“Seek First His Kingdom”
LWML Sunday 2015
As you come to worship today, on this LWML Sunday, what is it that you are worried about? Yes, I know that any good pastor or any well-intentioned brother or sister in Christ will tell you that you should not worry, but we do. All of us. We know we shouldn’t. We tell others they shouldn’t. But we worry. We worry about prices going up, unless we are thinking about the price of oil. We worry about those who want to attack us and our country. We worry that those in political office only care about themselves and not this country. We worry about our kids. We worry about our parents. And sometimes when we confess this, the advice we get is, that the first thing people think of is, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
Now I could be wrong but when we get together here, or when we Missouri Synod folk get together at LWML or LCMS events, I do not think that is the first advice that is given by us Lutherans. When we gather in conventions or convocations, we gather around God’s Word, not bad pop songs.
For us pastor types, we have this term that we call “Mountain Top” experiences. In the Bible, there are many examples of dudes who went to the top of a mountain and talked to God, talked to Jesus. Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration. Going to an event where there is a big number of folks worshipping can be like that. LWML Conventions are like that. National Youth Gathering is like that. I went to an event in St. Louis years ago, where 10,000 folks were worshipping. That was cool.
I would also put it to you that I hope every time that you are here for worship is a little mountain top experience. A little mountain like maybe the Arbuckles down there. At the conclusion of the Divine Service, it is time to leave the mountaintop. It’s time to get to the work that we have been prepared and gifted in that service to do. For we are all supposed to share the Word and Love of God.
How do we, the children of God, saved by Jesus, respond to this awesome mission challenge our Father places before us? I am guessing the idea of talking to someone else about your faith in Jesus causes fear, or worry, for many of you. I am familiar with the fact that most Americans rank among their highest fears, having to get up in front of people and talk. The latest study I looked up this week said the number one fear was Public Speaking, the second was Heights, and the third was a combo of Spiders, Snakes, and such. The study also said that people who voted Democrat were more likely to be afraid of stuff than those who voted Republican. When it comes to the number one fear, I do not have this fear of public speaking, but a lot of people do. I am not happy on a ladder, and I don’t like spiders and snakes.
What do we do when we are scared? We talk to God. And so we might even say to God, “So Lord, what do You have that helps me with these worries about talking to other people about you?” As we ask that question of our heavenly Father, He responds by reminding us to look at the words right before our text: “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?” (Matthew 6:25) But, we might think that they don’t really apply to us all that much because we are not usually worried about what we will eat or what we will drink, or what we will wear. We know we are blessed in these areas and we have so much. Our worries here are more inclined to be about trying to pick out an outfit from a closet that is bursting at the seams, or deciding whether to throw out food that has been in the refrigerator or the cupboard too long, or deciding if we should buy another freezer because the other one is full to the brim.
When God points us to these verses in the Gospel of Matthew, we may be thinking: “I don’t worry about whether I will eat. I don’t worry about what I will wear. I worry about health issues of some of those I love, and problems I have with members of my family, issues I am having in a relationship or people who don’t look left and hit my car again.” And faced with our text, we may also think: “What really makes me worry is when I hear God calling to me and saying, ‘The time is now to come down off the mountain, out of the worship service and into a dark and sin-filled world with My Word; the only answer and solution to all of our problems and the world’s problems.’” Does that sound scary to you?
Without a doubt, the time is now for the women of the LWML, as well as each and every one of us, to use our God-given gifts and abilities to meet the challenge of sharing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ with those around us, and into all the world. To be perfectly honest, that is a huge responsibility and it causes us concern, worry, and can be scary. This is true as we look at the billions of people who need to hear of God’s love poured out to them through faith in Jesus Christ. This is true as we consider where some of our friends or some of our family members are in their walk with the Lord. It is easy to make excuses and say to God, “Lord, that’s hard!” We do not want to come off as “holier than thou,” or preachy, as we go out there and meet people who need Jesus and don’t believe it. While we are dealing with these worries and countless others, Jesus assures us in verse 32 of our text, that He knows what we need and has promised that as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be given to us as well (Matthew 6:33).
That is usually not good enough so we continue to question God: “I ask again Lord, what else do You have to help me with my worries?” Let’s begin with the Scriptures. Allow me to share with you three gems from the Bible. First of all, hear, believe and find comfort in Jesus’ promise that His Father and yours will care for us just as He cares for the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, and “… the grass of the field which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,” and even more so as He asks, “…will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:26, 28, 30) And if you need an answer to that rhetorical question, the answer is a resounding yes, as you have seen, heard, and experienced over and over again God’s caring, and providing hand in your life.
Second, I share with you the certainty found in St. Paul’s confession as he, a sinner just like all us, also had to deal with many worries and concerns, including the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8). St. Paul relays the assurance he has, as he shares with us this Word of God meant for each of us, as he writes, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Let me share with you another well-known passage you can apply to your worries. Hear the inspired words of Philippians 4:13, where our Father in heaven assures us that as His forgiven, redeemed, restored children we can boldly profess with St. Paul, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
And, if I may share one more passage with you, a BONUS passage, it would be the promise from the very lips of your Savior as He said in Luke 12:11-12, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these promises are yours even when we speak to the neighbor across the street, the friend at work, or the son or daughter who has grown away from the Lord and for whom your heart breaks.
But, as good as all of this sounds sitting here this morning, and since I am in the very same boat as you when it comes to worry, we hear those verses and others all the time and we still worry. Allow me to leave you with this thought.
You and I have a heavenly Father who does not just talk a good game. “Don’t worry, be happy” is not His mantra. He backs up and follows through on the promises He makes 100% of the time. You see, He did not just tell Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Elijah, along with Elisha, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Jonah and all the prophets; along with the apostles and evangelists of the New Testament, as well as you and me, He didn’t just tell all of us He loves us and give us what we need. He shows it! He does it! This is especially seen when Jesus is hanging on the cross. This is especially seen when He rises from the dead. This is especially seen when He tells us, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” God doesn’t just talk the walk, He backs it up. Every time. All the time.
When He says that He will calm our fears, when He says we should cast our cares upon Him, when He says He will give us the words to say to someone who needs to hear God’s Words, He…Will…Do…It.
Don’t worry, be loved…and blessed…by God.