Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sermon for 3/5/14--Ash Wednesday (midweek series)



For Children Only
Mark 14:32-36/Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer

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

Prayer is not our idea; it is God’s. It is not left to our discretion whether or not we shall pray. God expects us to pray, and has reinforced this expectation with a number of non-debatable commands. Jesus told His disciples, “Pray like this…” and then promptly gave the Lord’s Prayer. After giving that prayer, he said: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Or what else can we possibly make of a directive such as this, from the Psalms: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble”? Prayer, then, is an act of Christian obedience; and that means work—hard work.

But prayer is also a privilege. Who would have ever thought of calling God Father, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer, if the Son of God had not told us to do so and shown us how? No believer in the Old Testament would dare address God with such bold familiarity. But Jesus did! And He has given us the privilege to do the same. Here we have the real connection between the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Passion. It is at Gethsemane that we see the most unusual way of addressing God, as we watch the Son of God wrestling in prayer, in a cold and bloody sweat, saying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to You.” The privilege of praying “Abba, Father” is for children only.

It was as normal and natural for Jesus, the Son of God, to address God as “Abba” as it is for a typical child today to address his father as “dad.” He is exactly what He claims, and as we confess Him to be “true God, begotten of the Father from eternity.” At both the Baptism and Transfiguration of Jesus, God the Father announced, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be: the true Son of God; and God is His heavenly Father. So when He prayed, He spoke with God as a child speaks with his father; simply, intimately, securely, childlike in manner. And enclosed in that word was Jesus’ claim also that He had been sent from the Father. He spoke that word with perfect, childlike confidence, as evidenced by His prayer in the garden, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.

Take a good, close look at the faith of Jesus in His Gethsemane prayer and His complete willingness to bow to His Father’s will. In great need, groaning under the burden of the sins of the world, He still believed with all His heart that the Father would deliver Him. In this time of His greatest temptation, He prays to be delivered, yet He trusts the Father’s judgment and submits to His father’s will. By comparison, we often shrink from doing the will of God. We wiggle and squirm and try to find a way out, though we know we cannot avoid it, no matter how hard we try. Jesus, the almighty Son of God, with all power at His command, could have easily escaped all this torture, but He would not, and did not. What He did, He did willingly for us. He perfectly fulfilled the will and Law of God for us. This prayer in the Garden is part of His willing obedience.

He had commanded His disciples, “Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven…” But we have not always heeded that direction to pray as we know we should. And so, as He prays in the Garden, Jesus takes upon Himself our indifference, pride, stubbornness, doubt, and failure. In the Garden, Jesus prayed in our place, and offered His perfect prayer to God for us. He became like a child in our stead, and in complete obedience and submission, called upon His Father. He made for us that great confession of complete faith and confidence, “Father, all things are possible with You.” He prayed that prayer for us, as He offered His life to God in our place, to atone for our sins, among them being the sin of not praying as we should.

And now prayer is our privilege; it is for us to use. Think of the honor that has been given us. Every time we say, “Our Father…” we are praying together with Jesus and with the rest of God’s family, the Church, from every time and every place. Even when we are praying alone, we are never praying in isolation. We and all believers in Christ pray with Him and with one another. We can pray with that same familiarity that Jesus used, with all boldness and confidence, asking just as He did, as dear children ask their dear Father, knowing that we share the Father’s love in Jesus Christ.

What a privilege we have as children of the heavenly Father! Calling upon the Father is a privilege only for children. Even if we proceed no further than those words that address our Father, even if we do nothing more than say in faith, from the bottom of our heart, “Dearest Father,” the most important thing has already happened. We are united with our Father in Jesus Christ, and all that He has is ours. Our prayer is heard and answered. 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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