[1 Kings 17:8-16 / Galatians 5:25-6:10 / Matthew 6:24-34]
You either serve God with the liturgy of faith or you serve money with the liturgy of anxiety. We meet the widow of Zarephath on the cusp of the famine. She’s out collecting sticks to go make a last meal for herself and her lad, and then she figures they will die of starvation. Elijah has other plans. He tells her to go make that last meal, but not to keep it for herself. To give it away – to him! But he hands over to her a promise from the God of Israel: “The jar of flour shall not be spend and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”
Now there’s a pattern there. God doesn’t bury her house under mounds of flour and rivers of oil so that she can see the abundance that is hers. No. There’s never more than fits into that little jar and jug. That’s it. But it’s always enough and more than enough, as it is poured out and given away. Like the manna, you don’t get to see huge stores. You have to trust that each day there would be some. Like when the Lord sent out the 12 to give away the loaves and they never felt like they had more than a little in their hand. He would teach us to trust that the little we have is always enough and more than enough when we put it to the service of love for our neighbor. Love that is set free by faith trusting that God will provide.
The liturgy of anxiety offered to mammon is always running to check the jar and jug, the bank account and portfolio, and always fretting that it doesn’t quite seem enough for us – and it rarely is. Not enough to share with others in need – how can we do that and have enough for ourselves? Such is the way of unbelief. There isn’t ever enough when we serve money. The liturgy of faith doesn’t look at the container of whatever sort. The liturgy of faith, looking to the promise of the God who has always more than we either desire or deserve, is free to serve the needs of the neighbor, knowing that God will provide.
And so St. Paul in today’s epistle can urge us not to grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. And he wraps it up with: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” That’s the liturgy of faith talking there. Freed by faith from focus on ourselves – for God has promised to provide for our every need – faith gives birth to love where the focus is on the neighbor. And we are certainly called to do good to all people, but note the especially. Especially to those who are of the household of faith – those who are our sisters and brothers in Christ. Their need is our need. Their hurt is our hurt. Let our joy become their joy. We’ve been baked together as one loaf in Christ and so there is a complete community between us, a sharing that flows from the heart: “What is mine is yours!” the liturgy of faith cries. “Let me bless you.” Do you see how that is the reverse of the bend in on one’s self that characterizes the anxiety and fear of the service of money?
Jesus will not let us have it both ways. We’d like to imagine it were possible to serve God and still to be in service to money. We’d like to think surely here we can have our cake and eat it too. Jesus shows that this is an illusion. You cannot be bent in on yourself in fear and anxiety and at the same time be set free, turned away from yourself and living in faith toward God and love for the neighbor, concerned only about showering blessings upon those who are in need. You can’t be both people at once. You can’t serve God and serve money.
Jesus invites us to leave the liturgy of anxiety behind. To die to it! He invites us into His liturgy, the liturgy of faith in the Father. And He invites us to see that the world around us lives in the joy of this liturgy. The little bird up in the air, who never worries about where his food is coming from, but first gets up in the morning and sings his little heart out in praise to the creator, and then flies off to find whatever the Creator has given. He points to the flowers, the lilies of the field, scattered in extravagant profusion, clothed in a joyful clothing that Clinton and Stacy could only dream of. They’re here today and gone tomorrow, and yet God takes care of them, and they live without anxiety, without fear. The heavenly Father watches over them and gives them all they need to be the flower He made them to be.
“Will he not much more clothe you? O you of little faith! Are you not of more value than they?”
Jesus notes that the Gentiles – those who don’t know God – offer the liturgy of anxiety – that they obsess over making sure they’ll have enough and more than enough and yet they fear they never will. They do this because they know nothing about the heavenly Father who knows you need all these things. And even more.
Jesus is standing there. The witness to the Father’s love. Look, He seems to say, the Father thought you were worth sending ME into your flesh to forgive your silly worries and to set you free from your endless anxieties and to rescue you from that false worship of money – which will never be able to add a single hour to your life and which leaves you in the death of being focused upon yourself. He sent me all the way to Calvary’s cross and to the glories of Easter morning to bring you into the true worship which receives from God all things as gifts in Me and so transforms your lives, unbends you, focuses you outward in faith toward Him and in love toward others. He sent me into your flesh, bearing your sin, destroying your death, and pouring into you a life that death cannot destroy and all because He thought you were worth more than the birds and the flowers. The value He placed upon you is shown in the ransom He paid to win you for Himself. If He gave ME for you, do you really think He would let down on anything?
To move from the liturgy of anxiety in the service of money to the liturgy of faith that frees you to serve your neighbor, today the Savior reaches you anew the Sacrifice of Calvary. He, like the widow of Zarephath, gave His all that you might have a meal to live on. He gave His all and showed that giving away everything for love of the neighbor does not impoverish, but enriches. He is risen as the Lord to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given – including the power to set you free from the fretting and the worry and the bend in on one’s self, power to unbend you and free you to offer the liturgy of faith – He does this with the gift of His love, and to Him alone be the glory, honor and dominion, together with His Father and the All-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages! Amen.