The Fifteen Sunday after Trinity
+ IN NOMINE IESU +
I don’t know anyone who gets up in the morning and decides to worry. In fact, I don’t know anyone who decides to worry at all. Worrying, being anxious about something, comes naturally to us. We don’t decide to do it. It happens. It comes about whether we want it or not. And that’s because worry and anxiety show us what we care about. It reveals what we love and what we’re devoted to. To worry, to be anxious is in fact to care deeply for, to love wholly, to be devoted completely to something or someone.
This is why our Lord begins by saying “No one can serve two masters, 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 mammon.”
So it is not so much the act of worrying but the object of worry that our Lord here highlights. When we worry we see who or what our God really is. When we experience anxiety we see who or what we fear most and seek every blessing and every good thing from.
Consider your lives. What do you worry about? If truth be told we worry about all sorts of things. Some of them good, revealing faith and trust in the true God, the holy Trinity. Like how we have godly concern and care for our children. How we desire to provide for them. So we work to keep a roof over their head, to put food in their bellies, and clothing on their backs. By our work, we’re fulfilling God’s call to provide for those He has placed into and under our care. By our work, we demonstrate our love, our care for, and our devotion to our spouse, our children, our community, our country, and our church. And these worries, teach us what to pray for.
But many of our worries reveal our innate selfishness. Many show us that the one we care for most of all is us. Mammon can reveal this: what we shall eat or drink, what we shall wear, and how people will see us and judge us. But the most pointed worry and anxiety we have, and the thing that drives all the others, that is behind all the others, is our fear of death. Now I’ve yet to meet a Christian who says he’s afraid of death—myself included. But I know myself. My heart doesn’t skip a beat, it doesn’t race when I hit a patch of ice and lose control of the car for nothing. It’s because I’m afraid of death. It’s the same reason that loud noises in the middle of the night, howling and growling dogs that lunge at us, the sight of a group of hooded men on a dimly lighted street make you uncomfortable. It’s why you lock your doors when you go to bed. You’re afraid of death and what the evil one will do. These worries teach us also to pray and confess our sins.
But If death was really reigning, if the evil one had his way, there would be no lilies. God did not abandon us. Even though Adam and Eve had betrayed Him, He still loved them. He walked in the garden after their sin, despite their hatred and fear. He came to earth, in bodily form, foreshowing that He would take our form and pay our price, die our death, that He would stand between us and the devil and perform the duty in which Adam had failed.
Consider the lilies. They do not live in paradise, in the garden of Eden, but in our broken world. They live alongside thorns and thistles that seek to choke them out, with insects, molds, and various diseases, trampled by children and dogs and eaten by deer and rabbits. Consider the lilies and how fragile they are in this violent world. And consider also their beauty.So also consider chocolate, laughter, music, books.
Death does not reign. God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He came where He was needed. He was betrayed again, of course. Before they came with clubs and knives to take Him away, He walked in the garden of Gethsemane. They had their way with Him outside the city, in the place of the skull. He gave Himself over to their evil desires. And it was finished. He was laid to rest, like a kernel of wheat, a sleeping lily, in the garden of the dead. And He rose on Easter morning, the Victor over death, back out of the grave, undoing what sin had done. He gave Joseph his tomb back, as good as new.
Death does not reign. Death is dead. Jesus lives. The lilies come forth each Spring in glory.
Now, then: do not be anxious. Jesus lives. Jesus loves you. You are now suffering many things. The evil one tempts you to waste your energy and effort, to compound your sorrow, with worry, anxiety, and care about various things. The devil would have you worry about money. He would turn you to inward thoughts of how you will pay your bills, how you can get the stuff you want, how you can be popular or successful or just plain survive. He will try to wear you down, to overwhelm you with sadness, to bury you with the impossibility of it all.
Do not be anxious about that. It is useless, unnecessary. You only hurt yourself and those you love. Jesus lives. He will provide. Trust in God. Love and devote yourself to Him. The lilies do not toil or spin. The birds do not sow, reap, or gather. Your Father takes care of them. Your Father takes care of you. He always has. He always will—whether you are good or bad, content or anxious.
Today has its troubles. There is no doubt of that. The call to not be anxious is not a denial of the troubles in our bloody world. These troubles need attention and action. Your children need their lessons and their teeth brushed, your mother needs a phone call, your husband needs a pat on the back, your dog needs a treat. Even your country needs you. She needs your prayers and your involvement, your support. She needs you to pick up the trash and put in the can, to vote for the best candidates, to watch out for your neighborhood. But those needs are small, nothing to be anxious about. They are well within your talents and gifts.
You have been placed by the Lord precisely. He has made you who you are. He has given you these duties, these children, these spouses, these co-workers and bosses and friends and even, like it or not, this president. These are the troubles for today. They are sufficient. Nothing is gained by adding to them with a fallen imagination egged on by Hell’s slavish minions. Nothing is added to them but sorrow if you turn into bitterness, envy, or fear. You are who God has made you to be, where He has placed you, like a Lily in a field. You simply respond in your place, to your community, your family, as you are able. Do not be anxious about today’s troubles, whether the president is doing a good enough job or not, whether your children are meeting all your dreams, whether the climate is growing warmer or colder. Do what you have been given to do, and ask for forgiveness for your failings. The Lord will provide. He has put you in place on purpose, deliberately, even if you yourself feel unworthy to the task or cannot understand all of His purposes. Focus on today, not yesterday and not tomorrow. Rest in the certainty that Jesus lives, that Jesus is providing, and will always provide. The lilies don’t know what they are doing either. They are just being lilies. That is sufficient.
Death does not reign. The lilies prove it. Not war, famine, or plagues, not Republicans or Democrats, not the Missouri Synod of the ELCA, can stop the lilies. They are not moved by crime sprees, negligent governments, incompetent bosses, or cheating spouses. They belong to the Lord. He provides according to His promise. He takes cares of them. And you are worth more to Him than they are. You are worth more than lilies. He takes care of them. He will take care of you. Rest. Let go of your anxiety. The Lord has claimed you in the waters of Holy Baptism. He has sent His Son to die for you. He is not going to quit on you. He will provide. You do not need to look like a supermodel to please Him. You do not need to keep an immaculate house or yard or have your car free of empty cups. You do not need to always work hard, to get straight “A’s”, to never get grumpy, or to be perfect in anyway. Death does not reign. Jesus lives. Your Father loves you. He will take care of it as surely as He takes care of the lilies. Death does not reign. Jesus lives. Amen.