Monday, July 29, 2013

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts Proper 13C

C Proper 13                                                         Pentecost 11                                                                         August 4, 2013

Lessons for Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-26 ~ God makes our activities enjoyable, but amassing goods robs us of joy.
Psalm 100 (antiphon: vs 3)
Colossians 3:1-11 ~ In Christ, the old self is put to death on the cross, and we receive a new life in Christ.
Luke 12:13-21 ~ Life is not measured by the possessions we own, but by the One who possesses us.              

The Teacher in the First Lesson looked at all his work and the approaching end of his life in utter frustration, but he recognized that satisfaction in labor comes only from the hand of God.  In the parable of the rich man, Jesus pointed out that when we only value our possessions, we miss the wealth of God.  St. Paul urges us to set our minds on things above as we remember that our lives in Christ are redeemed for a greater purpose and an eternal goal.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: O Lord, help me lift my eyes above all the attractive things that I value so much in this world, that I may see the wealth of your eternal gift of Life in Christ Jesus, my Savior.  Help me measure my life by your grace rather than by my accomplishments, that I may have great gifts of love to give to others.  Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: The treasures we gather in this life dont begin to measure how much God treasures us!  To measure Gods love for us, we must look to Christ, who died to possess us for eternity.  When we learn to use our goods to share this new meaning of life with others, our lives are filled with joy.

        Lord, shield us from the useless times,
        When barns are full but hearts are empty.
        Fill our days with joyful deeds
        Through which we share Your gifts of plenty.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We define our lives by possessions; we think how much we have and how great they are, determines our importance on earth.  That desire for amassing power drives us to abuse our relationships with other people.  The truth of the matter is, it doesnt matter how much we have, but how much God loves us.  In Christ, God has made us His possessions for eternal life.  He has done away with our old values and made us of much greater value through Jesus self-giving on our behalf.  In Christ, our lives are filled with meaning as we share this new joy with others.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lord, Teach Us To Pray!

Luke 11:1-13 Every little Lutheran knows that prayer is “speaking to God in thoughts and words” but during my years as a pastor, questions about prayer come up more than just about anything else.  “Pastor…
  What should I pray for in this or that situation?  How can I know I have received God’s answer?  Is it o.k. to pray for certain things and outcomes?  What can I do to have a more consistent prayer life?  How can I learn to truly pray:  “Thy will be done”?
Prayer is the most basic spiritual practice of the child of God, it really is the simplest thing to do, and yet we continue to have questions and concerns about our life of prayer.
And so the Lord speaks to us in his Word today, and invites us to join the circle of disciples as they listen to him and learn more about our life of prayer.  The Bible says:
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
            Jesus was a man of prayer.  Throughout the gospel accounts of those first-hand witnesses of his life, Jesus is shown praying-- again and again. 
He attended the synagogue on the Sabbath-- and he travelled to the temple for the high holy days—but public worship was not the whole content of his spiritual life—he was also a man of personal, private prayer. 
He was God in human flesh—his messianic mission was vital—the press of human need was constant—and yet Jesus always made time for prayer.  His prayer life was so deep and so profound that it made a powerful impression on all those who knew him-- and they wanted the same kind of prayer life for themselves—and we should too. 
Our attendance at public worship is important and there is no substitute for it—but it is still insufficient—all by itself-- to give us all of the spiritual benefits and blessings that the Lord wants to bestow upon us as his children.  Many of those come through private, personal prayer which is why we join our voice to the disciples and ask Jesus to teach us to pray.  Jesus answers, “When you pray, say:  “Father…”
That we can address the living God of the universe as “Father”-- is the most important thing that we are going to learn about prayer.  It is the foundation for our life of prayer.  God is truly our Father and we are truly his children and that relationship exists ONLY because of Jesus Christ. 
The Bible is perfectly clear:  our access to God—our confidence to come to his throne and ask him for what we need—comes only in one way—and that is through Jesus.  His death and resurrection has opened the way for us to be restored to what we were created to be—and that is God’s children through faith in him. 
That is what it means to pray in Jesus’ name—not as a magical formula—but in firm faith that God really is my Father and I really am his child on account of Jesus and so we can go to him and ask him for what we need just as children go to their earthly fathers.  And so what should we ask for?  Jesus says:
Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation.”
            Out of all of the things that Jesus teaches us to ask for in prayer—only one of them pertains to material things—and that petition (for daily bread) is for the basics of life. 
I think it’s fair to say that most of our prayer requests are about material things and earthly blessings—our jobs and our finances and our families—and there is nothing wrong with asking for these things.  But God’s priorities for us are first and foremost-- and ultimately-- spiritual. 
Our salvation is what God is most concerned about and so our prayer life ought to take on those same priorities:  1. that his name would be made holy through what we say and how we live our lives and what is taught in our congregations—2. that we would do our part to bring about his kingdom by making sure that we remain in the Christian faith and raise our children in the Christian faith and support the mission of the church—3. that we would abide in his forgiveness and because he has forgiven us—we would be forgiving of others--and 4. that the Lord would guide our steps each day of life’s journey to preserve us in faith and keep us from times of temptation and bring us safely to our heavenly home.
The spiritual priorities of the Lord’s Prayer are a wonderful corrective to our prayers that are often times filled with things that only matter for the here and now.
Every earthly, material, temporal petition has to be prayed:  Thy will be done—but these spiritual petitions of-- hallowing God’s name and advancing his kingdom and living in forgiveness and avoiding temptation--can be prayed for with absolute confidence because God himself has promised them to us.  Jesus tells a little parable that exemplifies the boldness that we ought to have when we pray:
“Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
            In the ancient world, bread was baked as needed.  For the friend’s needs to be met, the man in the home would have to get up in the middle of the night, remake the fire, warm the oven, mix the dough and bake the bread.  And not only would he do that—he would give his friend whatever else he needs.  Jesus says that this kind of overwhelming generosity that can imposed upon at the most inconvenient times really exists between us and God. 
Jesus’ point is this:  We are not bothering God with our prayers.  We are not inconveniencing him.  We are not asking for more than he can deliver.  He is our Father and we are his children and there is NOTHING that we cannot talk to him about in prayer—for he has promised to hear and answer our prayer.  Jesus says:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
            In Luther’s Small Catechism, the question is asked:  Why do we pray?  And the answer is:  Because God commands us to pray and promises to hear us.  God wants us to be people of prayer—he wants us to talk to him in prayer and he desires that we would listen to him as he speaks to us in his Word.  And to assure us that we are not just speaking to an empty cosmos or engaging in an exercise of futility—he promises to hear our prayers.
You hear people say “Well, there’s nothing left to do but pray.”  But for the child of God, prayer is not a last-ditch effort when everything else that we have tried has failed—it is the first, middle, and last thing we do in an on-going conversation with our heavenly Father.  Prayer is not an act of futility—but of faith. 
We have Jesus’ promise that “asking we will receive and seeking we will find and knocking the way will be opened unto us”.  But does this mean that if you and I ask the Lord for the winning lottery tickets he is bound to give them?  No.  He promises something infinitely more valuable:  the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says:
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
            All of us have enough sense to give our children good things.  None of us would intentionally give something to our child that would harm them.  And that is not just true of Christians but of all people—even unbelievers.  And if this wisdom is true of us as parents—how much more is it true of our heavenly Father! 
God is good—good beyond anything else than we can imagine—good beyond comparison to anything else that we call “good”.  He has demonstrated his goodness to us once for all in the gift of his Son.  The Bible explains it like this: 
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
The God who gave his Son for us is our Father—that we believe this is because he has also given us the Holy Spirit—the presence of God in our lives who is the down-payment—the earnest money—the guarantee-- that all of the riches and wonders of God are also ours in Christ Jesus.
THAT is why we can pray “Thy will be done” with perfect confidence for our lives and for our families and for everything and everyone that we care about. 
We know what God’s good and loving will is towards us, because by the power of the Holy Spirit, we know his Son Jesus as our Savior.  God has already done that for us and so, as we pray for our daily needs, we can be confident that in all things—no matter what they are—God is graciously answering our prayers FOR OUR GOOD.
The lessons that Jesus teaches us today concerning prayer are lessons that we will need to learn again and again over the course of our lives but they are only learned as we begin to be people of prayer.  May God grant this to us all for Jesus’ sake!  Amen.

Pentecost 10 Proper 12 General Prayer

Gracious heavenly Father, You have promised that when we call upon us in the day of trouble You will deliver us and so cry to You in prayer with our whole heart:

As we experience Your faithfulness and receive the answer to our prayers help us to observe your testimonies and keep Your statutes and in this way show our faithful love and obedience.

We confess that You are the Judge of all the earth, punishing the wicked and delivering the righteous.  Turn the hearts of those who have perverted Your good gifts of marriage and family and sexuality in our nation.  Raise up leaders who will walk in Your ways and renew our fellow citizens in their love for You.

We give You thanks and praise that when we were dead in trespasses You made us alive in Christ, canceling the debt that stood against us by nailing it to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In Baptism You buried us with Christ and raised us to walk in him.  Fill us with Your Spirit so that Christ’s triumph over sin and death would always be our own.

Heavenly Father, help us to be people of prayer, trusting that we are Your children and You are our Father and we can confidently ask for the things that we need, trusting that You will give good things to Your children.  Especially do we ask that You would give good gifts to those who stand in any material need:  healing for the sick; deliverance for the addicted; food for the hungry; and friends for the lonely.    

As we pray for Your kingdom to come bless the work of our church so that Your gracious reign would come to many in our community.  Bless the work of the civil government so that the Gospel may flourish.

We give You thanks and praise for all of those who have fought the good fight of faith and now rest from their labors.  Especially do we remember Dick and Ella and pray that You would keep us faithful unto death so that we may too may receive the crown of eternal life.

Whatever else You see that we need; whatever is good for our neighbor and gives glory to You; whatever works for our final salvation, grant to us dear Father for we ask it in the name of Jesus who promised us that You will give who ask.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts Proper 12

C Proper 12                               Pentecost 10                        July 28, 2013
Lessons for Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 18:(17-19) 20-33 ~ On Abrahams behalf, God offers grace to Sodom for the sake of ten righteous.
Psalm 138 (antiphon: v. 3)
Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19) ~ On Christs behalf, God has extended grace to us, forgiving the debt of our sins.
Luke 11:1-13 ~ Gods grace to us in Jesus Christ invites us to pray boldly to God as our heavenly Father.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: Lord, Teach us To Pray!
Our gracious Lord doesn't stop with just teaching us how to pray.  By his Holy Spirit he teaches us to pray, like Abraham who persistently bargained with God on behalf of the righteous ones in Sodom and Gomorrah.  Jesus taught the disciples a pattern and an urgency for prayer, using examples of a neighbor in need of bread at midnight.  A healthy prayer life is one of the things that belongs to our new self in Christ Jesus, which we are learning to  practice daily.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Our Father in heaven, all power is yours to do your will in heaven and earth. In Christ your Son, you have put to death my old ways of selfishness, and given me a new life in Christs image.  Renew me daily by your Spirit that I may always live in the power of Christ's resurrection and with the confidence that you hear my prayers.  Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT:  Our gracious God responds to our requests for our own needs and on behalf of others.  Ought we not be just as urgent in our pleas for our neighbors who do not know their Savior, as Abraham was for the few righteous inhabitants of Sodom?

        Our Father, who from heaven above
        Has showered us with Your holy love,
        Empower these gifts that they succeed
        To bring Your grace to those in need. Amen.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We are rarely as bold to pray to our Father as Abraham, when he besought God to spare Sodom for the sake of only ten righteous.  Instead, we are often taken captive by worldly arguments that convince us the effectiveness of our prayer depends on the excellence of our lives, our asceticism, or our visions.  Jesus reassures us that God stands ready to respond to our needs as a loving father who knows what is best for his children.  St. Paul insists that our relationship to God is sealed by the cross of Christ, who is in fact, fully God himself!