2022-07-24 Pentecost 7
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When you read the Gospels and you get a glimpse of our Lord’s earthly ministry it always makes me go “Man, I wish I could have been there to see that!” As our Lord Jesus travelled across Galilee you could walk with Him and talk with Him and then get to witness the inevitable: He heals the sick. He calms the stormy sea. He drives out demons. He raises the dead. He walks on water. He changes water into wine. Oh to be able to see all this and more! What an incredible faith booster that must have been! And yet today, as we hone in on the Lord’s Prayer, we see that this is what the disciples were transfixed on: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (LK 11:1). They didn’t say Lord, teach us to do miracles and signs and wonders so we can impress our friends at cocktail parties! No, it was “Lord, teach us to pray. We want to talk to God.”
This is why Luther made the Lord’s Prayer one of the 6 chief parts of the Small Catechism. This is why every confirmation student for the last 500 years has studied all 7 petitions of the Lord’s Prayer in detail. Prayer is conversation with God and Jesus teaches His disciples how to do it. And the first thing that is totally striking is that Jesus teaches them to refer to God as “Father.” This is in a time where people formally go to shrines to false gods and bow down and give sacrifices and offerings to these supposed all-powerful deities. Yet Jesus tells them that God is dad. Go talk to dad! A child asking her father for a cookie! That’s how you approach the Almighty Creator of the Universe!
“Father, hallowed be your name” (LK 11:2). Holy is Your Name, God of all creation! The Lord’s Prayer starts out with praise for the God who made everything from nothing, simply by speaking. Whenever you behold our world with all of its beauty and splendour, we stop and consider that our Lord, our Heavenly Father made all this. From the Rocky Mountains to the rivers to the Prairies to the flowers of the field, God’s creation is full of His fingerprints. He has made all this amazing stuff for us, His children through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. Psalm 9:1-2 say “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 2 I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”
The second petition of the Lord’s Prayer is “Your Kingdom come.” This is the purpose of the prayer. We want God’s heavenly Kingdom to come to the earthly kingdoms of our world. And by that, we mean that we are praying for God’s grace and mercy to come to our world. We know that our world is a fallen place, full of sinful people who think, say and do sinful things. None of us are immune to this. We have all fallen short of God’s perfection. And so we pray that His Kingdom of grace would come. And it truly has through the cross of Christ our Lord. Through His sacrifice for us, the King wears His crown of thorns. And now our resurrected King lives to give us His Kingdom of forgiveness, mercy and love.
“Give us each day our daily bread” (LK 11:3). The funny thing about the Lord’s prayer is that this one lone petition is concerned about physical, earthly needs. “Daily bread” - not weekly or monthly or annually but daily! The stuff we need for each day of our lives. By and large I would reckon that our prayers are often for physical blessings, right? For money, jobs, possessions, health and the like. And there is nothing wrong with praying for these things. In fact, Jesus tells us to do this! But if you step back and look at the whole of the Lord’s Prayer, its only 1 small part of the prayer. It’s only 1/7th of the entire prayer! Rather, our spiritual needs are greater than our physical needs and we should spend more time praying for them.
The next line in Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is “and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” It’s a little bit different than the one we are used to from Matthew’s Gospel. These small differences in wording prove that the Bible is authentic. If everything was exactly the same from book to book in the Bible, some lawyer would have said “Collusion! The book is a hoax!” Rather than that legal-beagle gong-show, we have these little differences in wording from author to author which add to the authenticity of the Scriptures. This petition enters into our greatest of spiritual needs, that of God’s forgiveness. This is the Gospel in a nutshell really. God’s forgiveness for sinful people who repent and receive God’s grace in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. And not only forgiveness but also life and salvation. There is no greater possession or pearl of great price than this! This is precisely why the Bible links forgiveness to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper too. We sin every day. We need God’s forgiveness like we need underarm deodorant!
Lately I have had landscaping on the brain because my front lawn is a real Benedict Arnold. It faces south and gets baked by the sun all day long. I water it, I fertilize it, I picked and sprayed for weeds, I paid a guy to aerate it. And you know what? It’s as yellow as hot dog mustard. When I look at it, I feel like the Lord speaking to Israel: “what more can I have done for you, O my people!” So I’m looking at doing some landscaping and xeriscaping. But as soon as you start moving dirt, you know what happens. Weeds! As soon as you till up soil, they spring up. And the more you look at it, the more it drives you up the wall! But weeds truly are nature’s bandaid. They spring up and fix nitrogen into the soil, another kind accumulates phosphorus, they wither and add those nutrients back into the soil, their honkin’ tap roots aerate. They make the bare dirt green. They heal the land’s wounds and cover it over like scars.
Scars. We probably have a few of our own. They are always there to remind us that we had an injury or operation of some kind. But they also remind us that we healed too. And this healing is what God’s grace and forgiveness does for us. It heals us from our sins and iniquities. And likewise, the other side of the coin is that if we have received God’s healing then we get to extend it to others too. The scars from past conflicts with other people might always be there for us, reminding us what went wrong. But so also is God’s healing that binds up our wounds and soothes us with His forgiveness. It is a process, just like a scar covering a wound. “12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col 3:12-13).
Finally, the prayer concludes. “And lead us not into temptation” (LK 11:4). God never tempts us. But the devil does. So with this petition, we are asking the Lord to protect us from evil. And evil is within us in our weak, sinful flesh. It is ripe in the unrepentant world, the combined sin of the 7 and a half billion of us on the planet. And of course, the ol’ devil himself. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1Pet 5:8-9). With the help of the Holy Spirit, and the whole armour of God (Eph 6:11, 17-18) we stand firm against the temptation to sin and pray that God would lead us away from every evil.
Our Lord wraps up His teaching here in Luke with a bit of a parable about persistence. In our sin, we are tempted to give up and shut down when we don’t get what we want when we want it from God as I mentioned last Sunday. But the name of the game is persistence. Jesus says “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (LK 11:9). So don’t give up. Nag God all the more with your prayers! The quintessential illustration for persistence is a 2 year old. “Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mommy. Momma. Momma. Momma. Ma. Ma. Ma. …..” they are relentless! It’s no wonder that Jesus tells us to pray to our Father. Approach prayer like that relentless 2 year old and you will find what you seek! In His Name, Amen!