Saturday, October 14, 2017

What Does the LORD Your God Require of You?

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 We are saved by God’s grace alone.  That is the central teaching of Holy Scripture- and that is the rallying cry of the Reformation- and that is the confession of our church.  Our life with God, from beginning to end, is a gift that he gives.
            But God’s people have always struggled with what that means in their day-to-day lives—how to live that out.  The problem is not with God and his gracious gifts.  The problem is with our flesh that wants to turn grace and forgiveness and God’s saving work on our behalf-- into license and sin and going our own way.
            That is what we see in God’s Word today.  The people of Israel had been rescued from slavery.  Their enemies were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.  They possessed the riches of Egypt.  They were led into God’s presence. 
But there in the sight of God at Sinai they abandoned their Savior God and made an idol and worshiped it in the place of the LORD and committed the worst kinds of sins.
Let me tell you the story of another people—a people who have been rescued from slavery to sin and death, a people whose enemies have been drowned in the waters of holy baptism, a people who possess the eternal riches of forgiveness and life, and yet a people who continue to sin in the sight of their Savior God and show with their lives that there are other things that come before him.  We know those people, don’t we?
The words that we have before us today are spoken to all of God’s people, in every place and time (including us here today!) about what it means in our day to day lives, in how we live our lives, that we are the saved people of God.  The Bible says:
What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?
            It is critically important to understanding and applying this text to our lives that we know WHEN these words were spoken. 
God’s people had been saved.  Their enemies had been destroyed.  They had been given riches beyond measure.  They had been provided for on their journey and led along the way into the presence of God.  All of this was the accomplished facts of salvation history-- and so it is for us.  This is what our Savior God has done for his people.
It is in that context of God’s saving work and his gracious gifts that these words are spoken to God’s people so that we might understand what God desires from us—not to earn our salvation—but to live out that identity.
We are to fear the LORD—to stand in awe of him and glorify him and magnify him.  We are to walks in his ways—to value and treasure what he says as important and to go in the direction he leads.  We are to love him—not because a command can make us love him--but simply because of who he is and what he has done for us.  We are to serve him with everything we have, in all we do.  And we are to keep his commandments.
And we are to do this for our good—for OUR good.  You see dear friends in Christ, God does not need our love.  God does not need our obedience.  God does not need our service. 
He has created us and redeemed us for OUR good --not only with the gift of salvation he gives, but so it is with the life of the saved that he calls us to live—it is for our good because he loves us and knows what will truly bless us because he is our Creator.  The Bible says that:
to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
            Here is what the Holy Spirit wants you to understand—here is the love that will empower you to fear, love and trust in God above all things and serve him in every way all your days.
The one, true and living God of the universe, the One who is before and after all things, the One who called all things into being by his almighty, powerful word and sustains them in the same way today—that almighty, eternal, righteous, holy God-- loves you. 
And he has always loved you- and always known you- and has chosen you in Christ to be his own and has done everything necessary in time and eternity to make it so.
Out of all the wonders of the universe, out of all the mighty works of his hands, out of everything he has done in the past and will do in the days to come, the LORD has set his heart on you. 
That was the promise of everlasting love that God made to his ancient people and that is the promise of everlasting love that God makes to you sitting here today and the content of that love and the shape of that love and the source of that love is Jesus. 
That was true for God’s ancient people and that is true for us:  the promise to come for the Israelites and the promised fulfilled for us.  For all of God’s people in every place and time, Jesus is the only reason for us to be counted as those loved by God.  And it is that love- and only that love-- which has the power to change us.  The Bible says:
Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.
            There is no way to fear love and trust in God above all things-- and there is no way to serve God all our days in all our ways-- until our hearts are changed. 
Our lives of faith and obedience and service do not make our place with God and they do not earn our salvation.  Our lives of faith and obedience and service do not come first when it comes to having a life with God-- but follow God’s saving work for us-- and come from a change of heart within us.
That is what the Holy Spirit means when he says that we are to “circumcise” our hearts—heartfelt repentance and faith.  It is not enough to merely go through the motions with God—to regard our faith and life with God as something external to us—to think that God is pleased with acts that are merely religious—or with people who think that they can make a deal with him. 
That is what the Holy Spirit is talking about when he says that God takes no bribes and shows no partiality.  Instead, we are to have a genuine change of heart and mind and direction in life and turn away from sins and turn towards our Savior God.  Here’s the thing…
We will always see God’s call to live changed lives as a burdensome imposition—always as something that is outside of us--until our hearts are changed through repentance and faith that understands the holiness and righteousness of God to be sure-- but also the greatness of his love for us who do not deserve, and could never earn, his love.  The Bible says:
He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.  Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
            The great act of the Lord’s salvation in the Old Testament is the deliverance of God’s people from slavery in Egypt.  They did not deserve it.  They could not earn it.  They could not do it on their own.  They were poor and weak and far from home.  All they could do was cry out to the LORD for his mercy.  And that is what they received.
So it is for us.  What we could not earn, what we did not deserve, what we could never accomplish by our own strength and resources God has done for us in his mercy, sending his Son into this world as our great Redeemer who has purchased our freedom by his own blood and set us free from sin and death.
The story of our life with God is one of love and mercy and grace and forgiveness and so that is to be the story of our life with others, a reflection of our life with God:  we love because he first loved us and has shown us that love in his Son.  The Bible says:
You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.
            I can’t imagine that there is anyone sitting here today who would not have loved to have been there with God’s people as they walked cross the Red Sea on dry land and then to be guided by his presence every step of the way in the wilderness.  How could anyone who had seen and heard these things not offer to God their entire lives for all that the LORD had done?
And yet, what they saw and heard pales in comparison to what we see and hear in Jesus Christ.  God’s own Son come to die for his people!  God’s own Son defeating sin and death and the power of the devil!  God’s own Son feeding his people with his own body and blood and God’s own Son leading his people to the Promised Land of heaven!
Our service and our praise and our worship is very little indeed compared to what God has done for us in Jesus and promises to do  for us in the days to come.  The Bible says;
Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.
            There is not a person in the world who would have said that this small group desert tribesmen would have ever survived in Egypt.  But the Lord was with them and even after centuries of oppression they were hundreds of thousands.  Only the LORD could have accomplished that!

            Today those hundreds of thousands who knew the LORD as their Savior God are now numbered in the billions and we are part of that multitude through faith in Jesus.  That is why we can give ourselves wholeheartedly in the Lord’s service and trust that he stands ready to bless us with his gifts—because he has always done that for his people and always will!  Amen.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Maintain the Unity of the Spirit!

Ephesians 4:1-6 The title of today’s sermon is “Maintain the Unity of the Spirit”—words taken directly from our text and inspired by the Holy Spirit.  They capture the theme of what God is calling us to believe and do in these verses. 
But a simpler way to express the same thought is this:  God’s guidance on how to “get along” with our fellow Christians.
These words are not quite as holy sounding as the title from God’s Word, they are a little bit blunt, and maybe they take us aback.  We hate to think that Christians would ever be at odds with one another or that there would ever be any conflict between Christians.  “How can I not get along with fellow believers—they believe in Jesus too?!”
But what about that Christian you are married to—are you always on the same page with your spouse? 
What about those Christians who are your children or your parents—do you always see eye-to-eye? 
What about those Christians sitting here in the Lord’s house with you today—do they never rub you the wrong way?
The Spirit-inspired words that we have before us today from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us down-to-earth, practical advice on how to get along with fellow Christians in our marriage, home, and congregation. 
These words tell us that:  1. We are called to unity and peace-filled relationships with fellow believers—2.  They tell us how peace and unity is accomplished through Christ-like lives—3.  and they tell us that unified and peace-filled relationships with fellow Christians are a reflection  of the deepest truths of the Gospel.  St. Paul wrote:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
            The reason for many of the struggles we have in our Christian lives (including getting along with our fellow Christians in our marriages, homes, and congregation) is that we do not give sufficient attention and importance to our identity in Christ—what Paul labels our “calling”.  And so, what is our Christian identity or calling?
By virtue of our baptism into Christ we are called:  God’s children:  we have died with Christ and been raised with Christ—we have been reconciled to our heavenly Father and filled with the Spirit-- and are called to walk in newness of life—in other words:  to live out that identity by taking up our cross and walking in Jesus’ footsteps of love and sacrifice for others as his disciples.
Children of God and disciples of Christ—this is who we are—not who we would like to be—not what we have to strive to be—this is who we are.  And our lives—what St. Paul calls our “walk” should correspond to that identity and calling.  But that’s not always the case, is it?
There have been times over the course of my ministry when I have been asked to mediate a conflict between two Christians and when all else fails I will tell them:  “Let’s just pretend for the sake of argument that we are Christians, what would a follower of Jesus do and say in this situation?” 
And that always gets their attention.  “I don’t have to pretend I am a Christian!  I am a Christian!”  “Wonderful!”  I say, “How then should a child of God and disciple of Christ act in this situation”?  “Oh”!
When we get caught up in conflict with another Christian—whether in our family or marriage or congregation—often times it’s because we have forgotten the high calling of being children of God and disciples of Christ.
The content of that calling is Jesus and it is his life that is to be shown in our lives—in other words, that we are to live, as the Bible says, in all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love just like Jesus did.
            Now, I want you to think about the last conflict you had with a fellow Christian—the last argument or disagreement—the last time there were hard feelings between you and a fellow believer-- whether in your marriage or family of congregation. 
Just for a moment forget about that other person and what a stinker they are and ask yourself:  “Was I humble—did I count that person more important than myself?  Was I gentle- or was I ready to give as good as I got?  Was I willing to bear with that person—in other words, was I willing to put up with that person -or was I quick feel put upon?”
If we are honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that often times we don’t get along with other Christians in our marriages, homes, and congregation—not because they are such stinkers—but because we are not the humble, gentle, patient, loving children of God and disciples of Christ that we are called to be.
There is one more piece to this when it comes to our attitude towards other Christians that especially applies to times of conflict.  The Bible says that we are to be EAGER to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  And so let me ask you a question:   Are you EAGER  to live at peace with your fellow Christians?
All of us are tempted to say “yes” to that question.  “Of course, I am willing to live at peace with them!”  But are we really? 
You see, being united to, and living at peace with, fellow Christians is much, much more than avoiding those Christians that we don’t particularly like in our congregation.  It is much, much more than the simmering “cease-fire” we reach with our children or parents.  It is much, much more than the “let’s just try to make the best of this” attitude that couples often fall into in their marriage. 
That we are EAGER to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace means that no matter what that other person does, WE will take the initiative when it comes to making things right.  It means that no matter how that other person acts, WE will be the ones who are humble and gentle and patient and willing to go the extra mile. 
And we will do that because that is who we are as Christians and that kind of life shows the deep truths of our Christian faith.  The Bible says that:
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
            For all of us, there are times in our lives when we do not live in peace and unity with our fellow Christians-times in our lives when we are not the humble, gentle, peaceful, long-suffering people that we ought to be. 
What a blessing to know that Jesus Christ never failed to live this kind of life and through faith in him his holy life is counted as our own! 
The Bible says that Jesus’ cross has removed the diving wall of hostility—not just between our sin and God’s wrath—but has removed the dividing wall of hostility between us and others—that he has done this to unite us to himself along with all those who share the same faith and hope that we have in him.   
Because of Jesus’ forgiving life, death and resurrection:  God is our Father- and heaven is our home -and we are filled with the Spirit right now.  AND SO THEN…
We cannot say to our fellow Christians “I want nothing to do with you”-- because they are members along with us in the one body of Christ.
We cannot think the worst of our fellow Christians-- because they are filled with the same Spirit as we are and he is at work in their lives too.
We cannot withhold our love from our fellow Christians-- because our heavenly Father loves them and sent his Son to die for them too to make them members of his family just as we are.
Whatever the differences might be that we have with our fellow Christians, what are those differences compared to what we share in common?
We confess the same faith on Sunday mornings in the words of the creeds.  We have been washed in the same baptismal water and fed with the same body and blood.  And we confess the same Jesus to be our Savior and Lord.
When we elevate (what are really minor) grievances and aggravations into divisions and bitterness, we deny the profound gifts we share together with our fellow Christians.
Today we hear God’s call to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”—in other words, to “get along” with our fellow Christians. 
We are reminded that we are God’s children and Jesus’ disciples and that because this is our identity we are called to live Christ-like lives. 
And that as we do so, we are showing the deep truths of our Christian faith:  that God loves us and has brought us to himself to live with him and our fellow Christians forever. 
