sum and substance of the Gospel (Luther).

Dear Christians, do not be anxious. Jesus took all anxiety and the sin that causes it into Himself. It was crucified with Him on the cross and buried with Him in the tomb. He takes your anxiety and gives you His perfection. Jesus walks with you through this life. That’s why we pray in the Introit: Be merciful unto me, O Lord, for I cry unto Thee daily.

As He sent miraculous signs and wonders to deliver His people Israel from slavery and bondage to the unbelieving heathen Egyptians, so He sends miraculous signs and wonders to you, in His Word and Supper, to deliver you, the true Israel of the Church from slavery and bondage to the Egypt of the devil, the world, and the sinful nature.

Jesus delivers His Church – His Israel. You are in His church. As we prayed: O Lord, we beseech Thee, let Thy continual pity cleanse and defend Thy Church; Jesus gives His help and goodness to you.

You are in the church. Saved. Worry-free. Amen.

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