forgiveness

The Paradox of Freedom and the Christian

The history of the American experiment is making it less possible for Christians to live ignorant of the moral condition of our societal context. The Rev. Bart Day from the Office of National Mission of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, put it this way in his public response concerning the Planned Parenthood atrocities that are coming to light:

Today let us confess life with renewed vigor — to our friends over supper, through letters to the editor of our local paper, by writing our congressmen, in tweets and emails to Planned Parenthood, on our Facebook pages.

Let us pray that our Lord would bring an end to abortion altogether and that He would stop the horrible sale of infant bodies.

And let us pray that He would forgive us, renew us and bolster us to make a good confession in season and out of season: one that is always, no matter what, for life.

As I reflected on the news of the last couple of days while watching Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s acceptance speech after receiving the Arthur Ashe Award on the ESPY’s, my mind reeled trying to process the current zeitgeist of America. Then through the darkness, there shined a bright ray of commonality between it all. I do not just mean a commonality between Jenner and Planned Parenthood, but a commonality that traces back to the beginning of time – the idolatry of freedom.

God told Adam and Eve that they are free to eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except the one that was in the middle. And placing freedom above divine mandate –  fearing, loving, and trusting freedom above God, if you will – they fell into sin as did the whole creation with them. So why are we surprised when the same ideas are expressed within a creation that is afflicted with the same sickness.

Throughout the entire abortion debate, pro-choice advocates cast their arguments in light of freedom. Whenever one opposes abortion, that person opposes the freedom of a woman to do with her body as she wishes. Is there anything that is more “anti-American” than opposing freedom? Whenever one speaks out against homosexuality, transgenderism, promiscuity, fornication, co-habitation, adultery, or anything else the Bible would call sin or a result of sin, that person is opposes the freedom of a person to be happy, love who they love, be true to themselves, etc. Is there anything more hateful than limiting someone’s freedom?

The hard answer to all of these questions is the fact that we are not called to be free or American (in this sense of the word). We are called to be God’s. Our freedom ends where it conflicts with the Word of God. Freedom is not all that it is cracked up to be. Freedom to ourselves means freedom from all that would confine us. Freedom to ourselves means freedom from God, and it does not take long for a Scripturally-minded Christian to see how scary of a place that is. If you want to see what freedom from God looks like, take a look at Christ on the cross. This is where God turns His back on His Son because of the sin of the world that He bears. It is where He turns His back on the one who bears our sins. All of them. It is in submission to God’s Law that we find repentance. It is in repentance that we find forgiveness. All of us. So to deify and laud those who celebrate freedom to themselves above obedience to God, is succumbing to Satan’s old tricks.

We cannot ignore this anymore. We cannot live as if we are of the world. We are not. We are of God. Let us find comfort, courage and peace in His blessings. His Word. His Sacrament. These are for you. Forgiveness and strength are found when we gather, we pray, we praise, and we give thanks. In this forgiveness there is true freedom. Freedom to be the people of God.

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Even the Dogs…

In his one of his accounts about his journeys entitled, North by Northeast, Walter Cronkite recalls the following incident:

Sailing back down the Mystic River in Connecticut and following the channel’s tricky turns through an expanse of shallow water, I am reminded of the time a boatload of young people sped past us here, its occupants shouting and waving their arms. I waved back a cheery greeting and my wife said, “Do you know what they were shouting?” “Why, it was ‘Hello, Walter,'” I replied. “No,” she said. “They were shouting, “Low water, Low water.'” Such are the pitfalls of fame’s egotism.

I seriously doubt that Walter Cronkite is alone in his egotism. We want to see ourselves as the ones who matter. We want to see stores, holidays, laws, celebrations, and even schools cater to our needs, our preferences, and our ideas of social equality and equity. Is this not what leads to 95% of our disagreements? We want to be included. We want life to be about us. Pride, hubris, arrogance, narcissism, haughtiness, self-importance, or whatever term you might choose to identify it, has led to a general pining for inclusiveness amongst our society. We want everyone to be bidding us a warm welcome and calling us by name. We want to be included in all of the good things, and protected from all of the bad things. We want to rid ourselves of any possible reason that someone might want to exclude us. The idea of someone being excluded from some benefit on the basis of nationality, race, gender, age, or even sexuality offends our senses… it stirs up dissension in the ranks… it causes protests, riots, and many other hateful things. This might be why this account of Jesus and the Canaanite woman seems to ruffle our feathers a little. For people who fancy themselves as disciples of Jesus, we might find this passage a little offensive. So, we might be liable to try to defend Jesus. We may want to run to His side and explain his motives. We might try really hard to show that Jesus is not really saying what He is saying. Just in case you weren’t paying attention, Listen to the passage again. You can even follow along in your bulletins if you like.

