Said the robin to the sparrow, “I should really like to know why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so.” Said the sparrow to the robin, “Friend, I think that it must be, that they have no heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.”
But of course, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ does indeed care for the robins and sparrows, and even the young ravens which do cry, so much the more does He provide and care for all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, created in His own Image and Likeness for Life everlasting. And all the more so, yet again, does He feed and clothe, shelter, and protect, in both body and soul, all those whom He has called and gathered to Himself by the Gospel, whom He has named with His Name, anointed with His Holy Spirit, and adopted as His children in Christ Jesus.
Do not worry, then, about your body and life in this world. Be responsible and diligent in doing your duties, to be sure, but do not be anxious and afraid, and be not consumed with concerns, especially for things that are beyond your control and outside of your responsibilities.
It is one thing to maintain a godly concern for others, and to serve faithfully within your God-given calling and stations in life. But to worry, to be anxious, is to presume that everything depends on you. As though you were the one to feed the ravens and clothe the lilies. As though you were the one to make the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the evil and the good. As though you were capable of opening your hand to satisfy the wants and needs of every living thing.
Repent of your self-idolatry, and stop fretting and fussing about your temporal body and life, about your meals and your wardrobe. There is far more to real life than food and clothing — that is, not the wealth and riches that you covet and the whole world chases after, but the forgiveness of your sins, the resurrection of your body, and the Life everlasting of your body and soul with the Lord.
Do not invest yourself in that which does not last, and do not stress yourself over that which cannot save you. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings, which contradict and compete with the Word of the Lord. What your fathers and mothers in Christ heard, believed, confessed, and taught in this place remains true, as sure as Christ Himself is and remains the Truth forever.
When that same Lord Jesus Christ admonishes you not to worry, He is urging you to live by faith. To set your heart upon God. To fear, love, and trust in Him for all that you need in all that you do. You are not to worry and fret with great anxiety, which is idolatrous and unfaithful. Such worry and fear are a kind of self-righteousness which destroys both faith and love. Rather, living in faith, you simply do what you are given to do, wherever God has put you in this world, whatever your place in life may be, whatever your office and stations. There do your part to love and serve and help, not as though your life depended on it, but because your life is given to you by God.
This Word of your dear Lord Jesus does not simply bring your sins into the light. It also calls you to repentance and faith — both of which are His work, not yours. That is to say, He calls you away from yourself and your sins to your Father in heaven, to His grace and mercy and forgiveness, and to His gracious providence of all that you need for your body and soul, for now and forever.
He calls you to live as a carefree child in your Father’s home. You know what that’s like. Little children don’t worry about where their clean clothes or their next meal are going to come from; they simply trust and take for granted that Mom and Dad are going to provide whatever they need. So it is for you, as well; and that is how you are to live, without stressing about your basic needs.
As God clothes the lilies entirely by His grace — more gloriously than Solomon adorned himself — so has the One greater than Solomon, the true Son of David, the true King of Peace, the true Temple of God, Christ Jesus, who accomplished your salvation by His Cross and Resurrection, also clothed you in His righteousness and glory in the waters of your Holy Baptism
Though you are like the grass which withers and fades, yet you are beloved of the Lord your God, who daily and richly provides you with all that you need. Not only for this body and life, 125 years and counting, but for the Resurrection and the Life everlasting with Himself in body and soul.
Instead of seeking after temporal, perishable things, which is a waste of your life and a waste of your time and energy, Jesus teaches you to seek the Kingdom of His God and Father, in which you have life forever, and all good things are yours, all by His grace.
So, then, seek the Lord where He may be found; call upon Him while He is near — which is right here in His House, in the Breaking of the Bread — where He abides with you, reveals and gives Himself to you, makes known His salvation to you, and bestows His righteousness upon you.
Everyone who is thirsty, come here to the waters of Baptism, to the remembrance and ongoing significance of your Holy Baptism in the Name of the Lord. Come, buy and eat, without money and without cost, the Bread and Wine (the Milk and Honey) of the Holy Communion. Incline your ear and come to the Lord, and listen carefully to His Word and the preaching of it, that you may live by faith in His Gospel. Delight yourself in the abundance of His House.
Here on earth, in this body and life, you do not have a lasting city. Not even our churches and beloved congregations last forever, though they presently serve an eternal purpose. But even so, we are seeking the City which is to come and will remain, whose Architect and Builder is God, the Lord. And now that City is sought and found in the Ministry of the Gospel, within the Church on earth, having been established forever in the crucified and risen Body of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As that is where your heart and your treasure are found — in the heavenly places, at the right hand of the Throne of God, in Christ, yet given and poured out for you here in His Church — so invest yourself there by doing good and sharing with others, as the Lord does good and shares with you.
