PRAYER OF COLLECT
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
KEEP, we beseech thee O Lord, thy church with thy perpetual mercy; and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:23-34)
There are keen points in today’s text that would be profitable for our deep consideration. Mammon represents the treasure so this world. Mammon is soulless – it is inorganic and inanimate ‘things.’ It includes precious metal and gems, money, and lavish furnishings. It also includes positions of presumed prestige.
There are simply two masters on this earth of our souls – it is either God or Mammon (Satan’s best tool). Our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, teaches us that a believer cannot be divided in his faith. He cannot travel the righteous path that is Narrow, and leads up to Heaven, and the wicked path called the Broad Way that leads down to destruction, at the same time. There remains before us, just as in the days of Noah’s Ark, an open door. It is an invitation to salvation. Whomsoever will may enter in by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That ‘will’ to enter is not man’s will since man’s heart is continually evil – it is the will which the Holy Ghost imparts to those whom God calls. There is no place in the Church of God for duplicity. If we so much desire to retain our old free will, than we shall also retain the consequences of our sins; but, if we surrender our wills to Christ, and accept His will for our lives, then shall our lives (thought, word, and deed) be directed from on high and not from the depths of Hell.
As pointed out in the Prayer of Collect, our righteousness is not our own, but belongs to Christ. He covers us with His righteousness else we would fall miserably short of the mark. He sustains us moment by moment in the way that we should go; yet, He knows our frail frames and, as the Good Samaritan, finds us, heals us, provides us transport, and lodges us in the fair harbors of His love as we fail and flounder on the Way. His love and care are a perpetual love and care; and those things that we overcome by faith are profitable to our salvation.
Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians for today, warns against any labors of the hand to achieve salvation. It is not the good work we do by our hands that make us worthy of the family of God, but the work that Christ did on the cross – to satisfy the terms of the law on our behalf – that is edifying and efficacious for our salvation. Men will attempt to convince us to do all sorts of works, and comply with all kinds of formulas, to EARN salvation; but it cannot be. There is only One Way – the way of the cross of Christ. He paid it all!
Just prior to the text today from the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus has taught us how to give alms – how to do, as well, our works of good – in secret so that our reward will be in heaven and not seen upon earth for self-gratification. If our gifts are to Heaven, they shall not be seen openly upon the earth; and if they are made openly to be seen on earth, they shall not grace the walls of Heaven. Our Lord also, in verses 5-15 of this same chapter, He teaches us how to pray. He also gives us the Lord’s Prayer that is to be prayed in communal worship (i.e. Our Father….), as well as private moments of devotion. He gives us a rule for fasting so that we appear to the world not to fast. Our Father in Heaven knows every secret thing, and He cherishes those acts of righteousness that are performed for His own glory alone and not that of any man.
So Jesus begins today by telling us that we cannot serve two masters. Since a master has full authority over his subject, such a prospect of having two masters is logically impossible. 24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” God is not divided in His sovereignty – He is either the sovereign of our souls, or the flesh is that sovereign. It cannot be both ways. Our flesh is constantly warring to gain the ascendancy, but a firm reliance upon the sweet blessings and leading of the Holy Spirit will give the soul victory in the righteous Way. If we are obsessed with the false and dimming lights of the world, the greater and eternal Light of Heaven will be obscured just as it was to the Wise Men who were blinded to the Star of Bethlehem when they entered the dimly-lit gates of Jerusalem. Consider the matter logically: is it possible to go UP, and to go DOWN, at the same time? Is it possible to love God and His great enemy at once? Can you prize righteousness above all while harboring wicked thoughts in one’s heart? Let our master be single, and let that Master be the sweet and loving Teacher of Galilee – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Are we anxious of tomorrow? Who owns tomorrow? Is it not God Almighty? If He is your Lord, you need not worry of provisions for the day. He has furnished our abode for our comfort and shelter, He has prepared the Bread of Heaven for our sustenance, and He has woven a white and silken Robe for our covering. What profit is in worrying? Will simple worry change any outcome in the slightest? Our Lord was driven into the Wilderness to suffer the trials and temptations of the devil. He went without food that we might be fed. He went without drink that we might have the full cup of His blessings. He vanquished the Devil in the Wilderness of this world. Why do we linger in longing looks back to that Wilderness of sin? 25 “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” Is there not bread enough, and to spare, in my Father’s House? (Prodigal Son) We have been invited to a sumptuous dinner at the House of the King. Shall we bring with us our stale and molding bread of the earth when He has prepared the finest cuisine of Heaven? Shall we lug along our waters from the poison fountain when He has provided the pure Water of Life for our health? Perish the thought!
