Sunday, September 8, 2013

Will Worry Kill You Off, or Something Else?

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
September 8, 2013
I love church bulletin bloopers. One bulletin had this advice to give: “Don’t let worry kill you off—let the Church help!” Well, most bloopers are just good old-fashioned mistakes. They’re good for a laugh but you know that they’re wrong because of a typo. As funny as this one is, though, I think it’s right just the way it is. Yes, worry will eventually kill you off. And since that is so, you ought to let the Church just go ahead and finish the job.

That is, after all, how you first became a Christian. By being killed off. Drowned, crucified, put in a grave. In Baptism you were overwhelmed by water that drowned that sinful nature of yours, your Old Adam, so that you could be in the position to be raised to new life. Think of it, Jesus did not rise from the grave until He had been put in it. You became a Christian when you were first joined to Christ in His death and resurrection. You were killed off by the Church. Some of the most joyous times in the life of the Holy Christian Church are when sinners are killed off by the Church in Holy Baptism.

So don’t let worry kill you off. Let the Church help you, literally. That’s what the Church does. It kills in order to make alive. It destroys in order to raise up. You are just such a person of the Church of God. You who were born a sinner. One who is firmly enslaved to the god of this world. It comes in many forms, but it mostly manifests itself in the form of money. After all, without money you can’t get all those things you want. You can’t get all those things you need. You can’t get all those things that, if you don’t have them, then how will you survive? This is what you are born into. You are born into this anxiety. This seeking after the things of this world. And it’s not so much that you like them or enjoy them. It’s not so much that you know that without food on the table and clothes on your back you literally won’t be able to survive.

It’s that you’re beholden to these things. You are their slave. They are your Master. You serve them and what you don’t see is that therefore you cannot serve God. Because you cannot serve two masters. If you attempt to serve God then your Master—money, the things of this world, whatever it may be—will not be pleased. These things are jealous gods and they will woo you back. They will entice you. They will hijack your thoughts and your feelings and your compulsions. And you will be back in no time serving those false gods. It’s not too much to say that this is idolatry. It is a sin against the First Commandment, which is very short and to the point: You shall have no other gods. The apostle Paul says that covetousness is idolatry. From the beginning of the Ten Commandments to the end you have this primary sin of having other gods. Placing something else before the true God. Looking to something else for what you need other than God alone.

God doesn’t desire halfway trust. He demands full trust. It’s trust in Him alone and nothing else. So what does this make of money and the things of this world? Are they of no value? Are they to be rejected? Are they evil? Should we not use them or enjoy them? What Jesus is teaching us in the Gospel reading is not that these things are bad or of no value. He’s not saying we shouldn’t use them or enjoy them. He’s saying we should not put our trust in them. When we worry about not having what we need we have ceased trusting in God alone and have gone to serve another Master. There is only one Master and He is God. Your Heavenly Father, as Jesus says, knows what you need and will give you what you need. He loves you and keeps you in His care.

He does not exercise His Lordship over you as a dictatorial master. He exercises His Lordship over you in mercy and grace. In love He gives you what you need. After all, has He not given you His Son? And if He has given you His Son, will He not also give you all things? If He has clothed the flowers of the field in splendor beyond what Solomon in all his glory had, will He not also clothe you? If He feeds the birds will He not also give you enough to eat? The flowers and the birds don’t worry. They just live. They just exist as God has called them to exist. They are taken care of by the Heavenly Father.

When you worry you are consumed with thoughts that are thoughts of this world, not thoughts of God. When you are anxious you are enslaved to the things God has given to you for your benefit. You are turning things around. He has given you these things for your benefit and yet you are slaves of them. They have become your new Master. But they will never give you what you truly need. There is no everlasting fulfillment in the things of this world. As Jesus says, is not life more than clothing and food?

When you entrust yourself to God then you have what you truly need. He will give you His blessings for this life in His right timing. There are times when you must pray to Him for patience because you are tempted to worry and be anxious. There are times you need to pray for strength because your physical needs are not being met as it appears you need. There are times you need to pray for humility because you do not have what you think you ought to have.

This is to say, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When you worry, when you sit at the feet of your Master—Money, the Things of this World—then you seek something other than the Kingdom of God. You desire something other than His righteousness. And you miss out on an entire other world that is right before you but you never see. Because you are bowing before the god of the things of this world.

This other world that is right before your eyes is the Church. It is the Kingdom of God. It is the righteousness of God. If you have God and His Kingdom, if you have God and His righteousness, if you have God the Father and His only-begotten Son, what more do you need? Well, the answer is, nothing! You need nothing more because you have everything in Him. The amazing thing is, He adds all these other things to you as well. He gives you everything and then He gives you even more.

But it’s through Him. It’s not through the money, or the things of this world, or whatever else you desire. It’s through Him and His Kingdom and His righteousness. He is your Master, and He is a gracious and merciful Master. He gives you His Son. Think for a moment what you have in Him, in Jesus Christ. You have the one who has everything, because He is true God of true God, and yet gave up everything. He is Lord and yet became a slave. He is righteous, without sin or guilt, and yet the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him. He is Lord and ruler of the universe and yet said of Himself, “The foxes have holes, the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

You see, this is how you have everything. You have everything because you have been given Him. In Baptism. You were drowned in Baptism. That sinful nature of yours that needs to worry and be anxious was drowned, killed off in Baptism. Joined with Him in His death so that you may be raised with Him in His resurrection. When the iniquity of all was laid upon Him He was not worrying or anxious. His heart was heavy because the sin and guilt of all was on Him. But His heart went out to every sinner. It was every sinner He was dying for. It was you and me He was going to His grave for so that you and I could live.

Really live! Not worried about where the next paycheck is going to come from. Not worried about if there’s enough to eat, or if there’s enough to pay for the kids’ needs, or enough to be able to retire, or to pay the medical bills. Not anxious about things that are not the substance of life. He died so that we might live. He gave His life so that we might have life.

And true life is life that is lived in Him. Not in the things of this world. In Him. His Kingdom. His Righteousness. His Son. He gives us abilities to be able to work, to provide for our family. He gives us opportunities to earn money for the things we need. When we run into roadblocks the answer is not to turn to those things but to God. If He has given us His Son, how will He not also give us all things! To truly trust Him is to truly reject any trust in the things of this world. The things of this world are things God gives us. They are gifts. He will provide for us. And if in His wisdom He has us go without those things we need, then we trust Him all the more. We seek Him and His Kingdom and He will add all the more abundantly what we truly need.

He will add also what we would never see on our own. That whole other life we would never know. A life of serving Him as our true Master is not some pious notion. It is a life of faith that exhibits itself in action. This is how. He is the Lord of the universe, the Creator of all there is. I don’t think we’re going to exhaust all the time we have in coming up with something He needs. There’s nothing we can do to serve Him that will satisfy any need He has. The life He gives us in Baptism is life exhibited in love toward others. We serve God by serving others. The way the Epistle reading says it is that we bear one another’s burdens. If you are worried or anxious, one thing you need is your brothers and sisters in Christ to serve you. To love you, to help you, to bear your burdens.

You and I need to stop worrying about what we need and start looking at how we can bear one another’s burdens. If we are concerned about what we need, how will we able to see how to help others in their needs? We have been called to new life. In Baptism, thankfully, the Church did a tremendous service to us in killing us off. We are dead to sin. Dead to worry and anxiety. Alive to God in Christ Jesus! Amen.


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