Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent, 3/23/2022.
To follow along from home, the order of service, psalm, and hymns are listed below. Page and hymn numbers are from the Lutheran Service Book.
Order of Service: Vespers, page 229
O Holy Spirit, Grant us Grace, #693
Our Father, Who from Heaven Above, #766
The Will of God is Always Best, #758
My children love asking me for things. They ask me for milk. They ask me for food. They ask me to pick them up when they’re sad and when they’re happy; when they’ve got a boo-boo, and when they’ve got full diapers.
Whether you’ve got kids or not, you’ve been a kid; and so you know exactly what I mean. Kids asking their parents for anything and everything is the most normal thing in the world. And that’s the point.
At the heart of this common, ordinary, routine thing: kids asking parents for the things they need, is the simple and profound truth about who you are to God. You are His child.
I know you hear this all the time: and yet, how rare is it for folks in the Church to actually think of themselves that way? Consider for a moment the simple, innocent requests of children. They ask you for a good thing, And they actually expect that good thing from you. They actually trust that you’re going to give it to them. At least, this is what all interactions with my own children have led me to believe.
What’s most amazing about that, perhaps, is that you give it to them. I don’t mean that you satisfy every silly request, but when your child needs milk, you give your child milk and not soda. When your child needs food, you give your child food and not drywall. Yes, “even you, who are evil,” Jesus says, 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?” For He has commanded you to pray, and has promised to hear you.
This is what stimulates prayer: first, the command and promise of God, and then your pressing need.
The Holy Spirit promised by Jesus in the Gospel this evening has been delivered to you. In Baptism you were given the Holy Spirit, and you were adopted as sons and made heirs with Christ. When Jesus washed you into His Name, when He gave you everything that is His, that included His relationship with the Father.
The early Church understood this so clearly that the Lord’s Prayer was actually guarded. During the Divine Service, everyone heard the readings and the sermon; but as they transitioned to the Service of the Sacrament, which was begun with the Lord’s Prayer, anyone who was not baptized was ushered out of the room, because they had not been adopted yet.
As for you, Jesus has made you His little brothers and sisters. You get to call God, “Abba, Father.” Or, as Luther puts it:
[W]ith all boldness and confidence you may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.
This has proven to be a problem for us. Over and again we have been brought to believe that God hears us because we are…
And everything else you want your own children to be.
But you are not heard because you are good. You are heard because Jesus is good. You are heard because Jesus, your Big Brother, gave His goodness to you. That’s the way you kids should think about it. That Jesus has been good for you.
And by the time we get to Good Friday, you will learn again that Jesus has even been bad for you. That’s how His Father looked at Him when He hung on the cross in your place.
The words are not difficult to remember, especially when you hear them so often. But when you pray, remember that these words are given to you at great expense. For you to be regarded as children, Jesus first had to be forsaken.
Knowing that should fill you with both reverence and confidence. Consider what unspeakable privilege is yours. For you, God is not some distant King, and you are not some mere servant in His kingdom. Imagine some servant throwing open the door of his King at 3 A.M. and asking for a treat. The best he could hope for is whatever they’re serving as his last meal on death-row.
But when my children do that, they do it because of their need; because they know they are my dear children, and that I am their dear father. So my big hope for you tonight is that you address your dear Father in heaven with the same boldness and confidence with which Lucia screams for something to drink in the middle of the night.
Finally, do not be ashamed if your prayers don’t seem perfectly pious and polished. Your Father delights in them the same way a father delights when Halloween comes around and his son wants to dress up as both Superman and a dog. When you don’t think you have the words to pray, that’s okay. Just pray this prayer, given to you by Jesus Himself for that exact reason. In it is contained every single need of body and soul; for milk and cereal, for boo-boos and full diapers, for life and salvation, now and forever. Amen.