This sermon was presented at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church E.L.C.A. in Tacoma, Washington on July 28, 2013.
THE PREFACE OF THE SERMON
The Prayer: Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help. That throughout our study of the Scriptures, which begins, continues, and ends in you, we glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Text: The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (11:1-13). He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give 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!”
The Greeting: Greetings everyone – May the grace of our Lord Jesus [Christ] be with you.”
The Title: Our subject on this day of the Lord is “The Lord’s Prayer.”
The Reason: The reason that I am preaching on the Lord’s Prayer is so that we may understand the prayer in a more meaningful manner
The Points: 1. Our Relationship with God. 2. God: Sustainer and Provider. 3. Our Relationship with God and Our Neighbor. 4. Avoiding Separation from God.
THE INTRODUCTION OF THE SERMON
I will begin this introduction with a tradition that was common for a rabbi. It was a custom of a rabbi to teach his disciples how to pray and the prayers that a rabbi taught his disciples often reflected the core values of the rabbi. Jesus continued this custom by offering his disciples the prayer we know today as the Lord’s Prayer. On one hand it is a short and easy prayer to memorize and in the other hand it is a profound message that proclaims a very personal relationship with God. With this in mind, let us explore this prayer.
THE BODY OF THE SERMON
The First Point: Our Relationship with God.
It is both a great mystery and a fact that the creator of the entire universe is our beloved Father. Our Father is almighty and holy beyond the imagination of our human minds; but our creator is also personal and loving like any father; with this in mind we should always remind ourselves to walk away from our busy lives for a moment and spend it with our heavenly Father.
Our Father, the living and eternal God of all, rejected the concept of sovereign and minion and instead embraced the concept of Father and his children, who inherit the realm that belongs to him.
We do not know why God did this and I am certain the reason is completely beyond our limited ability to comprehend; but the almighty Father of all and source of all wisdom would rather be our Father then a dictator, whom we have no relationship with.
Furthermore, God created us with the ability to act like any child towards their Father. We have ability to draw near or to be rebellious and separate, we have been given the ability to praise and honor our Father and we have the ability to ignore or even reject our Father. Regardless of how we treat our eternal Father, he is always faithful and loving towards us. His relationship towards us does not change, if change happens it comes from us. So like the prophets and sages of old, let draw near to the living God who is our loving Father.
Before moving onward, here are some quotations from the Old Testament that I would like you to reflect on:
From Deuteronomy: Is this the way you repay LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is He not your Father who has created you? He has indeed made you and established you.
From the Psalter: You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
From Isaiah: O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay and You are our potter. All of us are the works of Your hand.
Also from Isaiah: You, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer.
Now let us reflect on respecting and hallowing the name. In his catechism, Martin Luther wrote this about hollowing the name, “In this petition [of the Lord’s Prayer] we ask for exactly the same thing that God expects of us in the second commandment: You shall not take the name of LORD your God in vain. Therefore, we are not to misuse his name by using it to swear, curse, lie, deceive, and so on, but use it properly to praise and honor God.”
In light of this, Christians have the responsibility to honor the holy name through their words and deeds. Therefore, when we say hallowed be your name we are not only praying for the name of God to be honored among humankind, but also that we may never forget the commandment: You shall not take the name of LORD your God in vain (Deut. 5:11).
The greatest form of honoring our Father and his sacred name is to live according to his will and guidance. By living and walking according to the will of our Father we grow in our own sacredness and become a light that shines the Gospel of Christ upon humanity.
Another word for this kind of living is called “sanctification.” According to Oswald Chambers in his book “My Utmost For His Highest, “Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view. It means to secure and to keep all the strength of our mind, body, and soul, for God’s purpose alone.” This follows what Martin Luther said, “How does sanctification take place? Sanctification takes place when we occupy ourselves with the Word of God and focus on spiritual exercises.”
Chambers said we are to be focused God’s view point and Luther mentioned we are to occupy ourselves with the Word. Both are telling us that God should be first and foremost in our lives; in that we should make the Word, God’s view point, the cornerstone of our lives and by doing so we respect the name of God and hallow his holy name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done. In our modern world the word “kingdom” can be sometimes confusing, because when we hear the word kingdom we think of a geographic place that can be found on a map or a globe. However, a kingdom is more than just a geographic territory, it is the king himself; therefore, wherever the king is – so is the kingdom.
