Sunday, August 8, 2010

What If You Were…

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 8, 2010
Luke 12:22-40

What if you were to not be anxious about your life? What if you were not so consumed with what you will eat, or if you’ll have enough money to take care of yourself? What if you were to live as if life is more than food, and the body more than clothing? What if you were to consider the ravens, that they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them? What if you were to believe wholeheartedly that you are much more valuable than the birds? What if you were to live without undue care for the things you need in this life? If you were to believe and actually live as knowing that worry cannot add a single hour to your life? What if you were to actually live with the conviction that if you are not able to do as small a thing as that, then there is no reason to be anxious about the rest? What if you were to consider the flowers of the field, how they grow; that they neither toil nor spin, and yet are more spectacular than even the glory of Solomon? And what if you were to realize and actually give no thought otherwise that if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you?

What if you were to hear Jesus’ words to the disciples, “O you of little faith!” and take them to heart, acknowledging that you, too, are of little faith? What if you were to admit that it’s true, that you are more concerned than you should be about having enough to eat and that you worry that you might not have enough if things get worse? What if you were to simply realize that these are the things the nations of the world seek after but that your Heavenly Father knows that you need them? What if, instead, you were to seek His kingdom? What if, instead, you were to live in the simple comfort and trust that the things you need will be added to you?

What if you were to actually have no fear. Not like those bumper stickers and T-shirts you see that say No Fear. What if you were literally to have no fear for your life. That no matter what happened to you you would rest secure in knowing that you are in God’s care. That He is your Shepherd. That it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. That when all is said and done you are the recipient of the eternal Kingdom of God Himself. That whether you have a lot or a little, you have all things in the eternal God who has given you His Son.

What if you were to actually sell your possessions, as Jesus says, and give to the needy? What if you were to actually live in such a way where it doesn’t matter what you want or need or have? Where your concern was with others and not yourself? What if you were to provide yourself not with the things you need in this life but with a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys? What if you were to wake up to the reality that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also?

What if, instead of being so focused on what you need and want you were to dress for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks? If you were so blessed as a servant whom the master finds awake when he comes? What if in those times where it doesn’t seem you have enough or there’s more that you’d like and you’re not content, that you were to ponder the reality, the truth, that your Lord will dress Himself for service and invite you to recline at table, and will come and serve you?

What if these things were really true? What if you lived this way? Thought this way? Acted this way? Really believed it? What if nothing were so important to you as what your Lord gives you? What if you really did live as if He will come back at any moment? That you lived at the ready, knowing you are blessed simply because He has called you to stay on the watch for His return in glory?

Now, what if you were to take all these questions and ask one more? What if you were to take it on faith that these are not what ifs, but rather that this is who you really are? You would think, well, it can’t be, because I don’t live this way all the time. I am anxious about the things in my life. I’m battling illness, difficult relatives, addictions, depression, a hectic schedule. I’m barely making it through each day, and you want me to think about eternity? God may think more of me, but I see myself for who I really am. I fall short of what He has called me to. I don’t deserve the Kingdom He has promised me. I’m not worthy of being in His eternal Kingdom now.

And this proves that it’s true. That you are exactly what Christ has called you to be. Because he doesn’t hold out a carrot and motivate you to run after it. He gives you all that is His. He welcomes you into His palatial estate of grace. He rains down in your life favor that washes away despair and fear and hopelessness.

So why do you still feel those things at times? Or even a lot of the time? Because His perfect peace and grace doesn’t empty your life of difficulty and sin. It is through those challenges, and trials, and temptations that your Lord tears you down so that He may lift you up. If you are content because you have everything you need in this life then why would you look to God for help? It is when we are without those things we need and want that we look to God for what we truly need.

That you are able to see that you fall short of God’s call to you to rely solely on Him shows you that His grace is sufficient for you. Otherwise you would not see your need for God and His grace and forgiveness and salvation. Instead of being anxious, rejoice. Instead of worrying, give thanks. Instead of being afraid, take heart, your Lord has given you the Kingdom. He dresses Himself for service and invites you to dine at His Table. Instead of wondering where you’ll find the strength to carry on, rest in the gift He gives you at this Table often, His very Body and Blood. In other words, He gives you Himself.

You know how it pleased your Heavenly Father to give you the Kingdom? He gave His Son. There on the cross you see God giving His Kingdom to the world. You know how the Holy Spirit actually delivers this Kingdom to you, personally? Here at the Table of your Lord. Here at the font, in Holy Baptism. When you were washed with the waters of Baptism you were given the Kingdom. Your Lord dressed Himself for service and gave you all His grace, mercy, and peace He secured in His suffering, death, and resurrection.

Next weekend, some of us in our congregation are going to be at our annual congregational retreat. The theme is “Be Who You Are.” The theme verse is “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” from 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV). A retreat is a good opportunity to get away from it all. To be in a different setting, to have some time to ponder the blessings of God in your life where you’re away from the daily pressures of life. But what your Lord calls you to in today’s Gospel reading is a daily renewal. A daily walking in faith. A daily living out of the new creation He has given you in Baptism. When anxiety runs high, when worry overwhelms you, remember who you are. Be who you are. You are a new creation in Christ. It has pleased your Heavenly Father to give you the Kingdom. Your Lord has dressed Himself for service and serves you daily with all His grace and blessing. Seek His Kingdom. Everything else you need will be added unto you.

What if it were true that you could be as your Lord has called you to be? What if you were to be as your Lord describes? What if you were to not ask the question but rather rest in faith in Him? In the promise He has declared to you: it is true. You are a new creation. It is no longer you who live but Christ who lives in you.

Imagine a conversation among God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—going something like this: What if We were to deliver fallen man by doing it Ourselves? Not calling on them to make it happen. But delivering to them forgiveness, life, and salvation. What if it pleased Us to simply give them the Kingdom? What if we simply served them rather than expecting them to accomplish salvation?

Well, we know no conversation ever took place, because we know the heart of God: it is with us. It is with being gracious and merciful and loving. No conversation was necessary, just simply God being God. God being who He is. And that is how it is all true. That we are who we are as God has called us to be. Because He has made it happen. He has made it happen in what He has done: giving us His Kingdom in our Baptism; blessing us eternally in Holy Communion; forgiving us in the Gospel. As we go through life we at times have questions. Not God. He has only answers. His answers are His promises. Amen.


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