Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (August 12, 2007)
“Much More Valuable” (Luke 12:22-34)

Pastor George Borghardt, in the most recent Higher Things magazine, wrote an article about money and possessions. He encourages his young readers to consider how they spend their money, write out a budget, and to “prioritize what you actually need before what you only think you need or what you really want.” Then, with his typical forthright style, he concludes: “What did you write first on your budget? Was it DVD’s, junk food, or a new stereo for your car? Then that’s your idol. Repent, and erase your idol and start over. It’s to be the Lord first and then you. He will not suffer himself to be second on anyone’s list. You don’t get around to giving to the Lord. No, he’s first, and after him comes everything else.” (Higher Things, Summer 2007, p. 13)

Do you have a budget? If not, take a moment to make a mental list of the things that are most valuable to you. Don’t say “Jesus.” I know that you know that’s already the right answer. Be honest. You have more adult concerns on your budget...not buying DVD’s and junk food and new car stereos. So, what IS at the top of your list? That’s your idol. Repent. Erase your idol. Start over.

You and I have more adult concerns...and the anxieties and worries that accompany those concerns. Mortgages, credit card debt, car repairs, gas bills, the ups and downs of the stock market. Anxiety over your life and your body and your possessions is a sign that one lacks faith. I’m guilty of that. So are you.
Now listen to what Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading: “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.” (Luke 12:22)

Next he tells us to “consider” the ravens and the lilies. Contemplate them. Take a good hard look at them. Study them. Shouldn’t be too hard. We have plenty of the raven’s cousin, the crow, around here. Scholars aren’t sure what kind of flower Jesus was talking about when he mentioned the lily. Probably some kind of wild flower. We have plenty of those around here, too. I have a bunch of wild daisies that have taken up residence in my backyard. Take a hike in the woods around here in the spring and summer, and you will see colorful rhodies, delicate bleeding hearts, statuesque fireweeds and foxgloves, and tiny little starflowers.

What does Jesus want us to learn by considering them? Ravens aren’t farmers. They don’t build barns. But God feeds them. Wild flowers don’t know how to operate a sewing machine nor do they shop at outlet malls. But look what beautiful clothes God has given them. Even King Solomon at the height of his glory didn’t have such a wardrobe.

How Much More Valuable are You

Our Lord reminds us, “Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (Luke 12:24) and “How much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:28) You are so much more valuable than birds and flowers.

You are much more valuable because you are God’s special creation. He had a special plan for us human beings. In the beginning, God made everything with a word, but he took the time to form and shape Adam out of the dust of the ground and breathe the breath of life into him. Then, he took the time to make a wife for him from his very own side. Moreover, Genesis 1 teaches us that it was man who was created in the image of God: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27)

You are also much more valuable because you have been redeemed by Christ. Adam and Eve lost the image of God when they sinned in the Garden. They were no longer holy and righteous like God. Their relationship with him and with each other was shattered. And every offspring of Adam and Eve have inherited a sinful nature which produces sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. We are enslaved to sin and death. But God did not leave us in that condition. He promised to send a Savior...and he fulfilled that promise in Christ Jesus. In Christ’s incarnation, his death on the cross, and his rising to life again, you and I have been redeemed...bought back... “not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death, that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, Explanation to the Second Article)

None of this can be said of anything else in all creation. Nothing else was made in the image of God. Likewise, God did not send a Savior for anyone else but mankind. When Satan led some of the angels in a rebellion against God, God did not send a Savior for them. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity did not become an angel in order to somehow redeem them. Hebrews chapter 2 says, “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make [a sacrifice of atonement] for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:16-17)

How Much More Valuable is God’s Kingdom

You are indeed much more valuable than birds or flowers. Christ became a Man for you. Christ died on the cross for you. And he gives you gifts that are much more valuable than anything you can imagine.

I’m not talking here about earthly gifts like food and clothing. God gives these things also to unbelievers, as the Catechism says, “God gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people.” (Small Catechism, Explanation to the Fourth Petition) But those who reject Christ miss out on the most valuable gift. They miss out on God’s Kingdom. God’s kingdom is much more valuable than food and clothing. That’s why Jesus said, “Seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:31)

In God’s Kingdom, he gives eternal gifts even now. In Holy Baptism, your sins are washed away and God’s mark of ownership is placed on you. When the Gospel is preached, you hear that God gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him has forgiveness and eternal life. In Holy Absolution, forgiveness is personally spoken to you from the lips of your pastor. In Holy Communion, you get to kneel at this table here and receive God’s greatest gifts from Jesus who gives his body for you and his blood in the cup of the new covenant. These are the gifts that bring you into God’s Kingdom and keep you in God’s Kingdom. (Just, Luke, 511-12)

God gives us his kingdom. It’s our inheritance. In today’s Old Testament lesson, the Lord told Abraham to “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said, “So shall your offspring be.” And Abraham “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Abraham was justified by faith. He was declared righteous in God’s sight. Now, all who share the faith of Abraham are justified and are his true offspring. We inherit God’s Kingdom... not an earthly kingdom, but one which the author of Hebrews calls “a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” (Heb 11:16)

As members of God’s Kingdom, Jesus has already taught us “in the Lord’s Prayer to [ask God] the Father for the things that are truly necessary.” (Just, Luke, 511) And what are those things? Keeping God’s name holy by properly preaching and faithfully listening to God’s truth. Being a part of God’s kingdom by faith in Christ. Giving thanks for the daily bread that God gives. Receiving forgiveness in Christ and forgiving others who sin against us. Resisting temptation with the strength that God provides in Christ.

Therefore, we don’t need to be anxious about our life, what we will eat, or about our body, what we will wear. For sure, we are to be good stewards of our body and our possessions. But it’s not something to be worried about. God knows what we need. He will provide. He DOES provide, if we only have faith to recognize his provision. So we can get rid of those things we don’t really need. Downsize. Simplify. Give to those who have less and thereby provide for them... and through you, it’s really God providing for them. You can do this, because your treasure is in heaven. And for that treasure, you don’t have to take out a mortgage. You don’t have to insure it. You don’t have to clean it. You don’t have to paint it. You don’t have to worry about it getting scratched. You don’t have to worry about flying bugs eating it or laying eggs in it. You don’t have to worry about it getting stolen. You don’t have to worry about not making headway on your payments because the interest is so high.

So, don’t fear little flock. You have a Good Shepherd, and his name is Jesus. No need to worry or be anxious about this heavenly treasure of forgiveness and eternal life. It’s yours in Christ. It’s free of charge.

God loves ravens and lilies. He made them, after all. But you are of much more value than birds and flowers. He loves you. He made you. He redeemed you. In Holy Baptism, he has brought you into his Kingdom. Trust him to provide for you. Rejoice in the eternal treasure that he gives you.


No comments: