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Courage to Pray and Not Faint. 19th Sunday after Pentecost. Oct. 20, 2019. Luke 18:1-8

October 31, 2019 Leave a comment

19th Sunday after Pentecost

Emmaus Lutheran Church, Redmond, Oregon

St. Luke 18:1-8

October 20, 2019

Courage to Pray and Not Faint

Iesu Iuva

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Bow down Your gracious ear to me

And hear my cry, my prayer, my plea;

Make haste for my protection,

For woes and fear

Surround me here.

Help me in my affliction.  LSB 734 stanza 2

 

There may be a few here today who are possessed of an iron will, who never quit, no matter how great the pain.  I don’t think Jacob was that kind of man, though he did start wrestling while he was still in the womb, and though he was born into the world grasping his brother Esau’s heel.  But the Scripture says he was a quiet man who stayed near the tents and his mother.  Even in the Old Testament reading, where Jacob is much older, you don’t see great physical courage.  He sends his wives and little ones across the river to meet his brother, who he fears is going to take revenge on him for stealing his blessing decades before.  Look at my wives and my little ones and spare your brother.  Jacob is not a tough guy.

 

But in the night he gets into a wrestling match with an unknown assailant.  And the wrestling match goes until the morning.  I tried wrestling for maybe a month my sophomore year in high school.  It’s hard to wrestle for a few minutes, let alone an entire night.  And wrestling is okay when you are winning, but really, really painful when you are losing.  You can’t really breathe, but you’re supposed to keep fighting.

 

We can be pretty sure Jacob was losing all night.  His opponent, when he is tired of the game, just touches Jacob’s hip, and Jacob has to walk with a limp for the rest of his life.  But even then, Jacob does not let go.  He doesn’t lose heart.  He refuses to let God go until God blesses him.

 

Jesus says we should pray like Jacob wrestled.  He told the parable in Luke chapter 18 to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1). 

 

Jesus gives us courage to keep praying for Him to return and not become spiritless.

 

I know from talking to a few of you and I know from my own experience how difficult a struggle it is not to lose heart in prayer.  You might be the type of person that pushes through physical pain no matter what.  You don’t quit.  You might be a person who stays steady and calm under emotional pressure.  But the kind of strength needed to pray without ceasing, without growing weary or losing heart, is not found in human beings, in their natural power.  To keep praying without becoming listless and depressed and weary is a spiritual contest.  And in our fallen human nature we have no spiritual strength.

 

In our fallen human nature we don’t even know what to pray for, St. Paul tells us (Rom. 8:26).  Listen to what Jesus says God’s elect, His chosen ones, cry out to Him for day and night.  They want Him to give [them] justice against [their] adversary (Luke 18:3).  They want justice against their opponent.  The opponent is the devil, who accuses us and who torments us, together with the fallen world that he controls.  God’s elect cry out to God day and night that He avenge them, that He vindicate them against this opponent who falsely accuses them and who wrongs them when they are innocent.

 

What exactly does that mean, for God to give us justice, to vindicate us?  It means that the elect pray for God to send His Son from heaven to judge the living and the dead, to cast the devil and His angels into the lake of fire, together with all those who did not believe in Jesus.  God gives the elect justice when He declares them righteous before the whole universe and honors them, declaring them to be His sons and heirs, declaring them innocent, sharing His glory with them forever.

 

This is the way the elect people of God pray, Jesus says.

 

But is it the way you pray?  Usually?  With your eyes to the end, looking to the return of Jesus as your hope for everything to be set right?  When you look at all your problems, all your struggle with sin, all your ongoing pain and the things in your life, family, church that are still broken—do you look to Jesus’ return as the answer and pray with a fervent heart for Him to return?

 

No, usually you aim much lower, probably.  We pray that God would give us a blessing here and now that meets our expectations of what His blessing should look like.  When Jacob prayed, no doubt the blessing he wanted more than anything at that moment was that God spare his life from his brother Esau.  But he didn’t ask God for that.  He simply said, “Bless me.”  He did not put a limit on God’s blessing, probably because he had learned that if God blessed him he would be blessed far more and far greater than he could understand.

 

When we pray, so often we ask God for help in the difficulties that we see and feel, and we ask for help that makes sense to us.  None of this is wrong.  Yet Jesus teaches us to pray for more, because God does not simply want to deliver us from money problems or conflict or even deep grief—just for a season.  He wants to give us justice and set all things right.  And that is why what we ought to pray and look for before all else is the return of our Lord.  That is the goal of our lives; that is the even that is going to make you whole and heal everything that is broken in you and this world.

 

Whenever we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come,” we are asking for this—that Jesus returns, that the devil is thrown into hell, that we enter into the joy of our Lord.  But it is seldom the first thing on our mind when we pray.

 

Those who do not have the Holy Spirit and true faith in Christ can’t pray it at all, not from the heart.  Those who are false Christians are terrified of Jesus’ return.  But even Christians, according to the flesh, fear Jesus’ return.  We pray for smaller things.  We doubt His grace, that He has justified us, that He really counts us righteous.  So we fear what His coming will mean.

 

Perhaps we are still looking to delight ourselves in this world and the pleasure it has to offer, and so we don’t long for the return of Jesus.

 

We pray for other things, smaller things—which are good in themselves, but not the highest blessing God wishes to give us.  When our prayers are not answered as we expect, and when Jesus’ coming is delayed, we become weary in prayer.  Because He hasn’t appeared to answer, we become faint and draw back from our Lord in prayer, doubting that He cares about the pain we bring to Him.

Repent.  Repent of your unbelief.  Be courageous.  God has promised that He will vindicate you.  He will deliver you out of every evil when He appears with His Kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1).  He has promised this.  That’s why He encourages you to keep on praying for His return and not lose heart.

 

He has already proclaimed to you that you are declared righteous by His Father, the righteous judge.  His Father justified you.  He declared you righteous in His court, innocent of sin, because His Son offered Himself to suffer and die for you.   That is why Scripture says, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  He is faithful because He has promised to count everyone who believes in His Son righteous, and to not count their sins against them.  He is just and righteous because His Son has already paid in full for your sins.  If He were to count them to you He would be unjust.  If you believe in Jesus who was condemned for your sins, how can God condemn you for them again?  That would be unjust.  He is just when He forgives your sins because He has already punished them fully in Jesus.

 

Since you are justified, all that remains is for that justification to be made manifest.  That is what Jesus wants you to pray for—for the day when you no longer hear God tell you you are righteous in His sight, chosen and precious in His sight—but when it is made visible.  That day is the day of Jesus’ return.   We will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.  We will see Him in the glory that He had before the world began, and He will give it to us.  He has made it ours when He justified us through faith in Him.

 

Right now the devil accuses us daily.  He afflicts us, just as he afflicted Jesus.  But he had no right to afflict Jesus, because Jesus had no sin.  After He was put to death on the shameful cross, God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead.  He triumphed over Satan and Satan’s servants, like those who mocked his claim to be the Son of God and the King of the Jews as He hung on the cross.   God vindicated Him and made it clear that He truly was the Son of God.  No human being had ever triumphed over the grave before this man.  God silenced Jesus’ enemies.  When Jesus returns, He will silence our enemies as well—in particular the devil, who flings our sins at us, reminding us of our evil thoughts and our evil words and our past, our weakness, our suffering.  Jesus gives you courage against Satan’s attacks.  Keep praying for His return, because God hears you.  He is not like the unjust judge who only helps the widow because she bothers him.  He has declared you righteous and His son for the sake of Jesus.  He hears you because you please Him.  And He will answer you because He keeps His promise.

 

Today Jesus comes with a pledge that God the Father will give you justice.  He gives you His body and the blood He poured out to save you from your sins.

 

Jesus, the Son of God, is precious to His Father.  Just as He did not leave His Son’s body lying in the tomb, but raised Him and vindicated Him against His accusers, so He will not leave you who receive the body and blood of His Son.  He will raise you up and vindicate you as well.  He will make you a conqueror of death and seat you at His right hand.  That is His pledge today—that on the last day He will raise you up and give you justice.

 

So don’t lose heart when you pray and they seem to go unanswered.  Pray for the Lord’s return when He gives you justice against your adversary.

 

With you, O Lord, I cast my lot;

O faithful God, forsake me not!

To You my soul commending.

Lord, be my stay, And lead the way

Now and when life is ending.  LSB 734 stanza 4

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Comforting Reassurance of the Holy Supper. Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz

Comforting Reassurance of the Holy Supper (322)

Martin Luther, 1483-1546

 

Be gracious to me, O merciful God.  I am indeed a poor, sinful person and have merited nothing besides wrath.   But even though I have lived however I wanted, I hold on to this: that I know, and will not doubt it, that I am baptized for the forgiveness of my sins and am called as a Christian, and that my Lord Jesus Christ was born, suffered, died, and rose again for me.  His body and blood has been given to me for the nourishment and strengthening of my faith.  Lord Jesus Christ, I am absolved and loosed from my sins in Your name.  Therefore nothing evil can befall me, nor can I be lost; as little as God’s Word can fail or be false.  Because God Himself is to me a refuge and fortress through His Word.  Amen.

Checks Jesus Signs. Rogate, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2018. John 16:23-30

jesus ascension.PNGRogate, the 6th Sunday of Easter

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 16:23-30

May 6, 2018

“Checks Jesus Signs”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

When I was maybe seven years old my mom took me and my sister down to Danville, Illinois to see my great grandmother.  She was about 90 years old, but she was still a lot of fun because she gave me a black book that looked like a check book to play with.  This is great, I thought.  I started writing checks—Pay to the order of Karl Hess, $1 with as man zeroes after as I could fit on the piece of paper.  Then I gave it to my mom.

 

But she explained to me that writing a check doesn’t magically create money.  Of course, you have to have money in the bank.  Then, when you sign your name on the check, the bank sees your name and sends the money in your name wherever you directed them to send it on the check.  So I couldn’t write checks for a billion dollars in my great grandmother’s name and then sign my name on the check.

 

When I found this out, I didn’t think checks were so great anymore.

 

And a lot of us, or most of us, think like this about prayer.  We find out that we can’t write ourselves big checks for whatever we want, and we lose interest in praying.

 

Amen, Amen, the Lord Jesus promises—It shall be so, it shall be so: whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you…Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  (John 16:23-24)

 

Listen to the promise again.  It is a huge promise that Jesus gives His disciples: Whatever you ask of the Father in My Name, He will give it to you.  (John 16:23)

 

Incredible.  Whatever I ask?  It sounds like Jesus has given us a book of blank checks to draw on God the Father’s account.

 

Maybe you have never listened closely and heard the promise Jesus made here, so you’ve never tried to cash one of these checks.

 

But if you have, you almost certainly have had this experience: You asked God the Father for something, and He didn’t give it to you.

 

You prayed for success in your work, but you were unsuccessful.  You prayed for peace in your house, and the turmoil seemed to get worse.  You prayed for someone you loved to recover from their illness or have less pain, and God appeared to say, “No.”  You prayed God would make your church grow, but it shrank.

 

So you found yourself thinking, “Maybe it isn’t such a privilege to carry / Ev’rything to God in prayer.”  And you began to rely less on praying to God and more on your own work or on human experts to make your home peaceful or your loved ones get well.

 

But if you felt this way—experienced something like this—and I have, as have most Christians, if not all—it is not because Jesus didn’t mean His promise.

 

It’s because we overlook an important phrase in His promise.  He says: Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give you.  Our Lord Jesus doesn’t promise that the Father will give us anything we ask, but only what we ask in His name.

 

If my great grandmother let me have her checkbook when I was seven years old, and write whatever checks I wanted, that would have been a big mistake.  Very quickly we would have ended up with a big pile of candy, and toy cars, plastic soldiers and guns, and no food, the gas and water shut off, and no money in the bank.  Instead, the bank only sent out money if her name was on the check.

 

It’s similar with God the Father.  All His treasure: power, His authority, His wisdom, His glory, He has entrusted to one man only.

 

He has entrusted everything to the man who doesn’t seek His own will and glory, but only the will and glory of God the Father.  God has put everything in the hand of this man, His Son, Jesus.

 

When God the Father gets a prayer that does not come in the name of Jesus, His Son, the righteous one, He rejects it—just as the bank would have rejected a check that I wrote on my grandmother’s account and signed with my name.

 

Yet Jesus promises His disciples who believe in Him: In that day, you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me and I believed that I came from God.  (John 16:26-27)

 

He promises us: My Father Himself loves you because you believe in Me.  It’s not just that I will pray for you.  The Father will hear your own prayers because you believe in Me.

 

*That’s why being baptized, as Elliot is today, is so great a privilege that we constantly remind ourselves of it, everytime we invoke the Name “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” perhaps making the sign of the cross.  When we are baptized, God places His own name on us.  He gives us His name.  He covers us with the righteousness of Jesus so that we may approach God the Father in that righteousness and be received as God’s sons and heirs.  He cleanses us in our Baptism with the atoning blood Jesus shed on the cross for our sins.  And so we come to the Father as though we were Jesus Himself.

 

From this day forward Elliot may call on God as her own father and be assured God will hear her and not turn her away.  And it will be her parents’ task, along with her godparents and all of us, to teach and encourage her to come with confidence into God’s presence and call Him Father.

 

Those who don’t believe in Jesus can’t do this.  They can’t come to the Father because they do not know Him.  They certainly cannot call Him “Our Father.”  They can’t receive what they ask.  They are writing bad checks, signed with their own names instead of the name of the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

These prayers don’t please God.  They anger Him, because prayers offered without faith in Jesus are all aimed at getting what we want for our own sinful purposes.

 

That’s often the reason why our prayers, the prayers of Christians, receive no answer or are answered, “No.”  Not that God won’t hear us.  If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, God receives you.  He doesn’t look at your long track record of sins and failures.  He doesn’t look at the evil motives that fight in your heart with the Holy Spirit.  He looks at the righteousness of Jesus that covers your sins, the suffering and death that cancelled your sin, applied to you in Baptism.

 

But to ask the Father in Jesus’ name isn’t just to come in Jesus’ righteousness by faith.  It is also to ask for the things Jesus signs his name to.  Jesus doesn’t sign His name to all our desires.  It’s not always Jesus’ will that we escape difficulty, weakness, suffering, death.  Paul prayed that his physical weakness, his “thorn in the flesh”, would be taken away, so that he would be able to labor harder in the preaching of the Gospel.  But Jesus said, My grace is enough for you, because my power is made perfect in weakness.  (2 Cor. 12:9) 

 

So how do we pray “in Jesus’ name,” according to His will?  How do we know what that is?

 

We receive His Word.  In His Word, we receive His Holy Spirit who comes into us and teaches us what to pray for.  Just like you eat every day, so you need to feed on Jesus’ word every day, so that the Holy Spirit can teach us to ask not what we will according to the flesh, but what Jesus would sign His name to.

 

Still, when you don’t know how to pray or what to pray for, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask the Father.  He won’t cast you out, because He has already received you through the blood of Jesus and put His name on you in Baptism.

 

And He has given you the Holy Spirit, who prays within you according to God’s will when you don’t know how to pray.  He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God, Paul tells us in Romans chapter 8 (Rom. 8:27).

 

Jesus has also given us the very words to pray with Him to His Father in the prayer He gave us.  When you pray them, you are praying in the Name of Jesus, asking for things God will surely give you.  Look at the Small Catechism when you get home and remind yourself of the great things you are asking for when you pray that prayer together with Jesus.

 

When you pray it and other prayers that are in Jesus’ name—that are according to His will and offered in faith in Him, you have the assurance God the Father will not only listen, but will surely say “Yes” to them.  That is why we finish our prayers with “Amen”.  We are saying, “It shall be so.”

 

And Jesus gives another promise to us—that as you do this your joy will be full.

 

At St. Peter, we are a lot like the disciples of Jesus after He died.  We are full of anxiety, fear, distress.  Much like one of Jesus’ friends, Martha, to whom He said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and distressed about many things, but one thing is necessary.”  (Luke 10:41-42)

We need not be.  Jesus has given us His access to God the Father.

 

Until now you have asked nothing in My name.  Ask, and you will receive, that Your joy may be full.”  (John 16:24)

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Soli Deo Gloria

 

Fighting With God and Winning. Reminiscere 2018. Genesis 32:22-32

February 26, 2018 Leave a comment

jacob wrestling2Reminiscere, the Second Sunday in Lent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Genesis 32:22-32

February 25, 2018

Fighting with God and Winning

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

This isn’t the first time Jacob was after a blessing, but it was the first time he fought for it honestly.  This time Jacob didn’t get the blessing with the help of his mother by deceit.  And it wasn’t his old man Isaac he had to get this blessing from, who could be deceived easily because he could barely see.  He had to get this blessing from a man who could see very well, who can see in the dark.  He had to get this blessing from a stranger who attacked him in the middle of the night.  It was totally crazy for Jacob to think he would get a blessing from this unknown assailant.  But Jacob seems to know who it is, doesn’t he?

 

Yes, Jacob knows who is trying to pin him.  He knows the same way that Jonah knew who was in the storm that was about to sink the ship on which he had booked passage in the opposite direction from the place God had told him to go.  He knows the same way that Adam and Eve knew whose voice it was calling for them when they had eaten the fruit God commanded them not to eat.  Jacob knew who was wrestling him the same way you know, but try not to know, who it is that is taking you by the neck in your distress and trial.  When Jacob asks His name, to confirm his suspicions, he says, Why do you ask My name?  (Gen 32: 29)  You know who it is.

 

The blessing Jacob gets from this person in the night is a new name.  The man says, What is your name?  And he said, Jacob.  Then He said, Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and men and have prevailed (Gen 32: 27-28).  Jacob means “he takes the heel” or “he cheats.”  He received the blessing of his father Isaac and the blessing of God through cheating and trickery.  But now he stood alone with God and fought, and he prevailed.  His new name is “He fights with God.”

 

That name became the name of God’s people.  God’s people strive and fight with Him.  Not the way that the Israelites did in the wilderness, complaining about the lack of food, water, doubting God’s presence, doubting God would bring them into the promised land.  That wasn’t fighting with God.  That was running away from Him.  The true Israelites, His true people, not only fight with the devil, as we heard about last week.  They strive with God and prevail over Him, like Jacob did.

 

The wrestling and fighting Christians do with God is called prayer.  And the way we win this wrestling match with God is we remind Him of His promises, of His Word.  That is what the name of this Sunday indicates—Reminiscere, “remember”, from the Psalm at the beginning of the service, Psalm 25, where David prays, “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.  Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!”  (Ps. 25: 6-7)  We remind God of His promise, His covenant with us that He made with us when we were baptized, where He promised to be our God, and to remember our sins no more. Jacob told God, I will not let you go unless you bless me, he wasn’t trying to force God’s hand by the strength of his own arms.  That is impossible.  He overcame God with God’s own promise.  God cannot break His Word.  If He did that, He would stop being God.   

 

So now Jacob is coming back to the land in which he was born, with his wives, children, his flocks and his servants.  But now he has to meet the brother that he deceived and sinned against.  He hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.  And Jacob sends his family in two groups ahead, hoping that if Esau attacks, some of his family will be able to escape.  And while he is alone and afraid, God visits him in the night.  He attacks him.  He wrestles with him.

 

Some of you who are listening to me today understand exactly what it is like to be Jacob.  You know what it is like to be afraid and to be struck with calamity.  In the midst of it, you feel as though God is coming at you with your sins.  It feels as though you are being reminded of all the evil you have done, all the reasons God has to be angry with you.  If you haven’t had this experience, you certainly will—if not in this life, if not on your deathbed, then on the day when He judges the living and the dead.

 

But there is good news for you when this happens.  God wants you to prevail against Him in this fight.  In Jesus your Savior, you have already prevailed over God’s wrath and judgment.

 

We have good reason to feel as though God is judging or punishing us for our sins, that He is angry with us, when we are faced with death, dishonor, calamity.  None of these things would happen to us if we weren’t sinners.  And our sins are real.  We say we are sinners, but the seriousness of our sins seldom dawns on us.  By nature we don’t feel the gravity of sin and death, and we don’t seek God’s blessing.

 

And even when God has given us the gift of repentance, and we do grasp His blessing, our flesh divides us.  Our grasp is listless and weak.

 

So God wrestles us.  He scares us.  He wounds us.  He brings us down to the grave, so that He may raise us up, so that He may heal us.  We are healed when we grab hold of His blessing, when we grasp it with our hearts by faith.  And when we grasp His promise, our hearts overflow from our lips and we call out to God Remember your mercy!  Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways!  According to your love remember me!  I will not let you go until you bless me, as you swore to me when you baptized me!

 

This prayer prevails over God so that He hears and grants it.

 

Yet it isn’t our faith that overcomes God.  Our faith simply grasps the man who overcame God’s wrath and won His mercy and favor.

 

Jesus also experienced this fight with God.  In the garden of Gethsemane, He was alone.  The hour was coming when He was about to die an agonizing death.  But even worse, the hour was approaching when He would have to endure what Jacob feared but did not experience.  Jacob was afraid that when he met Esau, Esau would remember the wrong Jacob had done and kill him; Jacob was afraid that God would abandon him to Esau’s wrath.  Just as Adam was afraid when he heard God call for him, and when he came out to meet him he must have been thinking “It’s all over.”  Just as Jonah knew that God was in the storm that hit the ship.  He told the sailors to throw him into the sea and the storm would stop.  He must have expected that when they did that the depths of the ocean would be the gate through which he entered the depths of hell.

 

But Adam instead heard the promise of the Messiah.  Jonah was saved by a great fish that swallowed him.  And Jacob’s brother Esau met him and forgave him.

 

But Jesus was not saved.  He went into the garden and saw the end approaching and began to be so sorrowful that He said to His disciples, My soul is greatly troubled, even to death.  Stay here and watch with me. But his disciples did not watch.  They slept, while Jesus prayed in agony, and his sweat mingled with blood as He wrestled with God.

 

What did He pray?  Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done.

 

But the Father was not willing.  Jesus had to drain the cup of God’s wrath.  The wrath and judgment of God that we fear fell on Him.  Not just whips fell on his back and left stripe after stripe; not just nails piercing his hands and His feet, and all the agony of crucifixion.  But God turned away His face from His Son.  He abandoned Him.

 

That is what we really fear, or what we really should fear—that God forsakes us for our sins.

 

But He does not, even though we have returned to our sins like a dog to vomit.  When we wrestle with Him to fulfill His promises, to give us His Spirit, to let His Word go forth, to keep us in the faith, to forgive us, to deliver us from temptation and give us eternal life—He is overcome by us.  Because He has been overcome by His Son, who took away His wrath and judgment and the record of our sins.

 

God comes to you in the night and wrestles with you so that you may take hold of Jesus, who overcame His Father’s anger against human sin and won His heart to human beings.

 

In Jesus your Savior, you have already prevailed over God’s wrath and judgment.  Be bold when God comes to wrestle you.  Be a fighter.  Strive together with Jesus and claim God’s mercy for you and His church and His world.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Each Called Out To His God. Day of Supplication and Prayer. Jonah 1:3-5

September 20, 2017 Leave a comment

jonahsprayer.jpgDay of Supplication and Prayer

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Jonah 1:4-6

September 20, 2017

“Each Called Out to His God”

Jesus

 

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.  Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god.  And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them.  But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.  So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper?  Arise, call out to your god!  Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”  Jonah 1:4-6

 

The pagan captain is astounded at Jonah.  Even the sailors are scared for their lives at this storm, but the prophet is sleeping.  And even pagans know that when you are about to die, you call on your god.  They don’t know whether their gods will hear them—and indeed they won’t, because they are no gods at all.  Yet Jonah the prophet of the true God is sleeping through this storm like he is dead.

 

Why is Jonah sleeping when his life is in danger?  Because he’s trying to get away from the Lord.  The Lord sent him to preach repentance to Nineveh, that great city.  And Jonah refused and went on a ship the other way, to Tarshish.  He knows the Lord won’t let him do that so easily.  So he sleeps and tries to forget it all.  And he knows that if he does get up and call on his God, the Lord will send him back to Nineveh, where he doesn’t want to go.

 

Occasionally people ask why I keep doing Evening Prayer every week, even though only one person comes.  I think I understand why they ask this question.  You have so many things to do, Pastor, and you have limited time with your family.  Why have another service when no one comes?

 

This is why: because I’m like the captain of the ship Jonah was on.  There is a storm on the sea.  It seems to me that the ship is going to sink—the ship of this church.  The ship of our nation.  The ship of my own life, many times.  And I don’t know what to do.

 

And the sad thing is, with all these boats taking on water, I still will not make time to call on my God many times.  I need the help of the church, of the other believers in Christ—even if it’s one other person.

 

I’m not the only one affected by these storms.  You are too.  So are the people not here tonight.  And it’s not just us.  So many of our brothers have fallen overboard and are alone on the sea.  Others have sunk beneath the waves.  If this ship goes down, we can swim to another.  But what about them?  And what about the many who like the pagan sailors don’t know the true God and can’t call on Him?  Who prays for them?

 

Rise, my soul, to watch and pray, says the old Lutheran hymn.  From your sleep awaken!  Be not by the evil day Unawares o’ertaken.  For the foe, well we know, is a harvest reaping, While the saints are sleeping.  That is true even when there are no obvious dangers facing Christians.  But that is not the case today.  If you smell the air, you can sense the chaos rising in the nation.  And as the churches are growing weaker, as we are losing a whole generation of young people, the heat is being turned up on the church.  Watch against the devil’s snares, Lest asleep he find you; For indeed no pains he spares, To deceive and blind you.  Satan’s prey, oft are they, who secure are sleeping, and no watch are keeping.

 

That’s why Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers, Evening Prayer, and Compline are in the hymnbook.  We can, of course, pray at home, and we should.  But we often are lax.  And even when we do pray, oftentimes we don’t know what to pray for.  You, especially you here tonight, are very good at working together.  You are not lazy.

 

But how much stronger a congregation we might be if we also prayed together!  Then the constant difficulty we have finding people willing to work might be solved or made better.

 

We surely have enough reasons to pray.  We have our own concern about our future; we need a reinvigoration of our life as a congregation. Everyone says that.  And the trouble we have is the trouble of our whole synod.  They need our prayers as well.  As far as I can tell, no one really knows the answer to the difficulties we face.  Then there is the well-being of our country, and the fact that so many of our countrymen have forgotten the true God.

 

We do not have a false god like the pagan sailors.  We know the true God.  He has placed His name on us in His Holy Baptism.  He has put us to death with His Son and raised us from the dead.  He has promised to hear us as He hears His own Son.  Jesus has invited us to call Him “Father”—as though we also had always been obedient children.  He promises us, “The Father will give you whatever you ask in My Name,” and encourages us, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”  In our Lord, our prayers are not “maybe” but “Yes” and “Amen.”

 

If we have been running away from where the Lord would send us, it is not over for us.  He will raise us with Christ and bring us where He intended us to go.  And if we have not been running, the Lord who rules the waves will put His power to work in us and through us to go through our storms.  If we sink to the depths, even from there He will raise us up.

 

Dear brothers, let us call upon our God together in these days leading up to this glorious festival of the Reformation, where we rejoice in the gift of His pure Gospel, which is the power of God to save those who believe.

 

The peace of God, that passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria”

Soli Deo Gloria

Prayer When A Comet or Other Strange Signs Appear in the Heavens. Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz

eclipse.jpgfrom Evangelische Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz (Concordia, 1881-15th Ed.)

386.  Prayer When a Comet or Other Strange Signs Become Visible in the Heavens

(from Michael Cubach’s Grosses und vollkommnes Gebetbuch [1655])

Great God, You do wonders in heaven about and on the earth beneath.  You number the stars and give them all their names, and do marvelous things that are past searching out.  O hidden God, You who made the eye, open our eyes, that we may behold this present wondrous sign with amazement, and consider that it has not happened by chance, but through Your divine providence, to terrify the godless and to comfort the pious.  O Lord Jesus Christ, through this sign we are reminded of Your return and our promised redemption, that the last day is at the door.  O God the Holy Spirit, since the signs in the heavens preach repentance to us, help us, that through such signs we remember our sins and amend our lives in accordance with them, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

386.  Gebet, wenn ein Comet oder andere wunderlich Zechen am Himmel sichtbar werden.

Großer Gott, du thust Wunder oben im Himmel und unten auf Erden, du zählest die Sterne und nennest sie alle mit Namen, und thust große Dinge, die nicht zu forschen sind.  O verborgener Gott, der du das Auge gemacht hast, öffne uns die Augen, daß wir das gegenwärtige Wunderzeichen am Himmel mit Verwunderung ansehen, und bedenken, daß es nicht ohngefähr, sondern durch deine göttliche Vorsehung geschehe, die Gottlosen zu schrecken und die Frommen zu trösten.  O Herr Jesu Christe, hierdurch werden wir deiner Zukunft erinnert und unserer Erlösung vertröstet, daß der jüngste Tag vor der Thür sei.  O Gott Heiliger Geist, weil die Zeichen des Himmels unsere Bußprediger sein, so hilf, daß wir uns unserer Sünden dadurch erinnern und nach solchen Zeichen uns bessern, durch Jesum Christum.  Amen.

 

Prayer of a Pastor

Johann_Heermann2Prayer of a Teacher and Pastor for Himself and His Conduct of His Office

J. Heermann (1585-1647)

from Michael Cubach’s Prayer Treasury

Lord Christ! From the beginning of the world, through all time, You have given teachers and pastors, to teach Your congregation to keep all that You have commanded. I also have been called by You through means of people, that I should be for the service of Your Church and Your Word, advance Your glory with all might, and should lead Your lambs, purchased with Your rose-red blood, to You in eternal blessedness. Dearest Jesus! It is of Your grace that I am what I am, for I am the weakest of Your servants, such that I am not worthy that I should be called Your minister. I am of impure lips. I am slow of speech and have an uninstructed tongue, and I have never been eloquent. So endue me now with power from on high to carry out this holy office as You require. Give me through Your Spirit what I should think and say, that I teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners be converted to You.

Lord! Give me, according to Your promise, a mouth and wisdom. Open my understanding, that I may understand the Scripture, and grace me with an instructed tongue, that I know how to speak to the weary at the proper time. Lend me courage and strength, that I lift up my voice as a trumpet, and show my parish children, the rich as well as the poor, their misdeeds, without timidity and respect of persons, and keeping quiet about nothing. Grant that I show favoritism neither to the rich or the poor for the sake of a handful of barley and a bit of bread, so that thereby the godless may not be strengthened in their sins and in the future their blood be required from my hand. Help that I preach Your Word with all candor and withhold nothing from all the counsel of God, that I also do not cease day and night with tears to admonish, that I may be pure from all blood-guilt, and so rescue my soul and those of sinners from destruction.

Lord Christ, the matter and the office is Yours. Give me grace to convert many souls. Through my foolish preaching, create laud and honor to You and great and rich profit in Your Church and congregation, that I may exhort and rebuke the bad, bear the weak, and instruct with a meek spirit those who are overtaken in a fault. Thus may I serve God with a pure conscience and lose nothing which You have entrusted to me. Let me not talk into the wind, and my work in the Lord be in vain, but let it save myself and those who hear me. Teach me, Lord, Your way, that I walk in Your truth, and what I teach others out of Your Word, do myself; that I give no one offense, nor be to anyone an example and an excuse to sin, but instead in all things demonstrate myself to be a servant of God. Grant that I may do the work of an evangelical preacher, that I may cause all laboring and heavy-laden hearts and troubled and anguished consciences to stand upright through the staff of Your Word; that I use sharpness on the unrepentant, according to the power which the Lord has given me to build up and not destroy. Grant me to rightly carry out my office.

But when I, like Jeremiah and all prophets and apostles, will be derided by everybody and become the world’s curse and spectacle, then let me not become languid and impatient in my spirit, nor depart from my service and apostleship, like Judas Iscariot, on account of the world’s thanklessness and for the sake of temporal things, but instead in faith and patience hope for and await the eternal reward. Grant also, that I do not seek glory and honor before men, but rather honor with God, and confess Your Word, which is a Word of the Cross, confidently before the evil world. Then I will be recognized by You, Lord Christ, before Your heavenly Father, and all holy angels and saints on that day, and as a faithful servant may enter into Your eternal glory and perfect joy, for Your own sake. Amen.

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