Preached at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, by Pastor Todd A. Peperkorn
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen. Our text for this morning is from St. John chapter sixteen. We focus on Jesus’ words, “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, I will give it to you.”
Whatever you ask in my name, I will give it to you. That does seem like a dangerous thing to offer, doesn’t it? I mean, really, how is it that God can offer us anything we want
So what do you want? That’s the question, isn’t it? That is really the question. Riches, people, power. Would you ask for peace on earth, or just the latest in great gadgets?
It is that question, what do I want, that really defines things for us. And that is where prayer comes in. One church father wisely said that the commandments teach us what to do, the Creed teaches us what to believe, and the Lord’s Prayer teaches us what to desire.
And if we are honest, our desires aren’t really that noble. Would you post your real wish list on Facebook? Do you really want people to know what the desires of your heart are? But God, our heavenly Father, frees us from over thinking our desires. Luther wrote this way concerning the words, Our Father, who art in heaven:
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 fathers.
Now it works like this. god knows that our desires are all over the map. He knows how hard it is for us sons and daughters of Adam to get over ourselves and think of others, and so God gives us a place where we can practice our Christianity, and the shaping of our will to His. This place is called the Church. Well, truth be told, God gives us two places for us to practice: The Church and the Christian home. For it is here, Church and home, that we learn how to love, and forgive, and desire what is best for each other.
The reason I call this practice is, well, it’s practice because we mess up so much. We forget our lines. For forget to love and look out for each other. We bicker and fight with each other, saying, “Not thy will, but MINE be done.” So it is that fathers and mothers teach their children how to get outside of ourselves. And i’m here to tell you as a father that this does not come easily or naturally. We are all selfish by nature, and God puts us in families, at home and at church, so that we can learn to be more like him.
This is why, I believe, that mothers are both exalted and taken for granted. Motherhood forces moms into a place where they simply must think of their children first. Laundry service, cook, taxi driver and nurse, these are just a few of the more obvious tasks that come to mind. We could add cheerleader, encourager, protector and sympathizer. I’m sure each of you could add or subtract from the list.
From our mothers we get a glimpse of what it means to desire what is best for someone else. Now I’m not saying this to put motherhood up on a pedestal. Okay, maybe a little. It is their day, after all. But my point is that in Christian parenthood you see what it means to look out for the best of someone else, without any real promise of reward at the end. Children are expensive and a lot of work, and there is no rational reason to have them. But we do, why? Because of love. Because God has put this spark into humanity, that we create. Imperfectly and with plenty of room to improve, but it is there. No question about it.
Now I’d like you to take a step back from earthly motherhood for a moment and think about another mother. I want you to think about the Christian Church. Every one of us actually has not one, but two mothers. Just as we have an earthly father and a heavenly father, so too we have an earthly mother and a heavenly mother. St. Cyprian, an early Christian pastor, once said that no one can have God as their Father unless the Church is their mother. What Cyprian meant by that is that God brings us forth and makes us His holy children by Baptism, and that we grow up in Him in the Church, His Bride, our Mother.
The Church, perhaps more than anything else, is a place of safety and forgiveness. It is a place of healing, where life’s hurts and sorrows are soothed and where you know, you know you believe. In my experience at most family gatherings there is at least one moment where you have to ask yourself the question, am I really related to all these people? The same could be said of the Church. Here sinners lash out at each other in our sorrow and pain and heartache. No one can hurt you more than a brother or sister, because you know that no matter what they do, you are still bound to each other.
If that is true in earthly families, how much more is that true in our heavenly family, the Church? We fight and argue, have differences in vision and purpose. We can find the craziest things to fight about in church! Have you ever notice how it seems like Satan wants to make every little thing into a nuclear war? It’s because He knows that we, all of us together, are bound together not just by blood. We are bound together by the blood of the Lamb, who has washed us and made us His own. Satan knows that if He can get you to forget who you are, that maybe, just maybe, you will abandon this holy family for one of his own evil choosing.
I remember as a kid thinking that it was so weird that all my mom said she wanted on mother’s day was for all her kids to be together. Have a meal together. Laugh and be a family. In many respects, that is what Christ and HIs Bride, the Church, want for us as well. They want us to show up, have the meal together, listen to the words of our heavenly father. For it is here, in His Word and at His Table, that we are most family. It is here that we learn what it is to desire all things in Christ.
So come to the table, children of God. Come and feast with your brothers and sisters from near and far. Set aside your squabbles, big and small. Come and be a family. Be the Body of Christ. Be the Bride, and receive all good things from Him who loves you and gives Himself completely over to you. Come and be loved. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.