Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sermon for 5/29/11--Rogate: Sixth Sunday of Easter

Ask in My Name

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

It was the year of our Lord 466. Throughout Europe a series of earthquakes and other natural disasters afflicted the entire continent, and the people were terrified. Bishop Claudius of Vienna, Austria, decreed that the weekdays between the Sixth Sunday of Easter and the Festival of the Ascension should be days when the sufferings of the people should be brought before God in prayer. In particular, prayer was lifted to God for the sake of the crops and all those things that were necessary for the life of man. This eventually became the custom in other places, so that by the end of the sixth century it was a consistent practice among the churches in Europe. And so, this Sunday before the Ascension of our Lord has come to be known as Rogate Sunday, drawn from the Latin word meaning “to pray.” The days of this week that lead up to the celebration of the Ascension are called the “days of rogation,” the days of prayer.

Prayer should be at the very heart of the Christian life. That is what St. Paul meant by his admonition to the Thessalonians: “Pray without ceasing.” Prayer is as vital to the life of the soul as breathing is to the life of the body. Just as you cannot live by taking a breath only now and then, so your souls cannot live by praying only occasionally. Prayer is to be practiced persistently. But if prayer really is that important, why do you tend to be casual or even indifferent about prayer? When the path before you seems smooth, when the way ahead seems to be clear of obstacles, it’s easy to feel self-sufficient. But when those clouds of adversity begin to gather on the horizon, it is only then that you turn to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that our Savior holds out this wonderful promise: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

It seems at times that God waits a long time before answering prayers. He even appears, at times, to be unwilling to help. And that leads to impatience and desperation. You pray, and then you pray again, and yet God seems not to be listening. Why? There are things to learn in your praying. He wants to teach you persistence, to keep on praying. He also wants you to know that you can depend on Him. He wants to have you say to Him, “Lord, You must help me. You are the only One to whom I can go. You can do all things. You are faithful and have promised to help all who call on You in faith and who trust in You. You cannot and You will not fail me.”

And more than that, you have the promise of God that, when you pray in Jesus’ name, you will be heard. “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” This is the promise of the eternal, faithful God, and no promise of His can ever fail. And yet it’s so easy to say, “God does not always answer my prayers.” It may well be true that God has not answered your prayers in accordance with your timing. That being said, God does not give His children anything that might prove harmful to them, and He must be the judge of what is good. Those things which seem most desirable and beneficial often may prove the most hurtful in the end. You parents know how it is, or has been, with your children. Just because a toddler might like to wander around the house carrying a sharp knife doesn’t mean you're going to permit it. And yet, you sometimes pray for things that would be just as harmful to your souls and bodies. God is not a careless, indulgent father who gives everything his children ask for. You may ask for riches, or for health, or for the removal of your cares. But how often do you consider that to receive those things might actually lead you away from the things of the Spirit, those things that keep you close to God? Never forget that God in His great mercy sends us certain crosses to bear and then delays in removing them, because that is the way by which we are drawn ever closer to Him and kept on the paths of righteousness. That is how spiritual insight is deepened. That is how faith increases.

Remember our dear Lord Jesus Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed that the cup of suffering He was about to drink be removed, if it were possible. But if that cup had passed from Jesus, your redemption would not have been accomplished. Do you see the wisdom of the Father in sometimes not answering our prayers as we would wish them answered? This is the wondrous certainty that is attached to prayer. Everything that you ask of God in faith you shall receive—or something even better.

And when you seek those great blessings of the soul, you know that it is the will of the Father to answer those prayers. When you ask for the remission of sins, for peace for your soul and conscience, for the strength to lead a God-pleasing life, for spiritual strength and courage to meet life’s battles, and for consolation in the hour of death, these things are yours for the asking. He gives them freely: in the water at the font of Holy Baptism, in the bread and wine at His holy table, and spoken from the pastor as by Christ Himself. These things are the outpouring of the Father’s love for you. And so, with His disciples you confess: “Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.” Asking, you shall receive; and receiving, your joy shall be made full. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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