John the Forerunner announced that the kingdom is at hand and we better prepare ourselves to receive the kingdom when he comes among us. When Jesus comes and knocks on our door, are we prepared to invite the King of Kings into our lives? Are we ready to devote our entire life to the King? When Christ the King comes, he will want us to do is will and serve him alone. Can we do this? These are questions we should not only reflect on, but also answer. Because when we open our doors to Christ, we allow his kingdom to come into or hearts and allow his will to be our command. So when our hearts hear Christ knocking on the door, we should be prepared to open the door and give Jesus an answer.
Some might ask, what is the will of God requiring us to do? The words of the prophet Micah clearly explain the will of God, “What does LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (6:8).” Finally, always remember that Jesus is both the king and the kingdom, may we serve him with honor and praise.
The Second Point: God: Sustainer and Provider
At first read this sounds like a clear and simple request; however, throughout history the Fathers of Christianity have pointed out that the message behind this simple request is complex and multi-layered. With this in mind, let us listen to two commentaries on this petition of the Lord’s Prayer.
From the Life Application Commentary: “When we pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’ we are acknowledging that God is both our sustainer and provider. It is a misconception to think that we provide for our needs ourselves. We must trust God daily – to provide what he knows we really need.”
From Martin Luther: “This petition includes everything that belongs to our entire life in the world, for this is the only reason why we have to have daily bread. Now, life is not just a matter of having bread, food, clothes, and all the other things our bodies need. It also includes our need to get along in peace and harmony with all the people with whom we live and spend time with in our circumstances.”
As you can see from just these two commentaries this petition has a lot more to it than the simple words that comprise it.
This petition reminds us that our Father knows what our needs are and he knows the priorities of our needs; therefore, our heavenly Father knows what is best for us and acts accordingly. With this said, we also must bear in mind that not all needs and concerns will be address in a way that makes us comfortable or can be immediately understand. There are times that our Father will answer our prayers in a way that makes us take a deeper look at our lives and our spiritual journey.
Now let us turn our attention to our relationships with God and humanity. Our relationship with God directly affects our relationship with humanity. If we have a healthy relationship with God and walk according to the will of God our interaction with humanity will generally be more positive. In promoting positive relationships with our neighbors we face many barriers, such as personal comfort zones, cultural differences, and political views. Therefore, it is very important that we take all our concerns and fears and place them before our Father.
We also have to remind ourselves that our ancient foe is the one who makes our fears grow, question other cultures, and hinders our ability to make compromise with others. The devil knows all too well if humanity follows the wisdom of God and works to live in harmony with each other he grows weak and the darkness he sows becomes light. In other words, our ancient foe cannot stand it when we take our fears and concerns and place them before our heavenly Father.
Now for a final reflection on this petition. Bread is the principle food of those who live in poverty throughout the world, in the Old Testament bread is the host where the presence of God resided, and in the New Testament bread was offered at the feedings of the multitudes. For Christians bread is also a part of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the bread of the very presence of the living and loving Christ among us.
The Third Point: Our Relationship with God and Our Neighbor
Concerning sin, I have always enjoyed what the Book of Common Prayers says about it: “What is sin? Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.”
Our Father is more than willing to forgive those who realize that they made a mistake and further realize the need to make amends and take responsibility for their actions, regardless if the mistake was by word or deed.
With this said, our greatest challenge to our obedience to God is Self-Will. Our Father created us with Self-Will, the freedom to have self-determination. Therefore, we have to make a decision at every sunrise; that is, to either be self-centered or to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Because we have the responsibility for self-determination, which path will we choose?
Now let is review the challenges we face when forgiving others. Let us begin by turning again to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “How does sin have power over us? Sin has power over us because we lose our liberty when our relationship with God is distorted.”
The biggest stumbling block to forgiving our neighbor is our basic human nature and our emotions. When our nature and emotions get involved one of the first things that often gets ignored is the path of God, especially when it involves our emotions. It is human nature to seek revenge or the strongest form of justice when we have been wronged or extremely harmed; but this distorts our relationship with God.
Through Moses God has spoken about human relationships and how we are to deal with matters concerning our neighbors, this is especially true in the book of Leviticus: “Do not do anything that endangers the life of your neighbor. Within your heart do not hate your brother. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but instead love your neighbor as yourself (18:1).” This can be very challenging to our sense of right and wrong and our position of what is justice.
One of the things that God is trying to tell us is this, that he is the ultimate judge and he alone will decide the ultimate fate of each and every individual, regardless of what we say or what action we take. For he alone knows both our hearts and the real truth.
When we find ourselves struggling to forgive someone, let us reflect upon Jesus of Nazareth. He has insulted and grieved while he taught the sacred path, he was whipped and beaten, and finally he was slowly, painfully, and inhumanly killed. If anyone had the right to take revenge and seek the harshest form of justice for such cruelty and insensitivity, it was Jesus. However, rather than dispensing strong and terrifying justice upon those who most deserved it, he forgave them and by his resurrection, brought on by a most inhumane death, he brought salvation to humankind.
