Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sermon for 3/26/14--Midweek of Lent III (midweek series)



Wanting What God Wants
Mark 14:32-36/Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

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

How do you pray the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer? “God, I wanted things my way, but it’s obvious that they are not turning out that way. So I’ll turn them over to You, because Your will has more power than mine and will probably have its way anyhow.” Is it our Lord’s intention that you and I should come out of prayer to Him with a futile, fatalistic attitude? Is this what Jesus had in mind when He taught His disciples to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"? Is that what it meant when Jesus bowed submissively before His Father and said, “Not My will, but Yours be done”?

 As we look in at this crucial moment of human history, we see eleven men waiting somewhat impatiently in the background. Only a stone’s throw away is Jesus, the Son of God. He has dropped to His knees; He falls on His face in prayer. He who taught His disciples to pray, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” not only prayed exactly as He taught, but also carried out the will of His Father. And in doing so, He not only gained new life for us but also this same privilege of prayer.
Jesus prayed alone. He had invited His ablest and strongest disciples to pray with Him, but they could only sleep while the battle for the salvation of the world was being won. Alone, He prays, “Remove this cup from Me; yet, not what I will, but what You will.” Wave after wave, the agony of His inner torment swept over Him as He prayed those same words again and again. As St. Luke tells us: “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” The Son of God was ready and willing to die, and yet He is afraid of death? How can this be?

As we look into that “cup” held to His lips a bit more closely, we see that it contains more than the bitterness of physical death. That cup is full of the world’s sins. It holds the sins of His sleeping disciples, the treachery of Judas, the mocking of the crowds. Look deeper into that cup and you will find also your sins and mine. You will see our lips that have denied and even cursed Him, our thankless hearts, and our hands and hearts tightly closed against His commands and the needs of others. Who would ever want to drink such a cup? Yet, in the face of all of this, Jesus prays that if it this is the only way by which the world can be redeemed, then He is ready to do so. And then, “…there appeared to Him an angel from heaven strengthening Him.” This was the father’s answer. Our Savior got to His feet, strengthened by that angel, ready now to do the Father’s will. The “cup” actually looked sweet now, because His will and the Father’s were blended in it. He was at peace. The Father’s will was unmistakable, and His strength was unfailing. Heaven’s will has come to be done on this earth. The perversion of that will, which was part of the first sin, has been answered and redeemed in Christ, who prays perfectly, “Father…Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

But, this is our prayer, too. How is it possible that we could presume to pray such a prayer? Recall how Luther described this in the Catechism, when he answered the question, How is this done? He said: “When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow God’s name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh; but strengthens and preserves us steadfast in His Word and faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will.” When you look at people, externally one really looks like another. They are all flesh and blood, and all are tormented by wills that want what they want, when they want it. But with the gift of saving faith comes also the ability to see beyond the desires of the flesh. And that is what makes a Christian altogether different; simply and only because Jesus has made them that way. As children of the heavenly Father we are no longer fighting a losing battle against the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh; Jesus has conquered these for us. And we know it. We need but ask, and the Father gives!

And so, when we pray, we are not just mumbling empty words, but words that can move mountains, because they are words that Jesus also prayed. When we pray, “Father, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” what we are really praying is this: “Father we really do want what You want; help us evermore to want it.” When our will has been blended in with the will of the Father, then we are living a life of obedience to the will of God. And we will not pray this prayer in defeat, nor with a whimper, but will announce it as a veritable declaration of war, asking the Father that every will that opposes God’s will on earth will be triumphantly defeated. To pray this petition, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…,” is truly wanting what God wants. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

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