Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday homily - Our Father who art in heaven

Ash Wednesday
10 February 2016
Matthew 6:6-9
Psalm 142
Our Father who art in heaven.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς·
Our Father in the heavens,

Friends in Christ, I urge you all to lift up your hearts to God and pray with me as Christ our Lord has taught us and freely promised to hear us…

God, our Father in heaven, look with mercy on us, Your needy children on earth and grant us grace that Your holy name be hallowed by us and all the world through the pure and true teaching of Your Word and the fervent love shown forth in our lives. Graciously turn from us all false doctrine and evil living whereby Your precious name is blasphemed and profaned. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.[1]

Praying, as the second commandment teaches, is to call upon God in every need. This He requires. Our Lord has not left it to our choice. It is our duty. And obligation. If we would be Christian.

We pray from obedience to God. And faith in the Father’s promise.

All our shelter and protection rest in prayer alone. We are too feeble to cope with the devil and all his power. We must consider and take up those weapons with which Christians must be armed in order to stand against the devil.

Today we begin a forty-day pilgrimage, which we call, Lent. With the Savior we will walk with Him as we observe His passion, suffering, torture and death.

Lent is a process. It is a six-week spiritual adventure where we become reflective and introspective. We will focus during the next six-week on two points; our need and the Savior’s solution. To help us in this process we will focus this year on the Lord’s Prayer.

Certainly we all need to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is a simple prayer. – It was given to us by our Lord as a model prayer - as He has taught us so to pray.

However this prayer is one of the most profound and serious prayers, as we are called to meditate on it daily. This evening we begin with the introduction: “Our Father Who art in heaven…”
First, this prayer gives to those who pray it an identity and a place in the world and a counter-cultural community. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name”.  The introduction to the Lord’s Prayer - opposes the myth - that we are random specks of matter floating through space and time.  The introduction to the Lord’s Prayer - opposes the myth - that our lives do not matter.  The introduction to the Lord’s Prayer - opposes the myth – of a fragmented humanity.

We are created. And loved. And called into friendship with God who is our father.  We are placed into community. Within our family at Friedheim. Who are therefore our sisters and brothers.  Only someone who has found this new identity can stand against a culture, which night and day seduces us to define who we are by what we spend, and what we earn, and how we save.

To help us focus on this introduction let us consider for our meditation Psalm 142.  David was a complex individual. He knew great success. He was acquainted with failure. He was placed into the seat of power and encountered enemies; even those from his own family would try to wrestle it away from him.  He experienced every human emotion imagined.

The Psalms are windows to his soul. As prayers they direct our focus to God. As Scripture they are the answers to our prayers. Consider David the man of prayer – who invites us also to come to the Father.  In this Psalm we see David as he prays total and complete.

I.                    Consider David the Distressed Man.  [Psalm 142:1-2]

A.      In his distress David gives his spoken request to God: “I cry to the Lord with my voice; to the Lord I make loud supplicationGod would by these words tenderly invite us to believe that he is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may with all boldness and confidence ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father.

B.     As David cries to the Father, he makes a specific request.

1.      There is a complaint on his lips. David says: “I pour out my complaint to Him” (v.2a)

2.      It appears to be a complaint about his life as he says: “I declare before Him my trouble”.  Do we take our troubles to the Lord? David encourages us to do so – to take every trouble to the Lord. 
Transition:   David was a distressed man. He was also a desperate man. Desperate times did not cause David to take desperate measures. He was a man of quiet resolve. He took it to the Lord in prayer.

II.                  David was a Desperate Man.  [Psalm 142:3-4] In his prayers he was forced to face his doubts and his fears.

A.     David was truly fearful.
1.      There were pressures within.  David felt the pressure: “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me. Then you knew my path” (v.3b) The Lord knew what troubles us internal as well as external.
2.      There were also troubles without. “They have secretly set a snare for me” (v.3b) People were lying in wait for him. There were enemies in David’s life. He needed his Lord to sustain him

B.     In his desperation David felt all alone. He felt he was friendless. He was treated with social as well as spiritual indifference.
1.      He found himself treated with social indifference. “I look on my right hand and see for there is no one who acknowledges me” He was abandoned by all of his friends.
2.      David also knew of spiritual indifference: “refuge has failed me. No one cares for my soul”

TRANSITION:  Truly David found in his plight a desperate situation. He turned to the father in the depths of his despair. As he opened himself to the Lord he was given discernment and discretion.

III.   David as he prayed was a Discerning Man [Psalm 142:5-6]
 As he wrestled, pleaded and cried out to God he found two eternal truths

A.     He found a satisfying portion: “I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, You are my refuge” (v.5)

B.     He also found a secure protection: “Attend to my cry, for I am brought low. Deliver me from my persecutors for they are stronger than I” (v.6)

TRANSITION: In this season of Lent we need to pray.  In our prayers may we not only speak but also listen as the Lord extends to us His mercy and grace.
IV. As David came to the Lord, he found himself a Delivered Man. [Psalm 142:7-8] He was brought into the prospect of freedom, fellowship, and fullness.

A.      He was directed to freedom – “Bring my soul out of prison” (v.7a) David cried. Our freedom comes at the cross where our Savior suffered and died.

B.      As he found this freedom, he was brought into a new found fellowship of knowing and experiencing God. As we know of this hope and freedom we rejoice along with David “…that I may praise Your name” (v7b)

C.     This brought David into the fullness of having a loving relationship with God our heavenly Father. David concludes “The righteous shall surround me for You shall deal bountifully with me” (v.8)

As we begin this spiritual pilgrimage called Lent may the Lord so direct us to come to Him in prayer.
Lord Jesus, hanging on the cross, and left alone by Your disciples, You called upon Your Father with a mighty cry as You gave up Your Spirit. Deliver us from the prison of affliction and be Yourself our inheritance in the land of the living where with the Father and the Holy Spirit You are blessed now and forever. Amen.[2]  

[1] Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service Setting Five, © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
[2] For All the Saints, A Prayer book For and By the Church; The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau © 1995 Delhi, NY vol. Year 1 The Season After Pentecost p. 754

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