May our peaceful, united lives with other believers always reflect this wonderful, saving Good News!  Amen.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Arise!

Luke 7:11-19 I am certain that there is not one person sitting here today who likes the idea that one of these days we are all going to die.  The fact of the matter is we find it appalling—and well we should!  The Bible says that death is an enemy.   
God created man and gave us life.  He made man in his image and intended that, like him, we would live forever.  And so our whole being rebels against the idea that we will die because we were made for life.
But sin came into the world through man’s disobedience and along with sin came death and so now all men die.  All!  Death is no respecter of persons.  No matter our skin color.  No matter our socio-economic status.  No matter our gender.  No matter our age.  We will die and so will those we love.
It is here especially—in the death of our loved ones—that the horror of death has its full, terrifying effect on our hearts.  How fervently we pray for God to protect our children!  How devoutly we pray for our loved ones serving in the military.  How earnestly we pray for family members who are ill--that they all would be spared!
That we feel this way about our own mortality- and that we feel this way about our loved ones dying--is not a sign of a lack of faith.  The fact of the matter is:  God feels the same way about death!   Death is such a terrible enemy that his Son Jesus Christ came into this world to do something about it.
Jesus also experienced the terror of death:  the death of loved ones like Lazarus—and his own death on the cross.  But what we see throughout the Gospels is that in the presence of Jesus, death has to give way to life.  The Bible says that: 
Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him.  As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 

            Most of us go for many years experiencing nothing but God’s blessings but then some tragedy strikes and we are reminded that life is a journey through the valley of the shadow of death.  We just see it more clearly when we face a tragedy like the widow of Nain.  That poor woman—long before the death of her son—already knew about heartache:  she lost her husband. 
In these events we are reminded that there will come a day of parting for us and our beloved—when that one who is as close to us as our own flesh is parted from us by death—and we know how painful that will be. 
That is what that poor widow had already gone through—but even then, with that painful loss, she was not finished walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  Her only son died.
To lose a child is the worst pain a human being can endure.  All of us who are parents can imagine what she was going through-- but what not may be immediately apparent to us is what this death meant for her own life as a childless widow.  As heart-broken as she was over the death of her son, somewhere in the back of her mind she was already wondering to herself:  how in the world am I going to live?
That was the burden that weighed upon her as she walked behind her son’s body in that procession of death—until she met the Lord of Life who took that burden upon himself.  The Bible says that:  “…when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her
            This is the first place in his Gospel that St. Luke, as the narrator of these events, addresses Jesus as Lord—the mighty covenant God who has the power and the authority to change even death. 
And not only did Jesus have the power to do so, he was moved with compassion to do so—his heart went out to this poor, sad widow in an obscure town. 
Jesus’ attitude of love and concern for those without much earthly power must have really made an impression on St. Luke, because he tells us story after story in his Gospel about Jesus reaching out to help those who the rest of society regards as having little value-- and we see that same thing here. 
From the world’s perspective, one, poor widow in an obscure town doesn’t matter much—but the Lord counted her worthy of his help.  So too for us.  There is no hardship or difficulty that you are facing right now that is unknown to the Lord or beyond his help.  He cares for you and wants to ease your burdens just like he did that day.
Compassion and power were perfectly joined together in Jesus and that’s what makes such a life-changing difference in the lives of those the Lord touches.  He told the widow “Do not weep.” 
If we didn’t know how all this would turn out—if we were simply part of the crowd that day-- we could appreciate Jesus’ word as simply a kind gesture—but one that was ultimately empty-- because it couldn’t change anything. 
But when the Lord “Do not weep” he means it!   Do not weep-- for there is no reason for tears in the presence of the Giver of life!  The Bible says:
Jesus came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And Jesus said, "Young man, I say to you, arise."  And the dead man sat up and began to speak. 
Life- from- death!  Just- like- that!  And what is even more stunning than the dead man being raised-- is how it was accomplished—simply by a word—spoken by the One who brought all things into being by his Word.
What we see here is that the Lord is not some impersonal force far removed from our lives.  Instead, he is the living Word of God who took upon himself our flesh and was moved by compassion at what we have done to ourselves by our sins to reach out and help.  That day at Nain, in the presence of Jesus—at his word—death gave way to life. 
The funeral scene that we have before us today gets our attention and resonates with us because it is so familiar.  1. We’ve been part of that group of mourners—grieving over a loved one 2. We can identify with that poor mother—wondering what the future holds for us 3. We know that we too will one day be carried to our grave. 
There was absolutely nothing that anyone there that day could have done to change what happened—there were no tears of grief that the mother could have shed which would have brought life back to her dead son.  There was no show of support from the friends powerful enough to change tragedy into triumph.  There was certainly nothing the dead man could do to help himself. 
But Jesus could—and did—and at Jesus’ Word the man was restored to life.
Through this miracle, Jesus wants us to believe that there is now something greater than sorrow and death in this world.  He wants us to recognize that he has entered into our sorrow and death and his life changes everything for us—even death. 
When Jesus touched the stretcher of the dead man that day he should have become ceremonially unclean.  But just the opposite happened—Jesus’ wholeness and cleanness and life came to rest upon the man.  And the Good News for us today is that what he did for that one man—he has done for you and for me. 
Jesus took all of the uncleanness and sin and death that is a part of our lives and carried it to the cross where it was washed away in his shed blood.  Three days later he rose up from the dead, promising us that we too will rise from death.  And that promise that he speaks to us again and again in Word and Sacrament continues to bring life in the midst of death.
Each of us, by nature, is like that dead young man on the stretcher—we are helpless to change anything about our spiritual condition on our own—but when the words of Jesus are spoken to us in Baptism and Preaching and Absolution and Holy Communion--death is transformed into real, abundant life that only God can give--just like he gave that day.  The Bible says that:  Jesus gave him to his mother.    
Too often, we hesitate to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord because we don’t know what the Lord will ask of us and we’re afraid to follow him.  But Jesus tells us that it is the devil who comes to kill and steal and destroy --while Jesus has come to give life—rich abundant life—a full measure pressed down and overflowing. 
That’s what we see here.  The community was given their friend.  The widow was given her son. And the young man was given his life.   And none of their lives would ever be the same.  The Bible says that:
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!"  And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

            The Good News for us today is that God has visited his people in his Son Jesus Christ and in his compassion and power has given us a new life that is just as real and just as life-changing as what occurred that day that day for the widow and her son. 

The dark shadow of sin and death has been driven from our life by the cross and empty tomb.  And Jesus invites us to take our place along side of him, glorifying God by speaking to others his words of hope and faith that give life.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Do Not Be Anxious!

Matthew 6:24-34 "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 money.
            When it comes to the relationship between us and God and money, it really is a matter of priorities—of what comes first in our hearts.  Only one can hold that first place in our life that is reserved for the one that we call God.  It can be either money or God at the center of our life but it cannot be both.  We cannot serve two masters—we cannot serve God and money.
We know what the world has chosen.  Our nation’s financial life is an exercise in wretched, sinful excess.  Young women are cultural icons for having purses that cost tens of thousands of dollars.  CEO’s get paid hundreds of millions of dollars a year for bankrupting their companies.  The average Joe charges on their credit cards like there was no tomorrow and when their limits are reached they use the equity in their homes like it is a piggy bank to fund more financial foolishness.
Of course they hang their head in their hands for the god of Mammon that has ruled their lives has been shown for what he is—a powerless idol—unworthy of their devotion and trust. 
But what about us?  Do the Lord’s words apply only to others?  The truth of the matter, is that Jesus’ words about the impossibility of serving two masters, really applies to us more than it does to the unbelieving world.  The world serves only one God—the false god of Mammon.  We Christians are the ones who try to have it both ways. 
If we have given even a bit of our confidence in the future and our heart’s peace and our security over to our job or our bank or our 401K and IRA—we should be convicted by Jesus’ words about the impossibility of serving two masters—for we have ceased to love and serve and trust in God above ALL things and we must confess that sin as idolatry, repent of it, and be done with it.
Jesus assures us today that our heart’s peace about the future need not be found in what we can hold in our hand-- but is to be found only in a heavenly Father who graciously and generously provides for his children.  Jesus says:
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious 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? 
The answer that Jesus is looking for is:  YES it is!  Life is more, much more, than food and clothing and the point that he is making is this:  Since God has given us our life won’t he just as certainly give us the smaller gifts we need to preserve that life?! 
