Rocklin, California

Tag: Easter

Whatever You Ask in My Name (Easter 6c, 2013)

Easter 6c, 2013 (May 5, 2013, revised from 2008) 

Holy Cross Lutheran Church 

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn 

John 16:23-33

TITLE: “Whatever You Ask in My Name”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from the Gospel just read, with focus on Jesus’ words, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you (John 16:23b).

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean?

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask their dear father.

In our household, as I expect it is in most of yours, a part of the nightly ritual is talking about the day. “What happened at school today?” “Who did you play with?” “What kind of trouble did so-and-so get into?” That sort of thing. Now on most days Kathryn and I can pretty much predict what many of the answers are going to be. The days don’t really change all that much. But that isn’t really the point. The point isn’t that we don’t know what’s going on. The point is that we love to hear about our children’s lives. Why? Because that’s what parents do.

Now if this is true for earthly fathers and mothers, how much more is this true for our heavenly Father! Our heavenly Father, who knows all things, wants to hear from you. He doesn’t want to hear from you because He doesn’t know what’s going on in your life. Far from it. He wants to hear from you because He loves you. He wants to hear from you, and answer your prayers, because you are His child, baptized into His name. Jesus put it this way:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24 ESV)

If this is true, if God gives you all things in Christ, and if God wants your joy to be full, why don’t we pray? We quickly make prayer into an obligation, a task to get done, or even something we do to please our parents or grandparents. We treat prayer like it is a fire alarm. Break the glass and pop out a prayer, but only when things become really bad.

But it is not so. Luther once commented that next to preaching, prayer is the greatest devotion the Christian can render to God (Luther, House Postils, 2:104). The right to speak to God in prayer is a high honor, and it is one that does not come lightly. You have the ear of the king! You are in holy conversation with God in Jesus Christ, our Lord. There is no greater benefit to you and your needs than prayer. When you pray, God hears. When God hears, he answers. When He answers, it is only in blessing for you.

This is why Satan wants to drag you away from prayer. He knows how powerful it is. The Israelites prayed to God that he would take away the fiery serpents, and He did. Abraham prayed to God that He would save Lot and his family. David prayed to God for forgiveness, and God granted it. The Canaanite woman. The centurion. Jairus’ father. The blind, the sick, the sinners. God heals them all. That is who He is. That is what He did for them, and that is what He does for you even now. Satan knows this all too well. He doesn’t want your sins forgiven. He doesn’t want you receiving God’s peace. He wants you feeling tired, alone, angry with God and man alike. He knows this, and so He does everything He can to drag you away from our Lord in prayer. Luther put it this way:

The devil is a scoundrel who furtively sneaks up behind us to see if he can somehow divert us from prayer. So, we must prepare ourselves to oppose him and allow nothing to deter us. When he prompts you to think, there’s something else I must do first, then you must say, No, not so; as soon as the need arises, I shall pray; for when I have need to call upon God, that is the right time to do it. If I am not fit or worthy to pray, God will make me fit and worthy. For I know that He loves me, not because I am so good or righteous, but for the sake of Christ, Whom I love and in Whom I believe. (Luther, House Postils, 2:106)

What the devil doesn’t want you to know is that even when you are too whipped to pray, even when you feel like you hate God and want nothing to do with Him, even then the Spirit prays for us when we cannot pray for ourselves. St. Paul says “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26 ESV) This is God’s work for you. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ hears your prayers. You have been washed in Him, you sit at His holy table, eat, drink, listen and speak with Him. You are a part of the family, and that will never change. Hear again those beautiful words from the catechism:

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean?

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask their dear father.

Pray with boldness and confidence. You are the Lord’s. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.

The Timing of God (Easter 5c, 2013)

Easter 5c, 2013

Easter5c-2013.mp3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the Gospel just read, from St. John chapter sixteen.

