Sunday, May 26, 2013

Who It’s About

The Holy Trinity
May 26, 2013
The festival of the Holy Trinity. If there’s any day in the Church Year to focus on God, this is it. What better day to center in on the Triune God, the One in Three and Three in One. It would be sensible to hear a sermon with God as the subject. A sermon with God as the focus. A sermon that is all about God—who He is, what it means that He is Triune, the majesty and the mystery of this great doctrine and truth of the Bible.

It would be sensible. But one thing about God is that He does not always do the sensible thing. And so we won’t either.

While it would make perfect sense, and be a very fine thing to do on Trinity Sunday to hear a sermon with the Triune God as the subject, as the focus, as the one who the sermon is about, we won’t do that today.

Instead, you’re going to hear a sermon on the other guy in the Gospel reading. Nicodemus. Nicodemus will be the one who is the subject of this sermon, who is the focus of it, who it is about. It may not seem that sensible, but then again, Jesus—who is the second Person of the Trinity, who is God in the flesh, who is the prime way the Triune God has chosen to reveal Himself through—thought it was pretty important to focus on Nicodemus. And so we will too.

In fact, it all starts with Nicodemus. He comes to Jesus. He’s not quite sure about Him, but He goes to Him. He talks to Jesus about Him having to be one sent from God, because after all, no one can do the things You’re doing unless he’s sent from God. Now Jesus knows the hearts of men. He knows what they’re really after. He knows motives and the genuine seekers from those not seeking a Savior but wanting to justify themselves.

So this guy thinks Jesus is sent from God, and low and behold it’s true. What Nicodemus’ motives were we’ll leave to Jesus. But we can see that Jesus was getting to the heart of the matter in His response to Nicodemus. One must be born with new birth. One must be born not as he was the first time, of the flesh. One must be born a second time, not this time from his mother’s womb, but of the Spirit. This new birth is birth of water and Spirit.

Since this sermon is about Nicodemus, we see Nicodemus’ reaction to this. I’m not following you, Jesus. How is it possible for a person to be born a second time? Can this person enter back into his mother’s womb, even though he’s an adult?

This is always the way it is when the spiritual is laid before the one who is unspiritual. Jesus is speaking not of physical birth but of spiritual birth. Nicodemus had come knowing Jesus was sent from God, for He was doing works that could only be brought about by God. So why was Nicodemus having so much trouble with this second birth thing? Why could he not grasp that if a person can be born again, and that this new birth is a spiritual birth, then that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to expect from God; for God can do anything, can’t He? Yes, Nicodemus should have known this. Jesus even took him to task for not grasping it, especially since he was a teacher of Israel, and apparently a prominent one at that.

Nicodemus, Nicodemus, what do you really want to know from Me? Or about Me? Or about yourself? I will tell you what you need to know about yourself. You need to be born anew. You need a second birth. A birth of water and the Holy Spirit.

We do not know if Nicodemus ever ended up getting Baptized, but there’s telling evidence that gives insight into his later understanding of Jesus. Just a few chapters after this one, John tells us this about him, when the religious leaders were seeking to bring Jesus down: “Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?’ They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.’” Nicodemus, who had been questioning Jesus, was now defending Him. The one who was not grasping his seemingly non-sensible statements about new birth, was now seeing the sensibleness of hearing Jesus out and seeing if in fact there was anything to His claims He made.

Then, much later on, right after Jesus died on the cross, John tells us this about Nicodemus: “Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.”

At this point, Nicodemus, although we’re never told this in the four Gospel accounts, appears to have seen the light, so to speak, about Jesus. Having first come to Jesus by night, in the shadows, in the cover of darkness, out of sight of the other religious leaders, was now acting in plain sight and taking proper care of the body of Jesus after He died on the cross and laying Him in the tomb. It’s very reasonable to think that at some point after this Nicodemus was Baptized and became a follower of Jesus.

Those words Jesus had spoken to him at night were exactly what the Holy Spirit uses to reach the hearts and minds of men. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” This was the Gospel being proclaimed to Nicodemus and there is every reason to believe that Nicodemus did in fact come to believe just as Jesus had talked about, that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. We know for sure that Nicodemus on one particular night was the recipient of the work of the Triune God—the Father’s love for him in sending His only-begotten Son to talk directly with him, and the Holy Spirit working through these words of Jesus, along with Jesus the Word in the flesh Himself, upon the heart and mind of Nicodemus.

Such is the love of God, the holy eternal Triune God. Such is the true majesty of the God who is the Three-in-One, that He does not find it hard at all to come to such a one as Nicodemus and change his life forever.

However, I need to tell you at this point that I deliberately misled you at the beginning. While I said the sermon would not be about the Triune God, but rather about Nicodemus, that is not true. After hearing a whole sermon about Nicodemus, you might go away with some good stuff, but you would not really have heard a sermon, in the sense that the sermon is a proclamation of the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins, and specifically for those who are hearing that proclamation. And so it would be very sensible indeed to at least wrap up with the Triune God, the God of salvation, as the subject, as the one who is the focus, as the one who this ultimately needs to be about.

Sensible, yes. Even good, yes. But it’s just not the day to do the sensible thing. Rather, it’s the day to do exactly what the Triune God Himself does, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So in conclusion, what you need to hear is not a sermon about Nicodemus nor even the Triune God, but one in which you are the subject. In which you are the focus. In which you hearing a message that is all about you.

For that, dear Friends in Christ, is what it is all about for the God who is the Triune God. For Him, it is not about Him. It is about you. The celebration of the Holy Trinity is not so much a celebration that God is Triune as it is that the Triune God is the God who loves you and gives you salvation. The Holy, Majestic, Eternal, Sovereign, Almighty, Triune God and Lord is the God who had a conversation with Nicodemus. He is also the one who Baptized you. He is the one who comes to you in a simple way, in bread and wine at this very altar to give you His body and His blood. He is the one who is delivered to you in the very proclamation of the Gospel. Because it is all about you. It is about giving you forgiveness and life and salvation.

This is seen in the words Jesus speaks to you. This is given for you. This is shed for you. He gave His life on the cross for you. He rose from the grave for you. On a weekend in our nation where we observe Memorial Day, we can understand very well what it means to sacrifice. We give thanks to the Lord for those who have sacrificed their very lives for our beloved country. And when we see, as Nicodemus had come to see, that his very Lord made the ultimate sacrifice, he gave Him due honor in placing Him in a tomb.

We don’t think of Jesus that way, though. He rose from His death. His ultimate sacrifice gave way to victory over death. And when you see that that victory is given to you in your new birth, your Baptism, you see that the Triune God, astonishingly, did all of this for you. When you see that He delivers this victory to you in His Holy Supper, you begin to see that Jesus knew exactly what He was doing when He said, “This is my body, it is given for you; this is My blood, it is shed for you.” It is for you, for your forgiveness. For your new life. Life anew, life eternal. Amen.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Language of God

The Day of Pentecost
May 19, 2013
Even if you aren’t all that interested in language, you might still know who Richard Lederer is since he is a San Diegan and has somewhat of a celebrity status. Those of us who love him, though, don’t because he shares the same city we do, but because he’s such a fun writer with a passion for language. He has a way with words and uses them to capture the fun and richness of language.

So when two Saturdays ago in his weekly column in the Union-Tribune he gave his ‘creed’, so to speak, of language and why it means so much to him, it caught my eye. And no sooner had I gotten through part of the second paragraph that I knew I wanted to incorporate his thoughts into the sermon for Pentecost Day. For a couple paragraphs there, even, I thought he was almost writing my sermon for me, including Bible passages and everything.

He looks at language and communication as a very human thing. He loves it because it is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal world. In his words,
I have always felt that I was writing about the most deeply human of inventions — language. Words and people are inextricably bound together. Whether the ground of your being is religion or science, you find that language is the hallmark, the defining characteristic that distinguishes humankind from the other creatures that walk and run and crawl and swim and fly and burrow in our world. [© Copyright 2013 The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. An MLIM LLC Company. All rights reserved.]