Therefore, when we are reflecting on something bad that has happen to us, let us keep the life and death of Christ in the forefront of our thoughts and do not allow it to leave (especially when the pain can still be felt); and remember that he forgave all of humanity and expects us to forgive those individuals who sin against us.
The Fourth Pont: Avoiding Separation from God
Now let us turn our attention toward temptation.
There are two kinds of temptation that I will address today: the devil and our human nature. One tempts us externally and the other tempts us internally. I have always thought this petition of the Lord’s Prayer should have been written as, lead us away from all kinds of temptation. Regardless if the source of the temptation, the devil or our human nature, the result is the same, a broken relationship with God. With every crack in that broken relationship the devil celebrates and dances with glee.
With that said, let us turn to the one who tempts us externally, that is, the devil. When we disobey our Father the devil is the one who benefits the most when temptation is successful. In the Gospel of John, the true character of the devil is explained very well: “[The devil] was a murderer from the very beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (8:44).”
Deception and death are the hallmarks of the devil, or in other words temptation and brokenness. I can think of no better warning about the devil then this, the devil is a master of the gentle touch and the silent approach; once you realize that you are in one of the devil’s traps it is too late and you have been compromised. In my youth a theologian once said to me, that I should become more aware of my weaknesses and the emotions that are the strongest within me, because the devil and his associates will do their best to use them against me.
Now let us address that which tempts us internally, our human nature. Humanity was created in the image of God and this means individuals have the ability to make choices. We are free to choose to walk closer to God or to walk away from God (corruptibility). Because the temptation to walk away and live according to ourselves is so strong, Jesus encouraged his disciples to ask God to lead them away from temptation and deliver them from that which is evil.
Adam and Eve were the first human beings to misuse their freedom of choice and self-determination, when they consumed the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The fruit not only gave them a greater intelligence, it allowed them to teach this knowledge to others. While the gift of knowledge can enlighten and greatly enhance an individual, it can also bring rebellion and the temptations of lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, envy, pride, wrath, and any other vice that separates an individual from God. Like a father wanting to protect his children, God was trying to keep Adam and Eve away from this kind of advance knowledge, so God warned them not to eat the Fruit of Knowledge. However, they did eat the fruit and through this disobedience they received a knowledge that was much greater than that of a child. From this knowledge came an inclination and a curiosity towards those things that are contrary to living in harmony with God. What was the punishment for the rebellion of Adam and Eve? They were removed from the garden and in the pages Byzantine Christian Study Bible we find this written about the consequences of their mistake, “The sin of Adam and Eve caused mankind to become subject to death. While this is often seen mainly as a punishment, or penalty, the emphasis concerning God’s judgment on Adam and Eve at the fall is best understood in terms of His mercy. For an example of this, concerning man’s mortality, St. Gregory the Theologian states, “Yet here too provides a benefit – namely death, which cuts off sin, so that an evil may not be everlasting. Thus His punishment is changed into mercy.” Since God did not withhold punishment from Adam and Eve, then we will also face a judgment of our hearts.
Now about that curiosity. It is a troubling seed that comes upon us and can cause us no end of hardships. Through this seed we are tempted and rebel through our freedom of choice. We should always be watchful in the environment of our lives, because a curiosity for something that we should avoid can be planted and from deep within our being this curiosity is cultivated until it becomes so tempting that we simply cannot resist it and then we let go of all the sacred wisdom and embrace it.
From a careful examination of the temptations of the devil and our human nature we can learn and become aware of both the internal and external means which can entice us. Our only hope is a merciful God who can lead us away from temptation through inspiring us to move another direction or make a better decision. Therefore, we really need to be open to the Holy Spirit and its gentle voice and the wisdom that comes from sacred Scripture so that we can stand firm against that which wants to separate us from God our loving Father.
THE CONCLUSION OF THE SERMON
In Closing, let us give the glory to our Father who enriches and benefits our lives through giving us good gifts. We should never forget to say, thank you heavenly Father, for the gifts that he brings to our lives and the blessing he bestows upon us. Our Father has bestowed upon each and everyone us talents and skills that are not only meant to benefit our lives, but also humanity as well. Therefore, as another means of giving God the glory, let us first give back to God what the Holy has first given to us, ourselves, our time, and our talents. Amen!
Written by Dave Pflueger July 28, 2013 © copyrighted by Pflueger