+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 11:13
Theme: Eager To Respond
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God is always eager to listen. He is just as ready to willingly respond. Christ fills us with great courage in our life of prayer. “Ask, seek, and knock,”1 He tells us. The heavenly Father will not fail to give- especially the Holy Spirit to His people. This is more than a motivational mandate of divine origin. This is the incarnate Son of the inaccessible Father passionately positioning His pupils at the throne of grace. Here we are given courage to petition the Almighty who desires to speak to us as dear children.
Now what makes this prospect of inquiry anything more than a pious platitude? What makes prayer anything more than desperate demonstration of grasping at straws? Dear friends, in order to nay-say the privilege and power of prayer you will need an impressive arsenal of defence. You will need to reckon with the command and promise of God, the example of Christ and the witness of the faithful across the ages. Oh, yes, it’s easy to be dismissive when you think you have the world by the tail. It’s easy to flippantly discount prayer as being irrelevant when your job is secure, your bank account is fat and you’re in the prime of your life. It’s easy to be apathetic if you’ve mistaken God for an uninterested and incapable observer. It’s easiest of all to trivialize prayer when you believe God either won’t judge or that you’re beyond the pale of His condemnation. Sin causes us to boast in just this way.
But even the demons know better. Even the demons begged Christ not to denounce them. They knew and they still know, and they feared and they still fear because they do not believe. But faith does not operate in this way. Faith is always in need of God’s mercy. Faith is always seeking more insight, more knowledge, more comfort, more assurance. There is no contradiction between contentment and the yearning of faith. In faith we recognize our mortality as readily as we acknowledge Christ’s supremacy. We are beset with ageing, sickness, fear and regret because we are sinners. But He is vested with immortality, vitality, courage, and hope because He is the victor over sin.
Our prayers often betray both the lack of understanding of our need and the abundance of God’s grace. The nine year- old girl prayed, “Dear God: Please help me in school. I need help in spelling, math, history, geography and writing. I don't need help in anything else.” Are we any less naïve? We often pray just for those few things we think are pressing us at the time often not realizing which things are really most critical.
What does Jesus’ story about the friend who goes to the other friend in the night for a loaf of bread teach us? Christ intentionally proposes an absurd example. A true friend will, of course, help another friend in time of need. But if, for argument’s sake, the person won’t help just because they are a friend, they will help because of the other’s persistence; and to avoid abandoning the expectations of the community. They will not fail to practice hospitality. How much more so God in heaven!
Dear friends, God is serious about His love for us. It is not a theoretical love. Remember what the apostle says today, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”2 The infant child of Bethlehem is the eternal Son of the uncreated Father. In Him humanity is “re-made”. He is the new Adam. He wrests us back from the power of Satan and ushers us into His own everlasting kingdom. He seals you with His blood, “Having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.”3 Your baptism was a spiritual resurrection from the dead. Every time you repent and receive the forgiveness of your sins you are revisiting the power of that resurrection. Forgiveness is the only regular nourishment that can sustain us. That is why He makes it available to us so liberally: In the gospel proclaimed, the body and blood of Christ given in the sacred meal, and the baptismal covenant.
We pray because we are baptized. We pray because we are part of the family of God. God is not stingy. Now you may regard that statement to be contestable. Perhaps you feel slighted, neglected or cheated? Perhaps you think you have been given a raw deal. Yet God owes you nothing. And there is nothing you have earned but admonition. Still, He looks away from His only-begotten Son and turns His face toward you. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”4
The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer of believers. It is the language of faith. Praying it properly is a matter of adopting Christ’s perspective. Christians have a different viewpoint than the unbelieving world. The mercy of God is largely hidden from the unenlightened. A man read an ad in the newspaper, "Hunting dog for sale, $5,000, but well worth it." He called the number and the man told him that he had to see the dog in action. The next morning they met and went hunting early. The dog flushed two birds from a clump of bushes and when they fell into the water, he walked on top of the water, grabbed the birds, and walked back, again on top of the water. The man was amazed, and bought the dog on the spot. The next day he persuaded his brother to go hunting with him. They flushed a couple of birds and the dog again walked on top of the water, retrieved the birds, and walked back to their boat on top of the water. He asked his brother what he thought of the dog and the brother replied, "I can’t believe you bought a dog that can't swim."
We don’t believe because we see; we see because we believe. What more can we ask Christ to do for us than what He has done? He condescended to take our human nature to Himself. He walked in our footsteps, was anointed by the Holy Spirit for His unique mission, remained faithful to the heavenly Father, and lived perfectly under the law- all on our behalf. He was mistreated, scandalized, unfairly sentenced, beaten, mocked, and was crucified. He hung on a Roman cross between criminals. His body was laid in a tomb. He walked out of the grave three day later. He didn’t perform a magician’s trick; He was resurrected. He walked among His own before He ascended. He promises to resurrect us on the Last Day. Lord, help us to pray boldly, even as, in our weakness, we trust the Holy Spirit to pray for us5. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
1 See Luke 11:9
2 Colossians 2:9
3 Colossians 2:12
4 Hebrews 4:16
5 See Romans 8:26
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
28 July 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt