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Pentecost 9, 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Vicar Kaleb Yaeger
August 7, 2022
Gen. 15:1-6, Heb. 11:1-16, Luke 12:22-34
Text and Audio: immanuelhamiltonchurch.com click “sermons”
Full Service Audio: bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship
Two words are among the most poisonous, insidious and debilitating things that you can say. Two words can cause the best-laid plans to come crumbling down. Two little words asking one simple question - What if?
What if the stock market keeps going down and you lose your pension?
What if your car breaks down and you can’t afford to fix it?
What if food and gas and inflation keeps going up and up and up and you can’t afford to put food on the table?
What if you lose everything you have to some wicked twist of fate and end up hungry and homeless on the side of the road?
Who will care for you then? Who will love you? Will your friends abandon you? Will anyone stoop to help? Or will you die there, cold, hungry and alone?
What if? Two little words, one simple question. A lot of fear. Fear of losing everything you have. Accidents, stock market crashes, financial anxieties, the list goes on and on and on.
This anxiety is baked into the world.
You’re scrolling on social media. You come across a clickbait article, titled TOP TEN THINGS, YOU’RE DOING WRONG WITH YOUR MONEY (YOU WON’T BELIEVE NUMBER 4). Of course, you click on it. The article is, essentially, just a string of “What if?” questions. What if your money is in the wrong place? What if you made the wrong decisions?
Now that you’ve clicked on one of these articles, the all-knowing algorithm slowly feeds you more and more of them. Every lunch break at work, you are asked the question: What if?
As you scroll through social media, flip through channels, watch YouTube, or just walk down the street, you come across advertising. All ads pretty much boil down to this: “Our product is better than every other company’s product. It’s longer lasting, cheaper, and will make your life better, as compared to the other brands, which will only make your life worse.” Of course, each of those other brands all make the same claims. So after you’ve made your decision, picked one out of many options, and taken the product home, you see an ad for another brand. The ad, implicitly, asks you the question: What if you made the wrong choice?
That evening, you turn on the news, which is a great peddler of fear. The newscaster calmly recites the news of the day. “The stock market is down, inflation is up, and crime is on the rise. Stay tuned after the break where we talk to an expert who will say things could be worse - and tomorrow, they probably will be.
So of course, you stay tuned. You want to be informed. You want to keep bad things from happening to you and yours. But the news really only wants your watch time. Fear is a great way to keep your eyes glued to the screen.
So that night, you go to bed. Having been bombarded minute after minute with endless “What ifs?” you start to question. What if? What if it does happen? What if the stock market goes down, my car gets into an accident? What if the economy doesn’t get better? What if I lose everything and end up homeless and hungry at the side of the road?
Out of the fear these endless “What ifs?” have created, you seek out advice. You read the blogs, you listen to financial gurus and look at the spreadsheets. After all, no one person can know it all, so you go to the ones who claim to know. All so you can steer disaster in another direction.
But it’s not enough! Even if you do everything the gurus and blogs and spreadsheets told you, you could still lose everything. After all, the market moves in mysterious ways. The market giveth, and the market taketh away.
Truth be told, these rational spreadsheets, financial gurus and expert blogs are not so different from the pagans of old. The pagans wanted rain for their crops so they would have enough to stave off disaster. So, they went to their wise men, sages, and priests to learn the right rituals to offer at the right time in the right place. Then, maybe, just maybe, the wrath of their god would be appeased.
You look at your spreadsheets, you speak to gurus who claim to be able to divine the future. You talk with the priests of our modern markets so you know when and where you should sacrifice to appease the wrath of the market. The pagans prayed for rain, you pray for a windfall.
And before you know it, the market has become your god. Work has become your worship, spreadsheets and blogs your scripture. Go to church? Read the Bible? Are you crazy? I don’t have time for that. Don’t you know that time is money and money is everything? Help someone else? Why would I do that? The Market has decided he shouldn’t have success, so I shouldn’t interfere. Besides, I need to keep a tight hand on my moneybags because I don’t know what tomorrow might bring.
In just such a way, Satan has snatched the souls of many. Beginning with two little words asking one simple question, Satan drags another soul down to hell. It was this danger that Jesus was warning against, when He said to His disciples”
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
To someone who is struggling with endless “What ifs?” these words might sound like something you’d read off a self help book you found at the back of the bookshelf at Goodwill. It doesn’t sound helpful. But Jesus has more to offer than worldly wisdom.
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
All these worries don’t actually do anything. Even if you make all the right choices, you might still lose everything. Nobody can see everything coming. And you know this. You’ve seen it happen. So why do you still worry?
You worry because you are seeking our own control. You want to look to yourself for power, control, for financial success and safety. Like a good American, you want to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and carry yourself from rags to riches on nothing but your own hard work. But that’s not what Jesus is preaching here.
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
How much more. How much more will God, our heavenly Father, give you what you need? He even does this while you are ones of little faith. He goes further than the Goodwill self-help book. He doesn’t just tell you to stop worrying, He answers your fears. What if, God, I lose everything? God answers and says: I will provide for you.
And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
Seeking after security and safety in this world is fruitless. The world has no certainty to it. The world promises many things, but its promises are false. Advertising promises fitness and safety, but it’s never a sure thing. Unlike the uncaring, cold god of the economy, your Father loves you. He cares about you. He will give you what you need. No matter what the economy does, God will take care of you.
If you have children, or remember what it was like to be a child, you know that the child and his parents often have very different ideas of what taking care of him means. Ice cream for dinner is almost always a bad idea, but you’ll have a hard time convincing your 6-year old. It’s the same way with God. When He took care of the Israelites in the wilderness with the manna and the quail, they didn’t appreciate it, but He gave them what they needed.
Maybe your life changes. Maybe those “What ifs” come true. God will take care of you anyway. He cares for the birds and the flowers, how much more will He care for you, His child? He will take care of your bodily needs. But how much more will He take care of your soul?
What shall you eat? What shall you drink? Earthly food and drink, certainly, but Jesus answers: “Take eat, take drink, this is My body and blood, given and shed for you”
What shall you wear? God will provide you with clothing yes, but He also says: “You will wear My robe of righteousness that I put on you in your baptism.”
On the day of your death, when you eat and drink no more and your body grows cold, you will be well fed and warm, for your soul was nourished on the true food and drink that Jesus gave, and it is clothed in the warm robe of Christ’s righteousness. God’s care for you isn’t just from cradle to grave, but from conception to eternity. This is why Jesus says:
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
God works through people. He often provides through the hands of others. If you see someone in need, help them. God will use your hands to do His Fatherly work. You don’t have to be afraid of losing what you have for helping someone else. God will take care of you.
Always remember that your treasure is fast and secure in the heavens, with God your Father. No thief, moth or devil can snatch your heavenly treasures from His hands.