Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (C – Proper 14)
August 8, 2010
Text: Luke 12:22-40

Beloved in the Lord, where is your heart? For the place of your heart is the indication of your treasure. “For where your treasure is,” says Jesus, “there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34; ESV). If food and clothing and money and stuff is what you treasure, your heart will be devoted to these things, which means that these things will have become your gods. And the problem with these gods is that they are unreliable. They can and will fail you. That is why you worry. That is why you are anxious. Your heart is set on things that cannot satisfy, things that cannot deliver, things that are destroyed by moth and rust, things that thieves can break in and steal. This is why God, the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has given us the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”[1] Your god is whatever you fear, love, and trust above all things. In other words, it is the object of your heart’s devotion. Whether it be stuff, or even other people, our fallen, evil hearts naturally gravitate toward gods that cannot deliver, gods that are not the one true God. Thus our Lord graciously directs us this morning away from our idols to Himself. He alone is reliable. He alone can deliver. And beloved in the Lord, He alone can deliver us from anxiety and fear. He does so with His Word: “do not be anxious” (v. 22).

It is difficult to heed the admonition of our Lord, because anxiety is epidemic in our times. Even in a world of plenty, we are an anxious people. Many of us suffer with chronic anxiety and depression. We worry about things. We worry about people. We worry about money, about our jobs, about the economy. We worry about politics. We worry about our health. We worry about our friends. We worry about our family. We worry about our children and we worry about our spouses. And this is sin, beloved. Worry, anxiety, is sin because it demonstrates that we are of little faith. We believe, but we need help from the Lord for our unbelief. We lack faith in God who is the Giver of all good gifts, and who sustains all of creation. He is in control. But we deceive ourselves into thinking that our worry puts us in control, that our worry is what sustains all things. And once again we are back to the First Commandment. For we become the god of our own false gods. Knowing our false gods to be unreliable, we offer up the prayers of our worries and anxieties, hoping that in this way we can keep those false gods on track, hoping our false gods will not fail us or be harmed or destroyed, lest our faith in them be shaken. How misguided we are. How easily deceived. “[W]hich of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (vv. 25-26). Believe in God. Trust God. He is in control. He has promised that all things will work together for your good (Rom. 8:28). He paid the price of His own dear Son’s blood to purchase you for Himself. Why would He now forsake you in the things you need the most?

This is not to say your worries and anxieties and fears are not real. They most certainly are. And that is why it takes a real solution. The solution again, is Jesus’ Word: “do not be anxious.” “Fear not” (Luke 12:32). It is a real Word of the Lord for real anxiety. And it is not simply a command. It is assurance. It is backed with a promise: “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). Beloved, if it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom, the very Kingdom of God which is yours by faith in Christ Jesus, how will He not also along with it graciously give you all things? Why worry about food and drink and clothing and all the rest when the Father has already promised you the Kingdom? Do you see the futility of our thinking? Beloved, repent, and rest in the promises of God. For God cannot lie. Your sins of worry and anxiety and fear are covered by the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Your heavenly Father knows what you need (v. 30). He provides for all your needs of body and soul. He has provided for your eternal life and salvation in Christ Jesus. So do not worry and fret about your life, what you will eat, or your body, what you will wear (v. 22). “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (v. 23). Your life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ is your life. So instead of worrying about these things, seek His Kingdom, knowing that it is your Father’s good pleasure to give it to you, and all the rest will be added to you as well (v. 31). You have God’s Word on it that He will take care of you. He is your God. Not all of these other things. And certainly not yourself. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is your God.

This has profound implications for how we live this earthly life in view of the Last Day when Jesus comes again. First of all, with regard to our possessions, since they are no longer to be our gods, since they have been unseated by the one true God, and since we know that these are gifts from our heavenly Father and He promises to add all these things to us as we have need, we can be rather reckless with them. We know that we own nothing. God owns everything, and entrusts our possessions to us for our stewardship, which means not hoarding away for selfish ends, but giving for the need of the neighbor. So we can give this stuff away. “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy” (v. 33). Because this stuff doesn’t complete you. It not longer has any power over you. You are not enslaved to it. It is rather enslaved to you and to God. So give it away for your neighbor. And in so doing you provide yourself with a moneybag that does not wear out, with true treasure in heaven. For now your heart is set on the things that are above, in heaven, where Christ is, and not on earthly things. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (v. 34).

Second, with regard to your spiritual life, you now have a new set of priorities. Since you know that your possessions are fleeting, that they are not your gods, but that God will provide you with what you need, you no longer live for the stuff of this earthly life. Rather, you wait and you diligently watch for the coming of the Lord Jesus and the heavenly life that He will bring you. “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes… You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (vv. 35-37). How do we watch for the Master’s return? How do we remain at all times ready for the coming of Christ? To watch in this way is to continually be seeking the Kingdom that your heavenly Father has promised to give you, and is giving you, and has given you already (in a hidden way), through His means of grace, the Word, and the Sacraments. For you are dressed for action, clothed with Christ and His righteousness in your Holy Baptism. Your lamp is burning as you hear and read and study His Word in the preaching and the Scriptures. And even as you wait for your Master to come to you at the end of time, so also He comes to you here and now in His Word and in His Holy Supper. Even now, He dresses Himself for service, has you recline at His Table, the holy altar, and He serves you with His very own body and blood. But this is only a foretaste of the feast to come, the wedding feast of the Lamb and His Bride, the Church, an unending feast, wherein our Bridegroom, Christ, will feed us the choicest of food. The earthly food about which we worry and fret now, pales in comparison with the food our Lord provides at His altar and in the eternal wedding feast! The earthly clothing we worry and fret about now, pales in comparison with the robes of Christ’s righteousness which were given us at our Baptism, and which we will wear for all eternity in His Kingdom.

Indeed, the Kingdom is our lot. Our heavenly Father takes His good pleasure in giving us the Kingdom. None of our other gods can give us that. The reality is that that longing, that emptiness you feel in your heart, your desire for more and more stuff, the hole that you try to fill with people and things and false gods of every variety, can only be filled by God Himself. Unbeknownst to fallen human flesh, it is a longing for the very gift God gives: The Kingdom, Christ Himself, come to save us from our sins, from death, and from hell. It is the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, salvation in Christ alone that you need. Seek that. You have it by faith in Christ. It is a gift, freely given, won by the death of Christ, distributed by the risen Christ in the Gospel, here, in His Church. If God has given you this, and He has in Christ, He will certainly add everything else to you as well.

Therefore do not be anxious. Gone be all false gods. For we have the one true God. We are possessed by Him. He purifies our evil hearts by His Spirit. He has engraved us on the palms of His hands, the hands of His Son, Jesus Christ, the hands nailed to the tree of the cross, now risen hands by which our Lord Himself serves us. Don’t worry about the things that belong to you, as if anything belonged to you anyway. You belong to this God, bought at a price, the blood of God’s Son. And His Name is on you. You are baptized into that Name, the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Catechism quotes from Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).

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