Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Lord’s Prayer: Deliver from Evil

Today, I’m going to talk to you about evil. And the reason for that is, I’m sure, obvious. Jesus teaches us to pray about evil.

…deliver us from evil. Matthew 6.13

Evil is something that people don’t talk much about, not seriously. I think that it would be good if that were to change. One result of taking evil more seriously would be that we would then pray this petition more seriously. I think that that would be a good thing.

I usually start out with a definition. But you know the definition of evil. It’s the opposite of what is holy. But for what I have in mind, more than a definition is needed. What is needed is sense of the evil that is all around you. You need to feel it.

A Prayer

Father,

It's Advent. It's the time we celebrate something that we all would consider impossible if You never told us that it really happened. God has taken on flesh and has walked on this earth and lived a life like ours, dealing with all the good and the bad and everything else. Impossible. And yet, true. Father, at Christmas we celebrate one of your marvels, actually, the most astounding of Your marvels.

And then, there's the reason why this marvel came to be: our sin. Humanity is, by nature, hostile to You. Your Law is something to be despised. Your power, something to disbelieve. Your character, something to be mocked. Your rule, something to be rebelled against. How wicked! And yet, it is this humanity that You decided to rescue at such great cost. Another marvel. If it had been up to us, we would despise all such people and would make sure that they suffer the many aspects of death in this life as well as the next. But that's not You.

You have come to deliver from death. And You did that, again, by doing the impossible. You, God, eternal deity, took on flesh so that it would be You who would suffer the many aspects of death we had earned, and in this way deliver us.

Father, herein lies the heart of our religion. It is filled with wonder and mystery and grace and mercy and love. It's all about Your marvels. And it is simply amazing. We ask that You would impress these things on our souls so that we would understand, to some extent, what You have done. We ask that we would see this aspect of reality more clearly so that we would live more wisely. We ask that You would never let us forget what You have done.

It is our hope that as You do impress these things on our souls that it would result in heartfelt worship, a willingness to suffer for You, a deep and earnest love, an eagerness to submit, a thoughtfulness about life, a thorough enjoyment of You through what You have created and a lively hope for the age to come.

And as we celebrate the first Advent, we look forward to the second. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2018

For Sunday

Reading of the Law of God
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20.12

Confession of Sin
Our Father, we have not kept this commandment. All too often we have not properly honored those whom You have placed over us. All too often we have not submitted ourselves to their instruction. All too often we have not received their correction graciously nor borne with their weaknesses patiently. We acknowledge that by sinning against them we have actually rebelled against You. We know from the Gospel that these sins have earned us Your justice. But we also know from the Gospel that we who have entrusted ourselves to Jesus have received the grace of Your forgiveness. Thank You that Jesus has paid for these sins, too. Amen.

Declaration of Pardon
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1.18

May the God of love bring us back to himself, forgive us our sins, and assure us of his eternal love in Jesus Christ our Lord.  
The Book of Common Prayer

Scripture to Meditate On

Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. Psalm 119:27

It's the order of things that stands out to me in this verse. What is first is the psalmist's request that the Father act. And what is it that the psalmist wants the Father to do? He's not asking for a little assist when it comes to understanding God's Law. No, he wants God to make that happen. This is simply the psalmist's admission of his weakness. He doesn't need a little help. He needs God to make something happen that won't happen apart from His doing it. Here is an understanding of the effects of sin and the wonder of grace. This is the psalmist's hope to be able to meditate well on the wonders that God has brought about.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Lord’s Prayer: Temptation

The petition of the Lord’s Prayer that we are going to look at this morning is a bit strange.

And lead us not into temptation. Matthew 6.13

So, what’s so odd about this? I think that this question will answer that. Would the Father actually lead us into temptation? Evidently so. Why else would Jesus teach us to pray like this, to ask Him not to?

By itself, that raises some interesting questions. But it gets worse when you connect this petition with another bit of Scripture.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. James 1.13

That sounds pretty clear. God never tempts anyone.

So, on the one hand, the Father could lead us into some temptation, into some situation where we will be tempted, something that we are to ask Him not to do. But then, on the other hand, we are also told that He would never do something like that. There seems to be a conflict here. Would the Father bring about our being tempted, or wouldn’t He? It seems that we have two bits of Scripture that don’t fit together.

A Prayer

Father,

You are so very good to us. You have given us all things to enjoy. So, we have food and drink to feast with, computers to use for work and play, books to read, hobbies to pursue and so much more. And that's all on top of the things You give us just to stay alive.

Father, these are great gifts. And that You have given them to us says much about You. You really are a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children, to us. And these things we now enjoy aren't yet the best of what You have to offer.

But sadly, Father, we are still afflicted by our sins. So, there are times when we don't recognize that what we enjoy is from You. And there are those times we complain when we don't have what we see others have. All too often we respond to life and to Your gifts so very poorly. Father, we regret that we act in these sorts of ways. And we do ask that You would forgive us and change us.

Father, teach us how to enjoy these gifts of Yours so that we can enjoy them to the full. Don't let us settle for just a little enjoyment of these things. Teach us to enjoy them as much as possible. We ask for this because it is as we enjoy Your gifts that we get to enjoy You, the giver of all these gifts. And it is when we are enjoying You that living for You makes so much sense.

We also ask, Father, that You would lift our eyes as we do enjoy these things. As good as Your gifts are now, they will be better, and better enjoyed in the age to come. And that also means that we will enjoy You better in the age to come. So, grant that we will be able to see something of our future joys as we experience Your goodness in the here and now.

We know that as You grant these our requests, our understanding of You will grow. We will see You more clearly. We will see more of the beauty of Your generous heart. Seeing that will bind our hearts more closely to Yours. And that will itself be something so very beautiful. Thank You, Father. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.