Midweek Lent 5 – St. Luke 6:20-26
One of my favorite shows is Counting Cars on The History Channel. This reality type show follows an owner and his crew around as they restore old cars. One of the owner’s favorite past times is to go around to junk yards and other private lots, and try to buy cars from others, that he can than fix up and either sell it, or keep it for himself.
The emphasis however should be that he tries to buy these old cars; many times, in fact, most of the time, the owner does not want to sell for one reason or another.
Is that wrong? Not necessarily. If you are the rightful owner of something, you do not have to sell it if you do not want to. Owning things is not sinful in and of itself.
But when watching the show, one must ask themselves: why does this person want to keep this particular car, especially when in many cases, there are dozens of other cars surrounding it, and the one in question, is rusting away to nothing?
And that is where owning things can be very sinful, because the danger is that one can quite easily find their worth in the item, whether it is a car, or a tractor, or land, or house, or toys, or pictures, or whatever it may be.
Because in the world today, what is valued? Who are the important people? The ones with the highest office; the ones with the most money; the ones with the most stuff; the ones who have accumulated for themselves the most things are deemed to be the most important, because that is in fact the only way the world knows how to measure worth.
And the Church has in many senses followed suit, developing an entire theology around this idea that those who have more are worth more, not just in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of God.
Because how did you manage to get all those classic cars? How did you acquire all of that land? How did you gather up to yourself so many toys? How did you get to be viewed as so special and so important in the eyes of the world?
Hard work? Possibly; but there are a lot of people who work hard, and yet find themselves in poverty.
So it must have been something else; it must have been God blessing you. You must have done something right so that God has decided to bless you with many earthly rewards.
That is how it works after all, isn’t it? Abraham woke up in the morning, and he had more stuff. The Hebrews left Egypt and the Egyptians gave them gold and silver and linens and countless other valuable things. When Israel got to the Promised Land, God handed the entire land over to them. God even offers to David and to Solomon whatever they desire as a reward for their faithfulness.
And if that is how it works in the world with material possessions, than that must also be how it works in the Church. Those churches that have multiple services and multiple pastors and multiple buildings are all doing something right, and God is blessing them beyond measure.
But you can probably see where this is going: if those with more are doing something right, and God is blessing them with earthly blessings, what about those who have less?
What about Job, who loses everything? Does God hate him as his friends suggest? Or what about St. Paul, who was beaten and shipwrecked and put in prison? Or what about those Christians in Muslim nations, whose houses are burned down?
What are they doing wrong?
And what about this church? Where we do not have multiple services and multiple pastors and multiple buildings? What have we done wrong?
Why does God frown upon us?
The question then becomes: how do we turn that frown upside down? If we are doing wrong, what needs to change so that we can be blessed?
Change the forms of worship screams one corner. Change this policy or that one screams another. Take the Bible and the Book of Concord and update them, so that they better reflect what is going on in 2014 shouts a third corner.
And so you make these changes; one at a time, all deliberately; and yet, you see no change. What’s wrong now? So you make more changes, and more changes, and more changes; and you even change the things you changed. Nothing works. God is seemingly not sending you any earthly blessings. And so, you have failed.
But in the process, you have made so many changes, that there is a new problem. In your quest to receive blessings from God, you have changed everything, so that God is no longer God, but stuff and numbers and demographics and statistics are god. And worship is god; and policy is god. And change is god.
And Satan laughs and laughs and laughs at you. He could not get you to stop following God, so he convinced you that because you do not have all that your neighbor has, God is not happy with you, and you need to change something, and change it fast. And soon, he even gets you to change from following the true God of heaven and earth, to following one of any number of false gods.
But it is important to note that in the quest for stuff and titles and other earthly blessings, there is one who failed to attain any of that. And He not only failed to achieve fame and fortune, but He did not even have a place to lay His head.
For Jesus says that His kingdom, and the riches He offers are not of this world. What you see in this world is but dust and ashes. Cars and tractors and boats all rust away. Clothes are eaten away by moth. Plastic becomes brittle and breaks. Money is lost. Titles lose their luster and become meaningless. Even physical beauty fades with age. And if none of that should phase you, there is also death. For he who dies with the most toys, still dies.
The things of this world are here today, and gone tomorrow. Your own earthly life is but a fleeting breath in the pages of history. All of this, will one day, be gone, not even a memory in the dark recesses of one’s mind.
And yet, what survives? What still stands? What reward is still offered to you? It is not the things of this world; it is instead the treasures of heaven. Christ Jesus offers to you the one gift that never fades, never rusts, never decays. He offers you the gift that is eternal life.
For Jesus is the priceless treasure that is given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism. His body and blood given and shed for you in the Lord’s Supper is the foretaste of the eternal blessing that you anticipate on the Last Day.
If you have received many earthly blessings, rejoice, not because God loves you more than others, but rejoice because God loves you in the first place.
But if you have not received many earthly blessings, if you are persecuted, if you are beaten, if your house is burned, if you continue you to suffer; rejoice; not because God does not love you, but because God does love you.
For your value is not determined by what you have on earth; your value is determined in that God, out of His great love for you, sent His one and only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but receive the crown of eternal life.