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Trinity 15 – Matthew 6:24-34

by pastorjuhl ~ October 1st, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            When Jesus says, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, what does it mean to seek? The verb seek has two meanings, both quite similar but with a distinction. The common definition is “to seek in order to find”. You could seek something by looking for it, thinking about it, reasoning through it, or through enquiry. You could aim for something or strive for it too. However, there is another definition of the verb seek that is appropriate for Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapter six.

To seek also means, “to crave”. Pregnant women often crave a particular food. White Castle’s slogan is “What you crave”. Add one extra word to White Castle’s slogan and you have what our blessed Lord asks you to seek. The kingdom of God and His righteousness is “what you should crave”. Nevertheless, what you crave is more than a ten sack of sliders. You crave food, clothing, and mammon. For all these things the Gentiles seek.

Granted, you are a Gentile. A Jew would know from what he is taught that the kingdom of God and His righteousness is the most important possession in the world. The kingdom of God is his glorious treasure, the one thing needful. Gentiles seek wealth and all that mammon offers. You seek not only wealth, but also stature before the world. You command respect. You hear people say, “Don’t disrespect me” as if respect for other people is a requirement rather than a privilege. You command possessions. The more you have, the happier you think you will be. What will you do with all your stuff? An excess of abundance will not make you happy. It will make you miserable because you have no place to stash it. You can’t take it with you into eternal life. You could build bigger storage, but that too will decay.

You worry about the things of this life that God gives you without asking. Jesus says do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Yes, life is much more than food and clothing. You couldn’t tell that by the way you eat and drink or by what you have in your closet. Compare yourself to the widow of Zarephath in First Kings chapter 17. There are few who gather a couple of sticks in order to eat them and wait to die of starvation. Yet if you don’t have that third helping at supper or that fashionable outfit on clearance at the mall, you might starve or go naked. You might wither and die.

Elijah says to the woman, thus says the LORD God of Israel: “The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.” The woman and her son ate for many days from the bin of flour and jar of oil. The Word of the Lord Elijah spoke to them did as God said it would. It was sufficient. They did not eat steak and potatoes, but they did eat. God’s Word did not fail them.

God’s Word will not fail you. He gives you everything you need to support this body and life, even without your asking. Craving food and clothing instead of craving the kingdom of God and His righteousness shows what your god is. God’s Word brings your sin from darkness into light. The Word draws out your sin in order that you turn away from the wrong craving toward a craving that brings eternal satisfaction.

Saint Paul writes in the Epistle, if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. You walk in the Spirit when the kingdom of God and His righteousness is what you crave above all things. Jesus says your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things, especially food and clothing. What you need the most is the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

What is the Kingdom of God? The explanation to the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer says God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. You are given the Holy Spirit when you hear the Word preached. The Spirit is sealed through water and the Word in Holy Baptism.

Your baptism is your passport to everlasting glory. Earthly kingdoms are laid down at natural death. The heavenly kingdom remains forever. Through the lavish washing away of sin, you are united to Christ’s life and death. Saint Paul writes in Romans chapter six: we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

Your baptism covers you with Christ’s blood and righteousness. You confess this when you sing the last stanza of Paul Gerhardt’s Lenten hymn, “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth”:

Lord, when Your glory I shall see
And taste Your kingdom’s pleasure,
Your blood my royal robe shall be,
My joy beyond all measure!
When I appear before Your throne,
Your righteousness shall be my crown;
With these I need not hide me.
And there, in garments richly wrought,
As Your own bride shall we be brought
To stand in joy beside You.

You crave that clothing. You also crave that food. You receive this food in the Lord’s Supper when you eat and drink the True Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of your faith. When you do not seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you have the blessed privilege of confessing your sin, here in the Divine Service, privately to your pastor, and privately from those whom you have sinned against in order that you receive Holy Absolution from God Himself.

You have more than enough to sustain you this side of heaven. Your heavenly Father knows that, yet will continue to give you earthly treasure. The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry. Earthly treasure is not your craving. What you crave is the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Jesus remembers you when He comes into His kingdom upon the cross. His death ushers in the New Jerusalem yet to come. The gift of eternity is yours now because of Jesus, but not yet, for He has not returned to make all things new. While you wait, you feast on the craving that satisfies the hungry heart yearning for righteousness. You feast on Christ in His means of grace, where He comes among you and gives you the one thing needful, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation of your soul, that the gates of hell cannot overcome.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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