Pentecost 10, Proper 12c, 2013 (July 28)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “Asking for the World”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter ten. Let us pray:
O Lord, let Your merciful ears be attentive to the prayers of Your servants, and by Your Word and Spirit teach us how to pray that our petitions may be pleasing before You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
When we pray, more often than not we ask for too little. God’s grace and mercy, so it seems, is limited not by Him but by us. It is easy to think of God’s mercy and love when we are talking about asking for something up there or out there, but it is much harder to believe when it is to pray for healing for your mother, or forgiveness, or hope, or consolation and comfort. The more concrete we make our prayers, the harder it is for us to get our expectations up too high. After all, nobody wants to be disappointed.
That’s why this story of Abraham negotiating with God is such a strange one. God has spoken to Abraham and told him what is going to happen to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He is going down to visit and to judge them on their sin. Certainly this would be a daunting and unpleasant experience for the best of us. Abraham knows that his nephew, Lot, lives there along with his family. What will Abraham do? He does not want to see his nephew die with his family. But what could he do? Would God listen to the likes of him?
Faith, beloved, sometimes means asking the impossible. And so that’s what he does. He actually goes into negotiation with the almighty God for the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Now if you are a good negotiator, what you need perhaps more than anything else is what we’ll call leverage. If you negotiate, you have to have something to negotiate with. Money, a trade in car, whatever it is, negotiating means convincing the other person that what you have is worth what they have, maybe even more.
So what does Abraham use to negotiate with God? What does Abraham have to offer in this bargaining process? What he has is God’s character. Now you have to admit, that is a pretty weird negotiating chip. I mean, doesn’t God know his own character? Surely God knows who He is?
Well, yes He does. So what Abraham does is he dares to hold this character of God up and to pit God’s justice against God’s mercy. Will you destroy the city if there are fifty who are righteous? Surely the God of mercy would not do such a thing. No, I would not, He said. Well, what if there are only 45? 40? 30? 20? What if there are only ten righteous who are left in the city? Will you keep the city for the ten? Yes, God sighs. I will keep the city even if there are only ten righteous.
So here’s the deal on this whole story, which we will also see from Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer. God is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Like in the days of Noah, or perhaps even worse, the time is coming for the world’s end. We don’t know exactly when, but we know that it will happen. The reason that God spares the world is not because we deserve it. Our efforts at helping our neighbor are feeble, and we are all full and filthy with sin. No, God spares the world for the sake of those who will be saved. He delays His final judgment because of love. And because of this, you are free to be bold in prayer, and to act without fear before God.
So let’s fast forward to now and to your life in Christ every day. Each day you have troubles, you have fears, you have worries, hurts of body and soul. Every day you know people whom you love that are in great, desperate need. You may not even know what to pray for. But you have been call in holy baptism to a great and wonderful purpose. Hear how St. Paul described it in Colossians:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
God has called you to walk in Christ. You were filled up in Christ when you were baptized, and now Christ fills Himself up in you by Holy Communion. You are in Him and He in you. You are rooted, built up, and established in the Christian faith. What that means is that God’s promises still drip off of your head in the waters that you received, where it was days or weeks or months or years or decades ago.
Walking in Christ means not walking in fear. It means knowing how much God loves you and continues to be with you no matter what. It means, as St. Paul said, abounding in thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, by the way, is the word eucharisto, from which we get the word Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper.
But what if you are afraid? What if the fires of Sodom seem to be raining down upon you? What if you are too pressed down to ask for help? What if you can hardly walk, because of the burdens that you bear for yourself and others? When that happens, and it happens to all Christians who walk in Him, when that happens, it is then that Christ comes down again and again and again to show you His mercy and love. He does’t just give you marching orders and expect you to carry them out. No, He fills you with Himself. And when that sack is empty, He fills you up again.
This, beloved, is why we call God our Father. This is why His name is holy, and His will is to be done among us. This is why His kingdom comes among us. This is why His will goes out into all the world. This is why He feeds us with our daily bread. This is why He keeps us from temptation, and delivers us from evil. He does all this out of Fatherly divine, goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us.
Abraham negotiated with God and used God’s own mercy as the bargaining chip. You, too, have that great bargaining tool above all. You have Jesus Christ, the very mercy of God made flesh. God to Him. Pray for the world, for you just might get it.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.