Second Sunday After Pentecost
June 5-6, 2021
“Just Pious Words?”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Today the sermon is about anxiety and worry and, on the other hand, trust and confidence. But before I begin speaking all my words you have to get some thought to the place that worry plays in your life. Below you will find a survey about worry. Please fill it out.
I am most worried by these problems/potential problems in my life. (Please put a 1 in the blank besides the biggest problem, a 2 in the blank by the second biggest problem and so on…)
Health ________; Family Relationships _______; Money Problems ________; Loneliness _________; Struggles with my Faith _________; Having the Right Things to Wear ___________; Problems with Selfishness _________; Others Things Like… ______________________.
Worry is a huge problem in the lives of many people. Maybe you!! Every family seems to have one in the family who is the designated worrier. They call themselves the responsible one. But to every worry that you have I simply want to tell you, “Don’t worry!!” But I haven’t seen your list, have I? It might be long. You may have every reason to have worries about money or family or health or the other things on that list. But still I say, “Don’t worry!!”
Those could be just pious words that I spoke to you. Sometimes pious words can be the worst words to say. A few months ago I received a call here at church of someone in financial need. He was down in Castle Rock stranded, out of money and needed to get some money for a motel room and some food and gas. He spoke like I was his best friend. That is until I told him that I couldn’t help him and then offered him some other resources that might be able to meet his need. And then some pious words came from my mouth. I told him that I’d pray for him. That phrase set him off!! He hollered, “Prayer, that is all you Christians will give me.” And he hung up. He felt that all I was offering him was a bunch of empty words. Now I did pray for him and they weren’t empty words but he was looking for more.
But sometimes we can be very pious with words and sometimes they can be empty. Is that what Jesus gives in these words on the Sermon on the Mount? Is this just some pious words? Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes…So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things; and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:25, 31-32)
Pious words? Words that don’t carry much credence? No!! Trust them; trust Him. Trust Him for the daily things because you trust Him for the eternal things. Trust Him for the things of your life and your body because He has taken care of the eternal things and the things of your soul.
Just before Jesus gives them more than pious words about not worrying about the things of daily life He had given them the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is the ultimate prayer of trust. It begins, “Our Father…” God is the Father; we are His children. Because He has given to us this relationship we know that He loves us dearly. In the paragraph just before the words of Jesus telling us to give up the habit of worry He says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20a, 21)
Our treasure, our greatest treasure is found in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t pious words that saved us but the greatest love of carrying our sins and forgiving our guilt and allowing us to be declared righteous in God’s sight. First of all, Jesus tell us that we don’t have to worry about our relationship with God, Jesus has made things right. In his epistle Peter writes, “For you know it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (I Peter 1:18-19) Isaiah says in the Old Testament, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.” (26:3)
There was an American astronaut who was strapped into his capsule and ready to be launched into space. Just before take-off a reporter came to him and asked, “How do you feel?” The astronaut replied, “How would you feel if you were sitting on top of 150,000 parts, each supplied by the lowest bidder?”
Why doesn’t our life and the needs of our soul and the thought of our eternity come face to face with worry? Because Jesus, the Father’s best, has given Himself for us. We have no worry, we are made into God’s person through Jesus and His work. That is why Paul can say in the epistle for today, “The righteous will live by faith!” (Romans 1:17)
Just pious words from Jesus? Never!! The heart that trusts in Jesus for their eternal salvation has built securely!! And because Jesus does such things for our eternity we have confidence that He can take care of the daily. Years ago tornadoes ripped through Windsor and the area around it and they left many people worried. What do they do next? How do they put life back together? These words from Jesus are not just pious words, they were given for life situations just like that, when life is at the very worst. I remember the account when Stephen Curtis Chapman and his family had their souls ripped from them. Chapman is a talented contemporary Christian musician and has won five Grammy awards. The family was celebrating the high school graduation of one of the kids and another had announced their engagement. But in the midst of such joy their 5 year-old daughter, Maria, was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by her 17 year-old brother, Will, in their drive way. To him and his family Jesus speaks, not in a pietistic or a condescending way, and He says, “Do not worry”. Jesus cares about their pain and their tragedy and their loss and He comes with words that call for trust, like a parent taking care of a child who says, “Do not worry.”
The list you put together at the beginning of this message is a real list. These are hard things for you. And you may have expertise in this art of worry. But He says, “Don’t worry.” In a commentary of the Gospels John Ylvisaker writes, “[The Lord] employs first a process of reasoning from the greater to the lesser – if God has given us the greater, life and body, He will assuredly give us also the lesser, food and clothing; secondly, an argument from the lesser to the greater – if God provides for the lesser, the birds, the lilies, and ordinary grass in the field, He will likewise care for the more important, man.” (Page 285) He cares for eternity: He cares for today. He cares for birds and lilies; He cares for you.
Today replace the words of worry and the apprehension of today or the future with some wonderfully pious words. Use words like “I trust you!” “I believe Your words!” “I will follow you, Lord!” “I love you, Lord!” The pious words, just like the pious words of Jesus, are not empty. Jesus in our text says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
And then use amazingly pious words that come from grateful hearts to thank those who God has used to take away your worries. If you went to the cemetery over Memorial Day Weekend and you got to remember the love and care and sacrifice of a mom or dad, a brother or sister, a spouse, child or friend speak those words that say you are thankful for what they have done. When you remember the countless number of men or women who served, sacrificed or died for the greater good of the world and our country speak those words of appreciation that tell them that they have removed many fears and have given great joy and security to us.
Jesus spoke some great words when He said, “Do Not Worry!!” He called for our hearts to find their fulfillment in the death and the resurrection of Christ. He calls for us daily to look to Him to meet our needs. And then He asks us to speak such pious words of faith in Him and even thanks to others for giving to us so many wonderful things.
To everything that you listed today and to anything that will come into your life in the future Jesus says, “Do Not Worry”. He will provide for us forever and even now. He will be faithful to us as He always has been. Amen!!
This message was spoken originally on May 25, 2008 at Ascension.