Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pentecost 11 Sermon -- Luke 12:22-40 (LSB Proper 14C)

August 8, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

Jesus said: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Jesus’ words speak the truth about your focus and attention: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” You all have items or matters that you consider valuable. They are worth your attention. In fact, you are drawn to them like magnets attract iron. They become your focus in life. It has been so since your youth. Those who consider an education to be valuable direct their attentions to acquiring that diploma. Others who thought their first car to be their treasure would gladly burn the midnight oil maintaining its engine, repairing any scratch or dent. Perhaps what you favored was athletic prowess: hours of around-the-world shooting or batting practice or tackling drills seemed a good price to pay.

As you have matured into adulthood, the same truth holds. The treasures undoubtedly change over time. Perhaps it is the long-desired promotion. Or the vacation property on the lake or in the woods. Maybe it’s the successful mutual fund or the model family or leadership in a civic organization. The treasures vary from person to person. But no matter the treasure, it still attracts your heart’s attention, devotion, and dedication. Jesus is right: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

But Jesus’ teaching is not meant to be a simple summary of social behavior. He makes the observation in order to teach about true treasure, to focus His hearer’s hearts on what is infinitely valuable. What was the audience concerned with? They were focused on earthly necessities and benefits. After telling the parable about the foolish rich farmer and exhorting the people to be rich toward God, Jesus declares: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” Jesus’ statement stands against the way that humanity thinks.

You can imagine the thoughts going through the people’s minds after hearing Jesus: “What do You mean, do not be anxious about food or clothing? Don’t You know that if we don’t have food, we will starve to death, and if we don’t have clothing, we will be exposed to the weather?” The hearts’ focus is on having these necessities, even calling them treasures. They require the full attention of the individual to ensure that daily life continues. But Jesus has a truth to give His audience: life is not equal to what is consumed by the mouth and what adorns the body. No, life is more than that. It is the treasure that Jesus has to give His people. That will need to be their hearts’ focus.

To move the people away from anxiously obsessing over earthly necessities, Jesus gives them some questions to ponder: “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” His point becomes obvious: for all the attention that your earthly welfare demands from you, you don’t actually have any power to change how long your earthly life will last. All your anxiety won’t increase the amount of days that you will live. Why? Because you’re not in control of that. No, God the Father is the one who has determined in His divine, inscrutable will how many days, hours, and seconds you will walk the face of the earth. Since that is so, then move your heart’s focus away from trying to gain control.

Jesus goes further with this thought, using ravens and lilies as sermon illustrations: “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! . . . Consider the lilies, 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, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!” These creatures of God receive His providential care. He gives them what they need to live out their days that He has set for them. And if that is so for these minor creatures, then it is so for you who are greater than they are.

The birds and flowers receive what they need to survive as God wills it. God your Father will so provide for you. That is true. Jesus says: “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.” But even this is not the fullness of Jesus’ teaching. For what the Father has in store for you is much, much more than providing earthly necessities. What is it that He has for you? Jesus reveals it: “Instead seek, His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” That is the treasure which should receive your heart’s attention.

So what is that kingdom? It is the reception of salvation, being brought into a true and good relationship with God. That is, it is gaining the status of having God as more than your Creator and Provider, but as your Father. It is being made an heir of everlasting life. Luther’s Small Catechism summarizes it well when speaking about the Lord’s Prayer petition, “Your kingdom come.”: “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” A present and future reality is disclosed: righteous life now and in the future. That is the kingdom which the Father has for you.

Jesus said: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The statement is a great promise based upon what has already been accomplished for you. It is the result of God the Son’s work. The Father wishes that you be made an heir of everlasting life, not just a recipient of earthly necessities. He desires that you be in fellowship and communion with Him in the here and now, but also in the world to come. And so, He has sent His Son to fulfill that will. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were all done to bring about the fulfillment of the Father’s good pleasure. So Jesus discloses the truth by speaking about what the Father has in store for you. But even more so, by His actual doing—including His own suffering of hunger and thirst, by His being stripped of all His clothing, by His dying in crucifixion, and by His rising to life again—Jesus meets all that is required for you to receive the Father’s good pleasure, so that you may have a godly life here in time and in eternity.

What Jesus accomplishes for you is the true treasure. That should be the focus of your attention, your heart’s desire. Jesus says: “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” You can part with earthly treasure and aid those who have little, just as Jesus gave of Himself to give you His righteousness. But Jesus goes further: “Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” Such a treasure is worth having, it’s worth even losing things on earth in order to obtain.

But even this heavenly treasure you cannot get by worrying. Your anxiety will not acquire it for you. It is given. It is placed into your possession by Christ Himself. His Word comes and delivers the goods. As you believe it, so you are what it declares. Like Abraham, you believe the Lord, and it is counted to you as righteousness. Your Lord Jesus says, “I am making you heirs of everlasting life. That life is found in being united to Me, so I connect you to Myself by baptizing you in the Divine Name that I possess. I take your mortality upon Myself, giving you My immortality in its place. To guarantee what awaits you, I place My Body and Blood in your mouths and into your hearts, so that you may have forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. As you live as pilgrims in this world, I constantly remind you of what will be yours for eternity—a place that I have prepared by going to My Father through death, resurrection, and ascension. I shall return and make all this your own. Don’t become distracted by the vain and worthless things of this world, but fix your hearts on these things.”

All this is wrapped up in Jesus’ statements: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Jesus was not distracted by the concerns of this world. Why? Because His heart was focused on the treasure of heaven—the treasure that was already His, but which was destined to be made yours through His work. That treasure is given to be yours. Currently, you have it in part, for you are like the patriarchs of the past: “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” But that treasure is now theirs and shall be yours.

So the Lord Jesus exhorts you to be ready for His return: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” If your treasure is what Jesus brings with Him—resurrection to everlasting life—you will be prepared. Your hearts are set on it. Like all the people who readily give time and effort for temporal things, so you are dedicated to receiving what is eternally valuable. You listen to Christ’s words of salvation and believe them. You endure whatever sufferings and afflictions come for the sake of Christ. You live without obsessing over every little detail of earthly life. For your treasure is not this world, but the kingdom which Your Father delights to give you. And since your treasure is there, so your hearts will ever be focused heavenward.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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