Stressed Out: A Sermon for Quasimodo Geniti

Disciples in confusion and fear

Sermon audio here.

If you ever want to see a 4 year old go ballistic, all you have to do is say “Hi, baby” and watch what happens. 4 year olds know what a baby is, and they know it’s not them. If you’ve ever told someone they were acting like a baby, you didn’t mean that as a compliment.

Few would actually admit it, but millions of people today consider babies worthless. About 50% of infants today receive the death penalty for the “crime” of trespassing in their mother’s womb. I once knew a doctor who didn’t even consider her children people until they were old enough to start talking.

Culturally speaking, we place a high premium on age and experience. Rookies often face painful and humiliating initiations. They work the worst hours, get the last pick at everything, and are usually paid peanuts. Seniority and tenure aren’t given to the newcomers. We like babies because they’re cute and snuggly, but we certainly don’t want to be like them.

Repent. St. Peter says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word.” The greatest thing you could ever aspire to as a Christian is to have the faith of an infant. Our Lord says you don’t get into His kingdom unless you receive it as a little child. The strongest faith is one which can do nothing for itself, but relies on Christ for everything.

Not only does our Lord hold up the littlest ones as a model of faith, they also have the least amount of stress in their lives. This isn’t a coincidence. One of the most popular songs on the radio today has a line that says: “Wish we could turn back time to the good ol’ days, when our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.”[i]

A similar idea was expressed in a recent interview with the folk rock group, The Lumineers. One of band members said one of the greatest challenges he’s ever faced was success. Cry me a river, right? But this really took him by surprise. He said he always thought money and fame would make him happy, but in reality, they made his life a lot more complicated.

But you don’t have to be rich or famous to be preoccupied with the things of this world. Babies don’t have stress because they lack the ungodly ambitions that rob us of peace. Babies are conceived and born sinful, to be sure, but they don’t worry about paying the bills or impressing people.

For all the effort we put into trying to get ahead, you’d think we’d put a little more thought into what “ahead” means. Instead, we spend our lives trapped in a rat race to God knows where. Those who are unlucky enough to win are in for the biggest disappointment of all when they realize their “prize” is yet another source of frustration.In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon describes his vast wealth. He says,

“I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem,” (Ecclesiastes 2:4–7).

The more Solomon gained, the more complicated his life became. More homes meant more work. His gardens and parks needed to be landscaped and maintained, and this meant hiring more people to work them. We speak of the things we own, but it would be more accurate to speak of the things that own us.[ii]

Nevertheless, Christ doesn’t give up His claim on you. At the baptismal font, He made you His newborn babe, regardless of how old you were when you were baptized. But with each passing day, you’ve gradually traded your riches in Christ for the things of this world. The wealthiest among us are often the most impoverished. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Stressed out, indeed. But the solution isn’t to go back to “the good ol’ days.” Even if that were possible, you have something even better in Christ. He gives you wealth that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. St. Paul says, “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings!”

The Lord is your Shepherd; what do you lack? Satan convinces you to spend your money on things that are as worthless as they are expensive and to neglect the priceless gifts that Christ freely gives. The prophet Isaiah writes,

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food,” (Isaiah 55:1–2).

We tend to associate value with how much something costs, but your salvation is as valuable as it is free. Consider the exceedingly high price Christ paid for your redemption. Jesus willingly became a child for ungrateful children who wanted to be like God. He died for those who don’t think they need His help but then turn around and seek refuge in all the wrong places. Your Savior suffered the torments of hell so that you might have heavenly peace.

This is how beloved you are to Christ. He wants you to have peace, and so He gives you His gifts freely, without any effort or worry on your part. He does all the washing, the preaching, and the feeding. The Kingdom of God comes to you much in the same way babies receive food, clothing and shelter. They receive these things as gifts—not as wages earned—simply because they are loved.

That’s how it is between you & Christ. He clothes you with His righteousness at the font, covering up your sin. He feeds you with His Word and Sacrament, nurturing your faith. He invites you into His house that He might shelter you with His presence, now and for all eternity.

Anything you try to contribute here can only get in the way. This was on full display in today’s Holy Gospel, both with the disciples and Thomas, where we see the opposite of faith like a child.

The disciples had received the most precious gift in the world: the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins. What did they do to earn this? They locked themselves up in a panic room and doubted all of Christ’s promises. Christ gives you His salvation in exchange for your sin. For your sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him your might become the righteousness of God.

The disciples prized their safety more than their Savior, and Thomas thought more highly of His mind than the One who had given it to Him. “Unless I see the Lord, scars and all, I will never believe.”

Here we see a great example of how the mind interferes with faith. Babies don’t doubt Christ’s promises or leave His Church when He doesn’t meet their narrow expectations. But like Thomas, we vainly imagine we’re on the same level as God. We doubt God’s ability to do anything we can’t do and then demand proof of it. That’s why the disciples were locked up in a panic room on Easter, why Thomas doubted for the next 8 days, and it’s the source of all your troubles, too.

Even so, Christ shows up and brings His peace, even to a sanctuary filled with the dry bones of anxious apostles and doubting Thomases like this.

Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.

Christ speaks, forgiving sins and raising the dead. You’ve stressed out over much smaller things, but bringing life into dead, dry bones is no problem for Jesus. Peace be with you, your Jesus lives.

Soli Deo Gloria

[i] Twenty One Pilots, “Stressed Out.”

[ii] Bollhagen, Ecclesiastes (88).

 

+Rev. Eric Andersen
St. John 20:19–31
Quasimodo Geniti, 2016: Stressed Out
Zion, Summit
Immanuel, Hodgkins
Around the Word Bible Studies



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