"God Provides in Body and Soul"
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
St. Luke 12:22-34 (35-40)
August 12, 2007
(St. John Lutheran Church, North Tonawanda, New York)
IN NOMINE JESU
Our text builds upon the foundation laid by the Holy Gospel appointed for last Sunday. Last week we heard our Lord tell us where our true riches lie—in heaven. In His parable the Lord announced that those who have stored up treasures here on earth but are not rich toward God will be condemned as fools. The Lord wants His hearers, and all people, to be rich toward Him. That is to say, our Lord wants us to bask in His riches—the gifts He offers through His Means of Grace. When our Lord comes to us, He brings His riches with Him to give to His people. Faith accepts these gifts with songs of thankfulness and praise.
But now the Lord shifts the emphasis in His teaching. He argues from the greater to the lesser, which is interesting to note because this was an unconventional method of teaching. In first-century Jewish thought, an argument started with the lesser and then moved to the greater. Here the Lord reversed course. He began with the greater, the heavenly riches, and moved to the lesser, the earthly possessions. Regarding earthly possessions and physical needs, the Lord tells us not to worry. He tells us that our heavenly Father provides for the needs of all His creation. In this argument from the greater to the lesser, the Lord then goes back to the lesser-to-greater method. He tells how the Father takes care of the ravens, the lilies, and the grass, and He moves to how He takes care of the crown of His creation—mankind. The ravens neither grow nor reap and have neither storehouse nor barn, and God feeds them. We are of much more value than the birds. The lilies grow but neither toil nor spin, but even King Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of the lilies. God clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, and He will even more clothe us. What does this mean?
The Lord says to us, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. …And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you" (vv. 22b-23, 29-31). Again, what does this mean? The Lord is bidding us to trust in God completely for all of our physical needs, for He knows what we need. God knows our needs better than we do. He knows everything there is to know about us, more than we know about ourselves. He knows our needs, our wants, and our desires. He knows our innermost secrets, including those things we don't even want to tell ourselves, let alone others. Knowing that the Lord knows all things about us, it gives us pause; it gives us cause to drop to our knees and confess our sins to God our Father.
Why should we come before God and confess our sins to Him? Quite simply put, we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. In the light of our text, we sin by not trusting in God to provide for all of our needs. We do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things, to provide all things for us. As we heard last week, we want what we want when we want it. We want things when we want them, not when God deems it the best time to give these things to us. We get mad at God when we don't get the things for which we prayed. We accuse Him of not answering our prayers. We conveniently forget that God answers our prayers. Sometimes God says, "No," or, "Not yet." We become impatient with God for not giving to us the answer we want, and we seek to take matters into our own hands, taking for ourselves what God has not given us to have.
In our Old Testament reading God promised Abram (before God changed his name to Abraham) offspring. God promised this old man an heir. There would be one coming from Abram's loins who would be his heir and the father of more descendants than there were stars in the sky. Abram was old. Yet he believed the Lord. Abram trusted the Lord's promise…for a while. His wife, Sarai, was also well advanced in years. She had not borne any children. Sarai became desperate and gave Abram her maidservant Hagar. It was horrible. Abram heard his wife's cries over the Lord's promise. Sarai thought that perhaps Abram's heir would come from Hagar's womb. Abram caved in, took Hagar as his wife, His second wife while still married to Sarai, and impregnated Hagar who subsequently bore Ishmael. At that time Abram was 86 years old, but Ishmael was not the promised heir. The Lord's promise was going to be fulfilled—but not for another 14 years, until Abraham would be 100 years old: Isaac, whom Sarah would bear at the young age of 90.
The Lord considered Abraham righteous; yet Abraham did not fully trust in the Lord to provide an heir. In a moment of weakness, Abraham did not trust God to provide for him. We who are by nature weak also lack trust in God's promises to provide for us. If God declared Abraham righteous by faith, though the patriarch faltered, how can we who daily sin much and surely deserve nothing by punishment, expect God to provide for us?
Remember the ravens. Remember the lilies. Remember the grass. God provided for them, and He provides for us, just as He has promised in His holy Word—just as He tells us in our text. On the basis of this sacred Word, we confess along with Martin Luther what he teaches in his explanation to the First Article of 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.
Remember that God declared Abraham righteous. The writer to the Hebrews recalls for us the faith of others who were sinners, just as you and I are: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. Despite their shortcomings and their sinfulness, they still had faith in God, faith in His promises. They believed in God, and He declared them righteous for the sake of the Messiah who was to come. God gave them His Holy Spirit, who worked in them saving faith in the long-promised Messiah, and God declared them righteous.
The Lord continues making His declarations of righteousness today. You see, your name could have been added to the list of the faithful in our Epistle from Hebrews, for your name has in fact been written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Our names are written in the ink that is the blood of the Lamb, the long-promised Messiah who has come and taken upon Himself the sins of all mankind—past, present, and future—your sins and mine. The blood that your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shed on the cross for you He used to write your name in heaven. He died on the cross so that your heavenly Father would declare you righteous for His sake. On account of His Son's all-atoning sacrifice on the cross, God is not ashamed to be called your God, for God has prepared a city for you. To prepare this city for you, God raised His Son Jesus from the dead. Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you, that you also may be where He is, in heaven, even as He comes to you in Word and Sacraments.
Take heart. "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (v. 32). "Thy kingdom come," we pray. "The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray…that it may be come to us also. …[It] 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" (Second Petition).
God gives us His Holy Spirit that we may believe His holy Word, that we may believe His promises. As St. Peter writes, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:6-7). God cares for you. He provides for you, giving you your daily bread, all that you need to support your body and life, more than we even desire or deserve. Our God is a gracious, merciful, loving, caring, and giving God, showering us with His good gifts and Spirit for His Son's sake.
In the Name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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