"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

10 Pentecost Proper C12 
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 11:1-13 Sermon
July 24, 2016

Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.


Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
340 "Awake My Soul To Joyful Lays"
454 "Prayer Is The Soul's Sincere Desire"
457  "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"
459 "Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare"  

THE MOST SUBJECTIVE PART OF THE BIBLE

TEXT (vs. 1-4):  Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ďLord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.Ē  And he said to them, ďWhen you pray, say:  ďFather, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation.Ē

(Chancel dialogue between two people)

Person:  Our Father, who art In heaven.
God:  Yes?
Person:  Donít interrupt me. Iím praying.
God:  But you called ME!
Person:  Called you?  No, I didnít call you.  Iím praying....Our Father who art in heaven.
God:  There!  You did it again!
Person:  Did what?
God:  Called ME.   You said, ďOur Father who art in heaven.Ē  Well, here I am!  Whatís on your mind?
Person:  But I didnít mean anything by it.  I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day.  I always say the Lordís Prayer.  It makes me feel good, kind of like fulfilling a duty.

God:  Hmmm...well, all right.  Go on.
Person:  Okay, hallowed be thy name .
God:  Hold it right there.  What do you mean by that?
Person:  By what?
God:  By ďHallowed be thy name.Ē
Person:  It means, it means...good grief, I donít know what it means.  How in the world should I know?  Itís just a part of the prayer.  By the way, what does it mean?
God:  It means honored, holy, wonderful.
Person:  Hey, that makes sense.  I never thought about what Ďhallowedí meant before.  Thanks!  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
God:  Do you really mean that?
Person:  Sure, why not?
God:  What are you doing about it?
Person:  Doing?  Why, nothing, I guess.  I just think it would be kind of neat if you got control, of everything down here like you have up there.  Weíre kinda in a mess down here you know.
God:  Yes, I know;  but, do I have control of you?
Person:  Well, I go to church.
God:  That isnít what I asked you.  What about your bad temper?  You really have a problem there, you know.  And then thereís the selfish way you spend your money; everything is all for your pleasure.  And what about the kind of books you read?
Person:  Now hold on just a minute!  Stop picking on me!  Iím just as good as some of the rest of those people at church!

God:  Excuse ME.  I thought you were praying for my will to be done.  If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it.  Like you, for example.
Person:  Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups.  Now that you mention it, I could probably name some others.
God:  So could I.
Person:  I havenít thought about it very much until now,  but I really would like to cut out some of those things.  I would like to, you know, be really free.
God:  Good.  Now weíre getting somewhere.  I'm here to help you, I promise.
Person:  And while we're at it, I've prayed for a lot of things, but it seems that my prayers are never answered or even heard!  What's up with that? 
God:  I always hear and answer the Christian's prayer.  However, that answer is not always "yes."  And you might not always like the answer you receive.  Just remember that you are asking for my will to be done, and not yours.  You'll have to trust me and have faith that I know what's best, and place it into my hands.  Remember the old adage, "Let go and let God."  Fair enough? 
Person:  Okay, fair enough.  Look, Lord, if you donít mind, I need to finish up here.  This is taking a lot longer than it usually does...Give us this day, our daily bread.
God:  You need to cut out the bread.  Youíre overweight as it is.
Person:  Hey, wait a minute! What is this?  Here I was doing my religious duty, and all of a sudden you break in and remind me of all my hang-ups.
God:  Praying is, in human terms, a dangerous thing.  You just might get what you ask for.  Remember, you called ME, and here I am.  So don't stop now.  Keep praying (pause)  Well, go on!
Person:  Iím scared to.
God:  Scared? Of what?
Person:  I know what youíll say.
God:  Try me.
Person:  Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  That's the same as sin, right?
God:  Sins, trespasses, debts and debtors, take your pick; they all refer to the same thing.
Person:  That's what I thought.
God:  What about Ann?
Person:  See? I knew it!  I knew you would bring her up!  Why, Lord, sheís told lies about me, spread stories and rumors.  She never paid back the money she owes me.  Iíve sworn to get even with her!
God:  But your prayer.  What about your prayer?
Person:  I didnít...uh...mean it. 
God:  Well, at least youíre honest.  But, itís quite a load carrying around all that bitterness and resentment isnít it?
Person:  Yes, but Iíll feel better as soon as I get even with her.  Boy, have I got some plans for her.  Sheíll wish she had never been born.
God:  No, you wonít feel any better.  Youíll feel worse.  Revenge isnít sweet.  You know how unhappy you are; well, I can help with that.
Person:  You can? How?
God:  Forgive Ann, just as I have forgiven you.  I know it's difficult, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try either.  Her sins and your sins and everybody's sins are the very same sins Jesus carried to the cross so that the gift of forgiveness would be yours.  Forgive her with a spirit of thanksgiving for the forgiveness you have received from me.  
Person:  Oh, I know youíre right.  You always are.   And as much as I want revenge, I want your will to be done in my life even more (sigh).  All right, all right!  I forgive her!
God:  There now!  That's wonderful!  So tell me, how do you feel now?
Person:  Hmmmm.  Well, not bad.  Not bad at all!  In fact, I feel pretty great!  You know, I donít think Iíll go to bed uptight tonight.  I havenít been getting much rest, you know.  I've been way too stressed out lately.
God:  Yeah, I know.  But, youíre not through with your prayer are you?  Go on.
Person:  Oh, all right.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
God:  Good! Good! Iíll do that.  Just donít put yourself in a place where you can be tempted.
Person:  What do you mean by that?
God:  You KNOW what I mean. 
Person:  (sheepishly)  Yeah.  I know.
God:  Okay.  Go ahead.  Finish your prayer.
Person:  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.
God:  Do you know what would bring me glory, what would really make me happy?
Person:  No, but Iíd like to know.  I want to please you now.  Iíve really made a mess of things.  I want to truly follow you.  I can see now how great that would be.  So, tell me, how do I make you happy?
God:  You just did.  Now go and tell others the good news of the blessings, forgiveness, and hope you have received.

