Trinity XV - St. Matthew 6:24-34 - September 13, 2015

Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn #518 "If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee"
Hymn #521 "What God Ordains Is Always Good"
Hymn #446 "Rise, My Sou, to Watch and Pray"

Readings

Deuteronomy 6:4-7
Galatians 5:25-6:10
St. Matthew 6:24-34

Collect for Trinity XV

O Lord, we beseech Thee, let They continual pity cleanse and defend Thy Church; and because it cannot continue in safety without Thy succor, preserve it evermore by Thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel


1)         Jesus says that no one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. Who are the two masters Jesus has in mind? You cannot serve God and mammon.  But surely there are no mammon worshipers in this holy house. No one has a shrine set up in their home to mammon. No one prays to mammon, obsessively looking for its favor. Surely no one worships mammon by fearing that its lack will cause destitution; by loving it more than God’s Word; or by trusting that with just a little more mammon all our problems would be solved, or at least alleviated. We all know, for we’ve heard it preached before and we have read this in the pages of Holy Writ times before, that serving mammon is idolatry, and that no covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5) We know that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10) We have heard this all before. We know that mammon, like lust or the desire for glory, is never satisfied with more mammon. Enough is never enough. There is always one more need that needs to be met. There is always one more emergency that requires funds. Besides, Jesus says that if anyone tries to serve both God and mammon, it is impossible. We would end up hating God and loving mammon. Trying to serve mammon in even the slightest bit leads our loyalty away from the Triune God and towards a master who promises much but delivers little. Surely none of us try to serve to masters, trying to split our fear, our love, and trust in God with mammon, wealth, and possessions, along with the worldly security and comfort that mammon offers.

2)         But we do try to serve two masters. And we try to get away with it almost daily. Lest we trick ourselves into thinking that we don’t attempt to serve both God and mammon, Jesus then says therefore I say to you, do not worry 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? How we serve mammon? How to we place our fear, our love, and our trust in wealth? By worrying about the things of this life. Worry is the liturgy by which we serve mammon. It seems so innocuous because it saturates us. Worry seems so harmless because everybody does it. But it is not innocuous. It is far from harmless to the soul. Worry is the worship of mammon by which our hearts are tempted to look away from our Father in heaven as the giver of all things. St. James writes, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17) But when every good gift and every perfect gift seem delayed by time and circumstance and chance mammon tempts us to look to it instead of God our Father. Mammon tempts every one of us to pursue wealth, money, and worldly security with all we have and as our first and chief priority in this life. It whispers to your heart, “Perhaps God is delayed, or worse, perhaps something you’ve done is the reason for His delay? Perchance God doesn’t favor His baptized as much as you assumed? Perhaps God won’t provide at all?” Sirach reminds us that all temptation such as these especially vex the saints when he writes, My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation. (Sirach 2:1)

3)         Such a temptation came to Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, son of Shaphat in the Old Testament. In 2 Kings 5, the Syrian general Naaman comes to Elijah because he is afflicted with leprosy. He washes seven times in the Jordan River, according to the Word of the Lord through His servant Elisha. When Naaman returns to the prophet he offers Elisha a gift for the healing. Naaman, being a Syrian General, was quite wealthy so any gift from him for a life-saving treatment would have been beyond extravagant. But Elisha declines the gift. He will not be tempted by the comfort that mammon and worldly riches offer. But Elisha’s servant Gehazi does not see such a reward for the dangerous temptation it is. Gehazi pursues Naaman and lies to the general. He says, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, 'Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’” (2 Kings 5:22) Naaman, in faith and gratitude, gives two talents each. Gehazi takes his treasures home for safe keeping before returning to his master. When he returns to Elisha, son of Shaphat, Elisha said to him, "Where did you go, Gehazi?" And he said, "Your servant did not go anywhere." Then he said to him, "Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? "Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever." And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow. (2 Kings 5:25-27) Gehazi attempted to serve two masters, God and mammon, and demonstrated Jesus’ point. To trust mammon and serve it always leads to forsaking the truth of God’s Word. Whether a little or a lot is promised by mammon, trust in mammon’s promises moves the believer away from trust in God’s promised provision to mammon’s promises instead.

4)         Also consider the prophet Elijah, who graces our bulletin cover this morning, showing us the true worship of God, which is faith in the Word of God above all else. When the Lord pronounced a severe famine over the land of Israel because of the wickedness of King Ahab, He commanded Elijah to hide by the Brook Cherith. There he could drink from brook. The Lord also provided ravens to bring bread to the prophet. Elijah could not sow or reap. He did not provide for himself by planting and harvesting. He could not make a quick trip to H.E.B. to pick up supplies for his camping trip. The Word of the Lord promised him provision in that place. Elijah believed and acted on that word, trusting that Word of promise. And it was unto him as he believed. The ravens were God’s unlikely instruments by which He kept his servant fed and provided for his daily need. Laterh, when the brook Cherith dried up due to the famine, the Lord commanded the prophet to go to Sidon and there the Lord used Elijah to provide not only for Himself but also for a widow at Zarephath. The woman was gathering sticks for a fire to make one last cake of bread. She and her son would eat it and then die, living in abject poverty because of the famine. But the Lord again provided in spite of the woman’s utter lack. Elijah told her, For thus says the LORD God of Israel: “The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.” So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:14-16) The Lord provided for the three of them according to His Word.  Elijah the Tishbite shows us how we are to ask for daily bread and how we are to hold to the Lord’s Word of promise, even though it contradict the laws of nature or our own opinions and imaginations.

5)         This is what Christ our Lord teaches us once again. He leads us away from our inborn idolatry and worship of mammon through worry by pointing us to the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. The birds, like Elijah at the Brook Cherith, neither sow nor reap but the Lord provides for them each day. Gehazi wanted to provide for himself clothing for the future. For his sin of covetousness and self-trust, he instead was clothed with Naaman’s leprosy. The lilies of the field do not toil or spin their own clothing, yet the Lord arrays them in clothing more radiant than anything Solomon wore in his wealth. So much more will God the Father provide for those He makes His children through Holy Baptism? In fact, that is a chief comfort for each of us in our times of want or lack. God promises each one of you that He will not forsake you because He has put His name on you in baptismal waters. Where God puts His name, there He is present to be gracious and favorable, giving you all that you need in body and soul. Christ Jesus presents to us the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields not as pictures of condemnation for our lack of faith, but as pictures of His faithful provision for all our needs. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. He knows and because He knows that He promises to provide you with all you need. It may be bread from ravens and water from a brook. It may be great wealth and comfort. It may be somewhere in between. God gives to each as He wills and faith believes that whatever He gives is good and gracious, since we sinners deserve nothing.

6)         Be free of worry, dear saints of God! Concern yourself not with the things of this life. Certainly we are to work and to take care of the business that God has given us to do. But do not fret over these things. Instead, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Make your chief priority the seeking of the kingdom of God, which is God working through His Word to forgive sins and break the power of the devil in your life. Your chief aim is to pursue the righteousness of faith so that you bear the fruits of repentance and righteousness, good works that serve your neighbor in love. Christ’s kingdom and Christ’s righteousness, apprehended by faith, that is to be your pursuit. Your Father in heaven knows what you need. He promises to give it you. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Remember the birds of the air. Consider the lilies of the field. Let them remind you of your Lord’s Words this day and every day, that He provides all things for His baptized for this life and for the life of the world to come. Amen.

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