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...and All These Things Shall be Added unto You.
F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
11/10/02 Trinity 15
Ps. 15; Ex. 2:1-22; Gal. 6:11-18; Mt. 6:24-34
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus forces His disciples to face perhaps the greatest challenge we can face: the choice between mammon and the Kingdom. It is the archetypal decision we make at Baptism, reaffirm at Confirmation, and then seek to live out through Holy Communion, becoming the Body of Christ here on earth out there, in the world.
But we cannot answer that challenge until we have decided on that issue given by Jesus. We cannot in any realistic sense be the Body of Christ on earth if we have not made that Baptismal decision in truth and in spirit to “renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that we will not follow or be led by them...”
The promises of Baptism are repeated at Confirmation.
If we are wise and alert, we will probably find ourselves wrestling with that decision every day of our lives. If we are foolish, we put off the wrestling, we compromise ourselves, we pander to the pagan or secular gods of our own time, we seek to be comfortable and popular with the world rather than with God and His faithful people.
Then we do as pictured in John 3:19. When the Light comes into the world, when the light shines around us, when truth is told, we run for the dark and for the bushes because we do not want our evil deeds to be known. We have the choice – to run for the dark or to run into the light. But often, when the light suddenly goes on, our first and almost compulsive reflex action is to hide, to deny reality, to pretend.
The words ‘true’ and ‘truth’ are used over 500 times in the Bible. Truth-seeking is a persistent and common theme in the Bible, even though we seem not to notice it much. We do that at our peril. You cannot be a disciple of Jesus if you are not a truth-seeker. If you are not a truth-seeker, you will not want what He has to offer – which is nothing but the truth about life.
The truth that Jesus in the Gospel today offers His disciples, past and present, is that choice between the Kingdom of God versus the world, the flesh, and the devil – to which Jesus refers as “mammon”-- a Greek word for “riches”.
There is nothing wrong with the world or riches as such. In this very passage Jesus promises vast and unending riches to those who obey Him. The problem is the worship of those riches, the belief that those riches can supply the two fundamental needs of our lives, our personal security and our moral direction. But there is nothing in the world at all which can do that. Either we get them from God, or we do not get them at all in any stable and enduring manner. Even a foundation of sand will hold you up when there is nothing to disturb it. But when the rains come and the winds blow, the sands of the world’s security disintegrate.
The world by itself has no secure foundations. It has no secure spiritual foundations, moral foundations, cultural or political foundations, or family foundations. Mammon, the world without God, has no way to produce that for which we are looking. It is a fool’s errand to search for salvation in the world. So rebellion against God is not only sinful, it is stupid, self-defeating, self-destructive. It destroys the very selves, the very persons God created to be in fellowship with Him and one another. Why do we do this to ourselves?
The world’s substitute for the provision of God, is power-struggle. For our personal security, we collect power over resources, control of circumstances. We become pyramid builders,with ourselves as near the top as we can get. The masses of the people have no leverage to control things, so they, perhaps we, are at the bottom of the pyramid, struggling to survive – especially as today, when society and economics turn sour. Then power-struggle begins to lose all pretense of being friendly.
But Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, points to a different way.
First of all, He says, you cannot serve both God and mammon. They are contradictory, the one to the other, so you will necessarily have to choose between them. You will drift toward one or the other.
“Therefore”, He says, “Be not anxious for your life...” about food, drink, or clothing. Well, sounds like good advice, but how do we stop being anxious in such a world? The anxiety level often seems pretty compulsive. How do we stop being anxious?
“Is not life more than food, and the body than the raiment?” Well, I suppose so, but don’t we need to eat and dress ourselves?
“Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do the spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Well, does that mean that we are not to plant and harvest, just go out and reap from nature itself? No, it does not mean that.
“O ye of little faith... Be not therefore anxious, saying, what shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you....”
And who are these Gentiles that seek all those things? They are the heathen, the unbelievers, the pagans, and today, the secular people, those who do not know the living God as the One on whom to depend, and the One to obey. Jesus, the Son of the Living God, the incarnation of the Living God, is telling us as directly as it can be stated that God loves us in a manner which more than supports the needs we have. The Gentiles, He says, “seek all these things...” But, He asks, why are you grasping after them as though they were not being provided? Why are you seeking to corner the markets to get control of things?
The implication is that they, the Hebrews, were still seeking them in the manner of the world, by their own control and industry, not from God or in cooperation with God. They did not trust that God would take care of them.
Or to put it in Jesus’ words, they were seeking food and clothing, but they were not seeking first His kingdom. They planted vineyards and orchards, but in anxiety (or the opposite, over confidence in themselves) – because they did not in their hearts trust God to be their provider, that God took joy in making their crops grow, that God rejoiced when His people were well off. They were, as we say, doing it in their own strength. They were not doing it in obedience to God, or in partnership with Him. At least not so’s God could notice.
Some years ago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was invited to an Ivy League eastern university to address the rich and the famous about his life in the Soviet Union, in which he, a Communist, had been found with fault and imprisoned in the Gulag. He addressed them on the reasons why the West was failing. Perhaps it was news to many in the audience that the West was failing, but Solzhenitsyn went on to say that the reason the West was failing was that it had forgotten God. The audience thought that secularism, abandoning God, was the reason the West had succeeded, not failed.
