March 26, 2017
Did you know that you were a priest?
As we continue to look towards the 500th Commemoration of the of the Reformation, it is nice to have a reminder that each and every one of us is a priest within Christ’s church. This doctrine as Martin Luther presented it, is the Priesthood of All Believers. He argued that all who belong to Christ through faith, baptism, and the Gospel shared in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and belonged “truly to the spiritual estate”: “For whoever comes out of the water of baptism can boast that he is already a consecrated priest, bishop, and pope, although of course it is not seemly that just anybody shall exercise such office.” All baptized believers are called to be priests, Luther said, but not all are called to be pastors.[i]
If we are all priests, it would make sense that we can all pray. We do not need a special degree or anything of that matter. We do not have to be perfect, nor do we have to say just the right words. However, we don’t always think like that.
In seminary, while in a group for some reason or another, everyone would be quick to decline to pray. And that is what we were going to seminary for. We would play the game where everyone touches their nose and says, “not it.” Of course, the last one to do so would be the one that was stuck praying.
In my first call, during a meeting with a member of the synod staff with the leaders of my congregation, he asked someone to begin with prayer. Three or four fingers pointed at me as the pastor, and the comment was made, “that is what we called him for.” What is our aversion to prayer?
This morning we venture into The Lord’s Prayer. It is familiar to us. I have experienced it as one thing that people retain, even in the midst of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Timothy Wengert says, “Prayer is faith breathing, and its respiration is measured by the ‘amen,’ which for Luther could only mean, ‘Yes, yes, it is going to come about just like this.’”
We pray the same prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples. First in the gospel of Matthew, in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount. Again, in the gospel of Luke, as one of the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray as John taught his disciples. We too can follow the instructions of Jesus, when we don’t know what else to pray.
While we are convicted in the law of the Ten Commandments, the Creeds and The Lord’s prayer come to our aid. The gospel boldly shines through the words as Jesus teaches them, while still pointing to the fact that we are sinners nonetheless.
Martin Luther divided the Lord’s Prayer into seven petitions, in addition to an introduction and conclusion.
Our Father in heaven
The introduction opens up with who it is we are addressing. Pretty obvious! However, it has been a stumbling block for some people. For those that have issues with the language of Father or the patriarchal image. In The Shack, both the movie and the book, God takes the personification of a black woman, and at another time a man. God is much greater than what we can label. God is the great mystery, yet ever present. In that idea, we pray Our Father…
Hallowed be your name.
As we learned a couple of weeks ago, we are to fear and love God, so that we use God’s name in a right manor. In that righteousness, we keep it Holy. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for it to be Holy in and among us as well.
Your Kingdom Come.
Even without our prayer, God’s kingdom is going to come. In our prayer, we ask that it may also come to us, here on earth. In this, we are given God’s Holy Word, and the presence of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. The kingdom, is not something that we have to work for, it is through the grace of God that we will fully be a part of it, here on earth.
Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
God’s gracious and good will comes to us as every evil scheme is broken. We have the hope and promise of an eternal life that comes with none of the stressors and evil that we experience in our daily lives today. In the eternal life, we have the promise that all evil will be banished. It is that will of God, that we pray to come and be with us on earth, as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
What can’t we give thanks to God for? Everything comes to us through God, and we should be thankful for everything. From the food on our table, to the roof over our heads, to our families and our neighbors that make living into community a joyous thing. It is in everything we encounter that is made possible through God the creator. We are not to take anything for granted.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
We enter into the final three petitions, after praying for our basic human needs, of the Word of God, faith, and the Holy Spirit. In these final petitions, we see an image of what it means to live into a Christian life. Not only do we seek repentance, especially in this time of Lent, but we also should be forgiving those that have sinned against us. That does not mean we forget, but to fully live into God, we must forgive.
Save us from the time of trial.
God will not, and does not put us to the test. God does not tempt us. That is the evil that resides within our broken world. We pray that God will continue to be with us and preserve us from the evil of the world. Unfortunately, we will encounter it in some way, and it is in our prayer that we ask for protection.
And deliver us from evil.
As we come to the seventh and final petition, Luther believed that this single petition could summarize the entirety of The Lord’s Prayer. It is not just the summary of the entire prayer, it can also be seen as a summary for our entire Christian life. As we journey in our earthly life, we are going to confront evil, and as we choose to follow Jesus and receive the grace of God, it is our hope that we will be delivered from evil.
As we embrace God’s Word in our lives and heed the calling of the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us, we develop our faith in the hope and promise of the life to come. The man born blind exhibits this faith as he proclaims his belief. In his proclamation, “Lord, I believe,” his faith can be witnessed and thus shared with others. It is in our faith that we conclude, For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.
[i] The Priesthood of All Believers. First Things. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/10/the-priesthood-of-all-believers