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The Right Stuff

4/9/14

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First let's deal with the fact that the full doxology is not in early copies of the Bible. The church took over from the synagogue the custom of closing public prayer with an ascription of praise to God. The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, which dates to end of the 1st century, had it but only the "the power and the glory" part. The 3 part doxology didn't appear in New Testament manuscripts till the 8th century (Teaching the Catechism, 302). Although Luther didn't comment on the doxology, still the words are historical and useful. They emphasize our heavenly Father has the right stuff to answer our petitions. We martyr the Lord's Prayer when we doubt this.

Our heavenly Father has what it takes to hallow His name, bring His kingdom, do His will, give us bread, forgive our sins, lead us out of temptation and deliver us to Himself in heaven. The "for" that begins the doxology connects it to all that goes before it. The Father can do all the things that pertain to Him and give all the gifts we need for, that is, because "Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever."

The first reason we say the Father has the right stuff is because He is sovereign. Living in a republic, based on the rule of Law, and not in a monarchy based on the rule of a man, we don't understand sovereignty. The Father is the supreme authority. To Him belongs the kingdom: everyone and thing in it. His kingdom doesn't stretch from sea to shining sea but from earth to heaven. But this is a confession of faith not sight. God's rule is hidden. The Devil could claim that all the kingdoms of the world had been given to him because that's how it looks. It looks like you own your home or car, but in truth the bank probably does.

Because to our Father in heaven belongs the kingdom so do all power and glory. Novelist Graham Greene has a book titled after the doxology called The Power and Glory. It's set in 1930's Mexico when the Mexican government was trying to suppress the Catholic Church. It's "hero" is a "whisky priest." About the only thing he does right is bring Communion to isolated people.

The book has been published in the U.S. under the title The Labyrinthine Ways which is fitting. If God's kingdom is hidden amid earthly flesh, blood, sin, and filth, then so must be His power and glory. His exercising of these must twist and turn more than the labyrinth of mythology's King Minos. The difference is his labyrinth contained the bull-man monster, the Minotaur. Follow King Minos' maze and all you'll find is a monster to destroy you. Follow by faith the confounding ways of the Father's power and glory life in death, beauty in ugliness, joy in sorrow, grace in sin and you'll find yourself delivered from evil, a victor in temptation, forgiven, fed, and hallowing God's name according to His will in His kingdom.

So the doxology confesses comforting truth, but Luther didn't focus on it but on the word "amen." The Large Catechism says that all depends on us learning to say Amen. For amen' is nothing else than the word of undoubting faith, which does not pray as a matter of luck but knows that God does not lie to him, since He has promised to grant it (III, 119). The Luther hymn we've sang all Lent also focuses on "Amen." The Last verse says, "Amen, that is, so shall it be. Confirm our faith and hope in Thee. That we may doubt not, but believe what here we ask we shall receive. Thus in Thy name and at Thy Word we say: Amen. Oh, hear us, Lord!"

"Amen" as we know from the Creed means "This is most certainly true," and as we know from the conclusion means, "Yes, yes, it shall be so." It's the cry of faith, of hope, of certainty. It's saying, "Lord, You gave me these words to pray, and therefore, I know that I must be heard and answered when I pray them. It doesn't come from my small, pinched, sinful heart to ask for such large things as Your name hallowed, Your kingdom come, or Your will be done. How dare I, a sinner, ask for food, forgiveness, victory, and deliverance, unless You told me to?"

Luther says the heart that doesn't, can't, or won't say "Amen" shouldn't think it will receive anything. Such a heart "wavers and wobbles back and forth and it's impossible for God to put anything into such a heart, even as you cannot drop anything into a person's hand if he does not hold it still" (LW, 42, 76). What a downer? Is this any way to end a sermon series on the Lord's Prayer?

When the kids were small and I would fill their glasses, I would lift what I was pouring high and higher above their cup. If they remained steady, the glass would get filled with nary a drop spilled even from quite a height but if not, well you know what happened. I noticed that the more precious the substance was to them that I was pouring or the worse mess it might make the more nervous they got. What more precious things in all the world, in all of heaven itself could we be praying for than what our Lord told us to? What bigger mess could we be in if we don't catch them with a firm, certain "Amen!"? But if we focus on these facts, our hearts will shake worse than my kids' hands and God won't be able to drop a thing into them.

So don't focus here. It's true; God can't drop things into a shaking heart, but our "Amen" that God has the right stuff is not based on our certainty. It's not based on our work or worthiness at all but on the promises of God (LC, III, 122) and on the work and worthiness of the One who put these petitions in our mouth in the first place.

Jesus is the Deliverer who rescues us from evil; the One who overcame temptation: the One who paid for our sins to be forgiven. He is the Bread of Life, this life and the next. He is the One through whom God's will is done and His kingdom comes. In Him alone is God's name holy on earth (Teaching Catechism, 305). Jesus is the answer to every single petition of the prayer He gave us.

Got Jesus? That's the question, but before we answer that we had better first answer does Jesus got you? Jesus gave you these words to pray with the promise that you will most certainly be heard. How can that be? The gift of the prayer and the promise to be heard are based not on your work or worthiness but on His.

Jesus paid for this prayer to be heard in the holy ears of the Father from the lips of sinners by not coming down from the cross. He could have easily if He had wanted to. How many times did Jesus pass right through crowds that wanted to kill Him? But not this time. He gave up His body to torture and suffering and His soul to ridicule and damning in place of yours. Jesus went without daily bread, so the Father would always provide yours. Jesus, though sinless, was judged a guilty sinner, so you could be forgiven. Jesus was led into temptations so that you would never be. Jesus wasn't delivered from evil or the Evil One so that you could, would, and are delivered from the Evil One.

And you heard His prayer from the cross. "My God, my God why have you forsaken Me?" It went unanswered echoing into eternity forever because there is no answer for why He is forsaken and so that you may know you never have to ask that unanswerable why question. God forsook His own Son instead of forsaking you. God turned a deaf ear to the worthy prayer of His worthy Son, so that He may always give a hearing ear to our prayers regardless of how worthy they or we are.

This aspect of Jesus' suffering gets a lot of attention more than what follows does. But notice; once the height of Jesus' suffering is reached in being forsaken by God the way that only the damned in hell are, Jesus proclaims it is finished. And once the payment for your sins, once paying the price for every last one of your prayers has been made, Jesus can commend Himself once more into His Father's hands. Then He dies.

The Man who is God went through what you and I and every other mortal will. The separating of what God never wanted to be separated. The separating of our soul from this mortal coil. The dividing of what could have stayed joined for eternity. You know the fear, the foreboding, the way you try to push death from your thoughts; try not to think about that what is you is going to be separated from what is you. Your body will one day be lifeless clay and you will be somewhere else. Well the Man who knows what it is to be God went through that. And as He died He commended His soul to His Father in prayer with the confidence that He was heard; you can do that too. Because Jesus prayed, "Father into your hands I commend My spirit," you can pray that too and know for Jesus' sake you will be heard as He was.

Let's return to the question: got Jesus? If you got Jesus then you got everything He didn't: God's listening ear even in the midst of the suffering and sorrows your sins deserve, and you got everything He did: The Father's listening ear in the dark depths of dying. So got Jesus? You bet you do. You got Him on your skin in Baptism. You got Him in your ears in Absolution. You got Jesus' Body and Blood in your body and blood. Think about this and your hand begins to steady to receive the gifts the Father would pour into it. You're not praying in you name but Jesus'. The Father doesn't see your lips moving but Jesus'. The Father doesn't see you but His only beloved Son.

In New Orleans, they'd say if God doesn't punish the French Quarter He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. If the Father were to deny our prayer or a syllable of any petition, He would have to apologize to His Son for all the sweating, suffering, bleeding, damning, and dying He put Him through. Because all the hell He put Jesus through was just so He could certainly hear our prayers and give us heaven. You see it's not just that the Father has the right stuff to answer our prayer; but for Jesus' sake you have the right stuff to be heard. The Lord's Prayer is one martyr that's not dead yet. Amen.

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Lent Vespers VI (20140409); Passion Reading VI, Lord's Prayer Doxology