Pastor’s Post for the week of July 24th!
A PASTOR’S POST: ABOUT PRAYER
Dear friends in Christ:
This Sunday, July 24, 2016, is the 10th Sunday after Pentecost. Two of the three Bible readings we have address the issue of prayer.
In the first reading (Genesis 18) we have Abraham and God seeming to barter over whether or not God will annihilate the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of “the outcry that has come before him” if some righteous people are found there. Abraham asks if God will “sweep away the righteous with the wicked.” Abraham doesn’t argue with God about how wicked Sodom is. His question is a kind “what if?” “What if” there are 50, then 45, then 40 and on until “what if” there are five righteous persons in Sodom. God tells Abraham that He will not destroy Sodom even if only five righteous are found. As the story unfold in the next chapter not even five are found, only four in fact, and the two cities are annihilated in God’s righteous judgment.
When people talk about God’s supposed role in disasters, whether natural or human in origin, I think we sometimes ask the wrong questions. We want to know if God is being “fair?” The answer of course is, thankfully, no. God is not fair. If God were fair we would all end up like Sodom and Gomorrah.
There is no upside in disobeying God. While a part we know this, yet we are disobedient any way. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I suppose if God would have “cut to the chase” with Abraham he would have come straight out and said, “Well, Abe, there just aren’t any righteous people…not in Sodom or anywhere else.”
As soon as we start thinking that stories about God’s judgment are about other people, we are on dangerous ground. God’s Law is first of all a mirror of our own souls. We are sinners one and all, and it’s not about whether God is fair, but whether there are any righteous folks. The Biblical answer is, “no.”
The only reason we all don’t end up like Sodom is because God is not merely just, but also merciful. Not only righteous and holy but also gracious and kind. In the episode from Genesis 18 it should be obvious that whatever was on old Abe’s mind, God was ready to listen. And that we have a God who listens is a sign of God’s mercy.
The Gospel reading for this Sunday is the familiar Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Luke 11 (also found in Matthew 6). In Luke Jesus is asked by his disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” His response is the prayer we have come to know as they Lord’s Prayer and that is a part of the worship of every Christian church. I think this says two things. First it says that we should always be asking our Lord to “teach us how to pray,” not as if there are right or wrong words to use, not as if there are right or wrongs things for which to ask God’s help and favor, but rather that we have a right attitude toward God when we pray. This is where the Lord’s Prayer is priceless. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus invites us to understand that we should pray as part of a faith family. Notice it is “our” Father, not “my” Father. Second He invites us to pray in the knowledge that we are, like He is, God’s beloved sons and daughters. Whether or not we had great parents we still understand the concept of a loving mother or father. We know what it is to be valued, accepted, encouraged, forgiven, and yes, even disciplined. We know what it is to be loved, and to be loved by God is God’s greatest gift of mercy.
If you have a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism, a good way to prepare for worship this Sunday is to review what Luther wrote. If you don’t you can log on to an on line copy at http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php.
As my wife and I will be on vacation this Sunday please welcome Pastor Joel Nickel who will lead worship, preach, and give a wonderful presentation in Cross+Gen Sunday School on “The Importance of Sacred Space in a Secular Culture.”
Pastor Joe Hughes
Voice & text: 217-898-9063