Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
“Seeking the Kingdom of God”
St. Matthew 6.24-34
09 September 2018
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
+ In the Name of Jesus +
At the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said to His disciples,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5.3,10)
Now we hear the Lord say, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, because tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Mt. 6.33-34)
What is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is Christ’s gracious rule over us. “God sent His Son, Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to Himself and rule us as a king of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience.” (Luther, Large Catechism 3.51) The righteousness of God is the righteousness in which He clothes us, Jesus’ blood-bought righteousness. To seek this kingdom and righteousness is not to go on some great quest to find it, using your own powers. Rather, this is something that comes down to you from heaven as a great gift. You cannot earn it. Christ earned His Kingdom and His righteousness, and has the right to give it.
He says to seek it first, His Kingdom and righteousness. This is to have faith in God’s promises, to expect, without doubting, eternal blessings from a gracious God. “Therefore,” Luther says in his Large Catechism, “we must strengthen ourselves against unbelief and let the Kingdom of God be the first thing for which we pray.” (LC 3.58) And so you as a believer in Christ do pray for this in the Our Father, “Thy Kingdom Come.”
You cannot earn it. You seek it to come unto you in believing prayer. Now we understand Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes: the Kingdom of God belongs to the blessed believer, who is the poor in spirit, who is the one persecuted for the sake of Christ’s righteousness, the righteousness that identifies you as a believer in Christ to the world.
James, the brother of our Lord wrote, “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5)
Yes, God has. Even if you have temporal wealth as a blessing, and compared to so many in this world, in this nation we almost all do live in a great abundance of daily bread, nevertheless, the Bible is not saying wealth or lack thereof is the ticket in or out of God’s Kingdom. What the Bible is teaching us is that while here on earth, those in God’s Kingdom are not loved by the world. Such a person is poor in this world and poor to it, poor to our own corrupted spirit, and so relies instead on the Holy Spirit’s power and Christ’s righteousness. Doing this opens you up to the hatred and testing of the devil, the world, and the flesh – a target on your back – in this temporal life, you will be poor in spirit, you will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake, you will be poor in the world’s eyes. Things will not always go your way. For every Christian is in the world, not truly of it, not truly home in it.
The opposite of seeking the Kingdom of God and Christ’s righteousness is to be anxious for the things this world idolizes and is anxious to get its hands on. To not seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness is to seek after unbelief and its fruits:
“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph 5:5)
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19–21)
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God…”
But this is not the last word for you in God’s Kingdom, given Christ’s righteousness:
“…And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified [made righteous!] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6.9-11)
You were this way. Now, in Christ, through being joined to His righteousness, to His death and resurrection, and receiving the name of Jesus and His Holy Spirit there in the font: you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified. This happened at the font. Now, in Christ and His Kingdom, you are different.
Now you can know God as your Father; you can believe in him; you can rid your heart of its idolatrous proclivity to worry about food, clothing, and the things that money can buy; you can entrust yourself to your Father in heaven to take care of everything you need in life and to love you as the crown of his creation, to know you are of greater value than all the birds of the air and flowers of the field combined, now you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
You know God as your Father as you see Him in the suffering and death of his only begotten Son. You know God in the kingdom of grace in which his Son rules over you by bearing your sin, taking it away, and filling you with the Holy Spirit who sustains you in the true faith.
This is why, after Jesus tells us not to worry about what we will eat, what we will drink, or what we will wear, he points us to the kingdom of God. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and God will certainly take care of every need of your body.
Christ rules over you in God’s kingdom. He baptizes you. He preaches to you. He feeds you with His body and blood. This is how He fills you with the Holy Spirit who enlightens you. The Holy Spirit attacks your false faith. He breaks the idols within your hearts. That hurts. It cuts. It’s humiliating. But He doesn’t leave you faithless. He turns your faith away from the things that are perishing with this world and joins you by true faith to Christ in a mystical union. The Holy Spirit sustains you in this true faith by teaching you through the Holy Scriptures. When you, in your folly forget, He teaches you again and again, as He does through the Apostle Paul:
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [or of any worldly pursuit] but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17)
The kingdom of God is Christ’s gracious rule over us. The righteousness of this kingdom is the righteousness in which He clothes you. With your hearts broken and bleeding from the beating given by the false gods in which you trusted, you limp back to the true God and you find Him and His peace in his Son. He forgives you your idolatry, washes you clean in your baptism, and gives you treasures in heaven that cannot be destroyed by sin, death, or the passage of time – the eternal joy of heaven.
Only a fool – an idolatrous fool – would prefer the things that money can buy, would prefer to be anxious about such things, to the gifts Jesus purchased for you by His own blood. God, for Christ’s sake, forgives you all our sins, sets you at peace with him, and bestows on you a value more precious than anything the world can offer.
Don’t worry, don’t be anxious about tomorrow. It’s not in your hands. It’s in the hands of your Father in heaven who takes care of you. He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for you, to bring you into His Kingdom and clothe you with His righteousness: will He not also freely give you everything else you need for each day?
+ In the Name of the Father, and of + the Son, and of the Holy Spirit +