IN NOMINE JESU
Just about every child, and everyone who has ever been a child, has played the classic game of hide-and-seek. You know the basic premise of the game: you count to 10, 100, or whatever, and the other person tries to hide somewhere. Your task is to seek that person, and find him where he's been hiding. But if you really wanted to be mean, you could let him hide and you then go home. There is a commercial on TV now for Kentucky Fried Chicken. In it, a boy is sitting at the kitchen table, eating some small pieces of KFC chicken. His dad comes into the kitchen and notices the chicken. He then entices his son into a game of hide-and-seek, where the boy runs and hides while the dad sits at the table and eats his son's chicken! I know it was just a commercial, but the thought of that stunt being pulled I find appalling.
We all seek after things. Some students seek good grades; I hope and pray the young people in my confirmation class seek being confirmed in the not-too-distant future. Some people seek a spouse. Some seek financial stability. Some seek to have a family. Some seek happiness in one form or another. Sometimes I type, employing what I call the "Matthew 7:7 method": Seek, and ye shall find. For all I know, you may be seeking the end to this sermon. Regardless of what you seek, if you make that the number one thing in your life, it becomes your god. If there is something you seek more than anything else, it is, in fact, your god. And if your god is anyone or anything other than the one true God, the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—then your god is a false god. God, the one true God, says, "You shall have no other gods before Me." Martin Luther teaches us that "we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things." This is the First Commandment. All the other Commandments, as well as the whole Law of God, flow from this Commandment. Our Lord invites us in our text to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (v. 33a). This simply means we are to believe in God, to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, to love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. God wants you to "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5 NIV), and to "call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me" (Ps. 50:15). God has promised to take care of us, even more so than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and you see the great care He has given to creating them and taking care of them. Imagine how much more He takes care of you, the crown of His creation. God did not create us to serve Him; He created us to love us. He has given us all that we need to support this body and life, and He continues to give us our daily bread.
God desires that we seek Him, for He gives us what we need. Seek Him. Believe in Him. Fear Him. Love Him. Trust in Him. That may sound good, but the fact of the matter is that we do not. Our faith in God gets taken over by worry. We seek other things because we worry about our needs being fulfilled. God wants to take care of us, but we won't let Him. We are so worried about the troubles of this life that we lose sight of the One who truly takes care of us. We get frustrated with God because He doesn't act as quickly as we think He should. We want God to take care of us on our terms. And so we seek relief elsewhere. We don't ask for God's help like we should, because we like to rely on ourselves. We want to be in the driver's seat; we want God to be our Co-pilot. Either that, or we are so afraid of approaching God, as if we would be bothering Him. We see Him as the Creator of the universe and, therefore, too busy to deal with us. We don't want to interrupt Him, as if He is trying to solve the problems here in our nation as well as in the Middle East without making them look like miracles.
We all have things we worry about, chief of sinners though I be. We worry about the bills getting paid. We worry about having a good harvest—or any harvest this year. We worry about making the honor roll or just surviving academically. We worry about our health—or the health of those we love. We worry about the future of this congregation Zion. We worry about whether the Sunday school here will survive. We worry whether Zion will ever call a pastor to serve her, to provide some much-needed stability to the body of Christ gathered here. We worry if Zion will close her doors for good in the near future. We worry about so much. We worry about things we cannot control. We worry about things best left to God…and that's everything!
It is best to leave everything to God, for He has made all things and given us all that we need to support our bodies and lives. These are First Article gifts, as Luther teaches us in the Creed:
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.
He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
This is most certainly true.
These are also Fourth Petition gifts, as we pray God would give us this day our daily bread. Hear again Luther as he teaches us on the Lord's Prayer:
God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
We have a God who gives us what we need, even in spite of ourselves. That's because we have a God who is full of grace, undeserved love, for us, the crown of His creation. He has seen our greatest need—to be forgiven all our sins. Our of His great love for us, He sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus, into the world, born in human flesh, willingly placing Himself under the Law for us, and taking our sins upon Himself all the way to the cross, where He bled and died—where He won your forgiveness—making the payment for our sins only He, the Lamb without blemish or defect, could make for us. The blessed apostle St. Peter encourages us, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:6-7). He cares for you so much that He sent Jesus to die for you. He cares for you so much that He raised Jesus from the dead, so that you also would live in heaven with Him forever! Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, so that, by the Holy Spirit at work in you, you would seek His kingdom and His righteousness. What is so great about this is that God makes our seeking His kingdom even easier by bringing it to us, even as we pray "Thy kingdom come." Luther teaches us:
The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.
How does God's kingdom come? God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
God gives us His Holy Spirit, so that we would believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This faith is a gift from God, and it is His work to bring us to this saving faith in Christ. He not only gives us this faith, but, what is more, He also brings His kingdom to us. His kingdom comes; His kingdom is here! His kingdom is here in this house called Zion. How does He do this? He gives us His Holy Spirit, as He did at our Baptism and as He does God's Word is read, proclaimed, and taught in our hearing. His kingdom comes as Christ our king comes to us in His body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, for where the King is, there is His kingdom, as we will sing in the ancient hymn, the Sanctus, "Holy, holy, holy Lord God of power and might: Heaven and earth are full of Your glory." At the font and from the lectern, pulpit and altar God brings His kingdom to us as His Holy Spirit draws you into it. Through His Means of Grace, God gives you His forgiveness, as well as the strength to endure the troubles of this side of heaven. He gives you the faith to rely upon Him, to "call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks." Jesus comforts us with this promise: "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Mt. 11:28-30). Thanks be to God! Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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