Pastor Eric Schroeder - The Second Sunday After Pentecost - Sunday, June 23, 2019

Text: Luke 11:11-13

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At a certain point in your life experience, it suddenly occurred to you that not everyone is good at his or her job.  For a long time, all the teachers that you had were smarter than you, so it was hard to tell early on.  But not all teachers are good at what they do.  Your doctors seemed fine as long as you were healthy, but then you got really sick, and maybe they had a hard time figuring out what was really wrong with you.  The police in the community have your respect, but every now and then an officer gets caught breaking the law instead of serving and protecting the citizens. 

Not everyone is good at their job, and honestly, that includes the job—if we want to call it that—of parenting….To be fair, it’s not an easy job.  Kids aren’t always cooperative, and respectful, and helpful, so sometimes they make it difficult for even the best parents.  Some parents struggle because they want to give their kids the best life possible and therefore they have a hard time saying no.  Other parents have their own issues and financial burdens, so they have a hard time saying yes to anything beyond the basic needs.  And then, sadly, there are some parents that just don’t care as much about their children as they do about themselves. 

Now that we are past the middle of June, we’ve gone through the cycle of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day again this year, and on both occasions we thank God for the blessings he has given through our earthly parents.  Some of us had to look a little harder than others to find those blessings.  Some of us have outlived our parent’s care, so most, if not all of those blessings are in the past. And some of us who have become parents appreciate the thoughts, but we know we haven’t always done a good job of parenting ourselves. 

But I hope that today we can all agree on one thing: we are grateful for Our Father in Heaven, as we are reminded in Jesus’ words of how blessed we are to be children of a heavenly Father. 

It might seem simple, but the first blessing that our Father in Heaven gave us was the gift of life.  In other words, we wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for God’s purpose and design.  Scripture assures us that not a single one of us got here by accident; no, God our Father personally planned our existence, as the psalm reminds us, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  Each one of us is a unique, handmade creation of the divine craftsman, as the very next verse of the psalm reminds us: 14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Our Father in Heaven gave us life, and the purpose of our existence is for his praise and glory through a relationship with him.

But as we all know, we are far from the ideal type of children.  Our earthly parents aren’t perfect like our heavenly Father, and we inherited their corruption.  So instead of living for God and his will, we naturally live for ourselves.  Instead of the obedient children God longs for, we rebel against him with complaints and arguments, and we find all kinds of ways to try and sneak in our favorite sins, but God sees every one.  He will not be fooled; he will not be satisfied with our weak excuses.  All of us have lost the right to be called children of God…

But then the perfect child came along, in keeping with God’s will and promise.  Jesus inherited no sin; he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  And instead of complaining against God, he kept every commandment without grumbling.  Instead of living for himself, he lived a blameless life for the glory of his Father the way we were supposed to, but failed so miserably at.  And instead of breaking down the relationship with his Father, he offered himself as a substitute for us to win God’s favor and restore our relationship with God.  By his death, Jesus bought and paid for eternal life for us because his forgiveness broke down the barrier between us and God. 

If we would have watched the fulfillment of God’s plan happen, wouldn’t it have seemed so cruel?  To see an innocent man suffer and die that way, it would have seemed so unfair.  How could a father do that to his own son?  How could a just God allow such rejection, such hatred, such brutality against the One he sent?  God’s Word tells us the answer in a single word: love—his unfailing love for you.  God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Our Father in heaven gave us life, and when we messed it up, he showed us how much he still loves us, how much he longs for relationship, how nothing—not even your big pile of sins—can get in the way his eternal plans for us. 

Our Father gave us life, and our Father gives his love in the name of his Son.  And when we pray in our Savior’s name, we can be assured that our Father will continually give us good gifts. 

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  Jesus here employs what is called an argument from the lesser to the greater, and it’s pretty easy to understand.  If we rephrase his words, he is saying that if the average human father can figure out how to give his children the basic needs of life, how much more Our Father in Heaven knows what we need and loves to answer our prayers. 

These are words that give me great comfort as a father, because it means that God is going to take better care of my kids than I can.  But these same words give us all comfort as children of God, because no matter how great our dads might be or might have been, our Father in heaven is greater.  He knows the past, the present, and the future that he has planned for us.  He does not age.  He has promised never to leave us, and he never sleeps.  He is never too busy; no, on the contrary, Jesus’ words paint a picture of a loving Father waiting for us to answer his invitation and come to him in prayer, because he can’t wait to answer us.

Will he give us everything we ask for?  Certainly not.  He knows better than that.  Will he give us what we need?  Of course, and then some, because our Heavenly Father gives good gifts.  But Jesus has a lesson to teach us here as we order our prayer life.  He reminds us what we need most, when he encourages us to ask for the Holy Spirit.  And it’s no accident that when Jesus teaches his disciples the prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer, six out of seven petitions are asking for spiritual gifts.  It’s easy for us to recognize our physical needs and wants (and Jesus did teach us to ask for daily bread), but what we need more is God’s grace and forgiveness, and the motivation to forgive others.  What we need more is help to fight against temptation.  What we need more is a heart that puts God’s will first and puts others before ourselves.  What we need more is the courage to tell others about Jesus.  What we need more is to be filled with confidence that our Father is leading us and guiding us according to his eternal plans to deliver us from this evil world, not just to satisfy our short-sighted earthly desires. 

Over the next seven weeks, we’ll look closer at each of those petitions.  But before we get to what we are asking, it is always good to be reminded of whom we are asking.  Our Father in Heaven is the one who gave us life, the one who gave his love in sending Jesus, and he is the one who gives good gifts as he answers every prayer, including this one. 

We’ve said the words often, but let’s all remember that each time we pray, we remember what John writes in his first epistle “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are.”  In Jesus’ name. AMEN.