Friday, March 01, 2013

Sermon for 2/27/13--Midweek 2 (Catechism Series)

He Is Our True Father (The Lord's Prayer)

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

What do you mean when you say, “Amen?”  The Small Catechism reminds us that “Amen” means, “Yes, yes, it shall be so.”  In the book of Revelation Jesus identifies Himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”  The opening words of our text, which come out as “Most assuredly I say to you,” are actually “Amen, Amen” in the Greek.  In other words, Jesus anchors our praying in Himself, for He alone is the AMEN of God, the Truth.  In fact, He says of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” This means we do not pray as people who don’t know anything about God.  Instead we pray as those who have already been given the Answer, the Amen; for we have been given the Savior, Jesus Christ.

The disciples had been given the Savior, but they had a lot of questions on the night before Jesus was crucified.  Look at their situation.  The Lord had been speaking to them in figurative language, and they were confused.  He had called Himself the Shepherd, the Door, the Vine.  He spoke of rejection and of going away.  The disciples had a hard time getting it through their thick skull that “going away” meant going to the Father by way of the cross.  For the moment, the Lord’s language seemed to be self-contradictory.  Why would the Lord of life go to death?

The disciples had their questions, and so do we.  “Where if my life going?”  Confronted with blind alleys, we wonder if the Lord really does hold our little lives in His hands.  Even our prayers sometimes seem to be more of an exercise in futility than in faith.  We end up measuring the Lord’s Word, and then we get frustrated because we think that God has let us down.  Look closely at the disciples, for in them, we can see ourselves!

To answer our doubts, the Lord Jesus Christ shows Himself to be the Amen, the very Answer of God. Jesus came from the Father into our flesh to be our Savior.  He is God’s answer to our sin.  We must not take that for granted, as though God were under some obligation to forgive us.  He did not “owe” us the forgiveness of sins.  In fact, we deserved His eternal judgment.  Our sins made us worthy of everlasting hell and God’s eternal wrath.  But God in His mercy—as a true Father to His true children—sent His Son to bear our sin in His own body on the cross, to die for our sin as though it belonged to Him.  Jesus comes into the world to carry us back to His Father as redeemed brothers and sisters, as those who were dead in sin but are now alive to God.  He does that by going to the cross as our Savior.

This doesn’t make sense to the mind of the old Adam in us.  The rationality of the old Adam is always the rationality of the Law, namely, that you pay what you owe.  That’s the mind of the old Adam, but it is not the mind of God.  Listen to what God says through Isaiah:  “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,’ says the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”  In the economy of God, His Son, our brother, dies in our place to pay our debt.  In Him we have God’s answer to our sin, our death, and the damnation we deserve.

Because we have been given that answer, we pray to our Father in the name of Jesus.  There is salvation in no other name than the name of Jesus.  In His Holy Name, we are given all of the blessings He won for us on the cross: forgiveness, life, and salvation.  His is the name that opens the door of heaven.  His is the name that was given us with the water and the Word in Holy Baptism.  His is the name that you confessed in the Creed.  Where the Lord causes His name to dwell, He is there to bless.  In the Old Testament God told Moses, “Thus you will put my name on the people and I will bless them.”  God’s name is hallowed in our midst when we teach His Word in its truth and purity, and lead a holy life according to it.

To pray in the name of Jesus is to trust in that name.  Everything that the Lord has put in His name, He has put there for you and promises to give to you.  Therefore He says, “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”  To ask the Father in the name of Jesus means that our prayers are shaped by His name and His Word.  To pray in the name of Jesus means that we are trusting that name and whatever God has put in that name for us: namely, the forgiveness of sins; peace in the midst of tribulation; courage in the midst of the chaos of this world; life in the midst of death.

Everything that is in the Lord’s name is unpacked for us in His Word.  Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world.”  It is through His Word that the Lord bestows on us His peace that passes all understanding.  It is through His Word that the Lord keeps us for life everlasting.  And it will be by the power of His mighty Word that He will raise our bodies from the dust to live with Him forever.

Even now the life that we live by faith is a life that is given power from that Word.  His Word is the power behind our praying.  His Word does indeed open our minds and hearts to see how great is the Father’s generosity toward us sinners in giving His Son to be our Savior.  His Word gives us the confidence to pray in the name of Jesus, knowing that our Father hears and answers our supplications—not according to our own will, but according to His good and gracious will.  His Word gives us the power to say, “Lord, teach us to pray!”  And this prayer, like all others, is graciously answered by our true Father through His Son.  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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