Ask any craftsman and they will tell you how much work it is to ply their trade. Hours of labor, callouses on the body and the mind. It doesn’t matter if the trade is woodworking or cars or computer programming, the bottom line is time and work.

Ask any creative type, and they will tell you very much the same. Music, art, dance, writing, the answer is still there. There is no replacing real, hard work. Ask our musicians who prepare our services week after week and they’ll tell you.

The same could be said for sports, or war, for good things or evil, for small acts of great care and large, sweeping works of history. But perhaps we should even use Jesus’ example of the ultimate creative endeavor: motherhood. In the midst of it, motherhood is, well, it’s a lot of painful work. Especially the actual process of birththing a child. There is, as Jesus put it, “much sorrow” behind giving birth. It hurts. But there is joy that a life has been brought into the world. Paul would later use the same analogy to say that all of creation is in the pains of childbirth, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed.

So if this is the picture, childbirth, of our journey to heaven, then why is it that we are surprised when the Christian life is painful and fraught with peril? That is the question our risen Lord puts before us this day.

We are strange, fickle creatures when it comes to matters of faith and life. It is easy to look down upon others as lacking wisdom or understanding because they have not “paid their dues”, yet not one of us would exclaim with St. Paul that we truly “rejoice in our sufferings.”

Why is it that we are so inconsistent when it comes to the Christian life? We are Christians, and yet act shocked when we suffer. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and eternal life, and yet live our lives as if God did not matter and we mattered most.

The answer, of course, is sin. Our sinful nature always wants things NOW. We always want things when we want it, the way we want it, and exactly how we want it. So Jesus’ talk this morning about “a little while” comes as a bit of a shock to our system. When you are in the midst of sorrow and heartache, your world becomes small. Everything, everything, centers around your hurts. You can hardly believe that there is anything beyond what you are feeling right at that moment. It is very hard to imagine that others suffer as you do. That is the nature of suffering and hardship, and that is why it is such a trial for Christians.

So what Jesus does for us this morning is give us a little lesson in time management. Oh, I’m not talking about time management like the world thinks of it. In the world, managing time really comes down to making every instant count for the most it possibly can. To the world, because time is short, everything has to happen right away, and every instant must be squeezed of every last bit of energy.

But it is not so in the kingdom of God. What Jesus does is point us to this simple, beautiful reality that all things are in God’s hands, even time itself. What may feel like an eternity here is in the scale of things, a little while. Your hardship is as nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to the sons and daughters of the King.

That is the miracle of what our Lord gives to you this day. He gives you the gift of time. That doesn’t mean you have an extra hour in the day to dedicate to the hamster wheel of life as we know it. No, what Jesus is saying is that you don’t have to be on the wheel at all. He is saying that there is a new heaven and a new earth that is coming (Rev. 21:1). Jesus hear holds up this great and glorious picture of what will happen to time itself. “Behold, I am making all things new,” He says.

So what does this mean for you here and now, dearly baptized? It means this. Jesus Christ has forgiven you all your sins and drawn you into His loving embrace. Your old way of life, the way of sorrow that means trying to eek out a meager existence, where you can barely cling to what you have, far less get ahead, that way is coming to an end. For now God dwells with His people. God Himself will wipe every tear from your eye, and even that greatest time-enemy of all, death itself, death has been destroyed by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

“It is done!” He says. “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:4–7 ESV)

This is what is going on at the altar of God here time after time, week after week. It is as if heaven itself were opened and we get a glimpse into the eternal portal of life with God. Here, in this Sacrament, time is consumed and everything is one great eternal now. Now God dwells with His people. Now you are at peace with God, for God is at peace with you. Now Jesus delivers you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Now the new song of salvation rings forth in all the world.

So come, you who are wearied by the changes and chances of life, come to the Table. Come, you who time seems to have crushed beneath its great weight, and God will make all things new. Come, for in a little while all of this will be over and the new heavens and new earth will be revealed once and for all. Come, it is all for you. Come, for all things are new.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Jesus and Fishing (Easter 3c, 2013)

Easter IIIc (April 14, 2013)

easter3c-2013

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter twenty one.

