24 July 2022†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† St. Athanasius Lutheran Church

Pentecost 7††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Vienna, VA†††††††††††††

 

Jesu Juva

 

ďThe Father God IsĒ

Text: Luke 11:1-13; Genesis 18:20-33; Colossians 2:6-19

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Our Father. You know, itís easy to skip over those words in the Lordís Prayer. Cuzí theyíre just the introduction, right? Itís like writing a letter (which no one does anymore!), so itís like writing an email - you start with the name of the person youíre writing to. Itís a formality, a pleasantry, but itís what comes next that really matters. Now, texting has even done away with that - just get right to the point.

 

But today, letís not just cruise past those words. For fatherhood is a big issue in our world today. First, itís something some men donít want to be. They take steps to avoid that happening and if it does, it was due to recklessness or by accident. When that happens, if they donít want to be fathers, they may want and try to end the life of their child before he or she is born, or if they canít do that, simply refuse to be a father and abandon that responsibility altogether. One statistic I read said that more than 1 in 4 children now grow up without a father in their home. Their absence has led to all kinds of other problems in our society. And now, with all the confusion and false teaching about gender and what that means, it is said that two mothers is just as good as having a mother and a father. But itís not. Fathers matter. Fathers are important. Not just men who father children, but men who actually are fathers to their children.

 

So when the disciples ask Jesus, Lord, teach us to pray, and Jesus does not start out by saying: When you pray, bow your head, close your eyes, and fold your hands . . . but rather, say this: Father . . . thatís a big deal. You have a God who not only is your Father, but wants to be your Father. Who not only gives life, but cares for, protects, and provides for that life. A Father who does not abandon His children, but as we see with Adam and Eve, and then later with the Patriarchs, and then later with Israel, stands by them even at their worst moments. He is a Father who is faithful. A Father who takes fatherhood very seriously.

 

And yes, He IS our Father. Thatís not just how God wants to be known, as if He could be known also as something else, like mother. This is who God has told us He is - our Father. If we change that, if we do away with Godís Fatherhood, weíll see the same things happening spiritually and in the church as we see happening physically in our world today. God is your Father. Thatís a big deal.

 

Now, maybe some try to avoid saying that today because of all the problems with fathers today - the fathers who abandon their children, the fathers who abuse their children. And even fathers who donít do those things are sinners and will sin and fail in their vocation in other ways. They donít want God associated with that kind of behaviour, so, we could perhaps charitably say, they have good intentions in not calling God Father. But it seems to me that if fathers are important - and they are! - and you do not have an earthly father caring for you, then a heavenly Father is more important than ever! A heavenly Father who is not like our earthly fathers in their foibles and failures, but a perfect Father. One who really does care for, protect, and provide for His children.

 

So when you pray, say Father. Thatís a big deal. And itís something only Jesus could teach us. The Son who knows the Father. The Son who is one with the Father. And the Son who came to be our Saviour and make us wayward sinners children of God again. To bring us back into the house, into the Church. To reconcile us to our Father, who didnít leave us - it is we who left Him. But in Jesus, in the Son, we are sons again. Sons and daughters of God, our Father. And so we come to our Father with every need. Our Father who wants to be our Father. Who wants us to come to Him, to hear us, and to answer our prayers.

 

So Jesus gives us the actual words to pray. Not the only words we can pray, but His words, the perfect words, words that include everything we need. We pray that our Father would give us what we need to remain as His children both now and forever. We pray that our Father would provide for our every need of body and soul. And we pray that our Father would protect us to the end. All these things the very things our Father wants, in love, to do. And that He is doing, whether we realize it or not. For God was being your Father before you could realize it, before you could pray. But that doesnít mean we shouldnít pray. We need to pray. To be the children we are. Just as God is our Father, so are we His children. He is Giver, we the receivers. We the askers, He the provider. When we pray, we are being who we are.

 

And we need to pray. To go to our Father. And not just for ourselves, but for those who cannot pray. Those who donít believe. Those who donít know God as their Father. Those who are afraid to pray. We can bring their needs to our Father for them. And this is how God also teaches us to pray, Jesus teaches here - by sending us people to pray for. The best way to learn something is by doing. So we learn to pray by praying.

 

So Jesus tells this little parable of the man who needs bread at midnight and so goes to his friend, confident that his friend has and will provide what he needs. We also heard the story of Abraham praying for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah - using his sonship to ask God for their good. We can do the same as children of God. And do fathers listen to their children? Think of this scenario: a father with his child is in DC and they walk past a person on the street, begging, asking for help. The father has seen this a thousand times and so keeps walking. But his child see this and tugs on her fatherís sleeve and says, Daddy, can we help this person? And the father, who wasnít going to help because the person was asking, puts some money in the cup because his child was asking.

 

Now, God isnít like the man in the parable who doesnít want to be bothered, and He isnít like the father who doesnít want to help the man on the street. But if this is how fathers on earth act, and listen to their children, how much more, Jesus says, will your good and perfect Father listen to His children! And do even more than we ask or think.

 

And here is maybe where we can see the influence of our earthly fathers - in that we can so easily underestimate our heavenly Father, projecting onto Him the failings of our earthly fathers. For why did Abraham stop when he did? He was so bold to ask God to save the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, and then 10 - but why stop there? Would Godís mercy and love run out at ten? Well, we donít know the answer to why Abraham stopped at ten, but we do know the answer to how few it would take for God to save - ONE. And not just to save Sodom and Gomorrah, but to save the world. For it was for the sake of one righteous person, His own Son, that the world is spared, that we are spared, the punishment we deserve. All that punishment, the fire and brimstone, and the condemnation that we deserve because of our foul and stubborn sins, was poured out on that one, on the righteous one, on Jesus on the cross, instead of us.

 

Thatís how great a Father you have, Jesus wants you to know. Whose mercy and love doesnít run out at ten - after ten sins or ten chances. You have a God whose mercy and love is far greater than you know or could imagine. A Father who gave His Son for you. The Son who willingly laid down His life for you. And a Father who now gives His Spirit to you, too. To make you His sons (and daughters). And not just for a while, but forever.

 

So the Spirit is given and works through the words and water of Baptism, where you are born from above, born again, as children of God, children of the Father, sons of God in the Son of God. In baptism (as Paul told the Colossians) you die and rise with Jesus to a new life. A spiritual life. A Spirit-filled life.

 

And the Spirit is given and works through the words of the Gospel and the word of Absolution, to restore us wayward sinners from our sins when we rebel and do what we want, not what our Father wants. When we donít look to our Father for what we need, but look to other people and places, which cannot provide and only let us down and leave us as orphans.

 

And the Spirit who is given and works through the word and bread and wine of the Supper, to feed us at our Fatherís table, to give us the nourishment we need - the Body and Blood of Jesus. That from all these things, the forgiveness we need, we have. The life we need, we have. And the salvation we need, we have.

 

And none of this grudgingly or reluctantly, but lavishly and abundantly, mercifully and lovingly. To make sinners into saints. That the Fatherís house be filled with His children, here in time and there in eternity (Small Catechism). For God is the Father, and wants to be your Father

 

So when you pray, say Father. That really is a big deal. Donít overlook that. Donít take it for granted. Thatís really the most important thing youíll ever have - not your stuff, not your status; and itís really the most important thing youíll ever be - not your accomplishments or achievements. But that you bear the name of the Father, that you are His child - thatís something.

 

So pray to your Father. Pray as His child. For yourself, and for others. For big things and little things. In good times and bad times. And know youíre not bothering your Father. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For thatís what Fathers do. You may not be a good and perfect child. You arenít, in fact. But you have a good and perfect Father. And thatís better. For a good and perfect child with a not good and unfaithful father . . . who knows how that will go? But when you have a good and faithful Father, who keeps all His words and promises, who is merciful, loving, and gracious, who even sent His Son to die for you and save you . . . we know how that turns out! And you have such a Father. So pray, repent, ask. Be the child you are. And God will be the Father He is.

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.