Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sermon: Trinity 15

The official symbol of the religion of Atheism

20 Sept 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 6:24-34

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

This portion of our Blessed Lord’s “Sermon on the Mount” could be subtitled: “A Tale of Two Worldviews.”

And to prove the timeless nature of the Lord’s preaching and of the relevancy of the inspired Word of God, consider how applicable our Lord’s homily is for us today.

For there really are two major worldviews locked in hand to hand combat, fighting to the death – and we are caught in the middle of the warfare. And as our Lord Jesus proclaims, the two worldviews are not compatible and cannot be reconciled.

When one worships the master of mammon, of money, of material – he buys into the worldview of materialism. And this worldview is much more than shallow consumerism and runs far deeper than the lifestyle of a Hollywood starlet with a tiny poodle and a handbag costing thousands of dollars. Materialism is a way of looking at the world that denies any spiritual reality, anything deeper than what can be made with molecules and atoms, a philosophy that either denies or pushes God to the very margins of our thoughts.

Materialism is the philosophy that teaches us such unbiblical fairy tales as the belief that everything spontaneously came from nothing, that all life forms evolved from lower life forms (no matter how complex the DNA and in spite of scientific observation of how mutations really work). Materialism is the source of abortion on demand, and of the disposability of the aged, the handicapped, the poor, and the ill. Materialism reduces human life to a price tag. Materialism teaches us that all that exists can be seen, measured, cataloged, and even bought and sold. This worldview denies love, denies the hope of eternal life, and denies the Creator. It is a hopeless and ultimately death-based worldview. It reduces all mankind into blobs of accidental proteins. And if this is true, we might as well spend our few miserable years scurrying after toys, money, and possessions – for these are all that matter anyway.

But thanks be to our Blessed Lord, who calls us out of the darkness of materialism and into the marvelous light of the revealed truth that we are creatures of a loving Creator, who in spite of our sins, loves us, redeems us, and “richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”

Therefore, we are to reject this materialistic worldview and its empty and depressing lifestyle of scurrying after, and worrying about, mere stuff.

“Do not be anxious,” He tells us, “about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” In those two little words “more than,” our Lord exposes the shallow myth of materialism. There is more to the universe than meets the eye, than can be measured with empirical and scientific instruments, than can be placed in a jar in a museum, or can be bought at a price.

Since there is a God, and since “God is love,” and since we are created in the image of that loving God, we are indeed of “more value” than even the birds our heavenly Father feeds. And this is why our Lord tells us not to worry about food. Life is indeed “more than” food, and certainly “more than” worrying about where the money will come from to pay for it. And being created in God’s image, having been given dominion over the earth, we are certainly to expect “much more” than the plants of the earth which God adorns so magnificently with flowers, taking care even to “clothe” the grasses of the field.

The Lord rightfully scolds us for our “little faith” – for that “little faith” we all display in our anxiety is a misplaced faith – a faith in material, in matter, in stuff, in money, in mammon – over and against faith in our Creator, our Redeemer, the one who loves us, hears our prayers, and promises to feed and clothe us unto eternity.

For ultimately, dear brothers and sisters, Jesus is our food and Jesus is our clothing. We are fed on the Word of God and on the Holy Sacrament. For “man does not live by bread alone,” but, “by every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” We live on the flesh and blood of the crucified one, for we live, and live eternally, by virtue of the forgiveness of sins.

And Jesus is also our clothing, the cover of our shame and nakedness. He is the fulfillment of the prophecy the Lord Himself gave Adam and Eve, when the Lord Himself sacrificed animals, shedding their blood, to provide for skins to cover Adam and Eve’s shame.

Our crucified Lord Jesus is the one “all availing sacrifice” offered as the perfect oblation for every man, woman, and child, the “Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world,” whose perfection covers the shame of all of our sins – including our “little faith” and our futile attempt to mix materialism and Christianity.

And let us not confuse “materialism” with “material,” dear friends. "Materialism" is sinful and evil. "Material" is, as the Lord teaches us in the first two chapters of Genesis, “good.” In fact, created matter is “very good.” And there is nothing inherently wrong about money, handbags, little poodles, big houses, automobiles, and creature comforts. For as our Lord preaches, we do need material things, especially those things our catechism reminds us of: “food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have.” And the Lord Jesus assures us that His Father and our Father “knows that you need them all.”

So instead of worrying, we are to rejoice. Instead of serving money, we are to let money serve us and serve the Lord. Instead of finding our self-worth and value in material, we should remember that we are created in God’s image and redeemed by the sacrifice of love of Jesus on the cross, and that material is good and is created for our good.

And this is why the Lord implores us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When we don’t choose material things over God, we ironically receive material things from God.

Those who serve money instead of God get just what they ask for: material. And that’s it. And as our Lord teaches us, material wears out, rusts, is eaten by moths, and is stolen. But we who have been blessed with the revelation that God is the Creator of all things, when we seek first the Lord’s kingdom, we receive all the material that we need as a free gift. For these things are “added to” us.

Of course, our Lord’s exhortation is easier said than done.

Our sinful nature craves and covets that which we don’t need. Our sinful lack of faith drives us to hoard and gorge and refuse to share. Our sinful flesh demands fulfillment in material and spurns the eternal and unseen things. Our sinful minds fret and worry as if the Lord does not provide for us even better than He provides for birds and grass.

Instead of being anxious, let us be in prayer. Instead of looking around to see what we can get, let us look around to see what we can give. Instead of joining the world in the materialistic lie, by the grace of God, we commune with God in the eternal truth – the truth that there is “more than” mere material, and that we are of “more value” than the sum of the molecules and atoms in our bodies.

Dear friends, the reason you are of “more value” is because there is more to existence than meets the eye. Where we see a sinner, the Lord sees a saint. Where we see anxiety, our Lord sees a call for us to repent and follow Him. Where we see ourselves as lacking faith, as being of less value than a bird or worth less than a blade of grass, our Lord sees a person worth redeeming by the death of His only beloved Son.

And even though in this fallen world, “sufficient for the say is its own trouble,” and although “tomorrow will be anxious for itself,” nevertheless, we are not condemned to a shallow and unsatisfying life of chasing material, and of being “anxious about tomorrow.”

No indeed! For we cannot serve two masters. And thanks be to God that He is our one true Master, that He provides for us materially, spiritually, graciously, and completely, in time: in this life, and in eternity: in the age to come.

To Him alone be glory, now and unto eternity! Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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