Sixth in a Series of Seven Sermons
Matthew 6: 25-34
Dear Christian Friends,
At the beginning of our sermon series, we traveled through the beatitudes as a catalogue of God’s promises. Four weeks ago – who would be called great in the kingdom of heaven, three weeks ago, what are the standards for the kingdom of heaven, two weeks ago – life is all about Jesus, last week what it looks like when Christians are at worship, and today, what it looks like when Christians are living one day at a time.
Living and dying with (the Vikings) Here’s a quote out of a sermon I wrote for a Preaching Workshop class at Seminary in1980. “As a Vikings fan, I live and die with their success and/or failure. When I watch one of their games, my palms get sweaty, my hearts beats a mile a minute, and am oblivious to the outside world. When they lose, I cry. When they win, I rejoice. But while they are playing, I am in a constant state of worry. When they are behind, I worry that they are going to lose. When they have the ball, I worry they will fumble. When they throw a pass, I worry about interceptions. Even when they are ahead, I worry they will blow the lead. After 15 years of such agony, I am beginning to realize that my worrying changes nothing. Whether I worry about them or not, the outcome will be the same. My sweaty palms and rapid heart beat mean nothing to Bud Grant and the Vikings. I have no control over the game.”
Fast forward 37 years, and you might think I have figured out the foolishness of worry with regard to pro football. Some days I have, other days not so much. It is human nature cross over the line from proper concern to sinful worry, it is the devil’s great desire that we cross that line in a regular way, and as you well know, we have all kinds of misery in common with fellow worriers.
At the 2016 national youth gathering of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod youth, the top five concerns of youth were 1) terrorism, 2)the future, 3)college, 4)abortion, and 5) my faith. It’s interesting to note that in the previous seven polls going back 21 years, terrorism had never made the top five issues. It’s also interesting to note that the environment was listed #3 in 2013 and had dropped to #23rd in 2016. Suggesting that our list of worries ebbs and flows over the years, but one truth remains clear, we were tempted to worry yesterday, we are being tempted to worry today, and we will be tempted to worry tomorrow.
In today’s sermon Jesus would teach us once again what it’s like to have Him as the cornerstone of our lives, what it’s like to have a home built on solid rock, so that when the rains come down, the flood waters rise up, and the winds blow strong, our homes will stand strong. In today’s text, Jesus would give us three terrific reasons to trust in the Lord and lean not unto our own understandings. Three good reasons not to drag the guilt of days gone by and the worries of days yet to come into today. Three strong testimonies why we should spend less time worrying and more time praying, three strong testimonies set before us today to help us choose between life and good on the one hand and death and evil on the other.
There is the testimony of nature, the testimony of logic, and the testimony of Scripture.
The Testimony of (Nature) The Psalmist writes The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. In other words, just a glance into the skies, just noticing the beauty of the rivers and the valleys and the fields, just paying attention to the passing scenery will tell you that there is a God. The writer to the Hebrews says it this way, “Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that houses don’t build themselves, birds don’t worry about spring planting, birds don’t worry about fall harvesting, flowers don’t worry about what they’re going to wear tomorrow. They get taken care of by the providence of their Father in heaven.
And so when Jesus teaches us to look at the birds of the air and how they neither sow nor reap nor gather in barns, he reminds us that Even the birds (get fed). This is an argument from the lesser to the greater, if God feeds the birds, He’s going to feed you. If your Father in heaven is willing to provide for the little birds who spend zero time worrying, why would you and I be so worried, so distracted, and so very anxious over problems big and small, especially those situations over which we have absolutely no control? The kingdom of God is like an elderly couple who spends time every day watching the birds feed outside their window. More often than not, they say to themselves, “Having food and clothing, let us therewith be contented.
Jesus would have us learn every day not just from the birds, but also the flowers. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow… in other words, Even the flowers (get clothed) Again the argument is from the lesser to the greater.. If God is able to provide for the very temporary grasses and flowers of the plant kingdom, I repeat this question, why would you and I be so worried, so distracted, and so very anxious over problems big and small, especially those situations over which we have absolutely no control? The kingdom of God is like a woman who is learning more and more to enjoy all the seasons of the year, more and more she watches out her window, less and less her tv, more and more she revels in taking care of her house plants, less and less she fusses about the dust bunnies gathering behind them.
