So, here we are… Last Sunday we’ll preach from this pulpit – only pulpit I’ve ever pastored over. I’ll have to admit, I’m used to it by now – I know where to rest my hands up here without thinking, how to move around it without tripping (most of the time). In my short time there’ve been hundreds of sermons from this pulpit (between us) – and since 1988, when it became ours first, more than 2000. I’m going to miss it some.
Or this font – our place for baptisms. Did you know that since 2007, when I started here, we’ve had 174 baptisms at this font? Since 1988, 325 is probably pretty close. This old font has certainly been a blessing.
I could do the same for this altar – 573 confirmations/professions of faith, about a hundred weddings, 90 funerals, thousands of communions and prayers and petitions, thousands of the Lord’s blessing on his people before this altar since 1988.
Next Saturday, these will go away – to be items by which people count God’s blessings in another place. And we have new things to look forward to: the beautiful new altar and font and pulpit – commissioned and crafted for that new space we’re going to occupy, Lord willing. In the end, it’s not the biggest change – it’s furniture – even church furniture is furniture.
But, you know, it reminds me how worried I can be about it all, sometimes. We’ve had good meetings with our team and construction managers, but I worry that the construction won’t go well or electrical switchgear will never come or the acoustics will be “off” or all the money we need will fade away. I worry that it’s a big step. And that I’m not up to it, or that we pastors will get tired or complacent; or that you all will turn into the evil zombie horde of discontent church members. I can tend to worry about a lot around all this we’re starting… You too?
Maybe this is low on your list – you’re worried about finding the right (or any) job; about your surgery that’s coming; about choosing a career; about school starting up again – what you’ll wear; about some new disease out there; about what the next decade of your life will be like. In the midst of life, we can really feel like the “little flock” Jesus calls us in Luke – small, weak, short on resources, lowly in defenses… And we can be tempted to worry about a lot of things.
This morning of course, Jesus is saying, “Don’t worry…” It’s in Luke 12, where he’s pivoted from talking with the crowds about the rich man and his greedy stockpiling. Now he turns to his disciples, maybe knowing that in their hearts they were asking things like: “Wait a minute… so we’re not supposed to store up for ourselves… I may not have barns-worth of resources, but I do need stuff for daily life! And sometimes daily life is worrisome…”
So, in this section, Jesus invites us to think about that claim: that there’s stuff to worry over. He’s doing some classic Jewish rabbi teaching – using a basic, logical technique, arguing “from the lesser to the greater.” Like this: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” And we wouldn’t disagree. By fretting, fearing, doubting, worrying – can you make your life longer? Likely you’ll develop hyper-tension, or high blood pressure, or have an aneurysm and die even sooner… Jesus says, “Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
And our world reasons about life like this too. In fact, some of the world’s most memorable versions of this sentiment are in song. You remember that one from the 80’s? Bobby McFerrin? “In every life we have some trouble, But when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy now.” most of the reassurance is not in the content but rather his Jamaican bass. But in case you were worried that’s too dated a take, you could jump to 2013… As the snare drum and the high hat take you to a rhythmic groove of pure joy Pharrell Williams invited us to clap along like “happiness is the truth” and “if you know what happiness is to you” and “if you feel like that’s what you wanna do”. And he says, “Can’t nothing bring me down…because I’m happy.” And it’s a great song…if you are happy or maybe to remind to be…but not for a reason why to be happy, to not worry…
We should note this morning that Jesus’ spiritual training is far superior. He says, “Don’t worry…” because “life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” That if God feeds birds and God clothes flowers like kings, how much more won’t he do the same for you… Jesus says “Don’t worry…” because you’re important to God.
Which means, when we worry and set our hearts on all the things around us – desiring them because we’re afraid we won’t have them – that’s really an “of little faith” thing – disciples not trusting, not believing that God will clothe, feed, care for, follow, protect, guide, and keep us as he knows best. Worry is us – in the midst of all the uncertainties – seeking after the control and the power in life, and forgetting that someone else already has both…
Since we’re tempted to worry like this, Jesus reminds his disciples that we are not people unbelieving, but people who trust that a Father in heaven knows what we need. And people then who seek what our Father wants instead… “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” And, if that sounds a bit worrisome – like you’ll have to go find this kingdom on some Indiana Jones trek into the wilds of the world… What Jesus tells us to seek, God has already given. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”
The are two important concepts in there:
- Think of those moments – Jesus’ baptism, his Transfiguration – where God’s heavenly heart burst into the earthly realm. “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well-pleased…” Jesus was fulfilling God’s will to bring salvation from sin to humans in sins. God is well-pleased when his will is done. That same kind of joy and pleasure is here: “your Father has been pleased… to give you the kingdom.” What Jesus commands you to seek, God loves to give – as much as he loves his Son…
- God loves to give his kingdom. Which is not a place or certain people, but God’s gracious rule of all things where, by the saving work of Jesus Christ, he supplies forgiveness, mercy, and peace to hearts like yours by faith. Call it good news, call it gospel, call it salvation – but it’s the way human hearts have what Abraham had: longing not for the things of this life, but for a better country – a heavenly one.
Jesus’ encouragement to us is nothing as trite as to be obliviously happy in a world full of worries. His encouragement is that God has revealed his mighty rule of all things to us in love and, by faith as his disciples, we live under that love. So that, when life’s worries say you’re not safe or not cared for, we reason as disciples: (from the greater to the lesser) if God gave up Jesus, his Son for us all like this, “how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all [the things we might be tempted to worry over]?”
Jesus calls us this morning to combat worry by seeking his kingdom . Which is simple: by the preaching, teaching, and hearing of his Word, our hearts are filled with the certainty that God loves us and has forgiving power over our sins and uses every thing for our ultimate good. Knowing that we are so much in his heart, sets our hearts free from being concerned about all this – to be not just happy but heaven-hearted: so confident we belong in heaven above that we freely live according to God’s heavenly will here below. Free to be thinking not only of ourselves but to be giving away to those in need and helping those around us. Because we’re spending on a treasure that never runs out – love and care from God will last forever…
It’s like our primary awareness is how much blessing God has already poured out on us in Jesus. Sort of like with these beautiful furnishings – 325 baptisms, 573 professions of faith, thousands of sermons and blessings… Who knows? Perhaps we’ll see a 1,000 baptisms and professions of faith, 10,000 more sermons, more blessings than we can count…both in here and out there… But praying that we keep on seeking and sharing his kingdom in new and beautiful ways, there need not be a worry among them. As we continue to gather and grow in the grace of Jesus Christ our mighty Lord, God grant us to be never “of little” but always “of great faith” in his gracious rule.