Lessons: 1 Kings 17:8-16, Galatians 5:25-6:10, Matthew 6:24-34
Hymns: LSB 756, 760, 696, 708, 719
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
A question some have been asking this past week is, “Where were you?” Many know what this question means without further explanation. Where were you on September 11, 2001, twenty years ago yesterday? If you were more than a few years old, I’m sure you know. You probably remember quite vividly. You probably remember some of your initial thoughts and feelings.
I was attending my second day of classes at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. Another professor walked entered our classroom to talk briefly to my professor (who was also the Dean of the Chapel). My professor didn’t say anything to our class, but when we were dismissed a few minutes early to the next thing on the schedule (which was morning chapel), there was a flurry of discussion. So, I heard from fellow students and, immediately went to the chapel. The preacher appointed for that day was the Senior Pastor at historic St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in downtown Fort Wayne. He scrapped whatever he had prepared and preached a fantastic sermon in light of the events. After lunch, I was in a waiting room at an auto body shop getting an estimate for damage done to my car. I had attended St. Paul’s two days earlier—on Sunday—and an Elder had backed into my car in the Church parking lot. The waiting room had a TV and the only topic being aired were the tragic events of the day.
That following Sunday saw a spike in church attendance across the nation. Many were fearful for our country and for our safety, and many were fearful of what the future would bring.
Even today, many are fearful as the Taliban in Afghanistan may again harbor terrorists who could launch attacks on American soil. Many are fearful of COVID-19. Many are fearful of what could happen if our country chooses to continue with unrestrained spending. Many are fearful as Communist countries are gaining power. Many are fearful as Islam and its oppressive ways continue to grow. Many are fearful over the possibility of identity theft. Many are fearful of strangers who may do evil things against us or our loved ones. Many are fearful of the moral decay taking place in our country.
The list is seemingly endless. Satan wants you to cower in fear. He wants you to think he has the upper hand.
But instead of letting the Devil win, we turn to God in prayer, saying, “O Lord, we implore You, let Your continual pity cleanse and defend Your Church; and because she cannot continue in safety without Your aid, preserve her evermore by Your help and goodness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.”
This prayer is what we call the Collect of the Day. It “collects” the theme found in the Scripture lessons and makes a petition before our Lord. I encourage you to take your bulletins home and make the weekly Collect of the Day one of the prayers you pray daily. Today’s Collect certainly summarizes our Gospel, and directs our hearts and minds away from the things that may cause fear and toward our Refuge and Strength, God Himself. Yet, today’s Collect also acknowledges the daily troubles we face. The Church cannot continue in safety without God’s aid; we need cleansing and defending.
I think people become anxious because of the reality that we cannot continue in safety without God’s aid. They see how bad things are. We live in a very fallen world. And this all provides people with plenty of opportunity to worry. That’s why the Collect continues, saying, “preserve her evermore by Your help and goodness.”
You see, God is good. Our anxieties will never lessen until we realize this reality—God is good. And since God is good, He will provide, as He teaches in today’s Gospel. Your Father in Heaven knows what you need. He knows you need food and clothing, and so He grants them to you. Therefore, as our Good Shepherd teaches us, “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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25).
Now, some of you may think, “But I’m not anxious about the basic necessities like food and clothing. I already have them, and God has been supplying them. What makes me anxious is lacking this other thing or not knowing the future.”
For that line of thinking, we must carefully consider what Jesus is teaching us. Throughout the Scriptures God demonstrates how He will take care of our entire lives—from cradle to grave, from body to soul. He is there for us, shepherding us, loving us, blessing us, granting us a peace which the world cannot give.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God not only gave them clothing, but He also promised them His Son who would come to take away their sin so that they can be reconciled to God and receive the gift of eternal life. This shows the heart of God. This compassion and this love were not only poured out on the first humans, but they are also poured out on you. God is with you.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us may reasons why we should cast our anxieties on Him and why we need not be anxious.
The first is we cannot have two masters. Either we will serve God or we will serve money (mammon). When money becomes our first love, we will be filled with all sorts of anxiety. We will be anxious to obtain it and, when we do, we will be anxious that we may lose it. We’ll be anxious if it will be stolen or if it will evaporate from inflation or poor investment choices. But if we serve God, we will know that money does not provide happiness, nor does it provide security. Only the Lord can grant those to us.
After all, Jesus says, our heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air. If He will take care of even the smallest sparrow, He will certainly take care of you. Unlike the sparrow, you are the apple of God’s eye. He has granted you a soul so that you can live eternally. He sent His Son not to be a sparrow or a lily, but to be a human—one of us—so that Jesus can redeem us humans from our sin and grant us access to eternal life. Jesus became Man so that He can die on the cross in our place to grant us the free gift of everlasting salvation. Through Jesus, we are reconciled to our Father. In fact, everything that belongs to God the Son now belongs to us, for we are now members of God’s family.
In our Gospel, Jesus asks, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:27). That is, Jesus reasons with our hearts, asking, “How can worry extend your life? What purpose does it serve?” After all, the Lord of Life determined when we would be born, and He determines when He will take us into His eternal Kingdom. He created us, and He has already promised us the blessing of living eternally with perfect bodies when Jesus returns again in glory.
This, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is what we should be seeking: the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33). The things of this world provide no lasting comfort or pleasure, but God’s Kingdom grants us peace with God right now, and the confident hope of eternal life in which we will dwell with God in perfection forever.
Seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is not something that we save until after we have lived what we feel is a fulfilling, worldly life. Instead, it ought to begin right away upon birth. When a child is born, it is good that parents add their children to God’s Kingdom through the waters of Holy Baptism. They are adopted as God’s own children. And if they belong to Him, God will certainly take care of them.
This then continues as parents teach their children the Christian faith—modeling in faith not only Christian behavior, but especially Christian activity. This means going to church; sending children to Sunday School, Wednesdays With the Word, and Catechism instruction; and ensuring continued Christian instruction after Confirmation. This also means praying with our children at mealtime and before going to bed. This means reading the Scriptures or retelling Bible stories with our children. This means fulfilling the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, where it is written, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
That way the proverb may be fulfilled, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The importance of this training cannot be overemphasized. Consider how much anxiety would be lessened when children learn that the ways of the Lord and His good promises—instead of learning to love mammon. When we allow our busy lives take priority over our hearing and learning of the Word, we are allowing mammon to be our master. It is a dangerous path. We must be on guard. And repent, clinging firmly to Christ our Savior. He covers us with His very righteousness and promises to us a better life—the way of salvation.
As vividly as we remember Sept. 11, let’s even more remember the words of Christ and the way of salvation. Let’s not hide in fear, but fulfill our daily vocations in joyful faith, knowing that Christ will take care us and bring us to our heavenly home. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen