Midweek 2 – 2021 LSB #’s 434, 895, 544
Text – Matthew 6:26
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, & yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
LOVE SO RICH IN PROVISION
In the name of Jesus, whose heavenly Father loves us as His children, feeding & clothing us while adding blessing upon blessing. Amen.
Forever from eternity God the Father has loved His Son. From eternity, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit have loved one another, existing in a perfect community of love. At the creation of the world, that love spread out, we might say; it came forth in God’s loving creation of a world, a world He created for Himself to love.
In these Lenten sermons, we’re tracing the dimensions of God’s enormous love for us. O love how deep, how broad, how high! There is nothing in your life, nothing in your world, nothing in the universe that can match it – the love of God for you in Christ Jesus. Tonight we consider God’s great love displayed to us in His fatherly provision & protection.
Just how big is God’s love? Well, what are some big things we could compare it to? Go ahead, think of something big. You thought of an elephant, didn’t you? Too small. How about a blue whale, 100 feet long? Still way too small! A cruise ship? A mountain? The whole globe of the earth? The entire cosmos?
According to scientific estimates, the universe is 93 million light years in diameter. That means if a really bright light were turned on at one far end of the universe, it would take that light 93 million years to reach the other side. And light travels pretty fast! Yes, God’s love for you is as big as the entire cosmos, because, in Christ, He created it all for you.
Genesis tells us that God created the heavens & the earth. On the 4th day of His creating,
He placed the sun in the heavens, & the moon, & all the stars. He put them there to shine light on your world, to mark your days, & years, & times & seasons. He put them there to declare to you His glory, His power, His wisdom, & yes, His love.
The whole world, the entire universe around you, brothers & sisters, is full of wonder & beauty & delight, because God has provided it to you as a gift of love.
There is a Christian cosmologist named Guy Consolmagno, who is the director of the Vatican Observatory. Brother Consolmagno is involved in all kinds of astronomical research, but his particular specialty, for years, has been meteorites. He wrote an essay in which he describes the joy that he finds, spiritual joy even, in his study of these asteroids:
“My meteorites are indeed crying out ‘Glory!’ & beckoning our silent planet to awaken & sing to the Lord once more. I do experiments in my lab just because I love doing the work. I mean, meteorites! And liquid nitrogen! What’s not to love? I know now that the love I experience is derived ultimately from the Creator of the rocks that I experiment with, who is also the Father of love.” [i]
Brother Consolmagno loves learning about the creation, because he’s come to realize that the Creator is full of love. Every good thing of His creation flows from God’s love – the roof over your head & the pillow under your head – the bacon & the eggs – the vitamins & minerals that nourish you – the vaccines that protect you – the delicate bird flitting on a branch – the stream with the sunshine dancing on its waters – majestic mountains – crops growing in the fields – dogwood trees flowering in the spring – sunsets with all of their variety & indescribable colors. Truly, God is glorious, & generous. Truly, Yahweh is the Father of love.
Tonight’s sermon from Matthew 6, is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This will be a familiar passage for many of you. Hear the way that Jesus teaches His disciples not to worry
about the provisions of life:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, & the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, & yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive & tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, & your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God & His righteousness, & all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Your heavenly Father loves you, & He will care for you. That’s the bottom line of this text. In Jesus Christ, He gives you His righteousness & an eternal kingdom. He will surely also daily & richly provide you with all that you need to support this body & life.
Yet, what an odd pair of mental images Jesus creates, as He makes His point. Have you ever seen a bird – driving a tractor – planting wheat? Have you seen a bird, in bib overalls, unloading the soybeans from his big green combine? Have you seen a bird standing beside a shiny metal grain bin, as he augers the corn up & in for storage?
Of course not. Birds don’t do that. Birds can’t do that, & they still have food to eat,
because God feeds the birds. Then, there are the lilies. Jesus says the lilies neither toil nor spin. In saying that they don’t, He invites you to imagine it. Let’s see, do lilies toil for their clothing? Do I ever see a bunch of lilies sitting around picking the seeds out of cotton or combing the flax? No, I’ve never seen flowers doing much work at all.
Do I ever see lilies operating a spinning wheel to make wool yarn or cotton thread? I don’t think so. A flower couldn’t very well do that, could it? But they are still “dressed” beautifully. A single blooming flower stands as beautiful as a movie star & as glorious as a king – because God dresses them that way.
Jesus’ argument is this – if the birds are fed by God & the flowers are dressed by God, how much more will your heavenly Father care for you. You are worth more, to Him, than the graceful birds & the delicate flowers. God loves you so that every good thing you have is a gift from His hand. It flows to you from His “fatherly, divine goodness & mercy.”
As James wrote, “Every good gift & every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” (James 1:17) If God provides for the birds & flowers, how much more will He care for you! Since God has given you life itself, earthly & eternal, He will surely also provide simple gifts such as food & clothing.
Jesus uses a similar argument in Luke’s Gospel to assure us that we can seek all that we need from our heavenly Father, even the greatest things, such as the Holy Spirit:
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11–13 ESV)
Jesus is saying that the heavenly Father’s love for you is even greater than the love of an
earthly father for his child. Think about that. Yes, every earthly father & earthly mother is imperfect, some are deeply flawed, a few even abusive. Yet, imperfect though they are, think about the strong, strong love of a parent for their child. The joy they find in helping. The pain they feel when their child suffers or struggles.
