This sermon was preached by Rev. Mark T. Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston, MA on July 24
1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." 2 He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial." 5 And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' 7 And he answers from within, "Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9 "So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
Over my life, I’ve spent quite a few hours on driving ranges at a wide variety of golf courses. I must admit, that in addition to getting some practice in, it can also be a good place to people watch, or more appropriately, people listen. I often overhear one person trying to teach another to golf, a person mind you, that has no business giving such a lesson.
For example, an extreme example, I once was on the range at a course in Rochester, Minnesota, when a young girl, probably 11 or 12, and what must have been her grandparents show up. I’m sure the grandparents were very well-intentioned, and thought golf would be a great activity to share with their granddaughter….and it would be. But after about 10 minutes of trying to hit a golf ball, and the grandparents giving her about 7500 different instructions, this girl was standing over her ball frustrated and in tears, and I would guess her life on the links was over before it started. This was certainly not the way to introduce someone to golf.
This had been a demonstration in how not to teach.
Recently, for the second year in a row, I’ve been taking Charlie to swimming lessons, at Lake Winthrop. Now, teaching someone to swim is a little different than teaching someone to golf. This young girl may have had a promising golf career someday, but the poor teaching she received probably didn’t do a lot of harm. On the other hand, teaching someone to swim bears with it a much greater deal of responsibility, as you have that person’s life in your hands. As a parent, you certainly want the person who is teaching your child to be trustworthy. As for the people teaching Charlie, I don’t personally know them, but the red swimming suits and other items of clothing that say Lifeguard, are a reassurance to me that these young people have been trained, and are responsible enough to grasp the importance of what they are doing. In other words, I trust them.
The main thing that these lifeguards have to teach the children is not a set of skills or certain strokes, but first and foremost, it is in getting them to feel comfortable in the water, to trust that by and large, their bodies will float and they will not drown. The ability of the children to swim goes up the more that their trust grows, and the more that they are able to let-go of keeping their feet on the ground and start to float. These lessons are very important for children,not only so that they can enjoy the water, but so that they can learn to be safe in it, especially as they grow and become more independent, and out of the eye of watchful parents.
It's easy to see the trust that’s needed to swim from these children as they learn. You watch them as they try to float on their backs, supported by the lifeguard or a kickboard, you see them actually float for a moment or two, and then when they realize the strange feeling, the loss of control, the uncertainty of not touching the bottom; they begin to flail and put their feet back into a position they are used to. Thankfully, these lessons are learned in the shallow places, where the children can touch the bottom while keeping their heads above water, otherwise, even more, dangerous panic would incur.
Learning to trust, to be comfortable in the water, is the basic foundation to swimming, and then learning to enjoy the water more and more. The whole process takes trust. Trust in the lifeguard, trust in the water, and trust in one’s self.
This morning, we read from Luke’s Gospel, about a disciple, who approaches Jesus because he had seen him praying. This is a disciple who trusted in what he saw, that Jesus in deed knew how to pray, and more importantly, he trusted in Jesus as his disciple, as one who’d followed him around, who knew him, and learned from him. This disciple said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus responds to the disciple not by charging him a couple of bucks, or by rolling out a certificate of his prayer credentials…Jesus Christ: Son of God, #1 Prayer…no, Jesus just teaches them how to pray. Jesus teaches them the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus simply hands over this gift, this prayer that he has.
To this day, Jesus also gives us this gift, the gift of the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer that Jesus continues to teach us isn’t about some sort of skill set, nor is it a group of magic words. It’s not a way of asking God and then getting anything we want. What Jesus hands over to us in this prayer is the gift of trust. Trust in God, trust in the Son of God, trust in the relationship that God has with all things.
The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples and gives to us, disciples ourselves, is gift given to us so that we may grasp ahold to the promises that our God gives to us.
It is given to us so that we can grasp on to the promise that the Lord is GOOD, that the Lord’s name will forever be holy, or hallowed; that we can depend upon it.
We are given this prayer to grasp onto the promise that our Lord’s Kingdom, the Heavenly Kingdom, has been established and given to us and is with us right here and now; and this Kingdom cannot be taken away from us.
We are given this prayer so that we can grasp on to the promise that God does indeed give us our daily bread. Furthermore, as we say this prayer and hold onto this promise, we are shown an image of what is wrong with us as humans. For, if the Lord has given us this abundance, as we proclaim and put our trust in, then we are challenged to see that the hunger and poverty in this world are not God’s doing but ours. We are confronted with the fact that not everyone has been given their daily bread, because some of us, ourselves included, have much more than we need or could even use.
We grasp onto the promise of this prayer, we learn to trust in its words and to trust in God, and the goodness of God by holding firm to the promise of God’s forgiveness, just as we have forgiven others. We are enriched by this promise, constantly seeing how this forgiveness of each other, this forgiveness of God, this grace, and nothing else, is what gives us life and holds us together.
Jesus has given us this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, to grasp on to these promises, and to grasp on most fully to the promise of God’s goodness. The promise that God didn’t give us this life to challenge us, to make things hard on us; to cause bad things to happen or to perhaps see how good we can be before we win God’s approval. God didn’t give us this life as a trial. Instead, God gave us this life as one to enjoy, and to be lived in relationship, life giving relationship, with God and with each other.
Jesus gave his disciples this prayer, this prayer of trust, and he most surely gives it to us today.
The life of faith, the one that we pray for, is a life kind of like swimming in water, baptismal water perhaps. It is a life that is about letting go, so that we can float, and rely on God’s grace to carry us. So that we may learn how to trust and move in those waters. And we do this trusting in the sure promise of Jesus. The sure promise of his life broken and poured out for, the sure promise of his love rescuing us time and time again. The sure promise of his salvation, from the sin and death that overwhelm and drowns us, the promise of his salvation when we get into those dark waters by accident, or being careless, or just by being destructive. Jesus saves us, he brings us back to the waters of faith, and helps us to swim freely in them, where the goodness of God gives us life without end.
2016 is our year of prayer here at CtK, and we have Jesus continuing to teach us how to pray, and that prayer continues to be the same. So far, a little over half way through this year, I haven’t received any great step-by-step guides to what happens next. There is still plenty of violence and tragedy going on in the word. Yet, my faith, my trust; and I believe our trust continues to grow. It has grown not necessarily in what we can do, but in learning to let go of our own control, and allowing Jesus to be the one that holds us up and together, the one to give us his grace, the one who gives us his life, the one who gives us an abundance.
May our prayers continue to help us to trust in Jesus, and the waters of faith he gives to us; so much so that we invite others to these waters, with our lives, our words, and our deeds. May God continue to hold us, comfort us, and call us to learn to trust in him, and his promise.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,