Jesus invites our attention to the provision God has made in nature for every creature thereof. Does He not provide for them? What is the source of nourishment to the young calf, the baby lamb, the frail, newborn pony? He has provided a means in nature for each of these to prosper in health and nutrition. It is an unbroken source of plenty. 26 “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” I often wonder where the sparrow goes when the clouds burst open in a deluge. They return in joy to the trees after the rain. Where did they hide from the tempest? They depended upon the protection and care of God unseen to our eyes. They do not worry about harvest and sowing, yet they prosper according to God’s perfect plan. A sparrow is of much less value to God than the crowning achievement of His Creation – Man. So why do we worry so that the provision will fail, and we shall perish for want of food, clothing, or shelter? The sparro, however, does not neglect his responsibility to gather food. He doesn’t sit in the trees and sing all day. He labors, but he does not worry of tomorrow.
We are created in the image of God. Why should we mar that image by tattooing our persons or, more importantly, our souls, with deviant marks and vulgar signs? Can we make ourselves larger than God has made us? Perhaps so if you consider immoderate diet and obesity to be growth. But God has made us to be like unto our Maker. Our only growth can take place when we grow more like Him by surrendering our free wills and taking upon ourselves the Mind and Will that is Christ’s. 27 “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” Rather than enlarge ourselves by effort, we grow smaller. Only when we allow God to grow our hearts, minds and bodies may we grow in love and grace.
Our world today is filled with stress and anxiety. Men’s hearts fail them for looking for the things coming upon the earth. Reason teaches us that 95% of those things that occupy our anxious minds in worry never come to pass. So the worry was only a ruse of the devil to distract our hearts and to shorten our lives. 28 “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” Lilies are beautiful beyond measure, yet, despite our art, the only lilies we can create are unloving ones. But God clothes them, not only with beauty, but with exuberant life! A dead body can be decorated with silken robes to no avail for it remains dead. But God clothes the Lily better than Solomon was able to clothe himself, and the life God gave the Lily is an innate characteristic of His grace to the smallest of creatures. The grass is giving raiment suitable for its living, yet, it has only a short span to run, and is trodden under foot, withers, and is blown away by the wind. Do you worry that the same God who provides for the sparrow, the Lily, and the grass of the fields cannot provide for you whose value far exceeds all these? The soul of man is eternal whether destined for Heaven or Hell, whereas sparrows, grass, and lilies exist only for the present as robes of beauty to cover the earth. Is our faith so small that we cannot acknowledge the care of God sufficient for our preservation?
So what counsel does our Lord provide for our frailty and doubts? 31 “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” If the Christian son or daughter goes about worrying, just as do those who do not know God, of what advantage is there to being a son or daughter of God. Does a prince or princess concern themselves for their basic provisions in life? Is our Father, and King of Kings, not able to supply all things according to His “riches in glory?” Do we believe that God is unable to see our need? Perhaps we see only our DESIRES, but God sees our NEED!
We need not concern ourselves with any worldly concerns if we place God first in all our thoughts, words, and deeds. If our priority in all things is God and His will, we will have no time left for worry and vain pursuits. Our Lord gives solution to all our problems with His concluding counsel for today’s text:
33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” To those of you who timidly subordinate your duties to God to your perceived obligations to the state and society, Jesus draws a clear line in the sand: We do not seek to please governments or society in politically correct philosophies, but GOD! His will is paramount over every earthly power be it the US Government, or any other government. We observe a hierarchy of government from God above every other government. In America, we have local, state and Federal laws. Does not the ultimate power predominate in law? And even in the Federal Government, we have a separation of powers that must be observed so that not entity has absolute power even at the Federal head. But God is the ultimate Law-Giver. His law takes precedence above every law of man. Too many believers today have bought into the lie of a separation of church and state. What does that mean? Does it mean that religious morality cannot influence the state, or even be mentioned in reference to it; or that the state can dictate every detail of religious faith. If the Christian faith is not the basis of government, then the government will intrude and be the arbiter of the Christian faith…simple as that! God will provide ALL that we need as long as we acknowledge Him above and beyond every other consideration.
There is great evil in our present day. We must address the enemy at hand rather than occupy ourselves with contemplated enemies that may arise tomorrow. The world is WICKED today. The only day we are assured in this life is TODAY. Go forth to battle that enemy of our souls that presents itself at the leading edge of battle and worry not of the enemy’s reinforcement for tomorrow. If we win the current battle, there will be no wickedness to reinforce. Fight today, and take in hand the new threat as it presents itself. God is with the valiant and true servant to fight his battles for him. Stand with God and no lesser power can approach. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
What are your priorities for today? Are your first awakening thoughts devoted to God and in seeking His will for you TODAY? Or do you give space in your heart to needless worries that steal the space in your heart that should be reserved to God? Do you seek after righteousness and let the results fall where they will? If you place your trust in the only One who can order not only your life, but your soul, you will be in good Hands for certain. Do not make your intentions of righteousness dependent upon tomorrow’s events. Do what is right, and God will see to the rest! He is the great Captain of your soul, not society, not Mammon, and not government. When you approach the White Throne at the conclusion of all time, will you concern yourself with rulings of the Supreme Court, or acts of Congress? You may trust me – they shall not present themselves at that Holy place.