Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sermon for 5/17/2020: Sixth Sunday of Easter

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God Hears and Answers

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

Our culture is big on hope, but short on belief. There is paganism and at least a touch of superstition dwelling in our hearts that still thinks dancing around the fire and peering into tea leaves has power. The popular opinion is that anything is possible; reality shouldn’t get in the way. Believe what you want about cancer, the moon landing, or 9/11, but nothing should be held rigidly; certainly nothing should be held to the exclusion of other opinions. We deny absolute truth, and gone with it is the concept of reality.
So it is that, when we find ourselves in a crisis, we are sorely tempted to call together all the religious leaders of the world and have them pray to the pantheon of gods. Just this week Pope Francis, the so-called vicar of Christ, called upon people of all religions to come together spiritually during this pandemic. We behave like a patient diagnosed with a terminal disease, going from one guru to the next, hanging on the words of every wacko in the vague hope of a cure. Maybe we are hoping that the gods would cooperate like comic book heroes. Prayer in such a context, even if the words are used, is not prayer in the name of Jesus. Jesus will not share the stage.
The One who hears His people’s prayers is our God by grace. He has made us His people. He is everyone’s God. It is just that everyone does not know it. In the end they will. Every knee shall bow and every tongue in Hell shall confess that Jesus is Lord. To pray to the Father through the Spirit in the name of Jesus is to confess that Jesus is Lord. That confession cannot stand alongside the rabbis who hold that Jesus is the deceased bastard son of a Nazarene peasant who was executed as a criminal. It cannot stand the idea that Jesus is merely a misunderstood prophet of Allah who did not make atonement for the world. Prayer in the name of Jesus cannot stand with witch doctors and shamans and druids. Prayer in the name of Jesus must condemn those demonic lies.
Jesus is the real God. He will tolerate no pretenders. The One who gave His life to make us His is the One who hears and answers our prayers. God is not like us; His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. He is good; His mercy endures forever. God’s will is always done, and it is always good. And even when it seems bad—even when the Father does not remove the cup of wrath from His Son, even when it means we suffer shame and hatred from the world—we will see that the will of God is always perfect. What we receive is what God’s children need.
Jesus tells His people to pray. You do not need to form the perfect request. Even before you ask, your Father knows what you need. You are not standing before an angry God, for Jesus has reconciled God and man with His blood. For the sake of Jesus, our Father welcomes your petitions. Through Christ, His Father is your Father, and your Father loves you. Nor must you seek vague signs in nature and wonder if, when the phone rings or the dog barks, it is a specific answer to prayer. God provides, not because you pray, but because He loves you. You do not pray to manipulate Him; you pray because that is what faith does. You call upon God because He will give you all things, and you know that somehow, in the end, it will be good.
You are not alone in prayer. God speaks to you in His Word. With that holy and inerrant Word, prayer is not a one-way conversation. In the Bible, God reveals His will for you. He exposes His loving mercy and kindness. This God of grace answers your prayers. He provides friends, family, food, and all things. But most significantly, He who provided the ram in the thicket so that Isaac would go free—He has provided His Son as a perfect sacrifice in your place, and He delivers that same Son to you in His body and blood. By His Word, He provides. He forgives. He renews. He strengthens and encourages. He hears and He answers. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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