“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”
“Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Do Not Be Anxious
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
There are times when preaching this text is simple and safe. Life is good, and everyone is happy and telling people not to be anxious or worried about life is a comfortable thing. At least that is what it seems like it should be. We all remember those days. Right now, the economy is not so bright, the politics of our nation are frightening, our society seems to be devolving into something different and unpleasant, and our personal lives are beset with new challenges.
The truth is that we recognize the goodness of our lives and the abundance of our blessings best in the rearview mirror. That is, in part, why the good old days are so good. Our memories tell us the truth somewhat more reliably because memories are not clouded with emotions and all of the day-to-day present urgent realities that make a circumspect judgment of our condition so difficult. Today we have today’s problems and pressures. Today life is the challenge before us, and we have not seen how God is going to bring us through, so today is not as bright, many times, as we imagine the past was or the future could be. It is in the face of these realities that the Word of God speaks to us today and tells us, in the words of our Lord, Do Not Be Anxious.
Our lesson today is all about faith. Our Lord reminds us in our Gospel of the familiar facts that God feeds the birds, and He clothes the fields in beautiful flowers. Neither one of them labors for what they get. The flowers of the field simply grow there. They are, none the less, beautiful. The birds do not sow or reap or store up grain, and yet God feeds them. In the same way, we may depend upon God. He knows what we need, and He will provide. But to get our minds to where we think like Jesus is telling us to think, and to find comfort in the midst of the realities that life presents to us in the present will take faith.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of birds die in the a variety of ways - and people too. There are people starving around the world. There are natural disasters, violent crimes, the new threat of home-grown jihadiis killing people and beheading them, even in such unlikely places as Oklahoma. It is tempting to look at the news and our own personal needs and say, “how does our present realities square with the text?” “Where is the supply of which Jesus was speaking?”
The first part of the answer is to take note that Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Let’s face it, we are not witnessing a lot of seeking of God or His righteousness in the midst of modern society, here or abroad. But that isn’t the whole answer. Part of the answer is in the fact that whether we experience every moment as richly supplied or not, we experience each moment. God has preserved us. We do not have to deal with the deprivations of many people throughout the world. We see it, and we can respond to it - we should respond to it somehow. But it is not our suffering, and so God has been true to His promises and provided us with all that we need, even when it may not be all that we want.
He has also preserved all those who live. They might prefer to have comfort, and have worldly possessions - but, as in the book of Job, when we start judging God on the basis of how we respond to how He is blessing us, we are trying to suggest that we could do a better job of being God than He does. Of course, that is silly - and blasphemous - on its face.
Besides, we want to remember what Jesus actually said. He did not promise that we would always have everything we desire just the way we want it. He said that God knows where we are and who we are and what it is that we need, and that all of our fretting and worrying cannot make it better. Jesus asked, “which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?” While I am not certain how much 18 inches - a cubit - of life adds to your span of life, when measured in years, the point is that our worry alone doesn’t empower us to change the immediate circumstances of our lives any more than the clear frustration and depression of the victims of some natural disaster makes them able to make edible food or clean water appear out of nowhere. Someone has to bring it into circumstances like theirs, and when they do, that someone was sent by God - whether they realize it or not.
And of course some people will die for lack of water, or food, or shelter, or because of some disease. When they die, it is because God has appointed that moment for their death - and death will find them in Minnesota, fishing on a clear and cool lake - if it is their time - as we witness in the news day after day. God will take care of each of us while we are here, and summon us out of this world when our time is done. It is precisely at that moment of God’s summoning that the kingdom of God and His righteousness will be of paramount importance for us.
The promise of our Gospel is that when we have sought the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things - the stuff of life - will be added unto us. Now Jesus knows that we cannot search for God or choose to believe - so He is telling us to pay attention to the most important stuff, and trust God to handle the rest. As the beloved children of God, can we imagine that God will short us on the necessities of life? I would say no - and looking about the room, I see that all of us have had all that we have needed for life up to today - and many of us have enjoyed a whole lot more than simply what we needed.
We are the chosen of God. He has set His love upon us. He has loved us with the greatest love: a greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for His friends. Jesus laid down His life for us on the cross, to redeem us from sin and death and hell. Because of Jesus your sins are forgiven, and when your body dies, that is not the end, nor is it the worst moment - but merely the beginning of the better and more lasting life with Christ in glory. He has promised that you will even get your body back, refreshed, renewed, and repaired; better than when you laid it down. He has taken care of you here, and has planned and executed your rescue and redemption for the hereafter.
While we live in this world, we live as God’s favorite people - favored with His love and under His watchful care. Nothing can happen without God’s care for you. All of your needs will be met, and many of your desires, right up to the time appointed for your home-going. At that moment, it may appear to the world around you that your needs have failed to be met. It might seem that you lack the needs of the moment. But the truth is that your greatest need has already been fulfilled: life beyond the grave, a life that has no ending or sorrow, or sickness - only fulness of joy and glory with Jesus Christ.
Between this day and that, you can trust God. You don’t have to worry about what you shall eat or what you shall drink or what you shall put on. Your heavenly Father knows that you have needs of these things. Everyone is looking for them. The ungodly who survive the natural disasters of this world and the horrible violence of evil men, by the kindness of God, are searching for food and water and shelter and safety. The chosen people of God who survive those same evil circumstances are searching for those same things. God knows – and He will provide. He says so – and by faith, we may trust Him and depend on Him and not worry.
So, do not be anxious. Just look around you. Breathe in and out. Take note. You are alive. You have food enough for the moment. If you don’t, there are refreshments in the back, run back and grab a bite to eat or a drink – or wait for the rest of us at the end of the service. You have plenty of air to breathe. The needs of this moment are taken care of, and the reason that they are taken care of is the goodness and kindness of God.
Tomorrow may present new needs, but that is tomorrow. Jesus says that the troubles of today are enough for today. We take it one day at a time. You cannot do tomorrow today, nor can you fix yesterday tomorrow. You have one day, today, and a loving heavenly Father who will take care of you. So, do not be anxious. Live in today’s blessings today, and have a little faith in God. He loves you with a proven love - and He has promised to add all the rest that you need - now that He has clothed you in His righteousness and marked you as one of His chosen and beloved children.
Do Not Be Anxious.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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