Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sermon for 5/1/16: Sixth Sunday of Easter

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Whatever You Ask

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

“Ask anything.” That's what we hear Jesus saying in today's Gospel. “Ask anything of the Father in My Name and you'll get it.” And so our mind races to think of the many “anythings” we want. And nearly all the “anythings” are things that we are sure will make our life easier, better, smoother. Or they're things that will help others—or help us all. But then comes doubt. After all, how many times have we asked for something? How many times have we prayed and begged God to give us the things we know will help us, and yet God has turned a deaf ear. We haven’t received a single one of them. And so we're not so sure about our Lord’s “ask anything” policy. We count it as just one more exaggeration: God speaks like us, overstating His promises to get our attention or make a point. And then we point to St. Paul. He didn't ask just anything. Three times he pleaded with the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh”—the ailment or temptation or weakness that afflicted him. Yet even this great apostle didn't get what he wanted. Instead, we hear Jesus tell him, “Live with it. Deal with it.” Oh, He makes it sound prettier: My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. That’s the same answer we always seem to get. So much for “ask anything.”

But “Whatever you ask the Father in My name” doesn't mean to ask for the things you're sure are best for you. Neither does it mean, “Ask for anything you like.” For the things we like, the things we're certain we need—those are often things that gratify our passions and serve our selfish desires. Or they're things that will soon fade or be consumed, and so we're back asking again. The problem is that our field of vision, our field of faith and prayer, is too small. Our concerns are all too often centered on the things in this life—the things Jesus told us not to fret about—and so our prayers are not really prayers, but worrying and complaining expressed as desires. Do you really think that when Jesus taught us to say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” He was only talking about bread or food? And do you really believe that when you say, “Forgive us our trespasses,” you're only referring to the things you know you did yesterday or last week or a few years ago? And does “deliver us from evil” only mean that we hope we don't get in an accident, or that no one hurts us?

When Our Blessed Lord Jesus says, “Whatever you ask,” the “whatever” is not about the things that bring you pleasure now, but the Thing that will increase your joy both now and forever. The “whatever” and the “anything” our Jesus urges you to ask for is the “whatever” and “anything” that lets the Lord bless you in spite of yourself, have mercy on even though you constantly do your own thing, and pull you through sickness and death even though you are dust and should return to dust.

So the “whatever you ask” is not aimed at the “anythings” that will make life easier now. “Whatever you ask” is aimed at the one thing needful that hauls you through this life to the life of the world to come. So when Jesus says “whatever you ask,” He is really urging you to ask for the Holy Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit who gives you the faith to see past today's fears and sicknesses. And it is the Spirit who gives you the faith to look beyond now, to yearn for the true and perfect gifts of God. And it is the Spirit who teaches you to see not the little things in life, but Jesus, who is Life Himself. And it's the Spirit who brings to your remembrance that everything you've been through, everything that keeps you back, everything that frustrates you—all of that works together for good. But most of all, it is the Holy Spirit who gives you the courage and the desire to ask the Father anything in Jesus' name.

When you ask, the Holy Spirit also helps you see and believe that all your asking, all your praying, all your true godly desires, come not from the many “anythings” your sinful Adam desires, but from the one thing needful that is concentrated and unfailingly given at this holy altar. For from this altar you receive the mercy, the forgiveness, the strength, the compassion, the grace, and the life of God Himself inseparably resident in the flesh and blood of His Son. The Holy Spirit shows this to you—to your heart and mind. And so the greatest “anything” we ask of Our Father is that He would send down His Holy Spirit upon us and upon His gifts of bread and wine so that He might bless them and hallow them and show that the bread is the precious Body of Christ, and the wine is the precious Blood of Christ which was shed for the life and forgiveness of the world.

All this is yours for the asking when you look beyond what you want and ask your Father for your salvation. All this is yours, because you asked the Father for the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ Our Lord. 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 keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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