Sunday, October 17, 2010
Sermon - Luke 18:1-8 - Pentecost 21
October 17h, 2010
Once again we have Jesus telling a parable to illustrate the Kingdom of God – and Luke tells us the point out of the gate - “Always pray and do not lose heart”.
The persistent widow pestered the corrupt judge until he finally gave in – not for the sake of justice, but to be rid of this annoying woman. How much more will you heavenly Father, who is righteous and good, won't he do even better for you, his dear beloved child? So keep praying. Don't lose heart.
Easier said than done.
We might hear these words today, “Always pray and do not lose heart” with some degree of conviction. For we do not “always pray” and we sometimes “lose heart”.
Our prayers, like everything else in life, are subject to the failings of our sinful nature. We don't pray like we should. We don't pray as often as we should, for what or whom we should. We forget to give thanks, like the 9 lepers who were cleansed. We forget to pray for the spiritual as well as the physical needs. Perhaps when we do pray, it is thoughtless. Or perhaps it's really only on Sundays when we happen to be here in church. Pick your prayer poison – it's true none of us prays as we ought.
And we do lose heart. We get discouraged. We feel like our prayers fall on deaf ears. Why doesn't God hear? If he hears, why doesn't he answer? Is all this praying worth it? Nothing seems to change – things only get worse. I'm not seeing the results I want. I'm losing heart.
“Always pray and do not lose heart” We may hear those words as instruction of the law, and if we do we would stand convicted. We don't always pray and we do lose heart. We're not like the widow who never gives up until she gets what she wants. But we should be. So there. Now go home and pray more. Do better. Stop being such sinners. Sermon over. Right?
Wrong. For those words are not words of law. They are sweet Gospel. Even though they tell us what to do and how to do it, there is a beautiful invitation there to pray. To pray to the one who will hear us. To pray to the one who delights in our prayers, who can and will do something about them.
Our loving Father, our righteous judge, the generous giver of all good things.
When he says, “always pray and do not lose heart”, these are words of encouragement based on the promises he gives. Our prayers are best when they are firmly grounded on these promises, rooted deep in the blessings God gives us freely and abundantly.
We can pray to him – first of all – because of Jesus. Otherwise we'd have no standing, sinners that we are. We couldn't find him, and he wouldn't receive us. Sure he knows everything – but God would not consider us his dear children, he would not be lovingly inclined toward us, apart for Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “no one comes to the Father but by me”. But that means that by him, we can and do come to the Father! Jesus us the intermediary, the go-between, the one who takes us right to the top! He makes us acceptable, makes our prayers acceptable. He even prays for us, along with the Spirit, perfecting and adding to our imperfect and infrequent prayers.
He who prayed from his cross, “Father forgive them!” still prays for our forgiveness. He who suffered for our sins and died our death, conquered them all for us. He, Jesus, is the ultimate reason to persist and not lose heart. His work for us and promises to us are sure.
Is your prayer life not up to snuff? Are you a sinful prayer-maker? Then take heart, for Jesus Christ died for sinners like you – he perfects you by forgiving your sin, and he perfects what you do imperfectly – even your prayers!
Do not lose heart! A wonderful promise! When all seems hopeless and futile. When they've told you the diagnosis, and the chances are slim. When God says one thing, but all the evidence seems to the contrary. When you want peace but all around you is chaos. When you want security but the future seems so uncertain. When you're not sure how you'll make it through tomorrow, let alone today. Do not lose heart! For God our Father has made you his own child!
Through your baptism, you belong to him. You are in his heart, always, as a dear child. In the sacrament, he feeds you, strengthens and sustains you – to take heart for further and deeper reliance on him. Sins forgiven anew, we are encouraged and empowered to go – wherever it is we go from here.
Be persistent with God. Like an annoying little old lady. Like a bothersome child who won't stop bugging mom and dad. Persist in asking and pleading and looking to him for blessing – because he will give it – and more!
It's as if Jesus says to us in this parable today, “Pester me! Continue to look to me and rely on me and ask of me. Don't get discouraged when it seems I'm not answering. I hear you and will bring about good for you. Don't lose heart! It's all going to be ok.”
And in the end, it will be. For we have the promise of the Son of Man to come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead. To resurrect our bodies for the life everlasting. This great fulfillment is the end of all our prayers – the happily forever after.
Thanks be to God for this and all his promises, and may he grant us his Spirit to maintain and stretch our faith in Christ - so that we always pray and never lose heart, in Jesus name, Amen.