Sunday, October 02, 2011

Sermon: Trinity 15 – 2011

2 October 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 6:24-34 (1 Kings 17:8-16, Gal 5:25-6:10)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear friends, because of our fall into sin, we have troubles. We are bombarded with every imaginable problem and struggle: some big, some small, some common, and some shocking. Sometimes things happen to us that we could not have imagined in a thousand years. Sometimes it seems as if all of our sacrifices and labors have been utterly in vain. Sometimes we can look at the world around us and conclude that we are hopeless.

And without Christ, that is just what we are: hopeless. Hopeless lost in sin, mired in death, and ensnared by the devil.

The only reason we can have hope is because we believe in the promises of God as enfleshed in Jesus Christ and proclaimed by His Holy Word. We can have hope only because we have faith – even the “little faith” that Jesus scolds us for having.

Our common struggles and worries are all signs of our “little faith.” Our temptation to abandon our trust in the one true God by turning to serving money is a sign of our “little faith.” Our anxieties that seem to confess that we believe God does not care about us are signs of our “little faith.” The fact that we – in the way we earn, spend, and depend on our finances – seeking after these things in the manner of Gentiles – is a sign of our “little faith.”

But “your heavenly Father knows that you need them all,” all of those things we worry about. He knows that “you need them all,” says our Lord to us in our anxiety. And so we are to: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

“Seek first” dear friends! “Seek first” God’s kingdom and righteousness. For nothing will make us more unrighteous than squabbling over money, how to make it, how to save it, how to borrow it, and how to spend it. If these decisions are not rooted in the kingdom and God’s righteousness, they are rooted in some other god – for “no one can serve two masters.”

When we do not “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” when our priorities are messed up, we distance ourselves from the kingdom and from righteousness. We fall into the very thing St. Paul warns us about in failing to “walk by the Spirit.” That is when we “become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” “Keep watch on yourself,” St. Paul warns us, “lest you too be tempted.” For “if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” This is the way of the world, the way apart from faith, the way of the sinful flesh. Rather, the apostle encourages us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

When we serve God, when we seek the kingdom, when we seek righteousness, then we love each other. When we seek after money, when our “little faith” leads us to worry and squabble, we turn on one another. This is St. Paul’s pastoral counsel to us today. And remember, dear Christians, St. Paul is writing to Christians. He is instructing church members how to be church members. If we are at one another’s throats, playing games of one-ups-manship, seeking to make ourselves look good at another’s expense, we are indeed of “little faith.” And, dear friends, that “little faith” can easily slip away to “no faith.” St. Paul is not giving us these dire warnings because he has nothing better to do. St. Paul warns us and calls us to repent because he is a servant of the very Christ who loves us, who has taught us to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

So what do we do, dear Christians? How do we live out this life that the Lord Jesus has given us as a free gift of grace? How does salvation and eternal life look to the church here on earth, even as we continue to struggle with sin, death, the devil, and our own flesh? How do we reconcile with brothers and sisters who have offended us and whom we have offended?

Our Lord calls us to repent. He calls us to “seek first” the kingdom rather than our own pride. And he does more than just tell us to do the right thing. He offers us a promise. He offers us hope. He delivers to us a measure of faith that coincides with the love he has for us: a love demonstrated by the cross, proclaimed in the Gospel, given to us in the sacraments. Dear brothers and sisters, in spite of our many shortcomings, our Lord Himself walks in the Spirit, restoring us “in a spirit of gentleness” even when we are “caught in any transgression.” Our Lord not only bears “His own load,” He also bears the load of our sins in His passion and death. And He does not “weary of doing good,” even to us who do not deserve it.

Our Lord has words of comfort and encouragement for us, dear friends! He has given us the example of the “little faith” of the widow of Zarephath. In the face of her family’s poverty, suffering, and death, her “little faith” was placed in God and His Word.

Hear the Word of the Lord, dear brothers and sisters! Listen carefully, for if you are not paying attention, you will miss it. Here it is: “Do not fear.” The prophet and the Word of God implore us to put aside our fear, to have faith, to believe in the goodness and mercy of the Lord, to trust that “what God ordains is always good” – even when to our own eyes and senses, it seems that there is no hope.

“For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’”

This is how it is that our Lord says to us – not to scold but rather to encourage: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow.” For we live in the forgiveness of sins and of eternal life. We are of the “household of faith.” We have a heavenly Father who knows our needs, a heavenly Son who delivers forgiveness and salvation to us, and a heavenly Spirit who breathes faith into us from which we “reap eternal life.”

“And all these things will be added to you!” Amen.

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

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