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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

01122014 Baptism of Jesus

Gospel Reading
Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

The first real apartment I had when I was at seminary was an upstairs dwelling of an older ladies house in Western New York.  It included a kitchenette with fridge, stove, sink, bathroom, bedroom and my own entrance to the house.  It was perfect for me, because I didn’t need much, wouldn’t be doing much entertaining and only needed limited room.  At that time I didn’t have as many books as I do now.

When I first moved in, a friend who had previously had the apartment still needed a place to stay, so I went out and bought a cushioned chair that transformed into a bed as well, matter of fact, the one we have here this morning.  Whenever I had company or my friend would come in from Canada and spend the night, I always had this mini-futon seat that turned into a bed.  It has travelled from Western New York to North Carolina, to Virginia and all the way out here to Kansas and I still use it today.  But ironically it is a great metaphor for us to understand our next topic in our Catechism series.

So let’s pull out our bulletin insert for this morning and read responsively as a congregation the “What does this mean?” section.  “The Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, 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 we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.  Let’s go to God in prayer and ask with confidence for His presence and blessing upon our time deliberating about the prayer His Son taught us to pray.

Let us pray, Gracious Father, You tenderly invite us to boldly come to You in prayer and pray with confidence.  May we Your dear children believe our prayers will not only be heard, but answered by You.  Not with possessions or objects that pass away but with the Gospel that saves us for all eternity that is found in what Your Son Jesus Christ did on Calvary for all of mankind.  Including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

When I would lay on the futon and sleep, it provided a soft place to lay my head and rest.  Not only could it be easily moved from room to room and state to state, it also was easy to transform it from a seat to the bed.  Let me show you….As you can see it is extremely easy, but the ironic part is that its ease of transition from seat to bed is perfect for our consideration of the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus disciples had asked Him to teach them how to pray.  They had been taught the liturgical prayers of the Jews in the synagogue from when they were young in order to have the Bar Mitzvah and knew exactly what they were, but now with Jesus Christ among them and having heard that John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray, Jesus disciples wanted to ask Jesus specifically the what and how of prayer as His dedicated, loyal and determined followers.  Just as we have this cushioned chair here, unless you ask someone who knows how to ‘transform it’ from chair to bed, it can be difficult even to put it back from bed to chair.  So to with prayer, unless you have someone to teach you how to pray, it can be intimidating and even a missed opportunity that we even miss on a daily basis in our own personal lives, even as pastor.

Yet, the prayer that Jesus taught wasn’t just about the words, it was about the intent for the individual praying.  Jesus intent was to not make the prayer a rote thing, or something that people memorized and said only when ‘prompted’ whether in the service or even around a hospital bed.  The Lord’s Prayer is meant to have a deeper meaning.  It is ironic that when I go and visit people who are nearing their entrance into the Church triumphant, or in Good Sam who may not be as responsive, when I first get there, when I launch into the Lord’s Prayer they chime in clearly and regularly and follow along very easily.  When we Lutherans baptize our children one of the things I as pastor remind parents, sponsors and even you the congregation is that we as the Body of Christ have the responsibility to teach our children the Lord’s Prayer.

So like having a person who knows how to ‘transform’ the seat to a bed, we need someone to teach us the real meaning and importance of the Lord’s Prayer.  Hence, our series on the Catechism and now our concentrating upon the Lord’s Prayer we need a guide and that is exactly what Jesus Christ has sent to you today, this is my calling as your pastor.  I am the guide to help you understand its meaning, but also as the Spiritual Leader of the Church you have called me to hold everyone in the congregation accountable.  The way I want us to frame our responsibility is to ask a simple question using the seat before us this morning as a metaphor, are we laying down or are we sitting up in our use of the Lord’s Prayer?

It is ironic, that before I was called here as Pastor of Emmanuel I had and still have a higher calling.  It is to my family.  I as Husband to Michele, Father to Sarah and head of the household am personally responsible for the spiritual life of our home.  This is the same responsibility that all Fathers have in their home.  Some take this responsibility seriously, others do not.  Some Fathers pray with their families at meals, lead nightly devotions with their families and teach their children about the faith.  Other Father’s are less comfortable with this responsibility, because either their Father never did it or their Father felt it was not important or they are always working trying to provide for their family by working long hours on the farm, at the shop or even on the road trying to make ends meet.  Yet, when we baptize our children this is the responsibility that we have to and for our children, not only as Father’s, as Mother’s and even as members of the Congregation.

Let me share how important this is and how I have seen the fruit of this responsibility in my own life.  As you know we had a difficult time having children and we are blessed to have Sarah.  When we first came to Emmanuel Sarah was quiet and didn’t talk so we found help here in the school system and now she can talk a blue streak with the best of them, matter of fact she talks so much we sometimes have to have ‘the no talking game’ now.  But as Sarah grew I felt it was important as her Father for me to teach her the Lord’s Prayer.  As much as she has been in church she had picked up some of the phrases and wanted to learn this prayer.  Well, I found the best way for me to teach her was on the way to school.  So every Friday for a month, we practiced the Lord’s Prayer, and now she knows every petition.  To say the least I am a proud Father of my daughter Sarah.  But what is ironic, Sarah does not say this prayer ‘laying down’ or lazily, she says it so everyone can hear her.  Matter of fact every Sunday I can hear her voice as we pray this prayer and it puts a smile on my face.

When we look at this chair or bed, depending upon it’s configuration, one can lay down in comfort or sit up.  My question for us today is, as a saint of Emmanuel redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ for all mankind, including all of us saints gathered here this morning, when you pray the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, are you laying down in quiet comfort going through the motions, or are you being the leader of your family, modeling for your children the faith and free grace given to you and them in baptism by Jesus Christ and sitting up to be heard?  May God help you sit up and be heard from this day forward praying the Lord’s Prayer.  AMEN.

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