Now in his way of speaking, our ground is religion. And when he says that whether it’s this or science, that we find that language is the hallmark, or defining characteristic, that distinguishes us from, say cows, I am very tempted to go along with him. Not quite in the way he sees the origination of it, though. In that the Word of God tells us that God is the author of language, just as He is the author of us, we see this defining characteristic, as he calls it, as coming from God. And if you look at God, who He is, what defines Him, you see that language is inextricably bound up in Him as a being; as, in fact, the Triune God. God isn’t just some being, like others. He is God. He is the Triune God who is One and in three Persons; talking, communicating, being in perfect relationship with each other; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now, I’m not sure it’s the best practice to recite long quotes, but listen to this amazing insight from a man who isn’t speaking from a theological standpoint, but simply as one who loves language, again in the words of Richard Lederer:
In the Genesis creation story that so majestically begins the Bible (Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-6), we note the frequency and importance of verbs of speaking: “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. … And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. … And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters. … And God called the firmament Heaven. … And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas; And God saw that it was good.” (Emphasis mine.) Note those verbs of speaking and naming. God doesn’t just snap his fingers to bring the things of the universe into existence. He speaks them into being and then names each one. [© Copyright 2013 The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. An MLIM LLC Company. All rights reserved.]

Now this is right up our alley. Seeing who God is, what He is like. How He does what He does. Hear how Lederer continues:
And what happens when God creates Adam?: “And out of the ground the lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:19-22). In other words, Adam (Hebrew for “humankind”) does what God has done: He names things; he names voraciously; he names everything. Perhaps this is what the Bible means in Genesis 1:26-27: “And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.” Like God, man is a speaker and a namer. [© Copyright 2013 The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. An MLIM LLC Company. All rights reserved.]

Now notice how the Word of God, the Bible, bears this out. Just with three Scripture passages as we have heard them this morning, from the Old Testament reading in Genesis 11 and the Tower of Babel, to the second reading in Acts 2 and the Day of Pentecost, to the Gospel reading in John 14 and Jesus speaking to His beloved disciples shortly before He would leave them and send them the Holy Spirit, what do we see? Or better, what do we hear?

Language. Words. Communication. We hear speaking. We hear God talking to us and we receive those words with our ears and our heart. Richard Lederer speaks of the humanness of language, that that is what defines us; what sets us apart; what makes us what, or rather, who, we are. Fair enough. But he quoted the passage himself, we are made in the image of God. God is the God of language. We are human, true, but who we are as human beings, as people, is being created in the image of God. God created us. He spoke to us, drawing us into relationship with Him, just as He is in relationship with Himself, the Triune God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

The language of God isn’t just that there’s got to be some way of communicating between beings, whether people to people or God to people or people to God. The language of God is that He has created us and since we have fallen into sin and have cut off our relationship with Him, He becomes human. He uses language. In other words, He becomes flesh. He becomes a man. Jesus Christ is the eternal Word, the Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us. This is the language of God, it is Christ, in the world, for us. It is Christ, in the flesh, loving us by coming to us and forgiving us for so great of sins that we are even unaware of ourselves that we need Him to speak to us. To speak to us that word of forgiveness. The Peace that passes all understanding. Peace that is not as the world gives, that uses simply language and words to state things, but peace that actually brings Christ to us, He uniting Himself with us so that we have true peace.

Now, Richard Lederer I’m sure would be the first to say that he is not a Biblical scholar. But he sure talks like a Lutheran with his emphasis on the words of God, on God speaking. We Lutherans look at Genesis 1 and see that pattern that has begun. God is constantly involved in the activity of speaking, and His Word brings about what it says. We could do the same thing Lederer did with his little exposition of Genesis 1 with the three Scripture readings before us today.

In the Old Testament reading we find that everyone shared the same language. Boy, that sure would make a lot less confusion in this world. But the problem is that we people are sinful and we scheme to make a name for ourselves. In short, to be our own god. You want to know how the languages of the world came about? It’s right there in Genesis 11. God confused their language. He dispersed them. They couldn’t understand each other anymore. They had used their one language to speak evil of God. Remember, God is the God of language, He uses it to communicate to us His love for us and we use it to take His name in vain.

Fast forward to the Day of Pentecost, ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, fifty days after He rose from the grave, and fifty-three days after He promised to send the Holy Spirit, and you see God’s use of language to each person, despite the fact that there are many languages. The Holy Spirit came rushing in with a mighty sound and that sound manifested itself in, guess what?, language. Words. Communication in clear, simple speech. The Gospel, proclaimed clearly and distinctly in individual languages so that all could hear.

And what is Jesus’ emphasis on in the Gospel reading? His Word. We keep His Word. We treasure it. We hold fast to it. What that leads to is speaking it ourselves. Speaking it to those we know and don’t know. To those who speak the same language we do and sending missionaries to speak it to people who speak languages we don’t know.

In the Gospel reading Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit. It is in the context of this language of God. If you want to know who the Holy Spirit is and what He does, you need look no further than what your Lord says of Him. He is the one, in the words of the Gospel reading, as He says, “whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” This, my dear Friends in Christ, is the language of God. It is God the Father and God the Holy Spirit speaking to you the Word; that is, the Word made flesh. It is the Father sending the Holy Spirit to bring Christ to you.

It’s not just that we’re human, and that’s a great and wonderful thing; after all, God created us! It’s that God loves us. It’s that He speaks to us, and communicates to us, and gives us His Son. This is the language of God. It is God, when we attempt to lift ourselves up by disregarding His Word, sending His Son and lifting Him up on the cross only to strike Him down; doing such a thing so that we may not be struck down and left without hope forever. It is God, sending then His Holy Spirit to seize on the very words of His written Word the Bible and make them come about in things like your Baptism; where He says, Baptism now saves you—and it does. In things like the Holy Supper of your Lord; where Christ Himself, using simple, clear language, says, “This is My body, given for you.” “This is My blood, shed for you.”

The language of God. The Holy Spirit speaking into your ears Christ crucified and delivered to you in your Baptism and His Holy Supper so that your very heart and soul and mouth may speak in response to the language of God, the language of faith; captured in a simple, yet profound word, “Amen.” It is so. He has said it.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Giving Away the Ending

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 12, 2013
Jesus would have made a good film critic. While critics make an effort not to spoil the ending of the movie, they give away a lot of the details and of the plot when they do their film reviews. Some of us won’t read film reviews before seeing the movie because of this. Some of us don’t want the movie spoiled for us because we want the details and the plot to unfold as the movie brings it about for us. But some people want to read the review so they can get an idea if they might be interested in the movie.

Some people love watching previews. They want to see what the movie is about so they can determine if it looks interesting to them. There are those of us, though, who shut our eyes for the previews so that we can see what the movie is all about when we actually see the movie.

The worst thing some of us can imagine beforehand is having the ending spoiled. And to their credit, often when a critic will give spoilers they will alert you to that beforehand so that you can stop reading at that point.

Not Jesus. He lays out the details. He tells you how it’s all going to turn out beforehand. In short, He gives away the ending.

And as much as I don’t like that when it comes movies, I can’t think of any better way for it to be when it comes to my life, this world, and eternity. You and I living as Christians in this world need Jesus to be our film critic. We need Him to say, “This is a spoiler alert!”, and we need to keep reading. We need to know what’s coming and how it all turns out, and that the movie isn’t going to be ruined by knowing what happens ahead of time.

Jesus lays out for the apostles in the Gospel reading what will occur when He ascends. Guess what? It all came about. And so we begin where Jesus did, with the Holy Spirit who will bear witness of Him. That’s what He does. And so will they. What will they do when they are opposed? How will they respond to those who are opposing them and bringing harm on them when those doing it believe they are accomplishing God’s will? They will go not on their words and actions but on the word of Christ. They will remember that Jesus laid this all out for them beforehand. For three years in ministry He was laying before them the cross, His suffering and death and resurrection that He would undergo. After He ascends into heaven what will come about for them? Their own cross. Their own suffering. Their own undergoing of bearing the cross of Christ.

