Sunday, May 25, 2008


Second Sunday after Pentecost
Bede the Venerable, Theologian
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Matthew 6:24-34

There’s a word in today’s liturgy that might be foreign to our modern and American ears: meditate. It’s from the Gradual, which we spoke after the Old Testament reading. Meditating might seem out of place in our busy world. It might seem a bit mystical for us, maybe even anti-Christian. But we would do well to meditate. In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us not to worry. Those of us who do, know how difficult it is to do something like meditating. But we would do well to take those words of the Gradual to heart and actually do what they say: meditate on the wondrous works of God.

Another reason we may be hesitant to meditate is, how do you meditate? How does one take the wondrous works of God and meditate on them? Jesus directs our attention to this matter in the Gospel reading. I would like to use another word: concentrate. Concentration sounds more familiar than meditation. We know what it means to concentrate.

This is what Jesus is getting at in the Gospel reading. You can’t serve two masters. You will be devoted to one and end up despising the other. If you do not concentrate on your master you will end up dedicating yourself to something else, which will become your master.

What do we so often end up devoting ourselves to? The things of this world. They are not bad. They are, in fact, good. God created them for our use and benefit. But if we concentrate our lives—our time, our efforts, our desires—toward the accumulation of things, then we are devoted to a master that is not the One Master, the Triune God.

Don’t think that if you’re not rich this doesn’t apply to you. If you are rich, you might think that it doesn’t apply to either, because there’s a lot of other people in this world who are a lot wealthier than you and so it really applies to them. What Jesus is telling us He is telling each and every one of us. Rich or poor, we all spend too much time devoted to things other than Him.

Why are we anxious about our lives, what we will eat or drink? Why are we anxious about our bodies, what we will wear? Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Jesus says, look at the birds. They don’t spend their time worrying about how they’ll get along. They spend their time being who they are. Jesus is saying: that’s what we need to do. We need to be who we are. We are the children of God. He takes care of us. We are His people, He gives to us what we need. If He takes care of the birds, how much more will He take care of us!

Will worrying about the things of this life that are so important to us lengthen our life? On the contrary, God is the one who provides us with life and sustains us in our life. It is not for us to worry about. He gives and He takes away. It those who do not believe in God who put their stock into the things of this life. God knows we need what we need. He provides for us in what we need.

He directs our focus on something greater. Something that is lasting. The things of this life are momentary. His Kingdom lasts forever. His righteousness is eternal. While we are busy seeking after and worrying about the things of this world, we are losing the Kingdom. We must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the things we need will be added unto us.

Since our lives revolve so much around the things of this life, how do we go about seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness? By meditating on the wondrous works of God. But how do we meditate on the wondrous works of God? Concentration.

How do you begin your day? In the hymn we just sang we are given guidance in meditating on the wondrous works of God. “Ev’ry morn with Jesus rise, And when day is ended, In His name then close your eyes; Be to Him commended.” In a very literal way, seeking first the Kingdom of God, means beginning the day in prayer. Putting it first in your day takes concentration. There are so many things to do when we first get up. Before we know it, the day gets away from us. Or we may just simply want a day where we can go into the day slowly and casually. It takes concentration to change this, especially if it means getting up earlier. Especially when that means that you may have to start getting ready for this the night before, whether that’s going to bed earlier or getting some things done the night before that you’d normally do in the morning. Concentration means you are putting God and His Kingdom truly first. That you’re not just giving lip service to Him. You’re putting your money where your mouth is. The hymn goes on to say: “Let each day begin with prayer, Praise, and adoration. On the Lord cast ev’ry care; He is your salvation.”

Another way to think about this is what is so important in the military: discipline. On this weekend when we remember and honor those who have served our country even to death, we see the value in discipline. Because there are those who are willing even to give their lives so that we may have a free country, we may also give honor to them by realizing that the concentration they exhibit in their service we may also take to heart in the many ways we serve others.

Be who you are. The birds, the flowers, they don’t need to concentrate. They simply are who they are; call it instinct, or whatever. We, however, it doesn’t come so easily to us. We need to concentrate. We need to keep our eyes focused on Christ. Whether it is our thinking that we need things, like a good job that pays well, so that we don’t have to worry, or whether it is because things are really tight and we worry if we’re going to make it. We always find a way to concentrate on mammon, the things of this world. Jesus never says to renounce them—He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

How do we do that? Christ. We focus on Christ. We concentrate on the things of the Kingdom, His Word, prayer. The righteousness of Christ. That means remembering your Baptism. Not just now and then. First. Daily. Often. Concentrate on who you are. You are the child of God. You are who He made you. Seek the things of the Kingdom. The Body and Blood of Christ. The very righteousness of Christ delivered straight into your mouth and directly into your heart, soul, and life.

Concentration is hard. That’s why we need to be challenged to do it. It’s hard to eliminate distractions. It may mean adjusting your schedule. It may mean waking up earlier in order to find time when there’s not a lot of noise and things going on. Concentrating on prayer and reading the Scriptures is tough work.

How do you wholly devote everything who you are to one particular thing? Christ gives you His righteousness. It’s complete, you have His entire righteousness given to you. We end up spending our time concentrating on other things, how do we spend our time concentrating on God and His righteousness? Concentration comes so easily to us with the things of this world, we’re drawn to them. Meditating on the wondrous works of God is concentrating—spending our time, our energy—dedicating our mind toward the things of God.

It is hard. It doesn’t come easily to us. We’re not like birds or flowers. But this, too, is what Christ has experienced. If anyone has ever had reason to be distracted from accomplishing His mission, it was Christ. On the cross all the sins, all the guilt of the world was laid on Him. The torment of God’s wrath was pressing upon Him. But He concentrated on one thing: forgiveness. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. We do not know what we do when we worry. We have no idea how unbelieving we are when we put our trust in the things of this world rather than the one true and gracious God. But we are nevertheless who we are, the children of God. We can learn from the birds and the flowers that as we are much valuable than they, that God will so much more take care of us here in time and even into eternity. Amen.


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