Monday, October 3, 2011
Matthew 6:24-34 (ESV) "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 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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The line opens up for many different questions. What does it mean to seek the kingdom of God? Might be one of them. We are Lutheran’s after all. We believe in the total depravity of man. That is that man is incapable of doing good, at least on his own. We believe that man’s best works, done apart from Christ, a grievous sins, filthy rags, that required the blood of Christ to atone for them. Romans chapter 3 where it says that there is no one good, and no one seeks God, well we agree with that. So telling a person to seek the kingdom of God, well that is an awful lot like telling a stone to become a child of Abraham. Oh wait, that is precisely what John the Baptist says is possible of God, and by stones he was using a pejorative term for gentile, referring to those who had come to be baptized. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these will be added to you. I must admit that as a kid, and even in the early years of manhood, before I had a family of my own, It was much easier for me to take to heart the first half of this passage. Well kind of. I found it easy not to be anxious. To live a carefree life, sluffing off school work, grabbing opportunities as they came, bumming around Europe with a back pack and a eurail pass, sleeping on park benches if need be. And believe it or not, this passage haunted my memory even then. I knew that God would take care of tomorrow, should I actually survive jumping off the waterfall into the freezing cold water 3 stories below. And even then I figured Christ’s blood had me covered if I didn’t. I long for those days at times. But I have to say, I’m not quite sure I took to heart this bit about seeking the kingdom of God back then. Perhaps not as seriously as I should have. That part of it has become clearer with time. Becomes even more clear with time. Daily as I study God’s word it impresses upon me more. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you. The clothes, the cars, the food, the house, and the money. Most of us have more than we need already, but we find ourselves wanting more. We think we can find happiness in those things. Oh, we know as a matter of intellectual fact, that these things will not bring us happiness. But more often than not our emotions miss the memo. We forget that it is God who has given us what we have already. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. I’m reminded of the Lord’s Prayer, especially Luther’s explanation of it in the small catechism. “Give us this day our daily bread. What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” To all evil people indeed, like a care free bum, perhaps not caring much for the kingdom of God, but testing the limits of this passage, while jumping from waterfalls in the Italian Alps. Well the truth is God gives us our youth too. As time passes and responsibilities increase though, so do the anxieties of tomorrow, and most often these get in the way of a Christian seeking first the kingdom of God. How often do we let the cares of this world get in the way? Do we teach our children the same? God knows. God knows our need for companionship, but all too often we are willing to trade the kingdom of God for lust. True love does not stand in the way of church attendance, and participation in the Lord’s Supper. And what message concerning our faith would such an arrangement send to those whom we love? God knows our need for friends, and even the needs of our children. How often do we, perhaps even purposely schedule work for Sunday. Or these days, even willing to work around the schedules of soccer, baseball, football and dance, but can’t get the parents to take the inheritance of the kingdom of God as seriously as the dreams of their child to become an NFL superstar, or at least get a college scholarship. And I have to ask, do we take the kingdom of God seriously. I did so more as a young man testing the limits of this passage, even then I rarely passed up a chance to go to church, or study God’s word. Jesus isn’t talking to the heathen. He is talking to you. You want happiness, he’ll tell you where to find it, in his kingdom, in his reign of forgiveness. When we begin to seek the kingdom of God, when we start taking it seriously again, that is when, the stones become children of Abraham, Children of God, who love his word, and live by his promise. Who needs anxiety? There is a cure. Why would the heathen seek that which you neglect? His kingdom is not hard to find. It is found in daily devotions, and prayer, amidst an open Bible. It is found in a sanctuary at 10:00 Am, in the singing of hymns, the reading of scripture, the instruction of a pastor, in water cascading over an infant’s head, in bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ consumed for the forgiveness of sins. And there is found peace that surpasses all understanding, faith that grows in trust that the God who knows the falling of every sparrow, considers you worth more than two pennies, or gold and silver, but would pay for you with his very own innocent suffering and death, purchase you with the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And seeking this kingdom, this reign of peace and forgiveness first, well all else is added, and faith overflowing contagiously catches on, God’s kingdom expands. Those we love, come to know too, the grace of God, and salvation. Remember them too, as you seek first the kingdom of God, pray for those who do not yet seek. Lament. 3:25 (ESV) The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Romans 3:11 (ESV) no one understands; no one seeks for God.