Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
September 25, 2022
“Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don't they know it's the end of the world
Cause you don't love me any more?
Why do the birds go on singing?
Why do the stars glow above?
Don't they know it's the end of the world?
It ended when I lost your love”
So goes the sappy 1960s teenybopper song about the end of a teenage relationship. The singer is surprised that the world continues to function when everything she thinks matters has gone to ruin. And I think we can all sympathize with the young in love, who get their hearts shattered. It can feel like the world is coming to an end. But it doesn’t. The birds keep chirping. The sun continues its course in the sky indifferent to your suffering. Have you ever gone outside to take a breath while you’re having a really bad day? And have you ever noticed that everything just keeps on going? The grass is still green. The flowers still bloom. The birds fly and sing. The squirrels chatter and chase each other from limb to limb. It’s as if your problems have no effect on the world at all. And this is a helpful thing to do when you’re having a bad day. Look at the world around you. It’s not actually crumbling to bits.
This in effect is what Jesus is telling us when we worry. Don’t worry. Consider the birds of the heavens. They don’t sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them. How much more valuable are you than they? Are the squirrels stressed out? Are the flowers bothered? No, they’re not. How much more does God care about you than they? If God will let fish swim in the streams and frogs croak in the swamp without a care in the world, how much more does he want you to trust in him?
So, Jesus tells us not to worry, first of all, because God cares for us. Mankind is the crown of God’s creation. God breathed into Adam the breath of life. God made Eve out of Adam’s own rib. He gave them dominion over every living thing. And when they sinned, he sent his own Son to be born of a woman, to join our sorry race, to have our flesh and blood, and to die and rise for our salvation. How much more does God care about your body, what you eat, what you drink, what you wear. God cares about these things. So, you don’t need to worry.
Secondly, you shouldn’t worry about these things, because worrying doesn’t do any good. Who by worrying ever added an hour to his span of life, Jesus asks. Here, we must point out that when Jesus tells us not to worry, he does not tell us not to work. We should still do the work God places before us. Even the birds are busy building their nests and looking for worms and seeds. However, we should not worry as if worrying will make our work more productive. In fact, we should not trust in our work so much as if it all depended on us. God will provide. All things work out for good for those who love God. (Romans 8:28).
Thirdly, we should not worry, because the things of this life are not what’s important. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all the rest will be added to you. Everyone enjoys a good meal, but what then? You eat it; you digest it; you forget about it. Your clothes eventually get tattered and you buy new clothes. What was fashionable twenty years ago is unfashionable today. We spend our lives pursuing our interests and goals, and yet at the end we must say with the preacher from Ecclesiastes, “vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” At the end of the day, all our stuff passes away. Whatever we build crumbles. And even if you gained the whole world, what would it matter if you lost your soul? (Matthew 16:26).
And here is also a warning against idolatry. While worrying about the things of this life, we prove that we trust in false gods here on earth instead of him who reigns in heaven. Remember the parable about the seeds and those that fell among the thorns (Matthew 13). The thorns were the cares and pleasures of this life which choked out the word of God. When you care so much about the things of this life and pay so little attention to God’s Kingdom, then you are worshiping false gods. You’re letting the word get choked out by thorns.
So, what really matters is not what you eat or drink or wear; it’s not where you work or in which neighborhood you buy your house. What really matters and deserves your care is the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness!
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, Jesus instructs us. Well, how do we do that? You can start with prayer. Jesus, when instructing us to pray says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) So, when Jesus tells you to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he is telling you first and foremost to pray for it. You should pray, “Thy kingdom come.”
Yes, “Thy kingdom come,” a petition you already pray every time you pray the Lord’s Prayer. But what are you praying when you pray, “Thy kingdom come,”? Our Small Catechism says, “The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without out prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.” How does God’s kingdom come? “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.”
First off, God’s kingdom comes without our prayer. God’s kingdom is better understood as God’s reign or God’s rule. God’s reign came when Christ Jesus, God’s own Son became man and was born of the Virgin Mary, when he lived under the Law as a human being and fulfilled it, when he went innocent to the cross bearing all our sins, when he died, rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven. That is when God’s kingdom came with its righteousness. Through his ministry on earth, Christ Jesus made everything right. He righted every wrong; he paid for every sin. He justified the world by satisfying God’s wrath against sin. This kingdom of God and its righteousness came without any of our prayers. Before Christ came, the world was under the dominion of the devil. That is why the demons went so crazy as Christ walked on the earth. Yet, Jesus cast them out. And finally, when he said, “It is finished” from the cross, he cast Satan from his throne of sin and lies and death, and Jesus established his kingdom on earth.
So, God’s kingdom comes without our prayer. God’s kingdom is here, whether you ask for it or not. Yet, Jesus instructs you to pray that it will come to you also.
God’s kingdom comes to you when your heavenly Father gives you his Holy Spirit, so that you believe his holy Word and live a godly life here in time. This means that you are praying that God would preach to you and that you would hear it. So, you cannot seek God’s kingdom and righteousness simply by saying a prayer, but by going and seeking what you prayed for. Listen to God’s Word. Hear his Gospel. Repent of your sins and believe that God has forgiven you for Christ’s sake. Believe that God’s Kingdom has come for your sake. Christ Jesus died for you. He cast Satan off his throne for you. He defeated death and hell for you.
Yet, when you pray, “Thy kingdom come,” you are not praying only for yourself. When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, you are never praying only for yourself. Remember, we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.” Our. So, you are not only praying that God’s kingdom, his reign would come to you, but to everyone; that your children will hear the Gospel and believe it; that those who have strayed from listening to the Word and going to church would repent and come and hear the Gospel and live according to it. You’re praying for missions and new congregations and for a new generation of believers; that churches won’t close and that the wayward would be granted a Christian death. Martin Luther in his Large Catechism sums it up this way, “Dear Father, give us, we pray, Your Word, so that the Gospel may be genuinely preached throughout the world. And grant that it be accepted by faith and be alive and do its work in us, so that Your reign may flourish among us through the Word and power of the Holy Spirit and that the devil’s reign may be overthrown and have no claim or power over us, until finally it is totally destroyed and we live forever in perfect righteousness and blessedness.”
We pray that God’s kingdom come here in time. We pray that it may come there in eternity. We seek God’s kingdom and righteousness by praying for Christ to return and for us to be taken to his kingdom to live with him in righteousness, innocence and blessedness forever. This is when we really get how much more important it is to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness than food, drink, and clothing. God’s kingdom is forever! We’re talking about eternity! Don’t be so shortsighted that you give up eternal life for a bit of contentment here on earth! When Jesus tells you to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he is commanding you to ask for the greatest treasure imaginable and he is promising that he will give it to you. Ask for God’s kingdom, and it will be given to you!
And it is only when you believe that God gives his kingdom and righteousness to you that you can be confident to not worry about worldly things. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”, so says St. Paul in Romans 8. He who gives his kingdom at the price of the innocent suffering and death of his own Son to whoever asks for it, how much more will he make sure you are clothed and fed and your children won’t be living on the streets. How much more will he provide your sons and daughters with pious Christian spouses. How much more will he add whatever else is good for you.
If you are six-years-old, seek first the kingdom of God, and everything else will be added to you. If you are eighty-years-old, seek first the kingdom of God, and everything will be added to you. If you are a mother or father, seek first the kingdom of God, if you’re a teenager in high school or a young adult off to college, seek first the kingdom of God, if you’re sick, poor, rich healthy, whatever else is going on in your life, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Go to church, listen to the preaching, eat and drink Christ’s body and blood, pray, forgive, repent, believe, and all the rest will be added to you. Amen.