As the Lord preaches and teaches His Word to you, confess what He has spoken. Pray, praise, give thanks, and sing His Word to the glory of His Holy Name and for the benefit of your neighbors, as also for the exercise and strengthening of your own faith and life in Christ Jesus.
And as the same Lord Jesus Christ visits you in peace, shelters and protects you within His House, adorns you with His righteousness and holiness, and feeds you at His Altar with His Body and His Blood, so visit and welcome your neighbors with mercy and compassion, cover the naked and feed the hungry, and persevere in the righteousness of Christ Jesus, in holy faith and holy love.
Instead of anxiety and worry, instead of scrambling to get and hording to keep, give generously, love courageously, and sacrifice boldly. For when your heart is fixed upon God in Christ Jesus, who loves you and freely provides you with all that you need for now and forever, you are free to love and serve your neighbors here on earth in the hope and promise of the Resurrection.
So also, as a congregation, as all things are given to you freely in the Ministry of the Gospel, you are free to hand over what you have received from the Lord. As you live by His Charity — by His grace alone — so do you live in charity for your neighbors on earth.
In faith toward God and with fervent love for one another, abide in the Lord’s House in the City of God, even now on earth as it is in heaven. Follow the cloudy pillar of Holy Baptism. Keep the testimony and ordinance of the New Testament in Christ’s Blood. For the Lord is great in Zion, that is, within His Church. Though He is high above all the nations, He comes near to you here.
The Kingdom of God is not something you can see or experience with your outward senses in this fallen world. You hear it and know it, and you have it, by faith in the Word and promises of God: under the Cross, in apparent contradiction, in foolishness and weakness. Sin and death continue in yourself and in your neighbors. So it may seem as though God’s promises were null and void, or as though He had forgotten all about them. Or, they may seem so impossible and contrary to fact that they simply couldn’t be true, as sometimes seemed to be the case with Father Abraham.
Consider what a little flock your congregation is, over against the big, bad world around you. Many of your sister congregations are just as small. And the entire Church on earth is under duress, under attack on all sides, outwardly outnumbered and outgunned, surrounded by hostility.
But in the face of it all, in the very midst of adversity, hardship, and persecution, you are called — and the entire Church is called upon — to fear, love, and trust in our God and Father in heaven: All for the sake of our one Lord, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead for our salvation.
He, too, has been small and frail and beleaguered, surrounded by His foes, crucified, put to death, and buried. But His God and Father in heaven has given Him the Kingdom, the Resurrection and the Life, and all authority in heaven and on earth. And these He gives to you. For though His holy Apostles were also few in number, weak by all the standards of the world, a little flock of sheep in the midst of wolves, He sent them to preach His Word, to baptize and absolve in His Name, and to feed His lambs and sheep around the world with His Body given and His Blood poured out. Though they were martyred for His Gospel and His Name, their labors were not in vain. His holy Christian Church has survived and spread throughout the world, also here to you. Do not think, because you are such a little flock, that your Shepherd has forgotten you. Not once. Not ever.
Though you have been fearful, He has been steadfast. Though you have been anxious and worried about many things, He has been faithful in all things — on your behalf. And He is still faithful. For He remains always the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
Even when steeples are falling, the Church is preserved both by and for the Ministry of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, by and for the confession of His Holy Name. Even in lowliness and littleness, the Lord is holy and great in the midst of His people, forgiving their sins and sanctifying them in body and soul for the Resurrection and the Life everlasting with Him.
The Word which goes forth from His mouth — in the preaching of the Holy Gospel — will not return to Him empty. His Word is living and active; it does and gives exactly what it says. It will accomplish what He desires. It will succeed in the purpose for which He speaks it. As indeed it has for these past 125 years, and as it continues to do and accomplish, right here in Rensselaer.
The Lord has made an everlasting Covenant with you. It is sure and certain, steadfast, and true in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead, given and poured out for you and for the many to eat and to drink in faith and with thanksgiving.
How blessed you are, dear children of God! For here you abide in the House of your Father. You need not worry about what you will eat and drink, nor about what you will wear. For all that you need has been provided. Your Father has sacrificed the Passover Lamb. His Blood now marks your door. Death shall not rob you of your life, and it shall not snatch you from this Sanctuary.
Here is your true fatherland, the country you’ve been waiting for. Here is the City of your God, wherein you have found a home and family with Christ Jesus, the beloved and well-pleasing Son. Here is the Altar from which you are given to eat what He sacrificed once-for-all upon the Cross.
As you are gathered here, a little flock around the Lamb of God who takes away your sins, who has such tender mercy and deep compassion for you, so are you granted His peace and hope and confidence and a Treasure in the heavens that does not fail or fade away forever. Lift up your heart and mind to Him who loves you, to Jesus Christ, your Savior, who has risen from the dead and ever lives to make intercession for you before the Throne of God. And through Him offer a sacrifice of praise to your Father in heaven, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His Name, now and forever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.