Sermon from January 1st, 2017

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“A Prayer for 2017”

James 5:13-16; Matthew 6:5-15


By Pastor John Bent



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Sermon Text
Happy New Year!  Or better said, Blessed New Year!   We simply don’t know if the year ahead will be happy or sad. What we do know is that God will be with us through whatever comes our way and for that reason alone, whatever happens, in the long run, at the final tally, it will be blessed!  Are you with me? Can I have an “amen”.

God never shows us what lies ahead, I’ve often been thankful for that.  But he does allow us to look back down the trail and remember where we have come from and all the ways he provided for us, protected us, saw us through. This road of life is never easy. But he blesses his children through it all. And I choose to believe he’ll do the same in 2017. Amen?

We must never forget; this world is a war zone. Every day is a spiritual battle. We have a real enemy whose purpose is to vandalize and destroy. His attacks shouldn’t surprise us nor should they throw us into confusion and fear or strip us of our joy and hope.

The victory has already been won when Jesus conquered sin, death, devil on the cross. Yet the Lord has sent us out into the world to spread the Good New, live generously and joyfully, set captives free, proclaim the name of Jesus until he comes and that’s still a battle.

My first thought in getting ready for this morning was to spend our time praying for everything we could think of that needed changing in 2017.  Hungry children, justice, peace, persecuted Christians, national unity, the list is pretty long. And then I thought, what would Jesus pray for at the beginning of a new year?

And then the Holy Spirit reminded me, “He already told us.”  Do you remember the story? It wasn’t Jesus’ miracles that so astounded his disciples, it was his prayer life. So they asked him to teach them how to pray. I can’t think of a better way to start 2017 than with the prayer he taught us.  He said, “When you pray, say…”

“Our Father in heaven” -  The word Jesus uses for Father is “daddy”.  The intimate way a child would address a good and loving Father.  I wish all fathers in this broken world were loving and good. Some are, but not all. Yet no matter what your father story may be, you have a Father in heaven who is strong, good, loving and trustable. He is eager to listen to you, converse with you, establish a relationship with you.

“Hallowed be your name” - These words may sound a little strange to us. I’m sure they did to the disciples.  They are connected to the 2nd Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.”  The truth is, the more we love someone, the more precious their name is to us. God has given us the great honor of not only knowing his name, but calling him by name. It’s no surprise that one of Satan’s primary tactics is to get us to misuse God’s name.
 
In 2017, let’s eliminate OMG from our texts and tweets. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the phrase “O My God”.  Let’s eliminate the misuse of God’s name from our vocabulary in the New Year. The more we love God, the better we come to know him through prayer and the study of his Word, the more we will hallow his precious name.

“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
- It should be obvious that God’s will is done in heaven, but how about here on earth?  How about in my own heart?

Satan works overtime to convince us that the secret to abundant life is found not in what God wants but in what I want.  Satan wants us to believe true freedom is found wherever our will is done, and we are free to build our kingdom our way! But just the opposite is true.

The consequence of doing things my way is always disaster and slavery.  Jesus came to set us from our slavery to the world, the devil, and our own sinful nature.

The freedom and abundance we long for is only found in one place, when we are doing God’s will and working for the coming of His kingdom.  Am I sure about that? Absolutely! It’s only when you invite Jesus to sit on the throne in your heart, and you seek to obey him above all else, that you will find the peace, purpose, joy you long for.

“Give us this day our daily bread” -  Luther reminds us that God faithfully gives us our daily bread whether we pray or not. But this petition reminds us that all we have is a gift from him. We are reminding ourselves to remember this daily gift and to receive all these gifts with humility and thanksgiving. I think this petition helps us remember to be generous. We can never out give God. But the more stingy we become, the more we choke off the pipeline of God’s abundance.
 
What is our daily bread? Again Luther reminds us that this includes everything we need for daily life. Food, clothing, home, property, work, income, family, friends, good government, good weather, peace, health.  Rather fostering an attitude of scarcity and fear, this petition helps us foster an attitude of abundance, joy, generosity.

“Lead us not into temptation (Save us in the time of trial)” - For whatever reason, the Lord has not chosen to exempt us from the spiritual battle that rages around us.  I think it has to do with his desire that we grow up spiritually to become more like him. That only happens in the face of adversity. The Bible also makes clear that we aren’t fighting against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers and principalities who specialize in fear, lies, innuendo.

We are in a time of trial in Whitefish this morning. Luther explains this petition in a helpful way. He writes, “God tempts no one to sin, but we ask in this prayer that God would watch over us and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful self may not deceive us and draw us into false belief, despair and other great and shameful sins.”

Satan is a spiritual arsonist. He tries to start fires by whatever means possible to see if they will burn. He throws out lies and accusations like fishhooks looking for somebody to bite. He could care less if we agree or disagree. He simply wants to create fear and start a fight. He wants to tempt us into reacting in fear.
 
So how do we respond to the virus of anti-Semitism and racism that he is fostering against us here in the Flathead in 2017? Look at the next petition in Jesus’ prayer.

“Deliver us from evil”
– The way we don’t respond is to react to hate with hate or violence with violence. The apostle John wrote, “Perfect love drives out fear.” 1 Jn 4:18

The word John uses for perfect means mature, grown up, fully developed.  Only Jesus fulfills this completely, but his purpose is that we grow up in love so that we can respond to these threats of Satan in the same way he did. Hatred is always rooted in fear.  Jesus’ love is never passive, but active. It confronts fear with love, lies with truth, ignorance with light.

It shouldn’t surprise us as the church when the light and truth of Christ shining through us is rejected. What if in 2017 you and I are called to be martyrs for Jesus?  Here’s the answer. Are ready?  We will die as the martyrs before us died, loving and praying for our enemies and for those who persecute us. Jesus showed Stephen and the other disciples how, Stephen showed us how, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”

More than likely, 2017 will give us an opportunity to practice what we preach - to pray for our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. It will be vital that we get into our Bibles and grow in our ability to articulate what we believe and why we believe it so that when the opportunity arises, we will be able to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

Christians may have added the ending to his prayer at a later time because Luke and Matthew don’t include it, but that doesn’t mean Jesus wouldn’t be in complete agreement.

“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever and ever. AMEN”

The word “amen” means, let it be so! Can I hear an “amen”.  This is God’s world and we are his people.  He has promised to be with us and see us through whatever 2017 may hold. He will fill this new year with blessings and challenges.  He will complete his promise to work all things out for his purposes and his glory.

I like the way Paul puts it in Romans 8.
 
“What shall we say to all these things? (meaning the good, the bad, the ugly of 2017)  If God is for us, who can be against us? Will not God who gave his own Son for us, give us all we need? For I am sure that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers neither height nor depth, nor anything else that can happen in 2017, will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paraphrase Rom 8:31-39
  

May I have an Amen? Have a blessed 2017!

Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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