Sermon for Pentecost 9, Proper 14C, preached on Sunday, August 11, 2019, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.
Jesus asked a question of His disciples, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Lk 12:25). Of course, this is a rhetorical question, one that’s not meant to be answered, because we all know the answer...none of us can do this. We can’t add time to our life. Sure, we can try to eat right and exercise and take medication in the hopes of living a little bit longer, but none of this is a guarantee. But then Jesus says, “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Lk 12:26). Jesus seems to be implying that we can add an hour to our life span, and that it’s an easy thing to do, and yet, we can’t do. And even though we know we can’t do this, we’re anxious about.
We worry about a lot of things. We’re anxious about the stuff of life. As Jesus talked to the people, He revealed our most basic worry: having what we need to survive. We worry about the food we’ll eat. We worry about the clothing we wear. These two things: food & clothing; they’re representative of all the stuff we need to live.
For some, these two basics needs are a real concern. There are people in our world, there are people right here in our own community: men, women, and even children, who need these things. Every day they wake up and they have no idea where their next meal will come from. They don’t know where they’ll lay their head that night. This is a sad fact of life; and it’s important that we find ways to help these people in need. By helping to provide these needs, we’re a blessing of the Lord to these people. We’re the means by which He gives them what they need.
For most of us though, these two basic needs aren’t our biggest concern. We have food to eat. We have clothing to wear, homes to live in; but we’re still anxious about the stuff of life. We worry about having the right clothes, the ones that fit just perfectly, right for every occasion. We worry about having the biggest homes, ones that give us enough space to spread out so we can each have our own room. We worry about having the latest and greatest technologies, the phone that does every, the TV that makes it look like we’re actually at the game, the smart home hub that can turn the lights on and off, and do just about anything else we want it to do. And then of course, we worry about how we’re going to pay for it. We focus so much on these things that it can drive us crazy. Concern for this stuff can drive us to despair.
We worry about stuff, but our anxiety isn’t just on the material of life. Like Abraham, we have other concerns as well. Abraham worried about having an heir. Before he was Abraham, he was Abram, and the Lord appeared to him in a vision and promised, “I am your shield; your reward shall be very great” (Gn 15:1). Abram’s response revealed his concern, “Lord, what will you give me, for I continue childless? (Gn 15:2). Abram was worried about what would happen to his stuff after he died. He was worried about his reputation. He was worried about how he would be remembered.
We too worry about these things. We stress over our reputation, how people perceive us. We want to be liked and remembered. We want people to look at us and praise us for all the good we’ve done, for everything we’ve accomplished. We want our name to continue. We don’t want to be forgotten. That’s probably one of our biggest fears, that well be forgotten. That we won’t be remembered, that our life will be like it never happened.
These are the types of things we’re anxious about. These are the things that we strive for. We tell ourselves that if we have all this stuff, that life will be great. We convince ourselves that if we have all this stuff then our lives matter. And yet, none of it lasts. None of it achieves lasting results. None of it can add an hour to our life. Only the Lord can do this. Only God can provide us with everlasting life. And this is what we need to concern ourselves with, trusting the promises of God with faith.
The author of Hebrews gives us the definition of faith, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faith is trust, knowing something is certain even though what we see with our eyes tells us something different. The Old Testament saints lived by faith. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, they all lived by faith, and with this faith, they received their commendation.
We often think of faith as blind trust, as forced belief. And yet, that’s not at all what it is. Faith has a foundation. It’s not based on our own will power to believe something as true. No, faith is based on God’s Word, on His sure and certain promises.
Abraham heard God’s promises, and he believed. He left his homeland and followed the Lord because of His promises. He knew he’d have a son, because of God’s promises. He knew he’d become a great nation, and that all nations would be blessed in him because of God’s promises. It’s the promises of the Lord that give us faith, and it’s the promises of the Lord fulfilled that strengthen our faith.
The Promise, the number one promise of God, the promise that all of Scripture is about, it’s salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is the very first promise, spoken all that way back in Genesis, when God cursed Satan and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring, he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel” (Gn 3:15). This is the promise of victory over Satan, sin, and death. This promise God continued to speak and this promise He fulfilled, when He sent His Son to die on the cross, taking the punishment of our sin. This promise He fulfilled when Christ rose again on Easter Sunday and won for us everlasting life. This is the promise that we hold on to with faith, and this is the promise that we concern ourselves with.
Christ Jesus and His salvation is the first and foremost thing we should seek. None of the other stuff that we pursue promises everlasting life, but He does. It’s Him and the promise of heaven that we pursue; and with the promise, the Lord says everything else will be added. We don’t need to worry about the stuff of this life. We don’t need to worry about being remembered, because the Lord remembers us. He has us in His hand, and we have everlasting life in Christ.
With faith, we look forward to the everlasting life that God has prepared for us. With faith, we live our lives, not worrying about everything we don’t have, but thankful for what we do have; thankful for salvation. Our Lord has given His Son so that we’d have everlasting life. With this promise fulfilled, what should we be anxious about? Our Lord has promised life, and life you have. In Jesus’ name...Amen.