Sunday, August 11, 2013

Inexhaustible Treasures (Sermon preached Aug. 11, Proper 14-C)

Sermon Text: Luke 12:22-34

In the name of T Jesus.
            Last week Jesus told you the parable of the rich fool; that story of a rich man who continued to store up treasures on earth for himself, so that he could relax, and be merry, while those around him remained in need.  It was a story of extreme selfishness, and in the end the rich man was left with nothing, as his life was demanded of him by God Himself.  This week, Jesus contrasts that extreme selfishness by putting before you the good news of a heavenly Father who does not store up treasures in heaven to keep to himself—that would be nonsense!—Jesus reminds you that the Father’s good pleasure is to give you the Kingdom.  Jesus reminds you that when the Father gives you the kingdom, the Father gives you everything.  Jesus reminds you of the Father’s good pleasure, so that you would have no need to be anxious about anything.
            You see, if you lift up your hearts to the Lord—if you lift up your hearts to the Lord, and set your mind on things above, where Christ is, your heart will bring your eyes with it, and you will see with me a heavenly picture of your heavenly Father, high in the heavens, with His crucified and risen Son seated on His right hand.  If your ears are opened to Jesus’ Word this morning, then you will be given to see past the floundering and failing economies, and the penny-pinching budgets, and the stress producing pressures of this materialistic and money-driven world so that your heart and your eyes of faith would see your heavenly Father, sitting there in the heavens with His Son, and around them a treasure trove of gifts that is inexhaustible, from which your Father is pleased to give to you.
You see, if the Holy Spirit would use these words of Jesus to lift your hearts to the Lord; if the Holy Spirit will use Jesus’ teaching to reveal to you the hidden but very true reality of a Father who delights in giving you from his inexhaustible treasures all the gifts that you need, then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will be convinced with all certainty that you will never have anything to fear.  For in hearing Jesus’ promise, and trusting His truth; in the place of fear, you will have faith.  You will have the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things which are impossible to be seen.
You see, the problem is what you do see.  Take Abram in our Old Testament reading, as an example.  Just three chapters earlier in the book of Genesis, the LORD had spoken wonderful promises to him.  The LORD had taken this pagan idolater, named Abram, and his wife Sarai, and with His strong Word, the LORD and called him, and gathered him, and enlightened him to know the LORD’s good pleasure, and to believe the LORD’s good pleasure, so that by faith in what the LORD had revealed, Abram would begin to live by faith in the promises the LORD had given him.  Without being able to see any of it, but with his heart set on things above, when Abram was seventy-five years old, he took his barren wife and set out for an unknown land, convinced that an exceedingly great nation would flow from his loins.
It was only a few years later, and Abram had grown anxious.  He had begun to doubt God’s promises, and to fear that there would be no nation, for he had had no offspring.  Because of what his eyes could see, Abram was filled with fear, and anxiety, and even became a bit angry with the LORD: “O LORD God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? …Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”  Abram could not look past what was in front of him.  He was blinded by the sight of his present situation, and had forgotten the truth of the LORD’s promise.
But what the LORD had revealed as His will when He first spoke His promise to Abram was still the LORD’s will, despite Abram’s ability to see it.  The LORD had promised to make Abram’s nation great, and the LORD would make his nation great.  Today, you and I know Abram as Father Abraham.  Today, we know that Father Abraham has many sons, and many sons have Father Abraham. Today we can see this so clearly, but in the moment, Abram could see none of it.  And so it was what his eyes could see, that caused Abram to become one of little faith.
But the LORD hadn’t changed a bit.  Despite Abram’s fears, and his inability to see into the future, the LORD hadn’t changed His will, or His ways.  And so, after hearing Abram’s cry of confusion; after listening to Abram’s anxious appeal; like a father having a heart-to-heart with his dear son who is struggling to make sense of things, the LORD simply renews His promise.  The LORD takes anxious Abram outside, and says, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. …So shall your offspring be.”  The promise the LORD had spoken to Abram when he called him, was the very same promise the LORD spoke to Abram in order to sustain him.  The very same Word which the LORD had used to give faith to Abram in the first place, is the Word which the LORD would use to sustain his faith, when Abram’s eyes were causing him to be full of anxiety and fear.  Because no matter what Abram could or couldn’t see with his eyes, the promise of the LORD still remained true.
So what is it, little flock, that is filling you with anxiety and fear?  What is it that is before your eyes, O you of little faith, and that causes you to be anxious about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, and what you will put on?  What is it about what you can see in your situation that causes your hearts to be lowered from heaven to earth, and that takes your eyes off of Christ, so that you forget the promises He has given you?  What is it that you are uncertain of?
Could it be that what you’ve gotten used to living on much more than daily bread, and when the LORD has chosen to bless you with different gifts than what you have had in mind, you begin to question the will of God, rather than your own? 