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.

A little bit of explanation is helpful here. Jesus had just been in the area of Gennesaret. When He had arrived there, the people started bringing all the sick and diseased to Jesus, as was the case most of the places that He went. While He was healing people, some scribes and Pharisees came from Jerusalem to ask Him why His disciples did not wash their hands when they ate. Now, Gennesaret was roughly 75 miles from Jerusalem. That’s a long way to travel by foot just to ask a question about cleanliness. But, cleanliness was important to the Jews. It was important for their laws. Cleanliness was next to godliness as the saying goes. So Jesus explains to them that cleanliness comes from the inside of a man. It doesn’t have to do with what you put into your body. Evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not mean anything. It’s all about perspective. So after this encounter, Jesus leaves the area and heads out of the “comfort” of Israel towards the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon. These places were definitely NOT clean in the Jewish sense of the word.

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word.

 So, in this pagan place, a seemingly pagan woman interrupts the disciples and Jesus on their getaway. AND she wants something. They always want something from Jesus. They want to be healed. They want their family members to be healed. They want something to eat. People always want something from Jesus. He has just traveled the almost 100 miles to the region, and here is another charity case. But obviously this doesn’t mean a whole lot to Jesus. He doesn’t even answer her. But she is persistent.

And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Wow! This is where we, as Americans, start to get a little bit uncomfortable. I mean, yeah, we understand that Jesus would be a little ticked that every time He tries to get away for a little R&R people interrupt Him. The disciples even seem to know what’s going on here. They just want Jesus to get on with it so they rid themselves of the presence of this woman. “Send her away. Give her what she wants!!” is the connotation of their words here. But Jesus remarks that He has not come for this woman. She’s not part of Israel. She’s a Canaanite. But this is a little exclusive. Isn’t it? Only sent for the lost sheep of the house of Israel? That seems a little cold. I mean we can understand if He doesn’t want to do anything because He is tired. But to exclude this woman on the basis of nationality? Religious preference? That’s not very… well… nice.

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

And here is where we really get uncomfortable. This poor woman is begging… on her knees in the dirt of the road… “Lord, help me.” The disciples had seen this before. Jesus always has compassion when this happens. He always ends up helping. The man with a withered hand, the men with demons, the woman bleeding, the paralytic, the centurion’s servant and the crowd that followed, the leper, they all get healed. Surely, Jesus is just stringing this woman along.

But then His response, “it is not right to give the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus does not only ignore her initial request. Ignore the disciples’ request to give her what she wants to get rid of her. But now He calls her a dog? At best, she is some sort of household pet who is way down on the list of those who get fed. At the worst, she is an unclean scavenger of dead prey and garbage. Either description seems kind of harsh for this poor woman with a demon-possessed child. But in a strange turn of events, the woman actually consents to this description.

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters ‘table.”

Dog-Begging-for-Food

Wait… What??? Is she really begging for a crumb from the master’s table? Did she really agree with Jesus’ assessment of her? She’s ok with being a dog? That’s not how this is supposed to work! She’s supposed to march herself right into the office of her lawyer, bring Jesus up on charges of discrimination. She’s supposed to march in the streets with signs that say, “Health and Wellness for All!” She’s supposed to lead campaign after campaign to try and change the public’s perception of CWDD’s (Canaanite Women with Demon-possessed Daughters). That’s what we would do, isn’t it? But she doesn’t. She continues to beg and plead with Jesus. “Even the dogs get to eat when the scraps fall from the masters table.”

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

HA!!! We knew it! We knew it was coming! We knew it was coming. We knew Jesus would heal her! We knew He was just kidding! We knew that He didn’t mean to call her a dog! He didn’t mean to say that He only came for Israel! He was just stringing her along. HA HA HA HA HA! We knew He wasn’t serious. Wait… He wasn’t serious? Then, why did He do that? That was actually kind of cruel. Why did He put that poor woman through that? To teach her a lesson? To teach the disciples? To teach us? That was really cruel. Pretending He wasn’t going to heal her was no bueno… not cool! Jesus actually comes off looking even more like a…. well… a jerk.

Until you take off your American hats and set them to the side for a minute. Let’s quit rushing to judgments or trying to explain Jesus’ actions. Let’s just listen to His Words. Let’s look at the passage just one more time.

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters ‘table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Whenever we read a passage, we always want to identify with someone in the passage. I think that betrays us a little here when we read this account. We want to identify ourselves with the disciples. We are God’s people. We’re in, if you will. We’re not outsiders. Our church is almost 175 years old. Our families have sat in these pews for generations… a certain pew as a matter of fact. Many of us went to Lutheran schools, were confirmed, and have been faithful attenders for most of our lives. We give our offerings. We sing the hymns. We go to the potlucks, the servant events, the meetings. We are the disciples.

And yet, how did we start this morning’s service? “Almighty God, merciful Father, I a poor miserable sinner confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserve your temporal and eternal punishment.” Does that sound like someone that is in? Does that sound like God’s elect? People ridden with sins to numerous to list. Not according to the world! But according to Christ? Yes! Of course, that is what it sounds like. It sounds like the words told to you later, “Almighty God, in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I announce the grace of God to you. And in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins.”

When Jesus tells the disciples that He only came for the lost people of Israel… When Jesus tells the woman that it is not right to take scraps from the children and give them to the dogs, He is not calling the woman a dog or saying she is not good enough because of her nationality. He is changing the definition of Israel and the definition of the children sitting at the master’s table. HE HEALS THE WOMAN”S DAUGHTER! HE FEEDS HER AND RESCUES HER! Her faith has made her part of the kingdom. Even though she is sinful and fallen, and so not the right “kind” of person, her faith makes her pleas acceptable. Faith is the key ingredient in salvation.

It’s not about pews. It’s not about offering envelopes. Its not even about being German. Its always about Christ. His death for your sins. His grace given in your Baptisms. His strength and forgiveness given in His Supper. His calling you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Yes, we might be dogs. But Christ makes even the dogs to be children of God. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer: Kids of the Kingdom!

Line-of-Kids

Kids of the kingdom
That’s what we are
Kids of the kingdom
That’s what we are
We love Jesus
We love the Lord
We love Jesus
We love the Lord

I grew up going to Vacation Bible School, Lutheran School gatherings, Sunday School, and a Lutheran camp. I sang the above lyrics more times than I care to count.

Seriously.

So. Many. Times. Still. Have. Nightmares.

The sentiments of the above children’s tune are admirable, but they are a little misleading. We are “kids of the kingdom”, that is true. However, we are not kids of the kingdom because we love Jesus. We are kids of the kingdom because Jesus loved us. And died for us. And rose for us. And called us through baptism. And enlightens us with His Word and Spirit. And feeds our faith with His holy Supper. Because Jesus loves us and does all these things… because we have been made part of His kingdom, we seek to love Jesus with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul.

Throughout Scripture, the english word kingdom is used quite often. It is usually in reference to the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. However, the connotations that go along with kingdom are different than our present conceptions. The term had much more to do with the reign of a king (i.e. their specific actions of rule) as opposed to a delineated physical kingdom. It dealt more with the actions of the king to care for his people and territories. Luther takes this kind of approach in his explanation of the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean?

The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

How does God’s kingdom come?

God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

God’s kingdom comes among us when God visits us with His grace and favor, and when that grace and favor empowers us to live as His people showing love and mercy to one another. The work of the Holy Spirit is active in extending God’s kingdom through His means of grace. Through these actions of God, we see His reign in our lives. It is an impressive and ever present power that gives us comfort in all of our vocations.

As a pastor, I am quite positive that God is working through me to be His instrument in this world. Proclaiming law and Gospel. Forgiving sins. Administering the Sacraments. As a father, I am a vehicle for God’s reign as I teach my children God’s Word. As I instruct them in the faith, the reign of God is reaching yet another generation. It is so wonderful when God gives us glimpses of His kingdom amongst us. When we are hidden from it or distracted from seeing it, we can still be sure that His promises are sure for He commanded us to pray in this way. May the peace and comfort of God’s reign visit you each and every day!

Find Rest for Your Souls

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light

ox-yoke

Jesus had just exploded the minds of the disciples and His hearers all across that Galilean countryside by the time that we arrive at our Gospel reading for this morning. From the time of the great Sermon on the Mount of Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus had healed a leper, a centurion’s servant, a paralytic, some woman who touched the edge of the cloak He was wearing, two blind men, two men with demons, one man who couldn’t speak, Peter’s mother-in-law, along with the countless droves that descended upon the house afterwards, and He raised a girl from the dead. Just for fun, in the middle of it all, He calmed a storm out on the Sea of Galilee.

The most recent spectacle had been centered around Jesus’ teachings. He began taking on the Pharisees and Scribes at every turn. He talked about the persecution that His disciples, His little ones, would have to endure. The very teachings and life of Jesus would act like sword that would sever relationships even those who were family members. He encouraged His followers to not fear though because there was One who was mightier behind it all. And like we heard in last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus was pulling back the curtain to reveal the God who was behind all that was transpiring… for everyone who receives Christ, receives the Father. Ultimately, the life of a disciple of Jesus isn’t about who is greatest. It isn’t about rewards. It is always and only about Jesus.

The disciples weren’t the only ones losing their minds either. John, who was imprisoned and, unbeknownst to him, was awaiting his execution, hears about all of the things Jesus is doing. He hears about all of the things Jesus is saying. While it is not clear if John is doubting, he is certainly confused at the least. So John sends his disciples to ask Jesus a simple, straightforward question: “Are you the One that is supposed to come? Or should we look for another?” In other words, “Yo! Jesus! Please tell me that you know what you’re doing!” Jesus responds back using the language of the prophecies of Isaiah, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” And just in case anyone had their doubts about John, Jesus puts those down also – “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

While those with ears were listening, Jesus had a few more things to say, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were the regions that had seen first-hand the works of Jesus. The healings. The raising to life. The demons cast out. The blind seeing. The deaf hearing. The mute speaking. The works foretold by Isaiah. These all happened in their midst. And, yet, they are skeptical. Shame on them.

Then, in a somewhat surprising twist, Jesus turns His focus from the world to His disciples… those that had also seen and heard everything to this point… and gives a prayer of thanks to the Father. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” The wisdom of God and the plan of salvation is hidden from the wise and given to the little children… the disciples of Jesus. Earthly wisdom and worldly stature cannot reveal the plan of God. Yet, the simplest of minds can understand it when the Spirit reveals it to them. This is truly the working of God. [Head explodes]

Then Jesus turns to His disciples, in the midst of their confusion and bewilderment, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Jesus knew the road that He had to follow to Calvary. He knew the road that most of the twelve would follow. Crucifixions, torturous imprisonments, vile executions, beatings, tears over the lost, never-ending endeavors to gather God’s lost sheep, the toil of managing a growing church in the midst of persecution. Jesus knew it all. And He speaks these words to them. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In the Old and New Testaments, there are really two separate ideas used when it comes to the metaphor of a yoke. In the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament, the metaphor of a yoke bears the idea of an animal yoke. It is something that weighs you down, and something of which you struggle with all of your might to rid yourself. It is something to which two animals might be yoked together so that the work might be more bearable, in and of itself it is a burden. However, in the rest of the places in the New Human yokeTestament, the metaphor of a yoke is used to talk about the yoke that a human might wear in order to make the work that he has to do easier. Yes, the person will yearn to rid himself of the yoke when the work is done, but it is, nonetheless, something that allows you to accomplish a task that is before you with more ease than if you had to bear it on your own. Notice the tenor of Jesus’ statement now. He knows that there is labor and toil ahead of those believers that will weigh them down. It will discourage them. It will be impossible to do by themselves. So Jesus, extends His yoke. This life will not be easy but when we find ourselves wearing Jesus’ yoke, we find the peace and rest our souls need… even in the midst of the worst turmoil and grief.

This is no metaphorical peace and rest because our grief and pain… our turmoil and temptations are real. The calamities and sin in our lives and the lives of others bring about real delusions, real devastation, real weariness and trepidation. A metaphorical relief to these things would be of no solution to you. It would amount to nothing more than a pat on the shoulder from your old buddy, Jesus, telling you to buck up because things are going to get better. Don’t worry! There’s always tomorrow! However, when tomorrow arrives with the same problems as today, the shortcomings of our weak hope will only darken the hallways of life. We would be left with the same question as John the Baptist. “Is Jesus the One, or should we look for another?”

Jesus knows our grief and pain. He knows what it is like to lose a loved one expectedly after a longsuffering disease, or unexpectedly… so fast that it turns your life upside down. Jesus knows the proverbial monkey of addiction that you carry around. He knows the hidden prayers you mutter as lies and deceit burn another bridge. He knows the empty promises and the hopelessness out of which they are made. He knows that worry about the future that plagues every moment that you are awake. He knows the worry doesn’t go away but only intensifies when you go to sleep. He knows that the income and the bills aren’t zeroing out. He knows the hurt that is left by an unfaithful spouse. He knows the guilt you carry when you are the unfaithful one. He knows when you that you stole one extra pen from the bank. He knows that you told one little white lie that only you and Him will ever know. He knows when you’ve faltered. He knows how hard you try to keep on going. He knows that your yoke is heavy. He knows that the weight you carry is crushing you. So He gives you real comfort and real rest in the midst of your real pain.

He gives you your baptism. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life- giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St Paul says in Titus, chapter three:“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” The real salvation that Jesus won for you on the cross is actually given to you in Your Baptism. You are given the yoke of Christ in those wonderful waters combined with the all-creating Word of God. The Word that creates faith… that creates life… even and especially amongst dead sinners.

He gives you His Words of forgiveness in the words spoken by your pastor. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”What do you believe according to these Ordinatinowords?I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself. There is a reason that this congregation has called three fellow sinners to stand in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus… so that you would know for certain that all of your sins are forgiven… those forgiven corporately or privately. In forgiveness, Christ, again, reminds you that His yoke is the one you wear.

He gives you the Supper. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.” Brothers and sisters, do not deny yourself the very gifts that Christ brings! For what do we receive at this table than the very real body and blood of Christ for our very real lives of sin, death, and trials? Here is where we receive the very yoke of Christ. Every promise is fulfilled to us in these Means of Grace… these yokes of Christ… which allow us to persevere until that day when we need no yoke and we bask in the blessings of our Savior for eternity with the innumerable saints of heaven. May God bring this to completion in the day of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 

The Lord’s Prayer: What’s In A Name?

My father has a few eccentricities (as do we all). There are a couple that stand out in my mind. The first was is obsession about handshakes. An hour and a half is how long it took me to be able to give him 25 suitable handshakes in a row. Yeah, I know, I am a slow learner. However, he would always say, “You can tell a lot about man by his handshake. Where he’s been. How he’s been raised. His confidence. You tell a lot.” Remember, I said eccentricities. The second one that I remember was his obsession with names. “You can tell a lot about a person by their name.” He refused to call someone by their initials even when they asked him to do so. He refused to use nicknames even when they were common parlance. He also refused to use suffixes. “Your name is who you are. You should bear it with strength and honor.” Remember, I said eccentricities.

Needless to say, when it came time to name my children, I took it seriously. Yeah, I may have inherited some eccentricities also. As Christians, we believe that God has put His name on us in baptism. Luther puts it this way,

God’s name was given to us when we became Christians and were baptized, and so we are called children of God and have the sacraments, through which he incorporates us into himself with the result that everything that is God’s must serve for our use.

Thus it is a matter of grave necessity, about which we should be most concerned that God’s name receive due honor and be kept holy and sacred as the greatest treasure and most sacred thing that we have, and that, as good children, we pray that his name, which is in any case holy in heaven, may also be holy and be kept holy on earth in our midst and in all the world.

All of that means that I, as a father, need to be a whole lot more concerned with the name that God has given my children than the names that I have given them (another lesson learned from my father). We bear our heavenly Father’s name which changes our identity from sinner to righteous, from fallen to raised, from dead to alive. This name is far more important than anything that I could give my children. The name that the Lord gives and seals with the cross, the water, the body and blood, and the Word is a name that creates and eternity of life for them. I am but a steward as I, too, bear the same name as my children. May God continue to grant you the peace and comfort that comes from the one name that we bear.

Hallowed be Thy name.

What does this mean?

God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.

How is God’s name kept holy?

God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!