If you’re driving seventy miles per hour in a school zone on a school day in September while children are present and you pass an angry-looking police car, you shouldn’t calm yourself with Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel lesson:
“Do not be anxious about your life” (Matthew 6:25).
If you abandon your family, your spouse and children, if you refuse to live as God calls men and women to live, if you abandon your God-given responsibilities, for self-given responsibilities, for financial gain at all costs, or even just because you want a do-over, you shouldn’t rejoice in your lack of anxiety or your bounteous faith.
Or if you insist upon your own way—bankrupting yourself and your family to fight against the cross God has given you to bear—or if you ignore those in need because they once ignored you—if you jut your nose and chin high enough that you can smell everyone else’s sins but not your own—you, actually, should be anxious about your life.
When Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life” (Matthew 6:25), He speaks to us Christians, exhorting us to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. To seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (cf. Matthew 6:33).
Are you aware of any willful or unrepentant sin?
Do you ignore your responsibilities to spouse, child, friend, or congregation?
Do you choose for yourself good-looking works that might convince others of your work ethic?
Do you fear the deflation of your ego more than you fear God?
You should be anxious about your life.
But not because you might suffer or one day die.
Committing willful sin, you should be anxious because you don’t know when the Lord will require of you your soul. You, or your children, or your children’s children.
The commonality of suffering and death—and its seeming randomness—should teach us, quite simply, that it could have been you, or me, or your children.
So when it’s not you—and especially when it is—repent.
Amend your life. Live as God calls.
Rely on God’s care for your body and soul.
Teach your children to do the same.
Pray not, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:32) but rather, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).
The one who says, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” should be anxious about his life.
But clearly, the one who prays, saying that we live to the Lord and die to the Lord and are, therefore, the Lord’s, clearly, that one has not anxiety but faith that trusts God to provide.
Consider the comparisons that Jesus makes:
The birds of the air.
Jesus describes our Father in heaven as a tender man who feeds the birds in the park with scraps and crumbs from his table.
That man is without care because he has enough food to waste some on the birds.
How many of you have recently thrown food away? Cooked too much? How many have eaten too much?
And you worry, sometimes, that you might lack.
If you’ve ever fed birds at the park, you know they eat well. They waddle up to you because they must.
With the birds of the air, Jesus shows us what is true of our Father in heaven—even if we don’t see it with our eyes.
Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
How tenderly does God care for an insignificant thing!
And you are—to God—so much more significant than all the birds of the air.
That is the importance and comfort of the incarnation of God.
What God became—He redeemed.
What He redeemed, for that He died.
Nothing else in all Creation is as loved by God as you because God became nothing else but your Brother, your flesh and blood, a man. Not a duck. When you consider the birds of the air, know that our Father in heaven cares for ducks. He does. But God became man. So consider the birds but know that God cares even more for you.
And consider the lilies of the field.
Jesus describes the lilies as being clad in grandeur unmatched by even Solomon. Then, He reminds us that the lilies, the grass of the field, that worthless thing, is alive today and tomorrow cast into the oven.
“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30).
We know God doesn’t want our bodies to burn in gehenna, the lake of fire, hades, hell, the inferno.
We know God wants us to rise in peace and joy on the Last Day. We know God’s not finished with a body even when it dies.
So—contrary to popular opinion—a Christian shouldn’t treat his body as a worthless thing.
Christians should not be cremated.
An argument from small to great, or unimportant to important, God clothes the worthless grass with unmatched splendor.
That God clothes the thing He’s through with in such splendor should show us all how He clothes—and how we should treat—the thing He’s not through with, the thing, your body, that He’ll raise on the Last Day.
God doesn’t want your body to burn in the fires of hell. Likewise, He doesn’t want you to plan and choose to burn the body He knit together, redeemed, justified, sanctified, and will raise unto eternal life.
I know the arguments, and they’re awful.
Scripturally, there are zero accounts of the cremation of believers when burial is the standard practice.
Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph, Moses (who was buried by God!), Joshua, Eleazar, Samuel, David, John the Baptist, Lazarus, Ananias and Sapphira, Stephen, and, of course, Jesus were all buried.
The burning of a body, however, is most often seen in the context of curse or punishment.
As it should and does not take a verse of Scripture with the word “Trinity” in it for us to see plainly that Scripture teaches that God is Triune, so it should and does not take a verse of Scripture with the words “Christians should not be cremated” for us to see plainly that Scripture teaches us to bury the body in hopeful expectation of the resurrection.
Thus says and shows the Lord.
Outside of Scriptural arguments, I’ve heard it said that cremation is actually a respectful way to treat the body. He who says that will also silently (or not) judge you if you have a tattoo.
After all, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:19), they’ll tell you.
But he plans to burn that temple down and pulverize what remains to dust and scatter it who-knows-where who-knows-what does you-know-what.
If cremation’s a Christian practice, let’s all get face tattoos to celebrate.
Or—rather—let’s confess the truth.
I’ve also heard it said that cremation is to be preferred because it’s cheaper.
He who says that’s the same man who’ll scold his own children (or yours) for not saving up, not being prepared, not having a rainy-day fund. Whatever happens to us all, when it happens to them, they should’ve been prepared.
So, since it’s so easy to plan ahead and save money.
Since there are things we all know will happen.
And since we must serve God rather than money (cf. Matthew 6:24), let’s confess the truth.
Plan ahead. Save money. And treat your body with a dignity that looks forward to and rejoices in the resurrection.
You are more valuable than the lilies, than a million worthless things bound for fire. Not only should you not treat your body as a worthless thing, you should know that God doesn’t.
He clothes the flowers in splendor.
He clothes you!
And on the Last Day, when the grass withers and the flowers fade, the Word of the Lord will call you forth from death and tomb like Lazarus, “Come out!”
On that day, what was never worthless to begin with, what was worth the priceless blood of Jesus, is raised and clothed—body and soul—in everlasting glory and honor.
“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, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Repentant, faithful Christians—forgiven sinners—have no cause to be anxious because our Heavenly Father has provided for our every need.
Seek first not the things you need for the day. Rather, seek first He who made the day and redeemed it.
He who became man, man to deliver.
Jesus the Christ, who was crucified, buried, and raised.
He gives us bread, daily.
He forgives our sins, daily.
He delivers us from evil, daily.
And on the Last Day, He’ll raise you and all the dead, and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ.
This is most certainly true.
On that day we’ll see, finally, what we hear today:
Do not be anxious about your life.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
You have sought and found Jesus the Christ, who became man to redeem man and remove all anxiety.
“Do not be anxious about your life” (Matthew 6:25), Jesus says.
“Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).
And, sufficient for our trouble is He who made the day and redeemed it.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Trinity 15 Sermon, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt