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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 12:22–34

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 12, Proper 14, series C
Saint Paul Lutheran Church  
Manito, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Aug 7, 2016 

The Gospel that we just heard picks up right where last week’s Gospel left off.  Jesus had just finished teaching the parable of the wealthy fool to the crowds who came out to listen to Him.  He had been warning about worshipping the gifts instead of worshipping the Giver.  His teaching is a warning to the wealthy who are tempted to fall in love with the things they have.  It is also a warning to the rest of us who are tempted to fall in love with the things we want.

The Gospel we just heard begins with the words, “And he said to his disciples …” (Luke 12:22) This indicates that Jesus took His disciples aside for some additional teaching after He finished teaching the crowds.  By this time in His ministry, the disciples included the original twelve, the seventy-two that He sent out, as well as other believers.  After Jesus ascended, many of these same people would form the seed from which the Lord would grow His church.

Jesus began His teaching by re-phrasing the teaching that we heard last week.  Last week we heard Jesus say, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15) This morning we heard Him say, “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (Luke 12:23) Although the words are different, the basic thought is the same.  Your life is not about what you have.  In the first case Jesus was warning those who relied and depended on earthly wealth because they thought they had enough.  In the second case, Jesus was warning those who relied and depended on earthly wealth, but were worried that they did not have enough.  Whether you trust in your wealth because you think you have enough, or whether you worry that you don’t have enough, your faith is in the wrong thing … what you do or don’t have.

These words of Jesus teach us that worry is idolatry.  When we worry, we are saying one of two things about God.  We are either saying that God is not powerful enough to help us, or that God is powerful, but doesn’t care – or maybe He even wants to hold us back.  In any case, we are saying that we cannot rely on God and must therefore rely on ourselves and on our stuff.  When we trust in ourselves above all things, we are saying that we are god.  When we trust in our stuff above all things, we are saying that our stuff is god.  Either way, we are committing idolatry.  We are not trusting in God above all things.  In fact, we are not trusting in God at all.

Worry is not only spiritually damaging, but it isn’t even helpful in this earthly world.  Worry accomplishes nothing and can be physically harmful.  Jesus said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25–26) Even the modern medical community tells us that the stress of anxiety can cause a variety of disorders that will even shorten our life.

It may seem strange, but humanity managed to worry even when things were perfect.  Clear back in Genesis … back in Eden … Eve was worried.  The seeds of worry were planted when Eve began to wonder about the forbidden fruit … that maybe God was holding something back about the fruit’s benefits.  In spite of the fact that she was queen of the entire universe and could look forward to an immortal life of perfect health and happiness, she was worried.  Perhaps God was not allowing her to develop to her full potential.  She trusted the Word of a Serpent more than the Word of God.

Worry is one of the sins that Adam and Eve allowed into the world when they fell into sin.  The corruption of sin that brought frustration, injury, illness, and death into this world also makes us worriers from birth.  Worry is part of the package that comes with our original sin.

What then can be done about this worry?  Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. (Luke 12:22–23) At first, it may seem that Jesus is telling us to simply change our attitude.  If we are not careful, we might take these words to mean that we should just buck up and get with the program.  We should just adopt a happy attitude and all our worries will go away.  If that were all that Jesus meant when He said these words, we would have every right to despair because in spite of our best efforts, we still worry.  Thankfully, there is much more for us in these words.

Remember, Jesus was speaking to His disciples … the ones who believed in Him.  Because of that He could be more personal with them.  After all, Jesus has already taught them to think of Him as their brother so that His Father is also their Father.  He has taught them to pray beginning with the words “Our Father.” When Jesus taught the crowds, He spoke of the God who said, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20) When Jesus taught His disciples, He taught, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Those who believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins have that relationship of dear child to dear father as it says in the Gospel according to John: To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

Jesus doesn’t just tell us that life is more than food.  He gives us life.  Life with Jesus is more than just the years that we spend here on this earth.  By calling attention to the short life of the grass of the field, He reminds us that we inherited an immortal soul from our first father, Adam – a soul that was breathed into Him by the very breath of God.  The end of our lives here on this earth is not our final destination.  Our final destination is in eternity.

Jesus gently chides us for worrying about clothing by reminding us that the clothing He provides for even the simplest flower is superior to the finest clothing that Solomon’s tailors could design.  Jesus is not just talking about flowers here.  He is telling us that in eternity we too shall rise with newly transformed and immortal bodies – bodies that are more than clothing.  God has provided a new set of clothes for us that far exceeds all other clothes.  He has clothed us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

This is the righteousness of Christ’s perfect, sinless life.  As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)

We did not have the right to wear that righteous dress, but Jesus, the Christ, took the filthy rags of our worry and other sins to the cross.  With His sacrificial suffering and death, He earned the right for us to wear His eternal righteousness.  Now He gives us the right to be adopted as His brothers so that we can wear the glorious robes of His righteousness and call His Father our Father.  God has clothing for us that is infinitely better than the clothing of the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven. (Luke 12:28)

We have the assurance that Jesus has earned all these gifts for us because He did not remain in the grave after He died for us, but He rose from the dead and ascended to rule at the right hand of the Father.  This resurrection assures us that the glorious robes of Christ’s righteousness now belong to us.

The Holy Spirit gives these robes to us through the word of God as the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) We can hear those words as they are read and preached, or as they come to us in the absolution.  We can feel those words with the water of Baptism.  We can taste those words as the bread and wine transport the body and blood of Christ into our mouths.  It is through these means that the Holy Spirit has chosen to create and nurture the miracle of faith.  And it is the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith that covers us with the robe of Christ’s righteousness.

When you worry and the Holy Spirit reminds you that it is a sin, He will also remind you that you are a baptized child of God.  He will remind you that Jesus has redeemed you from sin, death, and the power of the devil with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.  He will remind you that you wear the righteousness of Christ and not even the grass of the fields is arrayed as gloriously.  He will remind you that after that grass has long since been converted to smoke, you will wear those robes of Christ’s righteousness in the eternity of His presence.  For after all, we have the promise of Jesus: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Amen



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