Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sermon for 28 July 2013, Proper 12C

Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. Luke 11:1-13
God is the Giver of All Good Things
28 July 2013, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12C
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

God is the Giver of all good things. That is the theme of Jesus’ teaching to us today on prayer. Last week’s Gospel in the Bethany home of Mary and Martha taught us to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word. After hearing, faith is called into action. We see that action partly in prayer, since it is only after we hear Jesus’ words we know what to pray for and how to pray. In St. Luke 11 a certain unnamed disciple asks for further instruction, personally asking God in the flesh to be who He is, a Giver of good things.

1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John [the Baptizer] taught his disciples.”
After Jesus said “Amen,” this disciple asked his question. Amen means yes, yes, it shall be so. This is the voice of faith. The disciple’s faith trusted that Jesus would answer his petition.
2 He [Jesus] said to them, “Whenever you pray, say:
hallowed be your name, [I ask that You would sanctify Your name]
your kingdom come. [I ask that your reign come by Your doing]
The kingdom of God is not what we do. God does it. We don’t build it. All we can do is use God’s tools, His Word and His means of grace, the ways the Spirit works, the Sacraments in order for us to be used by Him to further His reign.
These petitions are fulfilled in Jesus’ ministry. We pray with thanksgiving for their accomplishment and pray that they would continually be fulfilled among us today. The reign of God is God manifesting Himself through His Word and Spirit in history as a whole and as He works individually in every believer. This is the kind of personal interaction meant by “I will go down and see” in the Genesis 18 Old Testament lesson.
3 Give to us each day our daily [arriving] bread.
God gives us what we need for each day, not less. All that is needed to support this body and life is provided. God, you provide. We don’t get to choose whole wheat or rye. He gives us what we need, and often even more so our cups run over.
This is not unrelated to Manna in Wilderness where the children of Israel were to gather just bread for the day. Think about the continual, regular, daily, loving Fatherly care. God is truly the giver of all good gifts. We can also see an allusion to Holy Communion, and anticipation of the final marriage feast of the Lamb following the Last Judgment.
4 Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who sins against us.
This petition is incomprehensible with mere human understanding. With the eyes of faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit, we understand this as the power of God’s own forgiveness in our lives.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
This is God-centered prayer, faithfully trusting in the Father’s provision. This is how to pray, the divine model.
Certainly this chapter doesn’t tell us everything about prayer. Even St. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is different from that given by St. Matthew. Jesus certainly taught about something as important as prayer more than once. He undoubtedly gave them His prayer more than once as well.
Jesus’ model of prayer helps us to see things from God’s perspective. Our selfish motives for our will or more stuff simply have no place. Jesus invites us to pray to the Father in His way, in full faith, trusting that God is the Giver of all good things.

5 Then he [Jesus] said to them, “Can you imagine this happening? Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,  6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. Don’t give me strife! The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’  8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the [shamelessness of the man inside, that man will get up and give him as much as he needs.
The cultural context can help us better understand the Greek phrase translated “the man’s boldness” in the NIV Bible and “impudence” in the ESV. Hospitality is important. We saw that with the Good Samaritan, Martha, and here in today’s text. The whole village in first century Palestine had a responsibility to care for midnight visitors. A refusal shamed the whole village.
“Boldness” makes us think that the phrase “the man” refers to the guy outside who shows up at midnight. But “the man” really refers to the man inside. The word mistranslated “boldness” is better rendered, “shamelessness.” The reputation of the man inside, as well as the village is at stake. He will be shamed if he refuses to send out the bread. He hasn’t been shamed before, i.e. he is in a state of shamelessness, and the peer pressure of the village leads him to avoid shame and give in by giving bread to the visitor. No one listening to Jesus telling this story could imagine the midnight visitor being refused.
So it appears that this part of the text is not about persistent prayer at all.  There are plenty other texts to support persistent prayer out there. This text simply calls upon us to pray, earnestly trusting that God is the Giver of all good things.

[Jesus continues:] 9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Jesus words are an invitation to prayer, and an invitation to bold prayer. We are called to pray for God’s things in God’s way. Jesus will now reveal to us our gracious, giving God by comparing the Heavenly Father to earthly fathers.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Of course He will! If we, who sin by thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone, can do good things for our children, family, and spouse, how much more will God give us all good things to support this body and life out of His good and gracious will? Jesus tells us what to ask for! We pray that God would give good gifts as a Father should, that He would hallow His name, that His reign would be evident among us by His doing, for daily bread from the hand of God received by us with thanksgiving, for forgiveness of sins, and protection from present and future sin on our part.
And there are more gifts to come. We are taught to pray for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to us in the Word, in Baptism, always given whole and complete, but there’s always more that God is wanting to give you. We dare not reject the gift of the Spirit by neglecting time in God’s Word or refusing or delaying baptism for ourselves or our children and grandchildren. God would have you receive all of His good and gracious Gifts, all good things which truly have Him as their source.
Let us heed Jesus’ invitation to pray. Elsewhere we are taught to pray boldly, persistently, according to God’s will rather than our own, and in Jesus’ name. All of these things are alluded to in our text even if they are not elaborated upon. We may not learn everything about prayer from St. Luke 11, but we have complete encouragement to prayer. And assurance that God is the Giver of all good things. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.