Absolutely!  That we are living and breathing at this moment is a sure sign that God has given us our life; provided for that life up to now; and will provide for that life in the days to come.  Of course, this way of thinking is only a comfort to those who know God as the Giver of life in the first place. 
Those who believe that their very existence is merely the last event in a chain of haphazard, random of events over billions of years that could have just as easily happened otherwise-- take no comfort from knowing that God will provide the necessities of life because they don’t know the God who gave them life-- and they live in fear of a cosmos that seemingly acts without mercy or meaning. 
But we who believe in a loving heavenly Father do take great comfort in knowing (from all that we see around us and from our own life’s experience) that God does indeed provide for his children.  The Creator who has given us our life-- promises to provide for that life-- and reveals the truth of that promise in the created world.  Jesus says:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you,
            These words were not spoken in the synagogue or temple—not in a disciple’s home—but in the great outdoors—and Jesus invited all who are listening to simply open our eyes and look at the world around us. 
The birds were flying from place to place without a care in the world, gathering what they needed, building their nests, feeding their little ones without the benefit of all those things that we think are a necessity if we are to be fed.
Jesus mentions harvesting and reaping and barns and plows.  Maybe today he would say checking accounts and contracts.  But the message is the same:  the littlest creature that wouldn’t catch our eye is seen, loved, and provided for by God. 
And if God will do that for birds, won’t he do the same for his children?  Of course he will!  We are infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than birds.  The One who feeds us with the Body and Blood of his Son in Holy Communion to sustain our spiritual life will certainly give us the food we need for this earthly life!
As further proof of the Father’s provision, Jesus directs his disciples to the beauty of the flowers of the field.  There has never been an item of clothing—no matter how costly—that could compare in beauty to a plain ole Texas roadside covered in wildflowers.  It takes your breath away every time you see it! 
And so here’s the question:  If God is willing to go to all that trouble for a bunch of plants on the side of a road that only last for a few weeks out of the year, won’t he also provide us with the clothes that we need?
Of course he will!  We are God’s children and he has made us for eternity.  The One who has provided us the robe of Christ’s righteousness in Holy Baptism will certainly give us what we need to clothe our bodies and preserve our earthly life. 
Besides directing our attention to our own life and the life around us as sure signs of God’s provision, Jesus also warns us about the futility and sinful foolishness of worrying about our earthly needs.  He says:  “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  
And of course, the answer is:  none of us!  There is not one blessed thing that can be changed by worrying about our life—not one—besides the fact that the vast, vast majority of things we worry about never come to pass in the first place. 
            Jesus’ judgment on our anxieties and worries and on our fussing and fretting about material things is that, not only is it fruitless—it is faithless.  He says:  O you of little faith!   
            Now, you may be saying to yourselves that Jesus’ teaching about not serving money and watching birds and flowers seems a bit irresponsible.  Jesus’ teaching about not worrying seems a bit impossible.  But of course the problem was not with the Lord or his words—it was with us—with our lack of faith. 
That is why Jesus speaks to us today about the place and role of money and material things in our lives and he lays a rock-solid foundation upon which we are to build our faith:  his promise that we have a heavenly Father who will provide for us just as surely as he provides for all creation—in fact, even more assuredly for we are his children.  Jesus says:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 
The unbelieving world has no choice but to seek after money and they cannot help but worry—for they do not know what we know:  that we have a heavenly Father who knows just exactly what we need and promises to meet those needs. 
God’s eyes are constantly turned towards us and he is constantly looking out for our best interests and so we are free to put aside concerns about material things and put first things first.  Jesus says:
 “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
            Jesus wants us to understand tonight that a life spent acquiring the things of the world—a life spent living by the values of the world—a life spent worrying-- is a life that is wasted for time and eternity.
Instead, the Lord gives a different kind of life—a life as his child in his kingdom.  Jesus was sent into this world for that very purpose—to give his life as a ransom to set us free from a life that is empty of meaning because it is focused only on material things which never last. 
His death on the cross earned the forgiveness we need for all those times that we have had divided hearts and for all those times we have failed to trust him as we ought.  And his resurrection is God’s guarantee that even death cannot rob us of those things that truly, eternally matter.

Today we give thanks to God, our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ his Son for all his blessings and tender mercies and we ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to trust him more deeply in the days to come.  Amen.