Picture a father in the backyard, spending his weekend building a swing set or a tree house. Picture a mother, sitting on the edge of the bed & comforting her sick child. Parents – working long hours, providing, feeding, clothing, caring, protecting. They want to. Even though it sometimes runs them into the ground, they love their children.
Jesus tells us that God the Father loves you even more than this. Yet, He says something else remarkable you may have missed the 1st time I read: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” (Luke 11:13 ESV)
Who are these children who receive His love & provision? We are evil, Jesus says, yet He assures us, God will provide not only earthly gifts, a fish, or an egg – but also the greatest gifts, the Holy Spirit, faith, hope, forgiveness, salvation, His kingdom & eternal life. He gives so many gifts, such great gifts . . . to sinners.
O what love the Father has shown us, & shows us each day. He causes the sun to shine & the rain to fall even for the wicked. Is it any wonder that St. John can write these simple words: “God is love”? (1 John 4:16) How great His love, just in terms of earthly provision & blessings. Can you begin to count them all?
He provides for our needs & defends us from all kinds of danger. He guards & protects us from all sorts of evil. I bet there’ve been instances in your life, perhaps several, when you knew that it was only God’s care & protection that saved your life. His angels or His providence shielded you from great harm. You probably wanted to tell someone that, at the time. Maybe you did; that it must have been God who helped you. But He does this all the time, every day, snatching us & shielding us from dangers & calamities that could have fallen on us. He protects us from the evil one, who is always seeking someone to harm & to devour.
The Father not only provides for you & protects you; He maintains beauty for you, even in this broken world. Every day, your heavenly Father brings something beautiful before your eyes, to nourish your soul & to encourage you. Do you have the eyes & the strength to see it? Though we are sinners with no merit or worthiness in us, God keeps on giving.
All this is most certainly true, though as you turn your gaze in other directions, you might also think, “Pastor is painting a pretty rosy picture.” What about all the pain & tragedy in Texas, or around the world? Pandemics, scarcity, famine & poverty, people who suffer unthinkable harm at the hands of others. Is God’s love for us really so big, if we’re honest about all of this?
God is the potter, we are the clay. He is the Father, & we are just children; beloved children, but children. There are many things about the way in which God governs this world that we cannot fully see or understand. Why does the God who so loves us, & who cares for us so richly, also allow such hard things to come, such evil things to happen?
That is a great mystery we cannot begin to fully explain. Trusting Him requires that we leave answers to that question in our Father’s loving hands. Still, even in times of sadness & want, we live under God’s loving promise, that one day, these sorrows & evils will be no more. Jesus has conquered sin, death & evil. He is making all things new & one day, He will return.
Then, He will dry every tear & His everlasting kingdom will be a place of perfect provision – health, joy, kindness, love, safety & beauty. His love for us is enormous, deep, real, father-like. Even now, in this life, what is amazing is how God cares for sinners. We are evil & deserve nothing good from Him. Yet consider all the goodness which God provides & lavishes upon us. Our loving Father gives us blessings through His creation of fields, trees & rivers; through birds, bagels & twinkling stars, & yes, even through meteorites. God the Father loves us, though we are evil. He loves us, for the sake of Jesus Christ, His Son.
Through the suffering & death of Jesus, on our behalf, He won a place for you & me in the Father’s heart forever. What goodness & blessings the Father provides through the created things all around. Yet, it was these very things, the gifts of the Creator, that were turned against our Lord Jesus.
What kind of wood, from what kind of lofty green tree, was fashioned into His cross of death? What kind of ore from the hills was smelted into metal, hammered into spikes & spear, to pierce our Lord? What animal’s hide was tanned & cut into strips to form the whip that scourged our Savior & tore open His skin?
What thorny plant was dried & twisted into the cruel crown they pressed onto His brow? When God first set the hills in place, & formed the ancient rocks, He knew that one of those stones would close the tomb of His Son’s dead & mangled body.
The greatest mystery is not why God allows tears & pain into our lives, but why He would love us & give us good things. Yet He does. He loves us & He cares for us because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. Now we may share in His sonship, His special place in the Father’s heart.
Because of Jesus, our heavenly Father deals with us in enormous love, richly & daily supplying us, protecting us, & surrounding us with beauty. Dear friends, may God grant you eyes to recognize His loving gifts in your day-to-day lives. May God’s fatherly love for you flow on, through you, to others as we seek to provide for those in need, to protect those who are in danger, & to create beauty & beautiful things, in response to God’s love for us. Through this we show ourselves to be His children. Amen.
Now thank we all our God with hearts & hands & voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices; who from our mother’s arms has blest us on our way with countless gifts of love & still is ours today. Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, with ever joyful hearts & blessed peace to cheer us & keep us in His grace & guide us when perplexed & free us from all ills in this world & the next! Amen. LSB 895:1-2.
[i] The quotation is from Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, “The Stones Cry Glory,” in The Story of the Cosmos: How the Heavens Declare the Glory of God, ed. Paul M. Gould and Daniel Ray (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2019), 37–50.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet