Continue seeking first
the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is an evil that constantly befalls God's children. To use the imagery Jesus uses as He continues His great Sermon on the Mount, this evil is: double-mindedness (confident in Jesus, while at the same time distracted by worldly concerns); this concept is often translated “do not be anxious”. Whatever the specific wording, the point Jesus is making is that we ought to be of one mind; unified by the Holy Spirit in what we say, do, believe; in the things we love, grounded in the same faith, confessing together as the Church, but also unified in our own mind and heart. Embracing the things of God (His kingdom and righteousness), while also renouncing and repenting completely of the things of Satan, of the evil world, and most especially of your own fallen sinful flesh.
An example of your double-mindedness is how, on the one hand, you can come here on Sundays, and with the help of the Helper the Holy Spirit, you confess your trust and confidence in the merits of Jesus, you relish in His goodness and mercy as you hear Him speak to you in Scripture and Sermon; as you find His peace and joy and strength in His Holy Meal; as you speak back to Him this confidence in hymns, canticles, psalms, and prayers, these holy words of faith, // and yet, on the other hand, Monday comes around / and the Sabbaoth rest is quickly forgotten. The concerns and “anxieties” of your real life, at least that's how you perceive it, right(?), they take over, your flesh is now in control. This double-minded allegiance is evil, and we are burdened with it here while we still possess this body, while we are still members of the Church Militant.
You see, before you were baptized, before our Lord bestowed the mind of Christ upon you by way of the gift of faith, you weren't in danger of this double-mindedness. In fact, it was impossible for you. Back then, you did have a one-track mind, but you were completely “of the flesh”, a worldly being, with your mind fixed completely on the things of the world. You cared not for God nor His righteousness nor His kingdom. You sought only that which was to your own benefit and you never cared about pleasing our Lord with your talents and gifts. Baptism changed this in you.
Your spirit was made alive in Baptism by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that proceeds from the Father and the Son, the same Son, Jesus Christ, whom you were united to in this Washing of rebirth and renewal. In that holy Act you were given a new mind, one that could and would consider the things of God, seek after the righteous things of God. This was impossible for you before receiving faith. But receiving faith, and thus also receiving the mind of Christ, the difficulty began.
You are, right now, at the same time, a saint and a sinner, and you have the mind of both. A sinner mind, just like before; a saintly, holy mind just like the holy One, Christ Jesus.
You see, Jesus is not like you were before, neither is He like you are now. The Lord was and is the only man with a one track mind / toward righteousness. His mind and heart and soul, His whole being, both His divine and human natures, are disposed only toward the will of His heavenly Father. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus said. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His Head.” And for 40 days Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness “and He ate nothing during those days,” Scripture says. “And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots.” Worldly concerns, like clothing and food, what are these things to the very One through whom the whole universe was created? Jesus says, “Do not be anxious (double-minded), saying, “what will we eat, or what will we drink, or what will we wear?” And He wasn't. These things were dispensable to Him. He knew His Father in heaven would provide them all.
But at the same time, from the same Scripture, it's also true that, “On the night in which He was betrayed, [Jesus] took bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples and said, 'TAKE EAT THIS IS MY BODY'...and He took the cup...saying, 'DRINK YE ALL OF IT, THIS IS THE NEW TESTAMENT IN MY BLOOD'...Do this is remembrance of me.” And at Jesus' Transfiguration (which we will be celebrating next week), “as He was praying, the appearance of His face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white.”
See, the thing is, God your heavenly Father would have you seek after food, drink and clothing. For there is a food, drink and clothing that do merit/obtain righteousness, even the right kind of righteousness, God's righteousness, which is obtained only by receiving it from God's gracious hand. What is this food, drink and clothing? Where can you obtain these righteous things from God's hand?
You heard it again today: “Receive the white, holy, and spotless robe which you shall bring before the judgment seat of Christ so as to receive eternal life. Peace be with you.” An eternal clothing, one that is righteousness / and worn by all who are members of the Kingdom of God's Son: white, holy, spotless, just like He whom you are Baptized into, even Christ Jesus, the spotless, holy Lamb of God. Spotless / because it is without sin. Holy, because it is also worn by Jesus. White, because it is perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Carrie has sought out this clothing, and our Lord has answered her prayer. She is covered, her sinfulness is covered, she is united to Jesus, and her heavenly Father sees only the holiness and spotlessness of Jesus when He looks at her; and He will continue to do so as she and all of you who are also Baptized come to have your clothing washed again and again each Lord's Day and anytime you come to hear the precious Word of Absolution. Again, this not because of your coming; as if God's love and mercy is dependent upon your actions, but rather because this is how He has decided to cleanse you: by Word and Sacraments.
Confession and Absolution is an extension, a continuation of the past action of your Baptism into the present. It is doing your spiritual laundry: using the detergent of Christ's Blood in the washing machine of the Holy Liturgy. And it's not just for Sundays or for times that are set aside for private Confession and Absolution with your pastor. You have one garment, and you're hard at work each week; it gets soiled by your own sins and the sins of others. Dr Luther therefore encourages us in the Catechism that we should rise each morning with a washing, confessing our sinfulness to God our Father and resting on His promise, that whenever we ask for forgiveness, He will give it to us. And this is also what the 5th Chief Part is all about. Confession (as we read last week after the Old Testament reading): “receiving absolution from the pastor as from God Himself.” This is my duty, my joyous vocation here among you; to forgive you. So if there is a sin, a stain, that you just can't seem to get rid of, that keeps coming back. Tell me about it, allow me to care for your soul as I've been called to do and forgive that sin, releasing it from your conscience by name and speaking the ever comforting and life-changing Word to you, “Depart in Peace,” while you give the faithful “Amen.”
So there you have it, the Clothing of righteousness. Not that you would be anxious, or double-minded about it, but that your heavenly Father, in His mercy, has wrapped you in His grace. You are baptized, you are clothed, and so shall you be on that Last Day with all the saints, standing before the throne and before the Lamb; standing with a multitude that no one can number. O do come soon, Lord Jesus.
But now, what of the Food and Drink of righteousness? Again, not that you would be double-minded (anxious) about it, but that our heavenly Father knows what you need and He gives you His Son's Body and Blood freely and abundantly. “The birds of the air; they neither sow nor harvest nor gather together in storehouses, and your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you valued more than they?” Yes, you are valued more than they. But you are like the birds in a way, for neither do you sow nor harvest nor gather together the righteous Food. It is God's work. Trust Him to give to you what you need. He will not underfeed you / and neither will He overfeed you. Repent and believe. If your Father would give you abundantly, what's that to you? If your heavenly Father would give you only scarcely; what's that to you? Repent and believe. And so there you have it, Christ's Body and Blood in the Sacrament, the Food and Drink of Righteousness.
You are clothed and you are fed already. After all, your heavenly Father knows that you need the other things, the meat and milk and juice, the hat and gloves and boots (especially this winter) so, “Continue seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and stop being double-minded; stop being anxious. Be calm, be at Peace. The evil of this present age, that befalls you, His children, now, will soon be removed for good, for eternal good. He will come again soon. At that time you can show Him your sparkling white garment and your full belly, and say, with all the saints and angels, all the company of heaven: “Amen. Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
In +Jesus' name. Amen.
[Artwork by Ed Riojas]