Sermon for Pentecost 12, Proper 14C, preached by the Rev. Daniel Ulrich on Sunday, August 7, 2016.
Faith is a tricky thing to grasp, it can be difficult to understand, even though we talk about it all the time. Faith is a common word in our vocabulary, but do we really know what it is? We equate faith with belief, and it is, but there’s more to faith than just belief. When you look up the word “faith” in the dictionary, you see the word “trust.” Faith is belief and trust, it’s a belief that drives you to trust, to cling to something, to someone.
I. Jesus talks about faith in our Gospel reading as He tells us not to be anxious about our lives, about the food we’ll eat or the clothing we’ll wear. These words of Christ come immediately after He tells the parable of the Rich Fool, which we heard last week. This rich fool put his faith, his trust, in things, so much so that his things owned him. In the end this was all vanity, it was useless, because his things couldn’t save his soul.
This rich fool was anxious about his physical life. That’s what he pursued and sought after. He cared only for earthly things, believing that once they were his, his soul could relax. Jesus warns us about this anxiety, as He should, because like the rich fool, we’re very much concerned with the things of this life.
Our lives are filled with worries about things. We spend our whole lives seeking after the stuff of our bodies. From the very beginning we think about food. As infants we cried when we were hungry and wouldn’t stop until milk filled our mouths. Once we got older, we weren’t as concerned with having food, but having the foods we liked. And this is still the case today. How much time do we spend thinking about our next meal and what tastes we’ll put on our tongues?
Likewise, we concern ourselves with our clothing. We don’t worry too much about having clothes; but, we’re worried about having the right cloths. The dress that fits just right; the suit that says, “I’m confident and successful;” the brand of shoes that the popular kids wear.
Food and clothes are just small examples of the things we seek after. How many of us spend our days thinking about our homes and yards, our careers, the bills stacking up on the table, or even our leisure time and dream vacations we’d like to take? The list can go on and on. We seek after the necessary things, and also the not so necessary things, of this life. We worry about them, and what does Jesus say about that? “O you of little faith!” (Lk 12:28).
When we worry about these things, when we think about them non-stop and have anxiety over them, this is a sign of little faith, of no faith, at least no faith in God. Anxiety is a distrust of God and a trust in yourself, and this is sin; it’s idolatry. What’s the First Commandment? You shall have no other gods before me. And what does this mean? You should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. This includes yourself. You become worried about these things because you trust in yourself. You expect yourself to provide it all on your own, and this makes you an idol, your own god, driving you away from the true God and towards Satan, death, and hell.
Instead of seeking after the things of this life, being anxious about food and clothing and everything else, Jesus tells us to seek His kingdom. We need to be anxious about our lives after this one, to be concerned more about our sin and the death that comes with it than things of our earthly lives. If we took the time to really contemplate on our sin, to look at how serious it is, even those sins we consider minor, our anxiety level would be through the roof, we would truly fear for our lives. The punishment for our sin is eternal death, death of body and soul, forever tormented in the tortures of hell, permanently separated from God.
But God hasn’t left you without hope in the midst of this fear. Jesus says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). God our Father doesn’t want us to suffer this punishment. He doesn’t want us to die, this was never His plan. God takes no pleasure in damnation. So He promised a Savior who would defeat Satan, sin and death, and He has faithfully kept that promise in Christ.
When you’re anxious about the things of your soul, about your life to come; when you worry and are concerned with your sin, the Holy Spirit drives you to Jesus your Savior. He took care of your sin and death with His death on the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice paid the penalty for your sin, He died the death that your sin causes and demands. He took all of it upon Himself, your anxiety, your distrust of God, and your sinful trust in yourself, and there on the cross He killed it, left it nailed to the wood. And with Spirit given faith, you trust in your Savior, in His saving grace and mercy, in the everlasting life that He gives to you.
II. The writer of Hebrews gives us a definition for faith. He says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faith isn’t a wishy washy thing. It’s not flimsy. Faith is a certain and confident trust in God and our Savior, because He is faithful to us, because His steadfast love endures forever.
In Hebrews we get a lists of all the faithful saints from the Old Testament: Abel; Enoch; Noah; Abraham; Sarah; and more. These saints had faith, they had an assurance and conviction of things hoped for and things not seen because each one heard God’s Word and promises, and they believed these promises, they trusted in them knowing that God was faithful and would do what He said. But where did this faith come from? Did it come from themselves? Did they make themselves believe? No. Their faith was a gift from God; and so is your faith.
We don’t believe and trust in God based on our own efforts and willpower, but because God has given us the gift of faith and because He is faithful to us. He’s faithful in His creation. God created all life, and He continually cares for that life because He loves it. When Jesus told His disciples not to be anxious about this life He used the examples of the birds and the flowers. These creations of God neither toil nor work to store up food or dress themselves, and yet they have food and are taken care of. God cares for these smallest of His creation because He loves them and is faithful to them, and He’ll certainly care for you because He loves you and is faithful to you.
God was faithful in His promise when He sent Christ to be our Savior, to redeem us from our sin and death. He is faithful to you through His means of grace, where He delivers forgiveness, life, and salvation. In the Words of Scripture read, in the water of Baptism poured on your head, and in the bread and wine that is Christ’s Body and Blood that you eat and drink, God is faithful to you, saving you and giving you life.
And with the gift of faith given to us through the work of the Spirit, we trust in God and in His promises. We trust in Christ and in His salvation, in His forgiveness. We live out our days on this earth without anxiety about the things of this life, because God promised to provide for us and because He has guaranteed us everlasting life in His Son. And with faith, we look forward to this life, to Christ's return, when He’ll come and reveal His kingdom fully, where the worries of this life can never touch us again.
The Lord is faithful and His steadfast love endures forever. Our Father has given us life and cares for it. This gracious care extends well beyond our life here on earth. God has promised us everlasting life with Him in His kingdom, and He’ll give this to us. Through Christ and His cross, He has overcome our sin and death, and gives us salvation. And because of this we trust completely in Him. We have faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.