Testimony #1 was from nature, secondly, there is The Testimony of Logic. So very many of our worries have absolutely no basis in logic, they are pure emotion. Logic dictates that certain things matter, and certain things do not. It matters that children get baptized, it doesn’t matter whether their wardrobe is brand name or not. It matters that children get nourished and cherished in the Christian faith, it doesn’t matter if the Packers advance to the Super Bowl or not. It matters that hurting people get listened to and helped, it doesn’t matter so much what people are thinking about you as you are listening and helping.
Jesus uses simple logic in this little sermon on the foolishness of crossing over the line from proper concern into sinful anxiety. He asks no fewer than five questions, 1) Is not life more important than food? 2) Is not the body more important than clothing? 3)Aren’t you more valuable than birds? 4)Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his span of life? Another translation has him asking, “Which of you by worrying can add a single cubit to your stature? 5) Aren’t you more valuable than the lilies of the field which are here today and gone tomorrow?
Two mental images come to mind, in terms of capturing the folly, even the danger of getting caught up in fits of anxiety. First, Worrying is like rocking in a (rocking chair). It is something to do, it involves all kinds of activity, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
Secondly, Worrying is like biting off more than you (can chew). I can remember doing that more than once with a big piece of steak that wasn’t so tender. In my desire to eat in a hurry, I bit off more than I could chew. It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t turn out that well. So also when we bite off tomorrow’s problems and try to chew on them today, along with today’s problems. Jesus would shake His heads at us today, sort of like my dad would shake his head when I wasn’t showing common sense. He would remind us that living one day at a time, by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, is so much better than living in the past, it’s so much easier than trying to live in the future. First there was the testimony of nature, secondly the testimony of logic, and finally,
The Testimony of Scripture. The apostle John wrote it this way, “These acts of Jesus are written so that you may believe that Jesus it he Christ, and that by believing you may have life in His name. Paul said it this way to Timothy, “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”
Two truths the Spirit of God would use to persuade us today, to persuade us to hand over our worries in a regular sort of a way to God, to persuade us first of all that God is really smart, and secondly that God’s record is absolutely perfect.
First, God is really (smart) That’s the way I explained it to the children in chapel on Wednesday. God is really smart. Luke records Jesus saying that God knows even the number of hairs that are on each one of our heads. Wikopedia suggests that the average head has 100,000 to 110,000 hairs, also that we lose 50-100 hairs every day. Jesus was reassuring those early disciples that God was really smart, and therefore they shouldn’t be afraid when they were dragged in front of the emperors. God was really smart, and therefore they should not worry about what they were going to say in the face of persecution. If God was so smart that he knew how many hairs were on their head, then they should trust that he was smart enough to give them the words to say. Dear friends, God is smart enough to know exactly what you need in life, He knows how much success and how much failure you need,He knows how much prosperity and how much adversity you need, He knows exactly how to answer your prayers, He doesn’t need you to be consumed with worry.
God’s record is absolutely (perfect). He said that He would deliver Israel out of slavery and into the Promised Land, and He did. He said He would be with Israel night and Day in days of wilderness and in days of exile and He was. He said He would send His own Son to be our Savior, and He did. Jesus said He would suffer and He suffered. He said He would die and He did. He said He would rise up again on the third day and He did. He said He would follow us around with goodness and mercy, and He does. He said He would never leave nor forsake us and He won’t. God says what he means and means what he says. In every circumstance of life, in every one of our days, when all the dust has settled and when we have done all that we could do and said all we can do, we have good reason to be still, to know that God is God, and to resist crossing over the line from proper concern into sinful worry.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of people less and less living and dying with their favorite football team and more and more Dying and Living (with Christ). Less and less worried about what tomorrow might bring and more and more living one day at a time. Less and less blaming others for their troubles and more and more saying they are sorry and crying out for mercy. Less and less listening to the voices of jealousy and rage, more and more listening to the voice of their Good Shepherd. Less and less chasing after money and all that money can buy, more and more staying close to Jesus Christ and all that He is wanting to give. Less and less do they take life’s burdens on own shoulders, more and more they pray, Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters