My Profile

My photo
Lebanon, Missouri
I am Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (LC-MS) in Lebanon, MO for 12 years. I'm married to Cheryl and have been blessed with 5 children.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lord's Prayer Part I of VII

This is the first of a seven part series that examines the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. It especially draws upon Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) the leader of the Reformation, Tertullian a teacher in the early church (c.160 – c.220), and Cyprian (d 258) Bishop of Carthage.

Since this is the first in the series, it is appropriate to mention the conflict where Christians pit written prayers against prayers that are extemporaneous. One Christian will say that the written prayers are rote, mechanical, and do not have the Spirit of God. Another Christian will say that the ones that flow out on the spot are often thoughtless, careless, or clumsy.

These difference should melt away when it comes to the Lord’s Prayer. The issue here is not rote verses heart prayer. It isn’t about us. The Lord’s Prayer is about Christ because in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus reveals to us His heart and mind and really that of the Father Himself.

God is inclined toward us with a friendly disposition. This is true not because we are likeable people, but He does this for the sake of Christ who made us to be children of God. Since He is inclined toward us, He reveals his heart and mind in the Lord’s Prayer. Note that the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus doesn’t give them secrets to successful prayer – you know the secrets whereby they could manipulate God to do what they want in the way and manner they desire.

Jesus doesn’t dig up the prayer of Jabez from the OT and tell them that, “it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God…” We already enjoy favor because we are in Christ through Baptism. When Jesus teaches the church how to pray, He does so that our hearts, our minds, and our prayers might be in conformity to the heart and mind of the Father. Now, let’s move into the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven.”
I remember when our littlest was three years old. Mom was sitting down and the little one was standing on her lap cying for her attention. I was standing nearby and one of my other daughters was there talking with her Mom. She was standing on her mother’s lap and pushed her older sister away saying, “My mom. Your Dad.”

Now that was just a little child and it was cute. As long as she isn’t doing that as a teenager, I can live with it. Notice, however, the individualistic tone, “my.” In Protestant churches, it is easy for us to fall into a view where the center is on my own private relationship with God.

A country song goes this way, “There ain't nothin' that can't be done By me and God ---- Ain't nobody gonna come between me and God ----- One day we'll live together Where the angels trod Me and God” (Country song by Josh Turner, “Me and God”). This song falls into that all too individualistic tendency of American, Protestant Christianity of just me and God.

The Lord’s Prayer, especially the version in Matthew 6, leads us into a different aspect and really one that is more fundamental and important than just “Me & God”. Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father.” Certainly the Father is “mine” by faith in Christ, but I don’t stand with Him in isolation. He is “ours”.

Let’s not stop there. Even that term “Father” implies much more than just “me and God.” Tertullian has some interesting insights here.

He says that when we call upon the Father this necessitates that there be a Son. Now God the Father & Son stand unique with the Holy Spirit from eternity. There is none other than this Trinity, but in human terms when we speak of a father, and we know there is a Son, then we naturally think of the mother as well (Popular Patristics Series, “Tertullian, Cyprian & Origen On the Lord’s Prayer, p.43).

When we invoke the Father it isn’t just “me and God.” There is the Son. Where there is the Father and the Son there is also thee mother which is the Holy Christian church.

The church is mother because she gives birth to the children of God in this sense -- by proclaiming Christ and administering the Sacraments. This is certainly the picture that the book of Revelation itself gives that the church is mother (Revelation 12:1f.).

So important is this understanding Cyprian has rightly said, “no one can have God as Father without having the church as a mother.” You see then, in the term Father it does not stand alone nor do we with Him. When we call out “Father” we bring all that comes with the name.

I began the sermon by saying how the Lord’s Prayer as a whole reveals the heart & mind of the heavenly Father. In the term “Father” we see God’s heart. He has not cast us aside. He has seen us from afar and longed for our reconciliation with Him. For this reason He provided Jesus Christ as the atonement for our sins. Thus the Apostle John writes, “how great the love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God” (I John 3:1 NASB).

And “Father” shows us the mind of God. When God reveals Himself to us as Father, He would have us understand that He has provided a larger family from His abundant grace. Rather than just “me and God,” we are taught to think in larger terms. Not just “me and God,” but me, God, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and Holy Mother church.

No comments:

Post a Comment