So what does Jesus say to them? I haven’t told you these things up to this point, because I have been with you. But now I’m going away. I will be ascending into heaven. I will be sending you the Holy Spirit. What will they know as they go forward? What will they have that Jesus armed them with regarding making known to them what would come about? They will have the Holy Spirit. And what does Jesus say of the Holy Spirit? He is the Spirit of Truth. You see, when people are persecuting you; when people are killing you because they believe they are doing service to God; when you are bearing your cross on account of Christ, knowing ahead of time what will happen to you and who you have on your side makes all the difference in the world. They had the Spirit of Truth on their side.

When you’re up against the world, you will be denigrated. When you tell people the truth of the Word of God you will be scorned. All you have to do is look to Christ and see how it all played out. He knew He was going to the cross, and it played out exactly that way. He knew what was before the apostles, and so He told them ahead of time. He spoiled the ending for them so that they would be prepared.

And so you and I have come to a crossroads of sorts. We can treat this as some of us would going to the movies. Wanting to be surprised at the outcome. Or we can hear Jesus as He gives it all away; as He tells us every last detail of what we need to know. We can see beforehand what will happen to us both in this life and forever.

And to this we have a wonderful description of what this cross-shaped life looks like in the Epistle reading. Each of us has been called to various vocations, ways God has set before us for serving Him through serving others. There are many examples we could use. There are the many occupations people have, whether they be a teacher, a firefighter, a cook, an accountant, a trash collector, a grocery stocker, a farmer, a nurse, a physicist; and we could go on and on. There are countless ways God serves the people of the world through ordinary people doing ordinary, and even extraordinary, jobs. Very close to home, and yes, the pun is intended, for Christians, are those vocations which never see a paycheck. Father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother; and we could on more here as well.

Of course, today, we have an actual day set aside for one of the most blessed vocations, that of mother. Those who have been blessed to have been raised by a godly mother, know firsthand the amazing blessing of receiving the care and love of a woman who desires first and foremost to give God’s gracious love to her children. In fact, looking at the description of the cross-shaped life in the Epistle reading, in a godly mother we have a beautiful illustration of what this looks like.

See how Christian mothers are often self-controlled and sober-minded and in prayer, especially when the other members of the family are warring with each other. See how their love for their family is love that is in earnest, and that this love covers a multitude of sins. See how Christian mothers provide a place for their family where they are in a safe haven, and godly mothers continue to do this without grumbling.

And see what a blessing each one of us has, whether you are a mother and give thanks that God has called you to serve in such a blessed way, or whether you are the recipient of this gift from God and have the opportunity and calling from God to love her in return and give her all honor and cherish her. You know all of this beforehand, and so when there’s friction, and when certain family members aren’t pulling their weight, and yes, this applies to every family member, you can go back to the word of Christ. He has told you beforehand. You know how the world is going to treat you. Sometimes the world inserts itself into the Christian home. Sometimes your sinful flesh rises up and you don’t act in patience and love toward your family members. You know this beforehand, and so you can repent, and you can go to each other in repentance, and you can forgive each other.

Jesus specifically told the apostles what He was calling them to. He laid it all out before them, He spoiled the ending. He calls you as well. To live in this world. To serve Him by serving others in your many vocations. And just as He gave His apostles the Helper—the Advocate, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth—so He gives you His Holy Spirit so that you may know that you’re not left to yourself. As you go forward, it will be difficult. Others will sin against you. You will stumble at times. You will sin against others. You know this beforehand.

But let me give away the ending for you. You know how you were Baptized? This is how it turns out for you, you have been brought into the eternal care of God. Each day you die and rise to new life. You know how you hear the declaration of the forgiveness of your sins by God’s called and ordained servant? That forgiveness comes straight from your Lord Himself. And this is how things turn out when your Lord does something: it has lasting effects. When you are forgiven, you are forgiven. When He forgives you your sins through the pronounced Absolution, your sin is not counted against you—now or on Judgment Day. He has given away the ending, you know how it all turns out.

