A Prayer For Fatherless Children
SERMON SERIES - THERE'S A PRAYER FOR THAT!
2 - For fatherless children.
A sermon based on Psalm 68:1-6a, delivered by Pastor David Russow, Hope Lutheran Church, Andover, MN, October 20 & 23, 2019
In the name of Jesus, the Father's only Son, and through Mary, our Brother:
When you hear the word “martyr” like a “Christian martyr” what pictures come to your mind? Pictures of Christians huddled together in the middle of the Colosseum as a hungry beasts or blood-thirsty gladiators make sport of human life? Pictures of Christians confessing Christ who confessed them before the Father and for doing so are impaled on stakes, doused with flammables, and lit on fire like street lights for the Roman Emporer nicknamed “bloody” Nero? Pictures of Jesus’ followers being sawed in two, filleted alive then dunked in salt water, or beheaded? Or, picture this: a snapshot of a group of Christians, like us, right here together praying the Lord’s Prayer? Us? Praying? Martyrs?
Theologian Martin Luther once made an astute observation. He said, “The greatest martyr on earth is the Lord’s Prayer.” Don’t pretend that you don’t know what he’s talking about here. We’ve all done it before. The mouth says, “Our Father who art in heaven…” but the mind packs its bags and says, “I’m taking a little vacation until the Amen.” The words roll off the lips but the thoughts are fixated on the game, what’s ahead this week, or even slices of pie after the service. Meanwhile, careful not to trip over the spoken phrases we run right through of God’s name and God’s kingdom and God’s will and God’s providence and God’s forgiveness and God’s leading and God’s delivering. And Dr. Luther was right, we've pushed the petitions Jesus taught into an arena or impaled them on a stake or sawed them in two as the mind wandered and hearts fail to focus in trust. Lord, have mercy.
If Welcome Home Sunday is anything today’s a day of mercy. No questions asked. Just arms of a gracious God and our arms extended in the deepest love of all, Jesus' love. This is the love thhat overcomes the uncomfortable reality that God takes our sin seriously. This is a love that withdraws the pointing finger at us for shoving the Lord into the back room and to the bottom of the list of our lives. This is a love that rolls away the cold storm clouds of just anger and brings the warm sunlight of Jesus’ love, a love that took human form in holiness, a love that nailed him to the cross, a love that lights up a tomb left empty, a love that does not condemn the world, us included, but to save, a love that brings us Home, to His Father’s home, where he calls him “our Father.” In this love, Jesus, who will judge all individual, no longer will declare what he once publicly declared to a group who rejected him, “You belong to your father, the devil...” (Jo 8:44). No, now he declares to each of us, “You are my brother, my sister, my Father's child, my sibling, part my family, the family of God!” So, we, without martyring the Lord's prayer, with boldness and confidence, pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven...” against the backdrop of the first six verses of Psalm 68. This psalm calls us what we spiritually are, fatherless children! And there's a prayer for that.
1 May God arise. May his enemies scatter. May those who hate him flee from his prsence. 2 As smoke is blown away, may you blow them away. As wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God. 3 But the righteous rejoice and celebrate in the presence of God. They will be happy and joyful. 4 Sing to God. Make music to his name. Lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts. His name is the LORD. Celebrate before him. 5 In his holy dwelling, God is a father for the fatherless and a judge who defends widows. 6 God causes the lonely to dwell together in a household.
David wrote this Psalm. David's father was Jesse. David was father to a number of children, son, Solomon carried on the line of the Savior. No fatherless-ness really in his life. But David is not just describing orphans to us. He describing spiritual, begging street urchins. People who didn’t belong to anyone spiritually. He’s describing you and me spiritually who are dependents without God the Father, we are the Fatherless. The Bible says we were “children of wrath,” but then the water splashed on our heads with the Word, then the Word broke through to our hearts, then God, Father, claimed us, wrote his name on us, on you, on me, and then he wrote our names on the palm of his hands so he’d never forget us. He loves us!. It cost him his Son, but his love drove him to pay the price and adopt us. Jesus, His Son, is a King and that dubbed us “royals”. Royals, once fatherless, once not belonging, now the people of God. Once having nothing, now possessing a mortgage free mansion awaiting in glory, “...in my Father's house are many mansions; I go there to prepare a place for you...” Jesus said. Once in danger of slipping to hell, now in certainty headed to heaven. And our Father will not let dangers, or sorrows, or what the devil or what life throws at us stop him from getting us there! He’s, for us, the Father for the fatherless.
Father, God-Father, is our Father! Fathers give life, so it is he who carefully knit the color of your eyes and he carefully stitched the smile on your face and he wove the fibers of every cell, nerve and organ together while you were still in your mother’s womb, knit together by our Father, (Ps 139). But more so, he is our ever-living Father, eager to hear and tend to the needs of his children; so our perfect Father is eager to hear and tend to the needs of his children. So we pray and talk to our Father about everything that we need, everything that troubles us, of all our hopes and dreams.
And notice where our Father is, (He art) “in heaven.” The word in Jesus' prayer really is a plural: Our Father is in the heavens. Heavens is a word that describes everything not here bellow, everything above. And it was our Father who, as scripture says, made “...the heavens and the earth...” Ps 124:8. Our Father made the vast heavens. And our Father inhabits sch vastness. So vast and great is the power of our Father. He loves us, his children, and he uses his power to provide for his children, to protect his children: us.
We don't pray our Father who art in the White House. The most powerful man in our country maybe the world lives in that White House on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. You and I couldn't get close to him, he's is the president. We wouldn’t dream of approaching him in his pj’s, we in ours, climbing into his lap and asking, “Daddy, would you...” But if for President Obama or President Trump our names were Malia or Sashia, or Barron, that dream is or was a reality. There is a point here. By faith, we as God’s children can approach our heavenly Father with closeness and with confidence. And he's more powerful than all the presidents of all the world of all history combined. Our “Abba” “Daddy” loves to hear and as the psalm says, rises up in power, melts our enemies like waxe melts, and blows our enemies away, now and at the end of life, like smoke is blown away. And he’s our heavenly Father. So ask away, brothers, and sisters. He loves. He forgives. He protects. He provides.
And WE call him OUR Father. He's not “my,” but “our” Father. God would have us thinking and praying for the needs of others, especially our fellow Christians who are children of the God by faith too. So how are we to know what others’ needs are? And good grief, how are we to even know what our own needs are and what to ask for? Well there's a prayer for that.
There are seven needs, real needs, for every real fear, every sadness, every real temptation the people of God experience. Jesus taught us to pray for what I need, you need, their review. There are prayers for that.
Let's not martyr the Lord's Prayer, and let's remember this none of us is a loner in praying it. “God causes the lonely to dwell together in a household,” v. 6, family. We're family. We need each other. He's our Father. - Almost 40 years ago, Jane Stahlecker, developed cancer. Eric and she'd only been married for about 9 years. Their sons: Matthew 7, Bobby 5. The cancer took Jane to our Father in heaven. Eric, Matthew and Bobby were alone, lonely. But they stayed stayed connected with our church family praying us and we with them Our Father. Time past, Eric met Ellen. And when they exchanged vows, Eric and Ellen also themselves as parents of Matthew and Bobby with this verse, “God puts the lonely into families.” And they prayed, Our Father who art in heaven. And someday, soon we with Jane, Eric, Ellen, Matthew, Bobby and all God’s Family will be home - never alone - in heaven with our Father. And we’ll hear with our own ears, “Welcome home.” Amen.