"You Are Rich!"
TEXT: Matthew 6:33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
Dearly beloved of God,
You are rich! As we heard in last week’s sermon, with the words, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," our heavenly Father opens the kingdom of heaven to all believers. That means you have access to God and all His blessings – now and forever. Therefore, Luther says by this text our Lord Jesus Christ is saying, "If [one is] a true Christian [he] would say: ‘The [moment] the Gospel is received, there comes to me a hundred thousand dollars, and much more. For if I possess this treasure [of the forgiveness of sins], I have all that is in heaven and upon earth.’"
Of course, one hundred thousand dollars doesn’t go as far as it did in Luther’s time. But I hope you get the point. There is no one so rich as is the baptized child of God. That is why when we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we know "God certainly gives daily bread – [that is, everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body] -- 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."
And lest we forget that all this daily bread means nothing if we are separated from God by our own sinful desires for more than daily bread, our Lord has us pray, "Forgive us our trespasses," directly following the petition for daily bread. Indeed this forgiveness of sin is the daily bread from heaven of which Jesus speaks when He calls himself the "Bread of Life," apart from which no one knows the Father or will see the kingdom of heaven. "We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment."
Tomorrow is Memorial Day here in the United States of America. It is a day set aside by order of our government to honor those men and women who have died in the service of our country, in service to you, in order that you can be free to live your life as you so choose – in the pursuit of happiness and able to partake in so many of Gd's creature comforts and worldly blessings. However, truth be told, how many people do you think actually take time to do that: to honor those who have given their lives and thank God for the sacrifice they made in order that you might live and be free to do such things as camp; and hunt; and fish; and go to ball games; and watch T.V.; and go to movies; and own a home; . . . . and to be able to gather and hear the precious Gospel of the forgiveness of your sins that keeps you with Christ Jesus in the one true faith that is the kingdom of heaven on earth?
The greatest gift you have as an American citizen is the freedom to worship. And the greatest gift that comes to you only in the right worship of God is the forgiveness of sins that grants you citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, when Jesus says rather than worry about food and clothing and the pursuit of happiness like the pagans do, "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" He is saying "above all things that a person should listen to Christ and accept the Gospel." [Luther]
This portion of Jesus sermon on the mount is in fact an explanation of the first table of the Law, the first three commandments. In telling His disciples not to worry about tomorrow and all the things they fear they might have to go without, Jesus is reminding them to have no other gods and to fear, love, and trust in none other than the One who daily and richly provides all the things unbelievers worry about and spend their lives pursuing. "Seek first His kingdom," means to "call upon His name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks." And to call upon His name we are to "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, that is, to not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it" – not in order to please God, win His attention, and persuade Him to help us in our time of need, but because by hearing and learning His Word we discover how we are the crown of God’s creation, whom He loves, and for whom He has given all – the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, and even His only begotten Son -- that we might enjoy life and happiness forever as His good gift rather than our fruitless pursuit.
Interestingly enough, this sermon is given to His disciples. Why? In order that they might not give up the one thing needful for them and all who will hear and believe through their message out of fear for their bodily needs. Jesus, in telling His disciples to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you," is extolling them always to be about studying His Word in order that they can faithfully deliver it to His people for their salvation and eternal life. He is telling the disciples and all whom He will call to be the bearers of the Gospel that if He cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field how much more will He not make sure that those who bring the good news of salvation and the kingdom of heaven are provided every earthly need so they can accomplish this work of God. He is warning them that if they become worried about and caught up in pursing their bodily, earthly needs, they cannot, indeed will not, faithfully serve as His called servants, for "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
In other words, the concern of His called servants of the Word is always to be strictly about serving up that Word of the forgiveness of sins to the baptized. And Jesus’ promise is that He will always provide daily bread for them while they are serving the Bread of Life to His people. Never mind the fund raising. Never mind preaching to the budget and collection plate. Never mind the incessant counting of heads other than to discover who might be missing that they might be sought after and brought back into the fold. The Lord knows we need these things and will provide them according to His means. No, the pastors are to be all about the delivery of the forgiveness of sins.
This means you can be all about what it is you have been given to do without ever worrying if you have done enough, well enough to be saved. Since the preaching of repentance and the kingdom of God is what delivers the kingdom of heaven to you and you into the kingdom of heaven, you no longer need to pursue happiness. It has been given to you, so that rather than fighting for your own life you can devote your life to such things as loving and providing for your spouse and children. You are free from the cares of the world so that you can serve the people of the world in your vocations in the workplace, in the neighborhood, as citizens, as baptized children of God looking out for one another’s welfare and making sure that your family and brothers and sisters in Christ have a place to gather around the Word of God and a servant to deliver and teach that Word in all its truth and purity.
Yes dear people of God, you are rich beyond measure. Pray God that you will always, "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." For in the kingdom of God all of your sins are forgiven and life is yours in abundance – in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen