Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sermon for 27 February 2011, Epiphany 8A

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 6:24-34
Enough to Worry About
Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Proper [3] (A), 27 February 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It was a difficult spot to be in to say the least. Tim had two full-time jobs and had an impossible schedule each day. He had more than enough to worry about. From early in the morning to early afternoon, he worked at the lumberyard. Then, he had the late shift at the railroad yard. He barely had time to eat and sleep. He wasn’t married. If he were, he’d never see his wife and children. We’d probably all agree that this was no way to live. Something had to give. And finally, Tim had to make a choice. He was promoted at the railroad and was offered the day shift. There simply was no good reason to try to work two jobs. Even the money wasn’t worth what it was doing to him. Tim learned by experience what Jesus said: “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.
Money is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. For some, it becomes the god in which they put their trust. Providing for the family becomes a convenient excuse to work more and more and accumulate more money in the bank account or more stuff in the house or garage.
Even our young people sometimes fall into the trap. Money from a part-time job often goes to what are really luxuries: cars, music, electronics, video game systems, or name-brand clothing. While none of us would likely give up being a Christian for a billion dollars, many simply do it for minimum wage. I’m thankful to see you for Church today.
God knows we need our daily bread, everything that supports our bodies and lives. We pray for daily bread daily. By faith we see that everything we have is a gift from Him. We receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. But we still worry. We worry about important things. We worry about silly things. We worry about what other people will think. We worry about how we’ll pay the bills. We worry about how much we worry. And 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? 26Look 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? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But 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, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
God provides you with everything you truly need. That’s the sermon in one sentence. God gives you daily bread and spiritual bread, forgiveness in Christ. You have enough to worry about in regularly receiving the Lord’s gifts and offering back to him your sacrifice of thanksgiving, praise, and good works.
Seek the kingdom first. The spiritual gifts endure forever. They are the only ones you can take with you once you die. God knows you need physical blessings. He gives food to all, even the evil. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
I’m not going to rehash a list of the things that concern you. That would be a waste of my time and yours. Instead, think about those things before the Lord in prayer and pray in faith that the Lord can and will resolve them! Worry uses up so much valuable prayer time. Many times you cannot change what is happening. You just have to sit there and watch it happen. You can change how you react to situations. You can act out of faith instead of acting out of fear.
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things—including money. All too often we have a different kind of fear—the being afraid kind—and it can be paralyzing.
One dark pitch-black night a man was walking down an unfamiliar road. On either side was a steep ravine. [Why he’s walking down the road and why it’s at night we’re never told.] Suddenly he stepped into space and began to fall. Thinking he was falling to certain death, he began flailing his arms and clutching for anything he could get his hands on. He was able to grasp a bush along the side, and he held on for dear life. It was agony. His body became numb. At last in weakness and despair, he let go and dropped—six inches to the bottom of the ditch. Think of the endless agony he went through because he didn’t let go sooner. Think of the needless agony you go through in the midst of your worries because you don’t let go and let God.
You have enough to worry about. And worry is often an excuse to doubt God’s love and care of us. We lean on Him and our families and Christian family in time of need. And sometimes we actually pay enough attention to notice that the Lord has provided enough. We just haven’t been spiritually awake enough to see all that He has provided. God will provide for your needs. He may have a difference of opinion with you on the difference between something you want and something you truly need. Worry is not something you need. Prayer is.
Just yesterday, a member told me, “I’ve been a member here for a long time. I don’t think I’ve seen so many of our members hurting in so many different ways all at one time. And the ones hurting are the ones who are usually the first on the scene to help.” What an insight. We do not always know the reason behind our pain and suffering in this life. Sometimes, yes sometimes we may get insight into why. Perhaps it is our turn to help them.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Isn’t that the truth! God gives daily bread daily. Trouble comes daily. And God gives us what we need to make it through each day. We aren’t told exactly what each day will bring. God has called us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. We pray that the Lord will give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that His hand is leading us and His love supporting us through Christ, our Lord.
The famous musician was depressed. His right side was paralyzed. All his money was gone. He was so deeply in debt that he was threatened with being thrown into jail. Nevertheless, he worked on composing the musical masterpiece for which he is still remembered. He worked so fast and hard, he seldom stopped for meals. When his servant brought him food, the servant often found his master weeping. In twenty-four days, from August 22 through September 14, 1741, George Frederic Handel finished his oratorio Messiah.
We don’t know how much this grandson of a German Lutheran pastor prayed while he was composing such great music amid such great anxieties, [yet] He is said to have commented, “I think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” Handel’s music shows us how needless are our worries, even in the face of what appears desperate, because the Almighty accomplishes great things!
We celebrate some of those great things today. We remember our baptism into Christ in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sins. We thank God for the opportunity to hear His Word. We are blessed to be able to freely assemble in His name in this country thanks to the sacrifice of others. We will leave this place with His blessing. And we give thanks for the good we are able to both receive and give this day and this coming week. Next Sunday, we will receive the Lord’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
God provides you with everything you truly need. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. In Christ, You have nothing to truly worry about! Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.