The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
The Rev. George Pejakovich
Luke 11:1-13

A PRIEST, A RABBI, AND A BUDDHIST MONK WERE SITTING IN THE RABBI’S STUDY DRINKING TEA AND HAVING A NICE CHAT, WHILE A TECHNICIAN WAS IN THE CORNER RUNNING A NEW HIGH SPEED GOOGLE CABLE TO THE STUDY. AS THEY TALKED, THE SUBJECT TURNED TO PRAYER; SPECIFICALLY ON THE BEST POSTURE FOR PRAYER. THE PRIEST CLAIMED THE BEST POSITION WAS ON ONE’S KNEES, WHILE THE RABBI ASSERTED IT WAS STANDING WITH COVERED HEAD AND ARMS OUTSTRETCHED, AND THE BUDDHIST SAID THE BEST POSITION WAS SEATED IN THE LOTUS POSTURE. THE CABLE TECH LAUGHED OUT LOUD, AND WHEN THEY ALL LOOKED AT HIM, HE SAID, “THE BEST PRAYING I’VE EVER DONE WAS HANGING BY MY FEET UPSIDE DOWN SIXTY FEET UP A UTILITY POLE.”

THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY IS ABOUT PRAYER, SPECIFICALLY ABOUT WHAT WE CALL THE LORD’S PRAYER; WHICH REALLY SHOULD BE CALLED THE DISCIPLE’S PRAYER. THE VERSION WE HEARD READ IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT FROM THE ONE WE USE LITURGICALLY, AND IS MOST LIKELY THE EARLIEST AND CLOSEST TO THE ORIGINAL AS TAUGHT BY JESUS. THE PRAYER ENTERED INTO THE LITURGY OF THE CHURCH EARLY ON, AND CAN BE FOUND IN THE LITURGY SAINT JAMES DEVELOPED IN THE FIRST CENTURY. IT HAS BEEN A PART OF EVERY CHRISTIAN LITURGY SINCE THEN BECAUSE IT IS SO IMPORTANT; SO LET US INVESTIGATE ITS IMPORTANCE.

LUKE PLACES THIS ACCOUNT AFTER THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN AND THE STORY OF MARTHA AND MARY, AND HE DOES SO FOR A REASON; THEY ARE ALL CONNECTED. AS YOU WILL RECALL, THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN IS ABOUT HOW LOVE OF GOD AND ONE’S NEIGHBOR IS THE LAW OF GOD, AND HOW, BECAUSE OF OUR SINS, SALVATION MUST COME FROM BEYOND THE LAW. THE STORY OF MARTHA AND MARY IS ABOUT HOW MARTHA IS SO BUSY TRYING TO MAKE EVERYTHING RIGHT, THAT SHE MISSES THE IMPORTANT THING; FOCUSING ON JESUS. NOW, JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES HAVE GONE OFF TO A CERTAIN PLACE, WHICH MEANS SIMPLY SOMEWHERE ELSE, AND JESUS, AS WAS HIS CUSTOM, GOES OFF BY HIMSELF TO PRAY. WHEN HE RETURNS TO THE GROUP, ONE OF THE DISCIPLES ASKS HIM TO TEACH THEM HOW TO PRAY, LIKE JOHN TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES.

TO UNDERSTAND THIS REQUEST, WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT PRAYER IN JUDAISM WAS VERY FORMULAIC AND RITUALISTIC; WITH THE HEAD COVERED, ARMS OUTSTRETCHED, AND THE RECITING OF ROTE PRAYERS. EACH TEACHER WHO HAD DISCIPLES TAUGHT THEM TO PRAY IN A PARTICULAR MANNER, AND ONE COULD TELL WHO THE TEACHER WAS BY HOW HIS DISCIPLES PRAYED. WHEN THE DISCIPLE MADE HIS REQUEST, THIS WAS WHAT HE WAS EXPECTING, BUT WAS NOT WHAT HE RECEIVED. “WHEN YOU PRAY,” JESUS SAID, “SAY: FATHER, HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME. YOUR KINGDOM COME. GIVE US EACH DAY OUR DAILY BREAD. AND FORGIVE US OUR SINS, FOR WE FORGIVE EVERYONE INDEBTED TO US. AND DO NOT BRING US TO THE TIME OF TRIAL.”

JESUS GAVE HIS DISCIPLES, AND US, BOTH THE WAY TO PRAY, AND THE VERY REASON FOR PRAYING. IN THAT HE TOLD US TO ADDRESS GOD AS FATHER, ABBA, THE WAY A CHILD WOULD ADDRESS A LOVING FATHER, MEANS THAT WE ARE TO CONSIDER OURSELVES AS GOD’S LOVING CHILDREN. AS LOVING CHILDREN, WE, OF COURSE, WOULD WANT TO HONOR OUR FATHER AND KEEP HIS NAME HOLY, BECAUSE AS OUR FATHER, GOD IS ABLE TO BESTOW EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS ON HIS CHILDREN. WE PRAY FOR THE COMING OF HIS KINGDOM BECAUSE, AS HIS CHILDREN, WE ARE THE INHERITORS OF HIS KINGDOM. WE PRAY FOR DAILY BREAD, BECAUSE GOD’S KINGDOM BRINGS US FOOD, AND DRINK, AND CLOTHING, AND ALL THAT WE NEED TO DO THE WORK OF HIS KINGDOM. WE ASK FOR FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS, BECAUSE THE BENEFITS OF THE KINGDOM ARE FAR BEYOND THE NECESSITIES OF THIS LIFE, BUT INCLUDE THE REMOVAL OF OUR SINS SO WE CAN APPROACH THE HOLINESS OF GOD; AND WE FORGIVE OTHERS BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN. WE ASK TO BE KEPT FROM THE TIME OF TRIAL, SO THAT, FOCUSED SOLELY ON GOD AND HIS KINGDOM, WE MAY AVOID ALL THAT WOULD KEEP US FROM GOD.

YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT THERE IS NO “I” IN THIS WAY OF PRAYING; THIS IS A COMMUNITY PRAYER. IT IS THE PRAYER OF THE COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING MADE INTO CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD; THE FAMILY OF GOD WHO BECOME MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY THROUGH THE SON OF THE FATHER. THE PRAYER ESTABLISHES AND REINFORCES OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD, THROUGH JESUS, AND OUR RELATIONSHIP TO EACH OTHER. THIS IS WHY THIS PRAYER IS SO IMPORTANT; IT DEFINES WHO AND WHAT WE ARE; CHILDREN OF GOD AND WORKERS IN HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM.

THE LITTLE STORY WHICH JESUS TOLD REINFORCES THE REALITY OF OUR RELATIONSHIP TOGETHER AND TO GOD. JESUS SAID, “JUST SUPPOSE ONE OF YOU HAS A FRIEND;” HE SAID SUPPOSE BECAUSE THE BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP AND HOST AND GUEST RELATIONSHIP OF THE TIME MADE THIS AN OUTRAGEOUS AND LAUGHABLE SCENARIO. FRIEND “A” BANGS ON THE DOOR OF FRIEND “B” AT MIDNIGHT, AND SAYS THAT HIS FRIEND “C’ AS ARRIVED SUDDENLY AND HE HAS NO BREAD TO GIVE HIM. “B” SAYS, “GO AWAY, I’M ASLEEP, THE DOOR IS LOCKED, MY CHILDREN ARE IN BED WITH ME, AND I CAN’T GET UP TO GIVE YOU ANYTHING.” NOW, OF COURSE, HE CAN GET UP, BUT HE DOESN’T WANT TO GET UP. SO FRIEND “A” KEEPS BANGING ON THE DOOR, AND, IF FRIEND “B” WON’T GET UP OUT OF PURE FRIENDSHIP, HE WILL GET UP AND GIVE FRIEND “A” THE BREAD HE REQUESTS BECAUSE OF “A’S” SHAMELESSNESS IN BANGING ON HIS DOOR (THE GREEK TEXT USES SHAMELESSNESS RATHER THAN PERSISTENCE). THE POINT JESUS WAS MAKING IS THAT “A” HAD EVERY RIGHT TO EXPECT THAT “B” WOULD GIVE HIM BREAD, BECAUSE THAT IS THE WAY FRIENDSHIP WORKS, AND SO “A” HAD NO SHAME IN MAKING A PEST OF HIMSELF UNTIL “B” GAVE HIM WHAT HE NEEDED FOR “C”.

SO, JESUS SAID, THAT AS THE FAMILY OF GOD AND THE INHERITORS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, WE HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO BANG ON THE DOOR OF HEAVEN AND ASK FOR WHAT WE NEED FOR THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM. WHAT WE NEED, MIND YOU, NOT WHAT WE WANT. “ASK, AND IT WILL BE GIVEN YOU; SEARCH, AND YOU WILL FIND; KNOCK, AND THE DOOR WILL BE OPENED FOR YOU.” AFTER ALL, JESUS SAID, AS HUMAN FATHERS YOU LOVE YOUR CHILDREN ENOUGH NOT TO GIVE THEM A SNAKE WHEN THEY ASK FOR A FISH, OR A SCORPION WHEN THEY ASK FOR AN EGG, HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU THINK GOD WILL GIVE YOU WHEN YOU ASK? GOD WILL EVEN GIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT TO THOSE WHO ASK HIM, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKES US EVEN CLOSER THAN FAMILY THROUGH JESUS, FOR WITH THE SPIRIT GOD DWELLS IN OUR VERY BEINGS.

THE POSTURE OF PRAYER, KNEELING, STANDING, OR SITTING IN THE LOTUS POSITION, IS HELPFUL, BUT IRRELEVANT. FORMAL, RITUAL PRAYER, IS DESIRABLE AND HELPFUL, AS IT FOCUSES OUR HEARTS, MINDS, STRENGTH, AND SOULS ON OUR LORD, JESUS, WHO IS THE WAY TO THE FATHER. WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT IS THAT, THROUGH THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS, WE ARE MADE INTO SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD, OUR HEAVENLY FATHER; WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD, AND ARE THE INHERITORS OF THE KINGDOM NOW AND IN THE AGES TO COME. THEREFORE, WE ARE BOLD TO SAY, WE SHAMELESSLY DARE TO SAY, “OUR FATHER,” OUR DEAREST LOVING FATHER, “HALLOWED BE THY NAME.” AMEN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>