Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sermon for 5/10/15: Easter VI

I apologize for the delay in posting this. My computer is still down, and so there will be no audio recording posted. I hope to have the computer back soon.

Whatever You Ask

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

What do you want? What do you lack that would make you happy? And if you had it, would you really be content? “Whatever you ask,” says our Lord. Of course, what we want is often far removed from what we need. Earthly desires capture our hearts, and our eyes become fixed on material things. Our anxious minds and grumbling mouths betray our failure to trust God to supply all those things that we need. That was how it was with the children of Israel. They were discouraged. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” They did not trust God. They did not appreciate the gifts He had given them.  
Today we are urged to pray. But what is prayer? Prayer is listening speech. You probably haven’t heard it described that way before, but that’s what it is. In other words, we don’t just begin to pray, but like a child who learns to speak by listening to its parents, we listen first. The Lord has His say first; we listen to Him speak to us in His Word before we respond to Him in prayer. And when we listen first to the Lord, the first thing we learn is that we are sinners. Because of that, prayer begins with confession, just as it did for the children of Israel. They said to Moses: “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you.”
Like those children of Israel, we have a tendency to be careless about this: to ignore prayer, to wallow in self-pity and impenitence. That is one reason why the Lord allows tribulation to come to us: that we might be called back to Him, turning our hearts from hardness to repentance. Tribulation and affliction is the Lord’s instrument to turn us back to Him. I know that many of you have afflictions of various kinds. No one else may know them, but the Lord knows them. He knows the conflicts you have in your family; He knows your problems at work; He knows your loneliness and your ailing body; He knows the sins you struggle with and the sins you should be struggling against. He knows how you despair over such things. Too often we respond with regret and shame, when we should see this as an invitation from God to call upon Him out of the depth of our troubles. In this way, the very things that plague and afflict us will cause the Lord to draw us to Himself, leading us where true joy is found: in Christ's victory over the world. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
When Jesus invites us to pray to the Father in His name, that means the invitation to pray is based upon His cross, His atonement for sin, His redeeming work, His victory over death, the world, and our sin. The words “in the name of Jesus” are not an incantation that promises some divine magic. They mean that we have access to the Father in heaven, and that He hears our prayers because of what His Son has accomplished for us. Saying His name without faith means nothing. But what that name stands for--His redeeming work--that means everything!
So what do you want? Our Lord says: “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Ask for those things that help you in your life as a disciple of Christ and a child of God. If you ask for something that hinders your salvation, if you ask for something that keeps you from leading a God-pleasing life, then you have not really asked in the name of Jesus, no matter what words you have used. The name of Jesus is not a formula that guarantees an answer to prayer. Rather, the name of Jesus is that righteousness that stands outside yourself, righteousness by which we ask for and receive life, forgiveness, salvation, and everlasting joy.  
Ask the Father to have the righteousness of Christ be for you and in you. “Ask anything,” He says. Let us ask, then, for what His Word says. Let us seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, gifts He is glad to give us. And in addition to those holy gifts, He will even provide all that we need for this body and life. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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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