Saturday, August 17, 2013

Don't Worry

 Forgot to post this last week.

Sermon on Luke 12:22-40
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
August 11, 2013 (Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost)

Don’t be anxious!  That sounds like a command.  It sounds like law.  It sounds like something we’re supposed to not do if we wish to please God.  And it is.  After all, what Jesus is talking about here involves the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods.  What does this mean?  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  And Luther explains this further in the Large Catechism: A God is that which we call upon in every time of need.  Anxiety and worry, on the other hand, is looking to oneself in every time of need.  It’s going over and over in one’s mind the idea that I’ve got to solve all my own problems, and if I can’t solve them, then nobody will.  In effect, it’s making myself my own god.  And so, by saying “Don’t be anxious,” Jesus is telling us not to break the First Commandment.  He’s telling us not to make idols of ourselves.

Here’s the thing, though.  It doesn’t help.  Making idols of ourselves, seeing ourselves as the primary resource we have to solve our life’s problems, is something we’re naturally born to do.  After all, if we can solve our problems ourselves, then we’re in control.  And if we’re in control, we don’t need outside help.  The problem with trusting someone or something else for meeting our needs and solving our problems, is that we can’t control when or whether we will be given the help we need, or at least the help we think we need.  And if we can’t control that, we feel helpless, afraid, and, yes, anxious.  It’s how we are.

What makes it worse, is since we can’t obey the command not to be anxious, and we know that we’re supposed to keep the First Commandment if we want to please God, our relationship to our creator itself is on the line.  Not just the problems of this life, but the biggest and most important problem of all, namely the question about whether life has any meaning at all and whether we are going to heaven or hell after death, is something we have no control over.  And again, when we have no control, we get anxious.  We worry.  We go over the problem again and again in our minds.  What happens, in other words, is that we worry about the fact that we’re disobeying God and earning His wrath by worrying.  We are anxious about the fact that we’re anxious.  And then it just feeds on itself.  Even though it’s true, seeing Jesus’ saying here as a command doesn’t help us.  It only makes the problem worse.

Which is why Jesus isn’t so much commanding us not to worry or else, He’s telling us that God has given us reasons not to worry.  He is the creator.  He is the One who has the power to solve every problem we have.  And, what’s more important, He is the One who has the love for His creation which causes Him to solve every problem we have.  He’s the one who clothes even the flowers of the field, and gives food and drink to the birds of the air.  And so, not only is worry sinful, it is also completely unnecessary.

But we still have the problem of our relationship to Him.  We still have the problem that we have done something He has commanded us not to do.  We still can’t do anything to fix our own hearts, which are naturally inclined to try to control and fix our own problems, and which worry and get anxious if we don’t.  Who is going to solve that problem?  After all, food and clothing, house and home, and so on, are all well and good, but we are all going to die sooner or later.  What happens then?  How do we deal with that reality?  How can we fix that problem?  Especially since the One who is our Judge condemns worry, and we’re worrying about, of all things, His judgment against worry itself.

Well, it is precisely our creator, the one who made us and all creation, who has given us body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them – it is He who is also the one who has fixed, from His end the ultimate problem we all still have, namely our broken relationship with Himself.  The Creator is also the one who has redeemed us.  It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us, not just food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all that we have, but the Kingdom itself.  It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us, not just this life, but eternity.

What does this mean?  Our sin of worrying has already been paid for.  Our concern for food and clothing is answered by the One who became naked, thirsty and hungry on the cross.  He became forsaken by the one who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers, in order to provide us with the clothing that does not get eaten by moths or stained by rust and the food which does not rot or spoil.  He died so that we might have life.  In fact, He becomes our clothing and our food.  The white robe of His righteousness, which He put on us in Holy Baptism covers the nakedness of our unrighteousness.  The body which was broken and the blood which was shed become our food and drink.  Compared to these, providing us with food and clothing in this world is as nothing.  We wear Christ, and we eat and drink Him, and we will do so forever.  What is there to worry about?

+Soli Deo Gloria+

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