“We ask for what we believe God the Father, Son, and Spirit alone can give” Trinity 15 2023

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17. September 2023
Trinity 15
Matthew 6:24-34

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

This is the word of the Lord that came to me, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name. AMEN.

Jesus exhorts you today: Do not worry about your life. Don’t be anxious. Don’t be afraid. So, listen to Him, be confident, patient, and content with what you have and who you are. There. Done. That’s your Word for today. Go and do it. Stop being anxious. Don’t worry. Be happy—sermon over.

But it’s not that easy. We worry all the time. We are constantly anxious about our lives, what’s going on in our community, and what we hear happening around the world. We talk endlessly about the economy, cost of living, gas prices, and taxes. We look to the sky in fear over the next cataclysmic storm. We look to the earth and worry if it will yield its fruit this season. We anxiously wonder if our children will turn out to be good people, or we despair that our children will ever shape up. We go to work fearful that the boss will lash out or the coworker will stab us in the back.

You’ll note that the things that cause us the most worry, anxiety, and fear are those that God promises to give and protect. He gives them in the Creed and the Prayer and protects them with the Ten Commandments. In the Creed, God the Father and Maker promises everything you need for your life. God the Son gives you everything needed for salvation through His suffering and death. God the Holy Spirit gives you faith in His Church to keep you with the Father and the Son. So, why do you worry? Why are you anxious? What are you afraid of?

The simple answer given by the Holy Word is that we do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. That’s a harsh Word of the judgment of our sin and rebellion. We might think God delights in accusing us, like some abusive father who enjoys inflicting pain on those weaker than him. We might think God’s preachers are like-minded sadists who get off on making Christ’s flock miserable. We might think that the goal is to drive people away from the church, not back to God. 

And that would all be true if the Father had not also given His Son Jesus to die for us and forgive us for our rejection of Him. Without the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified, the Law seems to be a bludgeon to kill us and leave us for dead. 

But the chief reason God shows you your sin is to forgive it. “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD, and you forgive the iniquity of my sin.” His Holy Law is given that we would see our fear, anxiety, and worry for what it is: unbelief. We should fear and love God, but we don’t. We worry about what the Fed and the bankers will do with interest rates because we fear them. We complain and whine about politicians because we trust them. We despair for the future of our country because we love it and can’t let it go. They rule with fear, promoted by their demonic agents in the media, internet, corporations, activist organizations, and even charities. Those big boogeymen wrestle away from us what God alone can demand: fear, love, and trust.

But the Commandments drive us much closer to home. God reveals to us that the enemy isn’t just “out there” but is in our own hearts. We do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We love our bodies and life to the point of idolatry. All the gifts promised in the Creed for body, life, and salvation become objects to fear, love, and trust. Let me say it another way: we take God’s good gifts and make them the object of our worship rather than the Giver. 

So our whole life is consumed with endless fretting about getting more and more. We hold onto the gifts so tightly that they become a curse to us. We fear losing God’s gifts, so we refuse to love and serve our neighbor. We love the pleasures of life but do not give God the praise for them. We trust in our efforts to build and preserve the Church rather than believing and trusting that God the Holy Spirit alone is responsible for preserving the preaching of the Gospel and giving of the sacred mysteries.

But God will not have us fearing any other god. He will let us love others more than Him. He will reclaim trust in Him for everything needed for body and life. So, the nexus between the promises of God in the Creed and the rejection of those promises revealed in the Ten Commandments is prayer, namely the Lord’s Prayer. This and any other prayer grounded in the Word of God is how we Christians return to God in confession and faith. We cannot pray to God and worship wealth, country, life, or whatever else we falsely fear, love, and trust. The Lord’s Prayer turns us back to God in faith, asking for what He has promised. We pray no doubting but firmly believing that He hears and gives.

We ask that His name put on us in Baptism (not any other earthly savior) would be on our lips in need, praise, and thanks. We ask that He (not us) preserve His Holy Church among us by Word and Spirit. We ask that God do what He has always promised and wills despite our doubts. We ask for the daily bread He gives to all, even without prayers, just as he does for the birds and the lilies. We ask for God the Father to forgive us for all the ways we should fear and love Him and His Commandments but don’t. We ask Jesus to lead us through this valley of sorrow and into the way of life. We ask God to deliver us from all evil, whether in our hearts, in our church, in our work, in our community, or in our world. We ask for what we believe God the Father, Son, and Spirit alone can give. And that is everything needed for body, life, and salvation.

How does God work with such confidence that we can pray this way? He says, “You will have no other Gods.” What we hear as an accusation, “we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things,” is also a promise. He will be our God, and we will be His people. And the good news is that He will do this without and even despite us! He won’t leave or forsake you, even though you wander daily into sin and unbelief. He won’t stop lovingly caring for you, even as you wring your hands in worry, despair, and hopelessness. He won’t stop calling you into His Church to be forgiven, restored, and renewed in faith, even when you think the congregation is yours to build, preserve, and grow. He will tear down every idol of your heart’s throne so that He is your God and He alone. 

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Mt 6:31-34)

This is the word of the Lord that came to me, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name. AMEN.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin