Trinity 15, 2015

 

The Epistle. Galatians 6:11-18

The Gospel. Matthew 6:24-34

 

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

 

This week the Collect and lessons point us to the frailty of man and sets that against the power, strength and even the mercy of God.

 

A comparison and a contrast we should always keep in mind. 

God is infinite. 

We are finite. 

God is all-powerful, we are powerless. 

God is perfect.  We are imperfect.

 

And the comparisons could go on….

 

 

Hence the concept here that the Church of God must always be kept by his perpetual mercy, or else it will fall.

 

We have even seen over the last few weeks the futility and frailty of the members of Christ’s Church if they continue to live in the flesh. 

 

We have been reminded by St. Paul that we are now in the spirit and we are to rely on God to help us to live in the Spirit.  The spirit dwells in us now, and we are not to conform to the wishes and desires and lusts of the flesh.

 

This morning’s Gospel lesson picks up in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount.  We start in verse 24, but those who break the chapters up into verses and even sections, begin a new thought of Jesus back at verse 19…5 verses earlier, where Jesus says this…and we all know this one by heart…..

 

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”     

(Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

 

There it is again. Opposing forces.  We have had flesh and spirit.  Now we have heaven and earth….treasures in each…..yet incompatible and incomparable in worth and value.

 

Treasures we have on earth are prone to decay and destruction.  They are prone to theft. Treasures in heaven never rust, decay or fade….and can never be stolen.  They are eternal. 

 

Choose this day where your treasures will lie….for that will be an indicator of where you heart lies. 

 

Then skipping down to where we are today, we begin with this….which is very much in line with the previous verses…

 

“No one can serve two masters, [says Jesus] for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 

Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.” (Matthew 6:24ff ESV)

 

If we are talking about the flesh vs. the spirit, or treasures on earth vs. treasures in heaven, or serving one master or another, we are turned again and again to the idea of reliance.  And of course we are talking here about reliance on God.

 

The prayer even says as much…. The Church must be kept by God’s perpetual mercy.  It must rely on God’s perpetual mercy, because man is frail and without relying on God, he can do nothing but fall.

 

Jesus, knowing the thoughts and worries and tendencies of man anticipates this these things and He still provides the right perspective.

 

He says, don't be anxious about your life….about food or drink or clothing.  Isn't life more than these things? 

 

And we of course can comfortably answer yes, but deep down we know that we still have to eat and drink and put on clothes.  How can we not be anxious?  How can we learn to better rely on God?

 

But it would seem His point is not to say that we should not have any care about what we eat or when we eat, but rather we are not to let ourselves lose our reliance on God for the food or the drink or the clothing.

 

When Jesus tells us not to be anxious, this is not to be taken literally….as if He was telling us not to care at all.  He is redirecting our reliance to the true source of all things that come to us.

 

God’s people are never free in this life from sorrow, pain, needs and wants, and a plethora of other things.  But we can say, as we are taught by Jesus here today, that we need not be overly anxious about them.

 

 

 

And we can say this, because through our reliance on the care and mercy and providence of God, we can continually learn to rest and repose in Him and His care.

 

We learn from Jesus here that there is a right amount of anxiety about food, and that is…we eat enough to satisfy us….but not to overindulgence.  It's the same with drink obviously and with clothing as well.

 

Each of us has his own level of needs and wants, but if we, at each turn set our reliance on God for these things, moderation can and will follow.

 

Calvin says, “….if we give proper attention to the words of Christ, we shall find, that He does not forbid every kind of care, but only what arises from distrust.”  Distrust is the opposite of reliance….or at least it is a manifestation of a lack of reliance.

 

The Pslamist says in one place, “He who planted the ear, does he not hear?

      He who formed the eye, does he not see?”

(Psalm 94:9 ESV)

 

This is directly related to our reliance on God, for even Jesus says, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 ESV)

 

Jesus is called by John, the Lord and Giver of Life.  Is not the life and its complete reliance on Christ for every breath including its eternal destination more important than worrying in excess about what sustains it?

 

The way these things are phrased by Jesus and by the writers of the Scriptures, are all encouragement to trust….to faith…..to rely on God.

 

And further, by direct implication at times, these things are written in such a way as to communicate to us that if we are not relying on God, we are dishonoring Him.

 

We may not see it that way.  We don't want to dishonor God, but if our reliance is turned in any direction other than to God, then we do Him a disservice. And we do so because His Word is truth….but we are not taking it as truth.

 

God is trustworthy and true.  He will not and cannot lie.  He does not tell us things if He doesn't completely stand behind them.  He promises and cannot deny Himself.  Jesus says to His Disciples at one point, “…if it were not so, would I tell you?”….when referring to preparing a place for us in heaven…  

 

God has not put us on the earth at random. 

He knows that we have needs and He promises to provide for those needs.  He has even, as we see next, He even sets and determines the span of each of our lives.

 

He sticks this line in as He speaks about food and drink and clothing… He says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

 

This question may be more pertinent to us than to any previous generation.  By eating and drinking in a certain way and by running around being anxious about these things does not lengthen our lives.

 

Of course diet and exercise are vital to the health of mankind, but ultimately, the date of our death is set in the secret council of God and that is information that has not been revealed to us.

 

To seek to be healthy and well dressed is one thing.  To obsess about lengthening our lives is another.  Which of us ultimately has any control over the day of our birth or the day of our death? 

 

But again we are turned back to the reliance we are to have on God. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV)

 

Jesus says as much in this passage today when He uses the animal kingdom to describe how we are to rely on God.  He feeds them.  He clothes them. 

 

They don't do proper work as we do. They don't dig ditches or plant seeds.

They live strictly by the hand of God….even if we set a bird feeder out to feed the birds in our yard. 

 

Even the seed comes from God and not ourselves.

 

The animals, have no concept of life and death.  They don't think about such things.  We have been given such a greater design….and if we are relying on God, then even the prospect of death is not to be something we are to be anxious about.

 

If our lives are in the hands of God, then anxiety cannot add to the duration of our lives.  Our days have been appointed by God.  Worrying about them and their end does not change anything from God’s perspective.

 

If He has given us the gift of life in the first place, will He not also provide the things it needs along the way?

 

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)

 

It is true that we are never fully and completely set to relying on God for all things, all of the time.  We wax and wane in our faith.  We are never fully putting away the works of the flesh, and the anxieties of the world. 

 

But as we, by faith work on reliance on God and work to disdain the fleshly desires and, as one has said: “give nothing more than an unwilling and reluctant service to the flesh”…we will not be serving two masters…..but rather we will find approval from God as if we were rendering Him perfect service and perfect obedience….But only if we do so by faith.[1]

 

God is in fact keeping His Church in His perpetual mercy.  Without Him it will fall.  Without Him we will perish.  But through a constant reliance on Him, we will live with a sure confidence that we need not be anxious about anything.

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.



[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 1, pp. 339–341). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.