Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Give Us This Day Our daily Bread




Thus far in the Lord’s Prayer we have been praying for what God wants: His name hallowed, His kingdom growing and advancing, His will being accomplished.  Once we have prayed for all these things, Jesus leads us in a slightly different direction.  He teaches us to pray: “give us this day our daily bread.”

                Daily bread?  Really?  Jesus wants us to pray for food and stuff?  We just got done asking for God to rule and transform the world.  Now we ask for bread?  Does God, who has the eternal salvation of the universe on His shoulders, really have time to care and see to our daily physical needs?

                Yes.  Yes He does.  Your physical needs are important to God because He created them and redeemed them, and He Himself will eternally fulfill them.

                Who created your physical body with all of its needs?  God did.  He made your body to need food, rest, and shelter.  Certainly these needs were much more easily met before the fall into sin, but they were still there.

                And even more firmly establishing the point, Jesus redeemed your body with His resurrection.  Jesus did not rise as a pure spirit, as a body-less phantom.  He rose with feet, with hands, with scars, with a mouth and stomach that consumed a broiled fish.  

                And this is a sure sign that in the resurrection God will continue to fulfill our physical needs.  We do not get resurrected from the dead to ignore our bodies, but to enjoy them as they were first created and intended to be.  

                We can fall into false belief on both sides of this doctrine.  From the first century through today a constant battle has been waged by the Church against two great philosophical foes: Gnosticism and Materialism.  

                Gnosticism, generally speaking, is the teaching that the physical world is of no consequence.  All that matters is the spiritual realm.  So church and prayer, forgiveness and preaching, those things matter.  But food, shelter, and clothing don’t matter at all.

                Materialism is the other extreme.  There is no spiritual world, or at least it has no significance, so just worry about your physical needs, and forget the spiritual.  This is not just the person who cares only for wealth and the accumulation of stuff, but simply the person who gives little or no thought to spiritual matters.

                I think we can see these two false ideas in our prayers.  What we believe is reflected in what we pray.  So when you pray, do you pray as Jesus taught, with God’s name, kingdom, and will up front?  Or do you pray first and foremost for what you want, what you think you need?  

                I can testify that I have certainly been guilty of praying for the health and safety of my own family.  I am very fervent in praying for the health and safety of this congregation.  Those ideas and thoughts come very easy to me.  It takes much more practice to pray for spiritual things, especially for those things that Jesus first teaches.

                I am willing to bet that this is true for you too.  You are more likely to pray for your own physical needs, or the physical needs of your friends and family, than you are to pray for God’s name to be hallowed, for His will to be done.  

So repent.  It is sinful for us to prioritize our prayers in a different way than Jesus teaches us.  Repent of this.  And be forgiven.  The grace of God in Christ removes our sin, the sin of praying wrongly, or praying selfishly.  He covers that with the holy blood of Jesus.

The death and resurrection of Jesus atones for our sins of prayer, whether they are Gnostic or Materialistic.  And His resurrection sets us to thinking aright about how to pray.  Our physical needs are not inconsequential, nor are they primary.  

Trusting in Jesus we can pray for what we need of body and soul, but remember that not all will be fulfilled in this life.  Our physical needs are very pressing and important, yet we know that if they are not met here in time, they will be met in eternity.  This is not the only physical life you have to live.  A far better, far richer one is coming.

By faith we see God at work, providing our daily bread, through various vocations.

Through family God moves parents to provide for their children.  Then, as both age and grow, the rolls often reverse.  Children care for their parents.

Through work God provides income for us to buy what we need for our families, but He also uses those vocations to provide for those in our communities.  The baker does not only make bread for his family, but for all those in town.  The cobbler makes shoes for hundreds of people, not only those of his household.

Through government God establishes peace where people can live and work without fear.  It is much easier to work when you are not being vandalized on the way.  We can raise families when we are not afraid of being bombed or invaded.

Luther, in the Large Catechism, ends his comments on this petition with a warning to those who would stand against Christians, that this petition could turn against them.  Unjust employers and unjust governments beware.  God will provide for His people.  If you find yourself standing in the way of His provision or harming His people, He will crush you for their sake.

God blesses employers and governments in order to provide daily bread for His people.  If they are not going to be doing that, then He will replace them with someone who will.  

By God’s grace our misplaced prayer priorities are forgiven.  Our lives are redeemed, body and soul.  And God promises to provide all that we need to support this body and life.  So we pray boldly as sons, “Give us this day our daily bread.” 

"Thy Will Be Done"



 

Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father in heaven…Thy will be done.  

But what is God’s will?  What does God want?  What are His desires, His purposes, His aims in the world?

This question is especially relevant to those facing major life decisions.  High school seniors ask, “Where does God want me to go to college?”  New graduates ask, “What sort of job does God desire that I seek?”  Who should I marry?  Where should I live?  Should I take this treatment or that treatment?  What choice is the right one, which one is in line with God’s will?

These ideas become very debilitating.  We can begin to be crushed under the weight of constantly trying to divine the will of God from our feelings and thoughts, trying to read all the signs that we think we are seeing.  And what if we make the wrong decision?  What if we are not living in line with God’s will?

God, in His wisdom, makes it very simple for us to know His will.  He reveals it to us.  The Lord does not leave us guessing about what He wants or about what His aims are in the world.  He is very open and forthcoming about all these things in the Scriptures, in His Word.

What does God want you to do with your life?  He wants you to obey the commandments.  That is the will of God for His creation, to love Him above all things and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  When making those big life decisions we can weigh the options against the 10 Commandments. 

Does one of these choices force me to dishonor my parents, cause bodily injury, commit adultery, steal, or lie?  Will this choice place someone or something in the position of a new god in my life?  Those are the questions worth asking and taking to heart.

If the answer is “yes,” then you know what to do.  Do not break the commandment of God.

And if the answer is “no”, if we are not going to be breaking a commandment, then we have freedom.  Go to the college that appeals to you.  Take the job that excites you, or the one that pays well.  Marry your brown-eyed girl.  Live in town close to work.  Take the doctor’s advice. 

Or don’t.  You are not breaking a commandment, so you are not going against God’s will.  You have freedom to make a choice, so use your common sense, your best judgment, and choose.

The other component to God’s will is what we read from Ezekiel.  God desires to forgive repentant sinners, to give life in exchange for death, to plant faith and hope.  He wills that His name would be kept holy and that His kingdom would come.  In other words, God desires our salvation from the punishment that we deserve for going against His will in the commandments.

This will is what Jesus prayed about in the garden of Gethsemane.  God’s will is that Jesus Christ would suffer and die in your place, and that He would rise again to ensure your salvation.  Jesus lived perfectly within the will of God every step of His life, and then He died and rose as God designed, to put that perfect obedience into our account.

From this we see that the will of God is good and gracious.  Life is filled with difficult choices.  Sometimes we make what turns out to be the wrong one.  While God may not be angry with us for it, the decision has made our lives more difficult in this fallen world.  Whether because of our own sins, or the mass of sin that exists all around us, our time in this world is filled with hardships.

This is so prevalent that we may begin to doubt the goodness of God and His will.  What is the point of obedience if it doesn’t gain us anything?  Can we hold on to salvation in the next life when this life is so fraught with chaos and seemingly senseless destruction?

Martin Luther reminds us in the Large Catechism that this is exactly what the devil wants.  This is His very aim.  It is Satan’s will that we doubt the good and gracious will of God.

“Like a furious angry foe he therefore rages and lashes out with all his venomous might, marshals all his underlings, and even enlists the aid of his allies, the world and our own flesh.  For in itself our flesh is indolent and inclined to evil, even when we have accepted the Word of God and believe it; as for the world, it is completely wicked and evil.  The devil enflames these two, blowing and stirring the blaze in an effort to halt us, drive us back, overthrow us, and bring us again into his power.  That is the one thought, desire, and purpose toward which he is straining day and night, resting not a wink and employing all the arts, tricks, means, and methods that he can possibly dream up.  

“We who want to be Christians must certainly expect and be prepared for having the devil, all his evil angels, and the world as our enemies.”

The devil will stop at nothing to keep God’s name from being hallowed.  He will do all that He can to stop the kingdom of God.  He puts all his efforts into dragging you into hell with him.

This is why we pray all the more fervently, “Father…Thy will be done!”  When God keeps His name holy on the tips of our tongues, when He makes His kingdom to advance both in us and through us, then not only is God getting what He wants, but we are also being saved.  

It is God’s good and gracious will to crush the power of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.  And He will do it.  It is His good and gracious will to keep you firm in His Word and faith from now until the day when faith is no longer necessary.  And He will do it.

We have nothing to fear from God’s will.  He has spelled it our clearly for us.  His will is that we would both do good in His name, keeping His commandments; and that we would receive good through His promise of the Gospel.

In Mark 1:40-45 Jesus is approached by a leper.  And the statement made by this man is important for us to hear.  He says, “If you will, you can make me clean.”  This man does not doubt Jesus’ power or ability.  He doubts Jesus’ will.  Does Jesus want to heal me?

Jesus’ response is so short, simple, and wonderful.  “I will; be clean.”  It is not simply that Jesus is “ok” with healing the man.  It is Jesus’ will.  He wants to cure the leper.  And He wants to cure you too.  Jesus has come to cleanse you of your sin, to crush the temptations of the devil, to awaken you to a life that will have no end.  

So we pray boldly as sons, “Father, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.                 

Thy Kingdom Come


 



Jesus teaches us to pray: “Our Father in heaven…Thy kingdom come.”  

                What does it mean for the kingdom of God to come?  To understand this we need to think of the kingdom, not in terms of boundaries or geography, but in terms of a person.

                To the Jews Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is at hand…the kingdom is in your midst.”  How can that be?  When we think of a kingdom we think of geographical boundaries where a certain king has authority to rule.  That is sort of the right idea, you just have to cut out the part about geography.

                God’s kingdom is wherever Jesus is, wherever His Word is taught, wherever the Holy Spirit is present through the work of the Gospel.  So it isn’t about boarders and boundaries.  It is about Jesus and the hearts wherein He creates faith.  

                The kingdom of God is present when one lone Christian sits in the midst of his Muslim neighbors because that one Christian clings to the death and resurrection of Jesus for his salvation.  Where the Word is proclaimed and believed, the Holy Spirit is there.  And where there is the Spirit, there God is reigning. 
  
And our prayer is that this kingdom of God would grow, that it would advance, that it would finally conquer the earth at the return of our Lord Christ.

The kingdom of God grows within us as Christians, both individually and corporately, when we are led to stronger faith and fiercer love.  Christians grow in faith as the Word of God works on their hearts, moving them to repent and believe.  Christian love grows as the Spirit uses the Word to inform our newborn souls of how to live God-pleasing lives.

Although we are Christians, baptized into the name of the Triune God, we still possess an imperfect knowledge of God’s Word, both Law and Gospel.  We begin as infants in faith and love.  We have life to be sure, but that life, just like a baby, needs to grow.  

A good illustration of this is Jesus Christ Himself.  Although He was born perfect in every way, although He had not an ounce of sin within Him, yet He grew in stature and favor with God and man.  He was no more the Son of God at the age of 30 than He was at the age of 3, yet He did grow, and that growth is good.

Christians too grow in Christ.  Our sinful nature still holds fast to idolatry and sin.  We should not fool ourselves into thinking that we have no idols because we are Christians.  Our idols are simply covered in more pious language.  Tradition, relevance, family; we place these on pedestals and set them up as rivals to God.

And God, in His mercy, calls us out.  His Word points out our worship of these false gods, these pious images and ideas, and He moves our hearts to repent.  Then, more gracious still, God forgives us for the sake of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The shed blood of Christ is applied to us so that our idols are torn to pieces and our sins are covered.

That is how a Christian grows in faith.  That is how God’s kingdom comes among us.  The Spirit of God calls us to repentance and faith through Law and Gospel.  The Spirit brings Christ into our midst in Word and Sacrament to forgive, renew, and lead us.

And where the Spirit leads us is out into the world, spreading God’s kingdom to other people and in other places.  The kingdom of heaven spreads out, not by conquering territory, but by conquering hearts.  That happens through what we usually call “missions and evangelism”.  

Of course missions can happen in faraway lands, amongst strange customs and languages.  The Lutheran Church has missionaries deployed across the globe.  Our congregation specifically has partnered with Rev Joel Fritsche as he goes to the Dominican Republic spreading the Gospel and planting churches.

This can happen, however, closer to home, in your own back yard.  Just as the Spirit has had His way with you, convicting you of false worship and leading you to repentance, so the Spirit will do the same through you to other people.

As you live a godly life, and take a stand for God’s Law in word and deed, the Spirit will convict the people around you of their sins.  And when you open your mouth, telling them all that Jesus has done, His death and resurrection, the Spirit will move them to trust Jesus, to come alive by faith in Jesus.

And this will prove to be the constant struggle of the Church.  From the day of His ascension until the day of His return, the people of God are striving to grow in faith and love.  They are striving to spread the kingdom to the ends of the earth.  By the power of the Holy Spirit it is happening in our lives, in our churches, and beyond.

Yet the day will come when the kingdom of God will spread across the globe in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye.  And for that day we earnestly pray as well.  Jesus Christ will reveal Himself to be the rightful King of the Universe, the undisputed ruler of heaven and earth.  He will raise the dead, separate believers from unbelievers, take the righteous by faith to Himself and cast the unrighteous by unbelief into hell.  The kingdom will have come in full.

You see that we pray for no small thing when we say those simple words: “Thy kingdom come!”  We are asking for an increase of faith, love, and life.  We plead, not merely for earthly riches, but for heavenly and eternal treasures.  We are praying for resurrection from death and life everlasting.

And God promises to give it.  He will not deny this prayer.  On our own we might doubt, but not in Christ.  Baptized into Jesus, covered with His blood, united into His family, we pray boldly as sons: “Thy kingdom come, now and forever!”