18 September 2007

Homily - Trinity 15

Another very fine homily from a seminary student, this time from Mr. Louis Boldt (and, of course, posted with his permission).

"Seek the Kingdom of God"
Luke 12:22-34 (parallel to Matt. 6:24-34)

Today’s sermon is based on our Gospel reading from Matthew, but from the perspective of St. Luke.

We live in a culture that teaches us to be self-reliant during every stage of our lives. It begins in our early childhood. How many of you asked your elementary school teacher if you could be a firefighter, an astronaut or the President of the United States when you grew up? If you did, you probably got the same response that I did, or one similar to it. “Well if you set your mind to it, study hard and work hard, then you can be whatever you want.” And we experience this same thing throughout our adolescence and our adult lives. We are taught that we control our destiny. It is up to us to create a plan for our lives, to implement the plan, and to bring it to completion. We become the MASTERS OF OUR OWN UNIVERSE.

So we live our life as the master of our universe controlling our destiny and then it happens… We hear about a natural disaster or a terrorist attack that claims innocent lives and destroys property. Maybe we get a phone call telling us that a family member has suddenly died. Maybe we find out that we have a major health problem during a routine doctor’s visit. And we start to realize… we realize that the universe doesn’t always function the way we want it to. We realize that we don’t control the universe. In fact… we realize that we are almost powerless and we become afraid. And these fears… these fears can be a driving force in our lives that prevent us from moving forward.

I know in my own life, my journey to the seminary was neither quick nor easy. It was filled with many fears. Fears about my own abilities, fears about knowing God’s will for my life and fears about financial matters. You name any financial matter you want and I had a concern. Tuition. Living expenses. Insurance. HOW AM I going to pay for it all? HOW AM I going to meet the needs of my family? We’ve worked hard to get out of debt and I am not going to put us back into debt. And Satan grabbed onto my fears and he started to work them… and work them… and work them. And if everything were left up to me, I can honestly say that he would have won the battle. I wouldn’t have made the decision to go to the seminary.

But, God does not want us to live our lives in fear being unsure about doing work in His kingdom. Now before I go any farther, I don’t want you to get the idea that the only way to work in God’s kingdom is to go to the seminary, it isn’t. In fact, everything we do in our lives as a parent or a child, as an employer or employee or as a close by neighbor or one who is far away is working in God’s kingdom. And God desires us to do this work with assurance and confidence, but when we rely on ourselves we become afraid and uncertain. This is why God tells us, “You shall have no other Gods.” He has given us this commandment to keep us from relying on ourselves and suffering in this way. He has given us this commandment to remind us to turn to Him and to rely on Him for our life and everything that we need.

As it turns out, we are not the only people who struggle with this problem. Jesus addresses similar issues in today’s Gospel reading. Here we find Jesus talking to His disciples in a discourse filled with commands. “Don’t be anxious.” “Don’t seek.” “Don’t worry.” “Fear not.” Now, you might be wondering why Jesus is saying these things to His disciples. Why would THEY be having these feelings? After all, when Jesus called the Twelve, they left their jobs, their homes and their families to follow Him and everything turned out okay. All of their physical needs were met. And what about their first preaching tour? Jesus gave them the power and authority to perform miracles and told them to go and preach the Kingdom of God, but He told them “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.” (Luke 9:3) He wanted them to rely on God to provide for their needs through the generosity of the people. They did and all their physical needs were met.

So, WHY DID Jesus say all these commands to His disciples? To answer this question, we must look at an event that took place a little earlier in Luke’s narrative. Jesus and the disciples were traveling to Jerusalem and they try to enter a Samaritan village, but Luke tells us that the people did not receive them. (Luke 9:51-56). This was the first time in their ministry that the disciples experienced rejection. And Jesus knew how they would react to this rejection. He knew they would question their ministry plan and question if their physical needs would be met. And Jesus knew that His disciples would face even more rejection in the future. So He tells them how to live their lives. He tells them do not be anxious, do not worry and do not be afraid because these feelings are the way of worldly kingdoms. And these feelings result from self-reliance and failure.