Maybe your eyes and your heart have been set on earthly things, and you’ve started to believe that life is only full when it’s full of stuff.  You just have to have those designer clothes for school, and you don’t know how you’ll go on if you’re not able to be involved in every extracurricular activity.  That clunker you’ve been driving might have to last a while longer, even if your neighbor just drove home with a new SUV.  That home with a little extra breathing room might not be in the cards right now.  And life will go on if you don’t have all the latest technological gadgets.  But with hearts set on earthly things, what we see we have, or what we don’t have, will cause us to cry out, like Abram, and complain to God.  And we’re really just complaining because we’ve started to believe that God has promised something more to us than daily bread.
But maybe your fears are a bit more serious than having an unhealthy desire for stuff.  Could it be, that your position at work is less than secure, and the financial security that your position has provided for you and your family is questionable?  Because that could cause you to be anxious, if you didn’t have a promise to trust?
Might it be that there’s too much month at the end of your money, and the direction of the balances in your bank accounts is causing your blood pressure to be going up?  Or maybe you don’t have a job; or the job you have is torture.  This could be the source of your anxiety, and could cause you to forget the LORD’s promises.
Or maybe it has nothing to do with money at all.  Maybe your marriage, or your children, or some other relationship is the source of your fear and anxiety.  You can’t possibly see how you could somehow learn to love him, or her, or be loved by him or her again.
Or maybe, just maybe, your fear and anxiety is caused by something you’ve done, or left undone.  You’ve sinned, and you know it, and you’re worried that others will know it too.  Or maybe they already do.  And whether they’ve been gracious to you or not, you’ve begun to wonder if the Father will still have His good pleasure towards you.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it that your eyes are causing you to be afraid of?  What is it in your life, that drags your heart down to earth so that you forget the things above?  What is it that you are so uncertain of?  Why are you anxious?
The disciples, who had been called by Jesus and sent by Jesus without any moneybags, or knapsacks, or sandals to preach in His own name, and where supposed to be provided for by those who would hear their preaching and welcome them into their homes, were anxious that when they went out and started to preach, the LORD would not provide for them.
Abram, who himself had been called by the LORD and sent by the LORD without knowing the land to which he was going, and without being able to see the LORD’s promises yet being fulfilled, became anxious and fearful that somehow the LORD and His promises had changed.
You and I have been called by the LORD through the Gospel, and through that Gospel you and I have been gathered by the LORD into the one, holy Church to be members of the flock of faith.  And like those who have gone before us, you and I have been sent out to live in our various vocations by faith in the promises which the LORD Himself has given us.  But like Abram, and like the disciples, what we see before us with our eyes, causes us to be anxious and fearful, about many things, because we forget—O do we forget—that the promises of the LORD haven’t changed a bit.
            And so today, Jesus invites you to consider the ravens.  Consider the ravens who neither sow nor reap; these ravens who have no jobs or bank accounts—no storehouses or barns; those ravens who are fed from the inexhaustible treasures of the LORD.
And Jesus would invite you also to consider the lilies.  Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil or spin, they’re not turning fiber into thread or yarn, and yet, Jesus says, those lilies are adorned in even greater glory than Solomon of old.
You see, Jesus knows your fears.  He is the one that delivers your cries of anxiety to the Father as your mediator.  And he delivers the cries of the fearful and anxious from all the world.  But Jesus knows, that if your hearts would be lifted up to heaven; if your eyes could see past the things of this world, then you might remember the inexhaustible treasure trove of gifts from which Your Father has promised to give to you.
Fear not, little flock, for the Father is pleased to give you inexhaustible treasures.  With Jesus sitting at His right hand, and the wounds of the cross crying out on your behalf, the Father is pleased to give you grace upon grace in the forgiveness of sins.  No amount of sin can exhaust the forgiveness that the Father freely gives to you through the sacrifice of the Son.  His grace knows no ends, and His forgiveness will endure forever.
And fear not, little flock, for the Father’s inexhaustible treasures include a life that is filled with everything He knows you need.  I have no idea what jobs you will have, or what cars you will drive, or if you will have plenty or be given to live on less.  But I do know that the Father will give you daily bread, and that you will be given everything that you need for the support and needs of the body.  For the Father cannot deny those for whom Christ has died.

You see, today, by hearing again the promises of the LORD, the Holy Spirit is lifting your hearts to heaven, and giving you eyes of faith to see the inexhaustible treasures from which the Father is pleased to bless you.  And while today, you are asked to trust in these promises, and be assured of what you cannot see.  As you live by faith, your fear and anxiety will be replaced with the assurance that one day, because of Jesus’ promise, the inexhaustible treasures of heaven, will be all you will see forever.  In the name of T Jesus.  Amen.

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