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                There are two words in the English language that are used frequently.  Those two words are "objective" and "subjective."  Something that is factual is considered to be objective truth.  For example, we know that the earth is round (or spherical), and it orbits around the sun.  That's a proven fact.  There was a time that people thought the earth was flat and that the sun rotated around it; but even though that's what some people believed, it didn't change the fact that the earth is spherical and orbits around the sun.

                Or we know that under normal conditions water will freeze at zero degrees Celsius, and boil at 100 degrees Celsius.  You can believe whatever you want to, but it doesn't change the boiling point or freezing point of water accordingly.  Those are objective truths.

                On the other hand, something that is subjective can be altered according to what you think or feel.  For example, I dislike the taste of salmon.  I have tried it a variety of different ways, and I still don't like it; I should, but I don't.  But just because I don't like it doesn't mean that everybody else has to dislike it, or that salmon is somehow bad or wrong.  I just don't like it.

                Or my favorite color is blue.  That doesn't mean that this is true for everybody; some like blue, or red, or green, or fuscia, or brown as much as I like blue.  Favorite colors and foods are subjective things, and vary from individual to individual.  Feelings and emotions are subjective too.

                When it comes to Holy Scripture, we have objective truth.  It's factual, and God says what he means.  Every time I preach a sermon and read the text from the Bible, I end it with a minor paraphrase of John 17:17:  "Sanctify us in thy truth, O Lord, thy Word is truth."  That is both a prayer and a statement of fact.  That is objective truth.

                I'll frequently warn people and point out the hazards of trying to make God's truth into something subjective.  We can't be the proverbial judge and jury over what God has said.  He says what he means, and we have to understand that.  Many people have wandered all over the place when they do this, and it winds up in nothing more than a huge moral and theological mess. 

                We need this foundation of truth in order to know what we need to know about God, and what Jesus has done to save us from our sins.  God's grace and love and mercy are objective truths, and he expresses these truths in the Bible.

                So now when I say that we are looking at the most subjective part of Scripture, it seems ironic that I should use that term when I speak of the Bible being objective truth.  To illustrate this, I used that fictitious dialogue between a man and God at the beginning of the sermon.

                Our text begins with the disciples asking Jesus a question.  More accurately, they are asking him for something.  Strangely enough this is the only thing they specifically ask him for.  They don't ask for special powers to heal, or to have eloquent speaking abilities, or any one of many spiritual gifts.  They certainly received these things, but they didn't come to Jesus with special requests for them.

                Their request is simple.  Lord, teach us how to pray.  Teach us how to talk to God, how to properly communicate with him.  Teach us to do it right.  And in response, Jesus gives them the words of what we all know as the Lord's Prayer.

                We know the words, and we use them frequently.  Virtually every worship service includes the Lord's Prayer.  We also use it at meetings, gatherings, and for devotions.  It's always an appropriate prayer.

                And it's amazing how many people know it.  I just conducted a very large funeral this past Monday.  At the cemetery alone, we had well over 50 people there.  The committal service in the Lutheran Agenda includes the Lord's Prayer.  And when it came time for it, the majority of the people knew it by heart.  They didn't have it printed out for them, they just knew it.  It's that common.

                Repeating those words is indeed appropriate, but it goes far beyond that; and here is where the subjective nature comes into play.  The Lord's Prayer is a model prayer, a framework of sorts that we can mould and fashion in any way that suits our individual situations and needs.

                Our prayers are as individual as we are.  In the introduction to the Lord's Prayer "Our Father, who art in heaven," Dr. Luther comments, "With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask their dear father."  Isn't that essentially what Jesus is saying in our Gospel lesson for this morning?

                We can take that prayer and go through it petition by petition and apply it to ourselves individually.  That's the main reason I used that dialogue in the beginning.  The person in that fictitious story had things going on in his life that were unique to him, and that needed to be brought before the Lord in prayer.  That's the subjective nature of this whole prayer subject.

                We can come to God as sinners, "cumbered with a load of care" as the hymn says.  And when we come to the throne of Grace, we have someone who we know hears and answers our prayers.  We come as redeemed souls who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.  We come clinging only to the cross of Jesus our Saviour.  And we know that it is only through faith in him that our prayers are acceptable to God. 

                For the unbeliever, God's words are harsh.  In Isaiah chapter 1, verse 15 God says:  "When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen."   Even if a person rolls out their little rug and prays multiple times a day facing Mecca, or they write their prayers on little scraps of paper and stand at the Wailing Wall, or if they are devout followers of some non-Christian religion, their prayers are nothing more than exercises in futility.  God is very clear on that.

                When we pray as Christians, as believers in Jesus, we have an assurance that nobody else has.  God will indeed hear and answer our prayers.  Sometimes our answer is "yes," sometimes it's "no," and sometimes it's "not yet" or "something better."  That's why we ask that God's will be done in our prayers.

                So use that framework of the Lord's Prayer and make it subjective.  Apply it to your life in whatever way fits your situation.  And pray with boldness and confidence, knowing that your Heavenly Father loves you and cares for you, and he wants to hear your prayer.  He wants you to come to him and talk to him.  He wants you to share your joys and your sorrows with him.  Yes, he's listening.       

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