He has told you beforehand what He desires to give you. And so He extends His invitation to you to partake of His Holy Supper. When you receive the bread and wine of this sacred Meal, He has given it away already as to what you are actually receiving. In and with that bread and wine He is giving you His precious body and His precious blood. Oh yes, and along with that, guess what you get? Forgiveness of your sin. Strength for your daily life.

And there’s more. He’s already told you that in His Holy Meal He gives to you often and invites you to partake of often that He is giving you His actual body and blood. He has already told you that He is giving you this for the forgiveness of your sin. The good news is that with Him, there is always more. For where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation. So not only do you know ahead of time that when you are looking around at the world, and you are struggling in life, and you’re not sure how exactly things are going to turn out; you can know. You can know now. The ending has been given away. In the eating and drinking of your Lord’s Body and Blood you receive forgiveness; and where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation. That is yours.

It is yours now. It is yours forever. It is yours in body, and it is yours in soul. It is yours in life and it is yours in eternity. Sorry to spoil the ending for you, but since Christ has already done it, I figured I couldn’t do any less. Amen.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Lord’s Prayer for You

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2013
First I’m going to say something, and then I’m going to go back on it. I used to think that the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest prayer there is. I don’t think so any longer. The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer our Lord has given us to pray, isn’t the greatest prayer there is. There is one prayer that is greater, that is in fact the greatest prayer.

It is the prayer that our Lord prays. The Lord’s Prayer He gave to us to pray. But the prayer He Himself prays is the prayer that is truly the greatest prayer.

And here is where I will now go back on my earlier statement: the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest prayer. Our Lord has given it to us to pray, and so therefore we pray it, and there is nothing greater for us to pray.

But that other prayer? The one that is greater in that it is the very prayer of our Lord Himself? The reason the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest prayer for us is because of the prayer Jesus Himself prayed. You might think of it this way: we pray because He prays for us. Not only has He invited and commanded us to pray, He prays for us. His prayer for you is what makes it possible for you to pray to your Heavenly Father.

And what is His prayer? This is answered in His statement to the disciples which seems the opposite of what we would expect from Him. He is about to leave them; He has promised to send them the Holy Spirit; He will promise to be with them always, to the very end of the age—and rather than saying that He will pray for them to the Father, He says, “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf.” That seems an odd way of praying for them, not praying for them.

But understood in the context of who He is and what He was about to do, He teaches us what it means for Him to pray for us. Our Lord’s prayer for us is not Him asking the Father on our behalf. Rather, it is the life He lived that was a prayer to His Heavenly Father on our behalf. The Bible speaks of Jesus as our Mediator. Jesus Himself in the Gospel reading speaks of us praying in His name. The Bible says He intercedes for us.

The important thing for us to remember here, is that He does all of this not by folding His hands and asking of specific things of the Father on our behalf. No, His prayer is His life. His prayer is who He is and what He has done for each one of us. His prayer is that of His life as a living sacrifice that even went all the way to His sacrificial death.

In the Gospel reading we have Jesus telling the disciples that they will pray to the Father. He says that when this happens He won’t be praying on their behalf. He won’t need to. We won’t need Him to. What He is getting at is that all of His prayers for them are bound up in His life. This is what He is talking about when He says, “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” What does Jesus say they did and believed? They loved Him and believed in Him. Specifically, they believed He came from God.

His coming from God is His life. It is His coming in the flesh, living in our human flesh, proclaiming the Gospel, restoring creation, and what it all culminates in: His suffering, death, and resurrection. God sent His Son. His Son came and lived and suffered for the sin of the world. God raised Him from the dead. This is the life of Jesus, this is His prayer to the Father on our behalf. It is His ultimate interceding for us, it is why the Father loves us and saves us and welcomes us as His very own children in His eternal Kingdom. What Christ has accomplished for us, and for this to have been brought about, He has already accomplished. That’s why He doesn’t need to pray on our behalf anymore. God the Father loves us through His Son. That’s what Jesus meant by saying, “for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