The West, for the most part thought that science had given the human race the ability to understand and change the world to fit our own designs and desires. We Christians today can hardly have grown up in this secularized society and not have it affect our thinking, attitudes, expectations, and behavior.
In the secular world, we humans are just a teeny fractional part of the cosmic machine. Things rule the cosmos. Mechanical laws decide events and personalities. But in God’s world, we are persons made in the Image of Him-who-Is, the personal Creator of all that is. Persons rule the world – under God, the personal creator of all other persons.
So, if we allow God, the Holy Spirit brillo pad can give us a scrubbing which will leave us clean, ready, and united for service to the Lord.
We know little about how Moses was raised. He, no doubt looked like a Hebrew racially, so there was no way of hiding that he was one of those which were to be exterminated. It would have been only at the request of Pharaoh’s daughter that he was spared. He came to know the conditions of the Hebrews, and saw their plight. And on one occasion, killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, immediately putting his own life in danger. He must have been young and strong, because he was able to take off on a long and dangerous desert trip of at least 300 miles probably on foot to the land of Midian.
There in Midian began the salvation of the Hebrew people from slavery to the Egyptians. It came on the same terms offered by Jesus to the disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. Moses was told that if he would obey God, follow the commands of God, God would use Moses to free the Hebrew people. “...all these things shall be added unto you...” Freedom from slavery and a new home in a land flowing with milk and honey shall be added unto you.
But it all depended on a covenant relationship in which the Lord would be their God and they would be His people. Being their God meant that God would take care of them. He would bless their efforts, reward their loyalty, with good crops, healthy families, and safety from foes. And He would be their ruler to guide them into that wonderful place.
The pagan and secular worlds had no such relationship with a deity. The deities had various gifts of power and ways of helping human beings they favored, and the pagans had arrangements with their gods and goddesses to trade worship for favors from those deities. But it was not a moral relationship, it had no moral obligation inherent to it. It was a pragmatic relationship of tit for tat. There was no reason to worship any particular deity other than that it could give you aid in the struggle for life. That was not a bad reason, but neither was it a moral reason. There was no obligation about the matter.
But when God announced His name as “I AM” to Moses later at the burning bush, He was telling Moses that He, God, was the creator of all things, the One who was not Himself created, the one who existed by His own power of being, not by the power of any other being. That scene at the Burning Bush was the beginning of what is called “ethical monotheism”, the moral relationship between God and His people. The God who creates us gives us our reason for being, which is the basis of all moral obligation.
So when God tells Abraham, and then Moses, that He, God, has chosen the Hebrews to be His people, and that He has plans for their welfare to be a blessing to all the nations of the world, God is defining the moral relationship between Himself and His people. God has a plan for their lives by which they are obligated.
God cannot be obligated by anything higher than Himself because there is nothing higher than Himself. He was not created by a deity beyond. He is the original creator of all things. No other deity can say that.
God cannot be obligated by anything, but God can bind Himself to the welfare of His people. God promises His people in a way that they can fully and totally trust.
And, God can require faithfulness and loyalty from His people. God invites His people to join Him in His plan for cosmic history. But they must agree to be faithful to Him in this journey to completion of the Kingdom among them.
“...and all these things shall be added unto you.” The best of all possible worlds shall be added unto you... if you seek first the Kingdom of God. The commands and the promises of God lead to the same thing.
Canaan was just for starters, a symbol, a foretaste of the real Kingdom to come. Thy Kingdom come on earth as it already is in heaven. Not just a land flowing with milk and honey, but a land flowing with truth, righteousness, and love, a land flowing with faith, love, and hope, a land flowing with truth and grace.
“...and all these things shall be added unto you...”
Psalm 15 asks the question: Who shall dwell in the tabernacle of God? Or who shall rest upon the holy hill of God? “Who is in God’s circle?”
And then the psalm gives its own answers: those who lead an uncorrupt life, who speak the truth from their hearts, who have no deceit in their tongues, and do not slander their neighbor, who are lowly in their own eyes, and keep their promises to their neighbors, and do not abuse the innocent. “Whoso doeth these things shall never fall.”
Such people are not in the Kingdom because their works have obligated God to let them in. They are in the Kingdom because, at the command of God, they have built, from their side, a relationship with God which is, in and of itself, the Kingdom. The Kingdom is that relationship, under the command of God, of mutual love and cooperation between God and His people. It is the Kingdom which makes the place heavenly, not the niceness of the place which make relationships heavenly.
The environment must be livable, but even the most beautiful of environments can be hell on earth when relationships break down. We moderns have improved our environments enormously, but we still experience loneliness, grief, loss, despair – almost always because, without God, our relationships break down.
But if we have a God who Is, a God who cannot Himself be broken down or brought to despair, a God who can keep control of His creation sufficiently to bring about His purpose for mankind, then we ourselves have an unassailable hope for the future. Whatever troubles we have, “all these things will be added unto us.” We have that guarantee to which Paul refers, describing the power of the Holy Spirit within ourselves and in our fellowship.
We have the ability to be ourselves with all the deepness and richness which God gives, to be a part of our own personhood – shared with one another.
All these things are being added unto us – so let’s go get them, and share them with the world that knows little or nothing of them!
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