Jesus has risen from the dead. The apostles have seen Him not once, but twice. Maybe even more. Even Thomas has acknowledged Him with the words, “My Lord and my God.” So now what are the disciples supposed to do? Wait. They are to wait until Pentecost, when they will receive power from on High. So like any good Jew from the shores of the Sea of Tiberias, Peter and his friends go fishing.

A lot of life is about waiting for something to happen, isn’t it? Any time there is a big event in your life, there is some kind of a waiting period afterwards, where you have to digest what this really means. A graduation, getting married, having a child, job change, and of course, the ultimate change would probably be death itself. Experts will tell you not to make any big decisions after one of these life changing events, because your judgment may be impaired. You may not be completely making sense at the time.

So they go out and go fishing. All night they fish. All night they ply at their trade, which for many of them had been their very livelihood for most of their lives. Jesus called out to them three years before and said, “Follow me.” Well, Jesus has risen from the dead, but He isn’t there in the flesh to follow. So they go back to what they know, and wait.

Our text then says the following, “They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” (John 21:3 ESV) It seems that even though Jesus had risen from the dead, they still couldn’t provide for themselves on their own. Do you remember that episode near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when He tells them to go fishing and they don’t get anything? This has happened before to them.

But this isn’t just about them. It is about you. You are baptized, or Lord willing you will be. You have eternal life as your inheritance. You have the very kingdom of God as your possession. You have the ear of the King and the Son of God Himself calls you brother or sister. It is all yours in Christ. But you still can’t catch any fish without Him.

Now I’m not talking about fishing here, not really. I’m talking about the day to day way that you live your life. It is tempting, oh so tempting, for the Christian to put Jesus in a box and want Him to come out for an hour on Sunday, but then to put Him back in the box and keep Him on the shelf until some kind of emergency happens. Maybe it should be a glass box and have a label on it, “If things get really bad, break this glass!”

What we do by nature, time and time again, is try to go it alone. We continue to try and make it so that we don’t need Jesus. Prayer remains a last resort tactic. Hearing God’s Word and receiving His forgiveness and counsel, well, let’s just say that it is not a priority in our lives. It was true for Peter and the disciples. It is true for you and me.

But notice what happens next. Jesus appears to them, but they don’t know it is Him. Hear again this little interchange:

“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” (John 21:4–6 ESV)

There wasn’t anything special about the right side of the boat. That wasn’t the point. The point was that Jesus instructed them to do it. His Word and promise are sure and certain. Even when they don’t make sense. And if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes Jesus’ Word and promise don’t make sense.

But His call still goes out, “Follow me.” Jesus calls you to follow Him in a life of service to your neighbor. Why? Because He has served you even to death itself. Because of everything our Lord has done for you, you are free to live not for yourself, but for those around you who need you.

You see, beloved, God’s mercy extends to all. What may look like a waste of time or failure to you may be exactly what your neighbor needs to hear and see and know and experience. I’m confident that Peter wasn’t happy about working all night and getting nothing. But without Peter’s failure, they would not seen the mercy of God in providing for them, body and soul.

In your weakeness and need, God provides for those around you. This frees you to be human, to suffer and be in want and not be ashamed. Why? Because Jesus’ death and resurrection points the way.

Eventually Peter and the other disciples knew the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread and the fish. Eventually they would cast out the net of God’s Word into the deep, and it would bring forth a harvest, a Church full of weak sinners redeemed by Christ the Crucified. You are a part of that harvest. It doesn’t happen because Peter was such a great fisherman. The Word doesn’t go out because of the power of the preacher, but because of the promise of the Lord.

That promise is yours today. Come, be in the boat which is His Church. Receive our Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, for life, and for salvation. God in His mercy has caught you in His net, and it is a good place to be.

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.