In this Gospel reading Jesus is teaching us to pray. He has already said that the reason He left, in having ascended into heaven after His resurrection, was in order to send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Jesus tells us that when we pray we will pray in His name. The Holy Spirit brings it about that we pray to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus. What does Jesus mean by praying in His name? When we go to that place we normally think of when we think of Jesus teaching us to pray, the Lord’s Prayer, His prayer He has given us to pray, we learn how to pray in His name. We pray to our Father, who is in heaven. We pray His name be hallowed among us, that His Kingdom come among us, that His will be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. We pray for our daily bread, the forgiveness of our sins and that we gladly forgive others of their sins against us, that He would guard us in the time of temptation, and that He would deliver us from every evil. And to all of this, we say, “Amen,” yes, it shall be so.

The prayer Jesus gives us to pray, the Lord’s Prayer, is the greatest prayer. In this prayer is included everything for which we need to pray. There is nothing left out. And you know how we pray this prayer? In the name of Jesus. He Himself has given it to us to pray and therefore it is our prayer we pray in His name. It’s telling that in giving us this prayer He never gives us those exact words to use, “in the name of Jesus.” That’s because praying in Jesus’ name isn’t simply the use of those exact words at the end of our prayer. It is praying in Him, who He is, the one who came from God the Father, who became flesh, who lived, who suffered, who died for all our sins, who rose from the grave. Praying in His name is praying according to God’s good and gracious will, which we know clearly in His Son.

That’s why Jesus doesn’t need to pray for us. He already has. His specific prayers for us—His high priestly prayer in John 17, His prayers from the cross—they are all inseparably bound up in His life, which is a living prayer to His Heavenly Father on our behalf, for our sake, out of His abounding love for us, a fragrant and pleasing sacrifice to the Heavenly Father. He has prayed for us. He has come from the Father to live for us and save us. He has ascended into heaven and has sent us His Holy Spirit. He has exhorted us now to pray. To pray to our Heavenly Father. We do so in His name: praying to our Father, in the name of the Son, through the intercession of the Holy Spirit.

How does our Lord teach us to pray? Well, a simple, and excellent, answer is: He gives us His prayer to pray, the Lord’s Prayer. It is the greatest prayer, and one we can never exhaust in our daily and eternal life in and with Christ. But He doesn’t teach us to pray simply by giving us a prayer to pray. He Himself prays for us. He Himself is given to us by His Heavenly Father, so that the Heavenly Father may be our Heavenly Father. Jesus came in order to offer up a prayer. The prayer was Himself. The prayer was His life. It was His suffering, His death, His resurrection. It was His ascending into heaven and His sending of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord’s prayer for us is Himself.

Our praying of His prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, is nothing else than our joining in and with Him in His prayer to His Heavenly Father, so that when we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven,” we are praying to our Heavenly Father in and with Jesus, His Son. In other words, we are praying in Jesus’ name. This is your Lord’s prayer for you. That you don’t need to wonder, or be afraid, or hesitate, or doubt.

Ask Him. Ask according to His will, His good and gracious will. Be bold and confident, as dear children ask their dear father. Pray your Heavenly Father in your need. Pray to Him in your doubts, your fears, your needs. Pray to Him to grant you what you need, what you don’t even know that you need. Pray to Him in the humility of knowing that He is a good and gracious giver. He loves you and holds you in His eternal hand. He will not forsake you, He will always have His ears toward you. You can pray to Him in any need, any thing for which you need help. Pray to Him in thanksgiving that He has given you His Son, and that that is how you know that He is for you and loves you and gives you what you need, what is best for you, what will console you and sustain you.

Your Heavenly Father loves you. You know this because He has given you His son. Jesus came into the world for you. He joined Himself with you in your Baptism. He gives you Himself in His Holy Supper, His body and blood for you to eat and drink in and with the bread and wine, to strengthen you, to forgive you, to commune with you.

This is your Heavenly Father’s will. It is your Lord and Savior’s will. It is the Holy Spirit’s will. It is your Lord’s prayer for you and your prayer to God is in and because of Him, both now and forever. Amen.