And Jesus tries to teach His disciples this truth. He wants them to know that THEY are not the masters of the universe. So He reveals who the TRUE master of the universe is. He does this by pointing to the world around them. He asks them to consider the ravens. See how they neither sow nor reap nor store up food. Yet, they are fed. Then He asks them to consider the lilies of the field. See how these mere plants grow without toiling or spinning. Yet, they… they are more glorious than Solomon is.

Jesus teaches His disciples that the TRUE master of the universe is the one who provides for all of creation. The TRUE master of the universe is the one who brought everything into existence with his spoken word - Yahweh, the Lord God of hosts. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. No. No, He teaches His disciples that Yahweh, their Heavenly Father, is not just the TRUE master of the universe; He is also the SAVIOR OF SOULS.

He is the One who promised to put enmity between Satan and humanity through a seed of the woman after the fall. He is the One who promised to restore His fallen creation through the Messiah. And when the time was right, God sent His only Son into the world to fulfill that promise. While all the events of Jesus’ life and public ministry point to Him as the Messiah, the disciples still don’t understand what must happen to Him. So Jesus teaches them as they travel to Jerusalem. He tells them that He will be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes. He tells them that He will suffer many things and including death, but He tells them that He will be raised on the third day. (Luke 9:21-22)

And because of their faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah, the one who would restore all of God’s fallen creation, Jesus tells His disciples that it is their Heavenly Father’s good pleasure to give them the Kingdom, a Kingdom that is not of this world. Jesus tells them that even though they live in a world filled with anxiety, worry and fear, He wants them to live their lives with the peace, the serenity and the certainty of the Heavenly Kingdom that their Father has given them.

And these words that Jesus spoke to His disciples still apply today. Like Jesus’ disciples, our Heavenly Father has given us the Kingdom because of our faith in Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Savior. We too have the peace, the serenity and the certainty of the Heavenly Kingdom, but this does not guarantee a trouble free life. No. No, we will face trials and tribulations everyday of our lives, trials and tribulations that come from within us, from the world around us and from Satan himself. We will be tempted to live in this worldly kingdom as masters of our own universe, making our plans, being self-reliant and then becoming anxious, worried and afraid when our plans don’t workout.

But the TRUE master of the universe has a plan for our lives and the power to fulfill that plan, a plan where we are His children and He is our loving Father who meets all our needs. He provides for our physical needs through His creation. He provides rain at the proper time so the earth will yield its crops and the trees will bear fruit for our nourishment (Lev. 26:4). He also provides clothing for our comfort and protection (Deut. 10:18). But our loving Father doesn’t stop there. No. No, He provides us with even GREATER clothing. Clothing that meets our every spiritual need. He has clothed us with the blood and righteousness of His own Son in the waters of our Baptism. In the combination of the water and His word, we are cleansed, redeemed and justified. So when He looks at us, He does not see us as we are. Instead, He sees His Son whom He loves and with whom He is well pleased and we… we receive all of Jesus’ merits. For it is through Jesus Christ, that we become true children of our Heavenly Father.

God provides us with everything that we need for our lives. He provides for our physical needs through his creation, for our eternal salvation through His Son and for our on-going spiritual needs through the Holy Spirit. And because He knows that He is the only one who can truly meet these needs, He wants us to rely on Him in all things. But, what does this reliance on God look like? I’ll give you one small example. Consider prayer.

God has given us prayer as a way to communicate with Him. And just like an earthly father, our Heavenly Father wants to talk with His children openly and freely. He wants each one of us to bring all of our worries and concerns and all of our needs and desires to Him in prayer. (Phil 4:6). He wants us to pray boldly and confidently according to His will (1 John 5:14) and in the name of His Son. (John 16:23) His same Son who reassures us that “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

Prayer is a powerful tool in the life of a believer. I know in my own life, it was through prayer that the Holy Spirit helped me overcome my fears about entering the seminary and to resist Satan’s temptations. Prayers of my own. Prayers of my family and friends. Prayers of other Christians. Prayers that asked for calmness of spirit and clarity of mind so that I would understand God’s will for my life. Prayers that God answered. And when we face temptations, when we are not sure what to pray for or how to pray, God still provides for us. In these times, we can pray the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples – The Lord’s Prayer. And as we pray this prayer a little later in our service, I ask that you meditate upon these familiar words which Jesus Christ gave as THE model for all prayer. Amen.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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