Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sermon -- 10th Sunday after Pentecost (July 28, 2013)

LUKE 11:1-13

In the name + of Jesus.

     One of Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray….” (Luke 11:1)  Jesus did not teach them to speak as so many Old Testament prayers began, “Blessed are you, O God, King of the Universe….”  Granted, he IS that.  But Jesus has taught his disciples to use a title which is much less intimidating and much more endearing.  He taught us to say, “Our Father.”  This precious title tells you who God is.  It tells you who you are.  And it tells you how God thinks of you.  He is your dear Father.  You are his dear children.  You are not merely his creation; you are his redeemed!  He put his name on you when you were baptized.  Through baptism, he has made you a member of his family and an heir of his kingdom. 
     So we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”  In his explanation in his Small Catechism, Dr. Martin Luther states: “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and we are his true children, so that we may pray to him as boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father.” (Luther’s Small Catechism; Lord’s Prayer: The Address)  Therefore, when you pray, pray boldly and confidently.  For, he is your Father, and fathers are delighted to hear from their children.
     In teaching us to pray boldly, Jesus told a parable about a man who was surprised by a midnight guest.  He had no food to set before his guest to refresh him.  But he knew that his friend had food.  He did not let the late hour dissuade him.  He roused the man from his bed and asked for three loaves of bread.  In this culture, it would have been unthinkable to refuse such a request, for it would have tarnished the reputation of the entire village as one which was hostile rather than hospitable.  So, the request came at a bad time.  It was inconvenient.  It certainly was bold.  But it was asked with confidence; for the man knew that his friend would hear his plea and answer.
     How much more does your heavenly Father hear and answer your pleas!  All your frustrations come at a bad time.  All your troubles are inconvenient.  Nevertheless, pray boldly and confidently to your Father.  First of all, you have been urged to do so.  God does not give you this encouragement insincerely.  Secondly, it is impossible to bother your Father at a bad time.  He is eternal.  There is no “time” in which you can bother him.  Thirdly, it is impossible to inconvenience your Father.  He is almighty.  He is never overwhelmed by the size of your troubles.  So pray boldly and confidently to your Father.
     The problem is never that God fails to hear or answer our prayers.  The problem is that we do not believe him.  We do not believe that God cares about us or our problems.  We do not believe that God hears our prayers and petitions.  It is because God does not fix every glitch or exalt us before friends and enemies.  He does not give us whatever we want.  When God does not grant us our wishes, we quit our praying.  We turn from God.  And like little children, we call our Father names and rant, “You don’t really love me!”  It would be an amusing image if it were not a sin against the First Commandment.  God is never amused by that.  Repent.
     Your Father is delighted to do what is best for you.  That does not mean giving you whatever you want.  The fact is: You don’t know what is best for you.  You think it is best that everyone likes you and praises you, that you regularly receive large sums of money, that you never need a prescription, or that you never shed a tear.  Why do you want these things?  Because you want this world to be your home.  You would rather be comfortable and happy in this sinful world than saved from it.  Repent. 
     Even though you are sinful, you know that it is not best to give your children whatever they want.  It is not best for your children to live on PlayStation, ice cream, and prizes.  Even though you know they will hate it, you discipline them.  You assign them chores.  You make them do their homework.  You give them salad instead of ice cream.  They think you are being cruel.  You are doing what is best for them.
     Dear children of God, your Father truly knows what is best for you.  And your Father truly does love you.  He demonstrated this by giving his only begotten Son for you.  Jesus offered up prayers throughout his life on your behalf.  He perfectly sought God’s will.  He perfectly sought your good.  And that led him to a cross where he suffered and died for your impatience, ingratitude, and idolatry.  Though you have felt that your Father does not have your best interests at heart, he shows you his heart at Mt. Calvary.  There, Jesus atoned for all of your sin.  There, Jesus delivered you from death and hell.  There, Jesus reconciled you to God.  There, God assured you that his is your dear Father and that you are his dear children. 
     Jesus asks, “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 11:10-11)  If sinners do what is best for their children, how much more does your holy Father do what is best for you!  He has given you his Holy Spirit.  He makes his home within you; you are members of his family.  He has taken away your guilt.  Therefore, you are heirs of the Father’s heavenly kingdom.  If he has loved you enough to claim you for eternity, will he not also care for you in your brief time here?
     Pray boldly and confidently to your heavenly Father.  Jesus said: “Ask, and it will given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)  Like children, you can be bold enough to ask for anything, even for the outrageous.  Children know that they will not always get the ice cream, the chocolate sauce, and the sprinkles.  They ask anyway, because they know they will not get their treats unless they ask.  You are God’s children.  So pray just as boldly to your Father in heaven.  Ask for the ice cream.  Pray for your cross to get lighter.  Intercede for your cancer-stricken friend.  Ask for lakeside cottage.  Plead for relief for the war-torn countries and the malaria-infested lands.  Pray boldly, and be confident that whatever God does is best for you.  Then, pray also for daily bread, for running water, for plentiful crops, for a safe home, and for warm blankets.  These, too, are gifts from your heavenly Father.  He gives them because he loves you.
     Pray boldly and confidently to your heavenly Father.  He does not merely guess what is best; he knows.  When he allows you to suffer pain, shed tears, and endure loss, your Father knows that it is best to remind you that this world is not permanent, much less perfect.  He is teaching you not to long for what is disappointing, decaying, and dying.  When your time in this world is done and daily bread no longer matters, what do you hope for?  And when your children, too, must bid farewell to this world, what is it that you finally want for them?  Isn’t it a place in the kingdom of God?  That, surely, is what your Father wants for you.  If you long for peace, comfort, and perfect blessing, then pray boldly and confidently to your dear Father for such things.  And be confident that, through Jesus, he will grant them—in some measure now, but without measure for your eternity. 
     Pray boldly that your Father increase your faith.  Pray confidently that your Father bring you at last to his heavenly kingdom.  You can be confident that he will always answer “Yes!” to your prayer.  He sent his Son to secure it for you; he gives you his word and sacraments to instill it in you.  This is what is best for you.  He is pleased to give it.  For, you are his dear children, and he is your dear Father.

 In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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