Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 7, 2016, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Luke 12:22-34
Sermon Theme: “Fear Not, Little Flock”
(Sources: Emphasis Online Illustrations; Emphasis Online Commentaries; original ideas; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 26, Part 3, Series C; Life Application Study Bible; Brokhoff, Series C, Preaching Workbook; Uniijokes.com; Online Sermon Illustrations, RE Images; Online Clean Jokes; Believer’s Bible Commentary)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
At the beginning of today’s sermon text, Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life,” and at the end of the text He says, “Fear not, little flock.” Worry, anxiety, and fear are so prevalent in America today that they keep psychiatrists well supplied with customers.
Psychiatrists call extreme fears “phobias”; there are over a hundred phobias, including acrophobia, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, glossophobia, autophobia, xenophobia, choronophobia, ergophobia, and tetraphobia, just to name a few.
Tetraphobia is a fear of monsters, and is usually seen in children. However, there was grown man, who still suffered from this fear. Finally, he went to a psychiatrist and explained that he had this terrible fear that there was a monster under his bed. Not only does he live in terror, but he never gets any sleep. The psychiatrist said he could cure the man in about forty or fifty sessions.
“How much do you charge?” the man asked.
“Eighty-five dollars per session,” replied the psychiatrist.
Since the man couldn’t afford to pay so much, he left the shrink’s office and stopped in at the local bar to ease his frustration, telling the bartender all about his phobia. The bartender said he knew a sure-proof, cost-free way to get rid of his fear, and he shared it with the man, who took the bartender’s advice, and soon his fear of monsters was conquered.
So he just had to drop by the psychiatrist’s office to brag about his cost-free, successful cure.
“How did this bartender cure you of your tetraphobia?” the shrink asked.
“He told me to cut off the legs of the bed, which I did, and now there’s nobody under there!”
It is a fact that 40 percent of the things the average person fears will never happen; 30 percent of the average person’s worries are about the past, and that can’t be changed; 12 percent of most people’s anxieties are about criticisms coming from other people, almost all of which are untrue. Ten percent of the average person’s worries are about their health, and your health actually gets worse when you worry. And only 8 percent is about real problems that have to be faced.
In our text, Jesus is essentially saying, ‘The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of faith is the end of anxiety.’ A true Christian is free from fear because of his faith in God; that’s why Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock.”
In verses 22 and 23, Jesus tells us not to be anxious about our life. Of course, we all agree with Jesus that we shouldn’t worry. Psychiatrists and social workers agree with him. We know that worry is useless, and that, as our Lord says, we can’t add a single hour to the span of our life by worrying. And, most of us would agree that worrying is a sin against the First Commandment, because when we worry we are not trusting God above all things.
However, none of that keeps us from worrying, does it? And the fact that we can’t stop worrying puts us on a guilt trip, thinking, ‘I’m not a very good Christian, because I worry too much!’ Some of us also have a tendency to think that we are so insignificant, why would God want to waste His precious time helping us with our problems.
Jesus understands how we think, so He tells us in the text how much God cares about even the lowliest of His creatures. Jesus says, “Consider the ravens; they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.”
The raven is the largest of the birds in the crow family, they are loud and noisy and have sharp beaks. Moreover, what all Jews would know is that ravens are considered “unclean” animals by Levitical Law. This would put them on the bottom of the hierarchy of lower creatures. Yet, Jesus says, “God feeds them,”—and He adds, “How much more value are you than the birds.”
Then Jesus mentions the lilies, flowers that praise God with their beauty. We shouldn’t worry about having enough money to buy the trendiest clothes on sale in expensive stores. The lilies neither toil nor spin, yet they have a natural beauty that rivals Solomon in all his glory! “Oh how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith,” Jesus exclaims.
Many verses in the Psalms, the Prayer Book of the Bible, strongly urge us not to fear. Here are a few: Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear.” Psalm 46: 1 says, “God is our refuge and strength . . . therefore we will not fear though the earth give away.” And Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Yet, even these beautiful words of caring from the heart of Jesus and the powerful words from the Psalms do not stop us from worrying, do they?
Next, Jesus shows us that the real reason for our worrying is that we are seeking the wrong things in life. Our many fears, worries, and anxieties prove that! The problem is we seek peace of mind in the wrong places. Jesus says in the text, “And do not seek what you are to eat or 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.” In His omnipotence, He knows what we need!
Jesus calls us to repent of our false seeking and to trust Him. He says in verse 31, ‘Instead of seeking after those worldly things, seek God’s kingdom, and THESE THINGS WILL BE ADDED TO YOU.’ Since those are the actual words of Jesus, they are a promise which we can trust. Seek after God’s kingdom and those material things will be provided for you.
But even acknowledging that we are seeking the wrong things does not stop us from worrying, does it?
So the bottom line is God breaks into our worrying world with His kingdom, and that’s what takes our worry away. The King of the world entered into the place of our worry.
Just think about it. Jesus lacked food for forty days in the wilderness. He lacked a place to lay His head, to call His home. He lived with all the reasons for worry, but He lived perfectly worry-free for you and me. At the cross, He was stripped of every bit of clothing, so that, unlike the flowers, he had no beauty that we should desire Him. But it was when Jesus had nothing, and even His life was taken from Him, that our loving Lord gave us everything.
The kingdom of Jesus is ours, not by our worrying, but by His cross and His rising from the tomb. The kingdom is ours, even when we worry, — because of His grace.
His kingdom will change you, — from seekers of all the wrong glitzy things this vain world has to offer, to workers using your gifts and talents and resources for His kingdom. Jesus says in verse 33, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” Note that He does NOT say, as He did to the rich ruler, “Sell ALL your possessions and give them to the poor.” How many possessions you sell and give to the poor is your tithe. In other words, don’t horde everything you have, but share with those who have nothing.
Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Only those who truly seek the kingdom of God will be able to see the whole picture of life and not be caught out with the rest who will steal and cheat and kill in order to carve out a temporary security blanket.
Most people are scared that they might lose what they have or they might not have enough to take them to the finish line. Jesus called our focus on possessions a false security. Like the man who tore down his barns, in last Sunday’s gospel, to build yet bigger and better barns, many folks today also believe that possessions really can protect them.
Yet Jesus expanded this teaching by reminding us that the oil we need in our lamps cannot be purchased at a store. It is an inner reserve. Unbelievers, even those who are millionaires and those who long to be millionaires all over the country, are running on empty. Our lives really do not consist of the abundance of things we possess. We will never conquer our fears by surrounding ourselves with STUFF.
Those of us who are part of the Kingdom can live in peace, because the King takes our worries away. Fear not, little flock. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.