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You Matter!

September 20, 2020
By Rev. David French

The theory of faith is pretty easy to understand. In fact, there’s really nothing difficult about it at all. The simplicity of faith is summed up in Luther’s small catechism’s explanation of the First Commandment this way: “You should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” That’s it. Faith is trust in God above all things. But, you and I both know that living our faith or trusting God above all things is much easier said than done.

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness ….” Did you hear it? The “divine wisdom” offered with these words, I mean. There’s no profound mystery to be solved you simply put the first things first. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Again, as we all know from experience, the words are easier to learn than to put into practice. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be. This is one of those things that’s so easy that not only can a child understand it, but a child of God naturally puts into practice. It’s those of us who want to please God who daily struggle against sin, who hear these words of Jesus and think, “I wish, but that’s just not how the real-world works.”

At times, you find yourself thinking, “I do seek the kingdom of God. I look forward to that heavenly kingdom; but for now, I’m living in this world of sin. Right now, I have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and repairs that need to be done. The kingdom of God will come and I look forward to that day; but right now, I have other things to worry about.” And that makes us … human.

But, remember that seeking the kingdom of God is not like getting on some theological yellow brick road and stumbling along the way until we reach the magical land of Oz that we call heaven! That’s not what it means to seek the kingdom of God at all. You see, the word that Jesus uses here for “kingdom” does not refer to a fixed location somewhere up there; that is, it’s not used as a noun. The word for kingdom is best understood here as a verb; that is, an action instead of a place.

What Jesus is saying is to seek first the reign and rule of God. So ask yourself, “Does the reign and rule of God take place in my daily life right here and now?” And, this may surprise you, but yes, it absolutely does! In fact, as Paul writes in the first chapter of Romans (1:19-20), “God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature,” (the reign and rule of God) “have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made ….” That is, God’s reign and rule are everywhere and in everything, plain for all to see. Through the eyes and ears of faith, we see God’s love for us in the simplest of things: a beautiful flower, a chirping bird, a gentle breeze, but most clearly in His Word and sacraments given that we might live forgiven in His kingdom of grace.

The same thing is true of the word translated as “righteousness.” Remember, we’re not only to seek first God’s kingdom, but also His righteousness, a word in the Greek that is also translated many times in the Scriptures as “justification.” So, we are also to seek first to be justified, or declared holy and pure, innocent in God’s sight, that is, forgiven. And, by the grace of God through faith in the all-redeeming life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone, that is what you are.

Just think about what Jesus is saying. Remember the context of this conversation. This is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This is Jesus talking to faithful disciples like you and me, who, at that time, were truly struggling for their daily existence.

My friends, this fallen world can be a very scary place, and we know there can be some very hard days, especially for those who walk by faith. We have learned that it is true that “each day has … trouble of its own,” and whether we add to it with bad choices or it just finds us, we are often left feeling stressed, if you will, because we don’t know how to fix it. Jesus responds to us this way, “O you of little faith,” that is, where’s your fear, love, and trust in God above all things? If God takes care of the birds and plants so wondrously, why don’t you believe He’ll provide you, the only work of His creation that He personally breathed His spirit of life into, with everything you need? This is kind of like the “Who is my neighbor?” question. It’s a question we should constantly be asking ourselves, that is, “What do I really need?”

Well, if we believe the most important thing is eternal life with our Creator, then we don’t need any worldly thing at all. From a healthy 401k to being “Facebook famous,” no earthly thing can, by itself, bring you eternal life. That’s not to say that those things are bad, only recognize the truth that no “thing” can pay for your sin. Mercifully, the one thing needful to pass through the pearly gates, which is faith in Christ, is God’s gift to you because of His grace alone.

So, I’m not going to tell you to stop worrying, to just drop the reins and let God rule in your life because that’s not what Jesus is teaching. What He is teaching us is that the things that matter most which need to come first in our daily lives are the almighty reign and gracious rule of God, for He brings the gift of our salvation. Sports, hunting, leisure time, work … these are all nothing when compared to our salvation. Is it concerning when a ball game, sleepover, housework, vacations, pandemic, or any other thing in life unintentionally or otherwise take precedence over our meeting with Christ in His house, be that online or in person? Of course, and so today we’re again reminded and encouraged to keep all things in their proper order of importance. Keep your eyes and ears of faith firmly fixed on Christ and His life-giving Word and sacraments.

Never forget - you matter! You are the focus of God’s love. Everything He does, He does for you. It was for you that God the Father sent His Son into the world. It was for you that God the Son offered His life on the cross of Calvary as the payment for sin. It is to open your eyes and heart that God the Holy Spirit comes to you to remind you of what Christ has done for and said to you.

To this very moment, our Triune God still puts you first. You, take and eat. You, take and drink. This is my body and my blood, given and shed for you; upon this your confession, all of your sins are forgiven. I give you my peace.

You see, faith is not a work of man; it’s a gift from God. And what that gift does is receive all the blessings that Christ lived and died in your place and mine to earn, so that He might freely offer them to all. And so, God delivers the gifts of faith, life, and salvation through the same words that create the faith that holds to, trusts, and believes in the first thing, that is, our sin has been paid for. You and I and all who believe have been forgiven, and even now are living, if only in part, the blessed promise of eternal life.

In His name, Amen.