Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
The sermon for today, the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, is based on our Gospel lesson from Luke. It comes from the Lutheran Hour series, written by the Luther Hour speaker, Rev. Gregory Seltz and is entitled, “Do Not Worry! God Cares for You”.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Father cares for you and me, with an everlasting and love that overcomes all our worries. AMEN.
Back in the spring of 2006, Astronaut Jeff Williams blasted off in the space shuttle on his way to the International Space Station. Jeff is a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Houston and during that summer, while he was still on his six-month mission, he planned to connect to his home congregation during a worship service via the space station's communication system.
The connection between earth and outer space is amazing, isn't it. We can do so much in this age of cell phones, iPads, computers, and other technology. But, even with those technologies, Jeff and his colleagues, still needed the basics. They needed an ongoing supply of food, water, clothing, and maintenance items, so they could survive in the cold and foreboding confines of space during their mission. The achievement of putting people in space is wonderful, but even so, the essentials are needed.
So, NASA supplied what they needed. Several times a year, unmanned supply crafts are loaded with all the essentials, including letters from home. They are launched into orbit with their payload to dock with the International Space Station. Once connected, the supply craft becomes additional living space for the astronauts until the next ship arrives. Tens of millions of dollars are invested in these disposable supply spaceships! Why? Because the investment is worth it, those supplies are needed and lives are at stake without them.
So, when Jeff Williams blasted off for his six-month mission in space, he wasn't worried about a shopping list. He wasn't fretting about having water or food. He knew the supplies would arrive later. That was one thing he could count on. And, if there happened to be some glitches here on earth, he knew the people on this planet would do everything possible to make certain he and his fellow astronauts were taken care of. He was confident the people on earth were committed and would not let them down.
So, if NASA cares about its astronauts, if private companies are investing billions of dollars to get food and the other necessities of life to those people, if the most advanced technology and most brilliant minds are being used to provide for a few people 240 miles above the earth, how do you think the Creator and Savior, our God, feels about caring for His people, and caring for you? If that's your question, I'm very glad to tell you that Jesus gives you and me a very direct answer and God’s promise.
In Luke chapter 12, our Gospel reading, He says, "Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they neither have storehouses nor barns, and yet God feeds them. Oh, how much more valuable are you than the birds! Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!"
God is committed to taking care of you in a generous and dependable way that far outshines even the International Space Station supply efforts!
Now, does this mean your life will go exactly the way you want it to? Well, Jesus isn't talking about a comfortable life in this section of the Gospel of Luke. He is talking about life consisting of much more than what you have, or how good you feel at the moment. In the verses prior to this, Jesus had just finished reminding people about the temporary nature of this life. He directed people to deeper things. And what is that? The condition of your soul in your relationship to God, and the importance of being God's instrument to serve others.
Jesus' focus here is about worry, about being anxious in areas over which you have no control. And, it's easy to worry, isn't it? There are so many things in this life that are out of our control. You can worry about the weather. You can worry about your future. You can worry about your kids and your grandkids. You can worry about whether you will meet the right person to marry. You can worry about your job. You can worry about the traffic jam you're in right now, and whether you'll be late getting to where you're going. There really is no shortage of things in this life to worry about. But Jesus asked these two questions. Firstly, "By worrying, will you be able to add an hour to your life? Secondly, will your worry change anything?"
One of the words for worry in our Gospel lesson, means "to be anxious." It means to be tossed about by the things around you. Just read or listen to the news, much of it shakes us up, that's for sure. Or, more personally, just when you feel like you've got a handle on things, that letter arrives in the mail, that phone call comes from a family member, that doctor's appointment takes a turn for the worse. Whether it is personal concerns or all the wild happenings going on in the world around us, you can feel like you're being tossed around, out of control.
In verse 29, Jesus uses another word for worry. That word can mean to exalt yourself, or to be arrogant. You see, when you and I worry, we're tempted to think that our life is in our control, or that you and I are totally on our own. You think you're doing it all by yourself, that what matters is what is only in your control. Listen, when your faith in yourself trumps your faith in God, your faith is misplaced. You can even be pushing away God’s interventions for you.
God cares. He knows what's best for you and me. God's Word not only informs and directs, it actually gives life. It's His world and He wants you to know that you are His child, His heir. Yes, He cares. And with Him as your provider and your Lord, what's the point of worrying?
Sometimes children can speak the truth very clearly.
I heard about a 5th grade class assignment at a Christian school that challenged the students to look at TV commercials and see how they could use them in some way to communicate ideas about God.
Here are a few of them.
God is like Hallmark cards. He cares enough to send His very best.
God is like Tide. He gets the stains out that others have left behind.
God is like General Electric. He brings good things to life.
Well, God is all that and much, much more. In fact, He sent His Son to live, to die, and to rise again so that you might live in Him both now and forever. Jesus is making the point that His Father cares and loves you, and with Him you're never alone. Thank God, even when it comes to making the most of our lives, knowing that we are not in this all by ourselves. God has a stake in it with us, a cross firmly planted in history that says, "I care." That's why Jesus says,
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink. Do not worry about it. The pagan world runs after such things, but your Father knows what you need and will provide them.
Dale Carnegie, the writer of the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People," wrote another book called, "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living." Section five of that book is entitled: "The Perfect Way to Conquer Worry." While every other section of the book has multiple points and sub points, this section has only one key point. What is the perfect way to conquer worry according to Dale Carnegie? The answer is very simply this: Pray.
Now for many people, prayer is talking to God, but kind of a generic type of thing. You hope God listens, you hope God cares, you pray because, well, some issues are too big for anything else. Let me be perfectly clear, praying as a Christian, is way more than that, infinitely more than that! Not because of our prayers but because of God! You see, when you pray to God as a believer, you know He cares, you know who He is, you know what He says through His word. You know he will answer your prayer. Prayer that flows from faith in Christ is a prayer offered with confidence that in this life, you are not alone. When God invites you to pray, it's because He cares about you, He wants to hear from you. He can't wait to respond.
When Jesus told us not to be worried, He also went on to say, "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". The word kingdom here, doesn't mean some castle or a plot of land. It means God's actions in your life. He cares about you! He is always in action for you. "Fear not," Jesus says. Don't be afraid. It is your Father's good pleasure to always be at work in your life.
Just as NASA is intent on investing in supply ships for their astronauts; just as they will stop at nothing to make sure their astronauts are taken care of; your Father in heaven cares deeply about you. It is His good pleasure to help and serve you. You are not on your own. You are not forgotten. You're not floating alone in outer space. God provided His care for you when He sent much more than a supply rocket. He sent His only Son to defeat the root of all worry, to defeat the curse of death. But in its place give you the gift of new life. In Jesus Christ, God took away all your reasons to worry.
It's true that this broken world is still filled with pain and tragedy. People go hungry. Many are homeless. Too many are ill and abused. But we are not in this alone. God cares. He cares by giving the eternal answer. As we trust in Him and cling to His grace in Jesus Christ, we know that there will come a day when there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, and no more pain, and yes, no more worrying. But there will come a day when we are fully restored. This is the certain hope we have in our crucified and resurrected Savior.
But, our hopes are not only in the future. God also cares by giving us answers now. He provides His living Word that breathes life into us when the struggles of each day wear us down. He blesses us with the gift of baptism, the washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit that makes us God's own children and brings the certainty of His everlasting love here and now. He gives us the gift of Holy Communion through which Jesus Himself in his body and blood, gives us strength and forgiveness. And, you know what else he gives? He gives the world His Church. In Christ, we, as His believers, get to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. God is at work, through His Church, His people, to share His love and hope in the world. That's why Jesus also said, "Sell your possessions, give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also".
There is a difference in serving others because of how God has served you. As a follower of Jesus, you get to be God's supply ship, of His word and also His grace to the world. You bring the fruit of the Spirit to a world in need: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You bring what matters to our hurting and broken culture. You show God's love to the hurting. You share both material blessings and good news with people in need. You reach out with gifts that never fail. You provide treasures that will never wear out. God gives you a heart that supplies His love and care to a world that gets tossed about by worries, and to people whose vision has been clouded by trials. Instead of worrying, you bring an expansive view of new life to all people. You share the Good News of God, a God who really cares.
It's that big picture that gives us strength to love and to care for others day to day. It's that present and eternal hope that makes enduring love possible when all else fails. Jesus reminds us not to miss the big picture, because when you see that clearly, the smaller vistas in your life become more clear, too.
When Jeff Williams was on his mission at the International Space Station, he was fascinated with what he saw out the window of the orbiting spacecraft. Even though he experienced the adventure of space walks, and had the opportunity to work on hundreds of experiments, the highlight of the journey for him was what astronauts call "Earth observation." Jeff noted in his journal on a NASA website: "You can never tire of looking at the part of God's creation we call Earth." In fact, Colonel Jeff Williams took more photographs of the Earth than any astronaut in history!
Jeff saw the earth from a different perspective, the big picture. Instead of looking at the accumulation of daily e-mails, a checkbook balance that isn't always encouraging, traffic that has become snarled, news stories of loss or violence, or even the moment-to-moment struggles of life in this world, Jeff saw the bigger picture. He saw the sun rise every ninety minutes. He looked at a complete mountain range in a glance. He saw vast deserts and oceans stretched out before him. Yes, all the worries of daily life were still there, but Jeff saw a bigger picture, a beautiful picture of the world.
That's the view that God gives you today. As you agonize over illness or loneliness, the cross of Christ says and shows, God cares. As you look at dwindling financial resources, or day-to-day struggles, the cross of Jesus Christ says, God cares! As you struggle with meaning or purpose in life’s daily grind, the cross of Jesus Christ says, God cares. As your heart even grieves the death of someone you love, the cross of Christ says, God cares!
For every worry, God draws you close to Him and gives you a different view today. God says "Be strong and courageous." God says. "Do not be frightened, do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go".
That's the big picture of living in God's grace. God, who sent His Son Jesus to save you, is still working actively to help you in every way. God cares.
Trust in that today. Know that God is always at work for your good, for what's best for you. Jesus promises that even if worry seems to be overwhelming us in the moment, even if it seems that God is not near but far, far away. The same Father who sent His Son for you, says in Isaiah:
"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might, he increases strength. They who wait on the Lord, they shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint"
We are assured over and over again in His holy and precious Word, and through the cross of Christ, He cares for you and me, and will never forsake us.
God cares about you, and with faith in Jesus Christ, you can count on it. Bank on it! Believe it and trust His Word! Amen.