Reading Ramblings – August 21, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 21, 2016 ~ Lord’s Prayer Intro & First Petition

Texts: Isaiah 63:15-19; Psalm 2; 1 John 3:1-3; Luke 15:11-32

Context: ** We continue our alternate text selections for the remainder of the liturgical year in order to preach through Luther’s Small Catechism. ** We move from the Creed to the Lord’s Prayer. It is fitting that Christians should be instructed how to pray, since we are blessed to have the relationship of children to a loving Father. We can come to God in all situations and with all manner of concerns.

We are prone to come to God in prayer when we need something – when we’re afraid or worried, when we want healing for ourselves or someone else, when we want safety for ourselves or someone else. While such prayer is fine, it is rather limited in scope. Praying regularly and for a broader variety of issues and situations extends our eyes from our own concerns to the concerns of creation around us. The Lord’s Prayer guides us through a variety of petitions that direct our attention from the hear and now to the promised return of our Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer begins with an introduction, a specification of who we pray to. There are many so-called gods, but we pray to our Heavenly Father, and invoke his name prior to making our first petition, that his name would be hallowed.

Isaiah 63:15-19 – This chapter begins with a terrifying description of God the Father as fierce warrior, waging war against those rebellious to him. In the face of such a grim visage, the author recounts the Lord’s prior acts of mercy to his people, how despite their repeated disobedience, He was a loving and forgiving father to them. This leads the speaker finally to a prayer for mercy here and now starting at verse 15. The mercy of God is not relegated solely to ancient history but is alive and well and active now. While nobody else may recognize us as followers of God, that is what we are and God knows this (v.16). We plead with God for him to return to dwell with his people, so that we might not stray and be prone to folly (17). The alternative is that his people continue to suffer, oppressed to the point where there is little to distinguish them from other peoples, once the Temple of the Lord is destroyed. Suffering should be brought to an end by the Lord coming not just in vengeance as in the first part of the chapter, but in mercy for his people as well.

Psalm 2 – This psalm works in tandem with Psalm 1 as an introduction to the psalter. The first psalm deals with the individual life of faith. Psalm 2 deals with the relationship of God’s holy nation, Israel, in context of history and the nations surrounding her. The first three verses describe these other nations, who do not know God and therefore presume that they and their gods are in control, that they can act against God and his holy nation in any meaningful sense. Verses 4-6 state the truth – God is alone God, and He scoffs at the pretentious assumptions of the unfaithful. Their plans do not trouble him and cannot alter his complete and utter power. While the nations rage in rebellion, they are helpless to stop God the Father from placing his King and Son on the throne not only of the nation of Israel but of all creation. This psalm was likely used during the coronation of kings, and verses 7-9 elaborate on the relationship between the newly crowned king and God. God has adopted the king as son, and obedience to God as his Father will bring the assurance of safety and security, victory against those who dare rise against him. The final verses are a warning to the nations to seek the good favor of God’s Son and King of Israel, before they find the God of all creation ranged against them.

1 John 3:1-3 – In his letter John has waxed poetic about the witness to the Son of God John and others have given, and the exhortation to walk in light in faith in that witness and revelation. He has reminded his hearers of Jesus as our advocate and warned them to be cautious of false prophets and leaders. Now he once again bursts into amazed praise at the goodness of God. How amazing is it that our Creator Father should be willing to call us his children! We, who once were arrayed against him in rebellion, slaves of Satan. God the Father has rescued us in order to give us his name, to make us part of his family. This, in turn, is the explanation for the suffering of God’s people in the world – we are foreigners. We no longer fit in to the world that serves the self and Satan. We are set apart in our identity as children of God. The world knows this, even though we are prone to being blind to it ourselves. We look and sound and all too often act like everyone else! But that will only be for a time. The time is coming when all creation as well as ourselves will see our true identity as God’s children. In anticipation of that day we strive in holiness each day.

Luke 15:11-32 – While this is typically known as the story of the prodigal son, it is clear from the opening verse that it is really a tale about a father. In the context of Luke 15 we know that Jesus is teaching and preaching about the nature of the kingdom of heaven, and the nature of God the Father towards us. The father in this story is generous and kind despite the rudeness of his sons. He is patient and concerned for their welfare at all times, even while the younger son is off doing his thing without a thought in the world for his father. The father welcomes the rebellious younger son home with joy, but also seeks after the prideful and hurt older brother. He assures them both of their place as his sons, a status that cannot be taken from them, even though they are free to reject it and live as though it were not true. The father is good and patient and kind and understanding – always. Far more so than any earthly father is able to be.

While we spend our time wondering which son we are, the greater lesson is that regardless of which of the sons we are – the selfish and rebellious younger son or the bitterly obedient older son, our father is the same. We may not be sure what our role is at any given time, but one thing we need never wonder about is whether we have a father or not and whether or not that father loves us. Neither of the sons are admirable, the father alone is.

It is this Father God to whom we pray. The only one worthy of our prayer, the only one capable of hearing and answering our prayer, and the only one who has already answered our greatest and deepest prayer in his Son, Jesus Christ. Whatever else we pray for, we pray for it in the light of redeemed children of the Heavenly Father, reconciled to him through faith in the death and resurrection of his Son on our behalf.

So it is that we should pray initially that everyone would hallow God’s name and treat it with appropriate reverence. It is appropriate that everyone would come to know the goodness of God and the holiness of God, holiness that is available to everyone who will receive it. This will be the case, ultimately. All people everywhere will acknowledge God as the one true God, and the only one deservedly called Holy and righteous. We pray that when that day comes, as many people as possible will make that confession joyfully rather than through gritted, rebellious teeth.

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