Trinity 15 2021
Introit: Psalm 86:(4, 6, 15a, 16; antiphon: 1a, 2b, 3); Matthew 6:24-34
September 12, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
This last Tuesday, Sept 7, was the 81st anniversary of the beginning of the German blitz over London in 1940. In expectation of this, a year earlier in 1939, the English government produced a motivational poster in an attempt to raise morale. It read “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Even though about 2.5 million of these were made, they were rarely posted in public and largely forgotten until rediscovered in a bookstore in the year 2000. Reminiscent of its original creation, a year after its rediscovery, the catch phrase took on new meaning as disaster struck again, not by falling bombs but by falling planes.
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the incredible disaster and attacks by evil resulting in thousands of deaths. This was a defining moment for a generation, something that has shaped our culture, for good and bad, from that time forward. Even our church body, the LCMS, was affected by these events, and response afterward. Forty-three Lutheran school children lost a parent in the attack. Dozens of congregants’ lives were lost. Ron Bucca, the FDNY Fire Marshal for zip code 10010—the World Trade Center—was memorialized at Concordia College, Bronxville, which sadly had to just close its doors this past spring. A former pastor of our congregation, Pastor Steve Lee, was even at ground zero right after this took place ministering to the first responders.
When such evil happens in the world, especially when it hits close to home and the way that people live, we are often left with a panic, with uncertainty, with fear. It is natural to go back and forth between shock, sadness, and anger both over the evil acts of sinful men and concern of what it means for the future. Keep calm and carry on has become a sort of mantra to deal with evil and worry in our post 9/11 world.
But Christianity has a deeper meaning and greater understanding and a message that actually changes hearts and minds and has eternal consequences. In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus clearly tells us that we ought not be anxious about our life. Jesus isn’t just trying to motivate you to will yourself into a worry-free life, or to burry feelings or anxieties. If you’ve ever had a panic attack or been so overwhelmed with stress, you know you can’t just will yourself to calm down. This kind of calm isn’t to ignore problems as they arise, nor avoid confrontation. Sin is always present; the devil is always crouching at the door ready to pounce. CS Lewis once wrote, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.” This is the peace and calm of which Jesus speaks comes only from the peace of God that passes all understanding. A gladdening of the soul in the knowledge and faith that God takes care of his people no matter the circumstance, no matter the evil, no matter the tragedy, no matter the fear. It is a matter of faith, and such a faith comes from and is strengthened by Jesus’ Himself.
And so the Psalmist declares, in the words from our Introit from Psalm 86, “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, turn to me and be gracious to me; give Your strength to Your servant, and save the son of Your maidservant” (Psalm 18:16). This Psalm is a sure and certain prayer God hears the prayers of His people. That He will answer in mercy and grace, that He will turn toward His people and give strength to them in time of need. For He has given His strength to Jesus, the son of the maidservant. It is along these lines that we see our Lord’s deliberate identification with the poor and needy. Sold and purchased for a price (30 pieces of silver), Jesus is unjustly condemned by those who decided that He must die that go to extreme measures to insure this terror. Found guilty by a rigged jury, condemned by an intimidated judge, our Lord makes Himself one with all those who suffer evil, even death, by those willing and powerful enough to inflict it.
But it is also important to remember that the humility of Christ is more than a mere social or economic condition or the result of a clash of cultures. In His assumption of human flesh, He did not consider His equality with God a thing to be grasped as He emptied Himself and assumed the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-10). This He did in order to save you, to wage the war on the terror of sin for you and to win!
In Jesus’ darkest hour, when it looked as if evil will triumph over goodness, death over the very author of life, He already knows the outcome of this fight, “For this is the reason the Father loves me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18).
In the realization of evil, of tragedy, of loss, of being scared over what the future might hold, we see Christ, who though He committed no sin and did no evil, evil was done upon Him. We see Christ crying out to God to hear His prayer as He hung upon the cross. We see Christ risen defeating the enemy of sin and death and the devil. We see Christ as the answer to our prayers, the one who saves His servants. We see Christ, who carries on… for us. For God’s answer to evil is the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Let’s face it, we are burdened with worries and anxieties each and every day that we can’t overcome. We are worried and wearied by the battles throughout the week, the month, the years. Which is why we come to here, to place our burdens on Christ, who carries on to the cross us so that we may carry on in faith. When the world says to carry on, it is fully in the realm of the Law. Keep plowing on, pull yourself up from your bootstraps, suck it up and get past it. But the reality is, we can’t. There’s worry over terrorist attack may have waned over the last 20 years, but now there’s renewed concern over Afghanistan. There’s worry over the direction that our culture is taking. There’s worry over disease, masks, and vaccines. There’s worry over personal liberty and public health.
The Christian church made it through the crucifixion of our Lord. We made it through persecution and the fall of empires. We made it through terrorism. We made it through polio, and we’ll make it through COVID and whatever else the devil and evil men will throw. Carried on by the grace of God, not with panic or fear or suspicious looking sideways at others when they cough, hatred in against your neighbor because they did or didn’t get vaccinated. St. Paul urges, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another… as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 5:26, 6:10) Rather than feeling overwhelmed by those things that confront us, keep your attention focused upon the Lord, for He alone is God. Because of His steadfast love, He will not neglect those who belong to Him.
St. Paul states, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Do not grow weary or doing good, carry on by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, for in due season we will reap what God has sown for us in Christ, that is to say, eternal life. Seek first the kingdom of God, and walk by the Spirit.
There is no sin or evil, no terrorist of the body or soul, who can separate you from God’s love in His servant, Jesus Christ. While the twin towers fell, the twin pillars of the Word of God remain – Law and Gospel. The Word of the Lord endures forever because Christ is risen. The war on the terror of your conscience before God and the raging sinful world is won in Christ!