“From Snake to Wide Awake” Sermon of July 25th

Luke 11
1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Tommy went on his first cave exploration or spelunking trip in college. He was surprised by: a) how dark it was and b) how tight it was. Caves are not spacious at all. In one spot they leaned down on their bellies to get through. Tommy is not normally claustrophobic; but it was tight. His helmet light had a short of some sort in it. It went out.

Waves of alarm went through Tommy . “Uh guys, my light went out and I’m kind of panicking here.”

His friends, those in front and in back, called him through it. Talked him through it. “Follow my voice. . . . .”

The Christian idea of prayer is much the same. We’re lost in the darkness, crying out for someone to hear us. We call out, yell into the darkness, and God’s comforting voice says to us, “Come, my daughter, come my son, to the light.”

#1—Luke reports a version of the Lord’s Prayer, which is pretty close to what we say in church every Sunday. Not exact. The form we use in church is from Matthew’s gospel.

Any Jew would have been comfortable saying the Lord’s Prayer. There’s nothing particularly Christian about it—no mention of the Trinity, for example, or Jesus’ death on the cross. In all the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, there is nothing there that would have been unique or ground-breaking, except for the very first words, “Our Father.”

Any Jew would have been expected to use the Hebrew Abinu, for Father. Formal form of address.
It’s not Abinu, though, that Jesus uses. It is Abba, which roughly translates to “Daddy.” It’s the first sounds a Hebrew infant would learn, close to the babbling of a toddler. Abba is much easier to say than Abinu.

This would have caused some people to pause. “Daddy?” Really, is that respectful? Jesus’ point, I think, though, is that just as a toddler trusts her father, depends on her daddy, for food, shelter, protection, and caring; that is the same type of relationship we have to our heavenly Father. In a relation of utter dependence and trust. A relationship of security and hopefulness.

#2—Moving on to verses 5-8, Jesus tells this parable of a man who gets a surprise guest in the middle of the night. We talked a little last week about Middle Eastern hospitality and this when this man gets a visitor, even in the middle of the night; he’s obligated to take the visitor in.

He can’t feed his guest, he wasn’t expecting him. So, he runs over to a neighbors’ house and asks in the middle of the night for three loaves of bread.

Neighbor says I’m already in bed—door’s locked. Can’t be bothered. Your problem pal, not mine.” This is insulting to Middle Eastern Manners—the proper thing would be to get up and bring his friend the loaves.

The man outside says, “Fine, I will just stand out here all night and knock. I can wait.” What’s implied here is that he’s going to wake up the whole family to get the three loaves of bread. And the neighbor collects his bread and sends him on his way.

In other words, Jesus says, “Look, even this rude lay-about who is unwilling to help a friend will be moved by persistence. How much more moved will God be moved by your persistence? God is willing to hear your prayers, day or night. Convenient or Inconvenient. God is always wide awake to hear your prayers.

#3—We are to trust God when we pray and not get discouraged. We are to trust that prayer leads to results.
That you cannot ask God for healing and get a snake.
You cannot ask God for improved relationships and get a scorpion.
Now you might not get what you want, but God will not hand you a serpent.

God is like parents of toddlers. Every parent I’ve ever talked to thinks they’ve baby-proofed the house until . . . . the baby starts walking and their arms are longer than you think, they get into the most amazing things. God is following us around, making sure we don’t get into trouble.

Now, we can all think of times we’ve prayed for something and not gotten what we’ve wanted. It’s painful to pray for someone to be cured of cancer and only watch them waste away. It can be devastating to pray for God to take away your depression and worry, only to have that depression deepen.

Sometimes we talk this way—“God took him away too soon. God sent me this cancer as a test of my faith.” Yet, the Bible is clear that the powers of sin, death and disease are not sent by God, they are the enemies of God! Disease and death come from the fall and are hostile to God. God does not send them to you to send you a message—(he may allow them to exist but that’s a sermon for another day). The powers of sin and death are enemies of God and God is in the process of defeating them and will defeat them.
God is radically against these human frailties and trials. God is in the business of transforming them; transforming us through them!
The times of darkness, of calling out in blindness and in the brutality of this modern world, become times of revelation, of visitation by God.

Conclusion: So, let us praise God, for allowing us to call him “Abba! Father.” Let us praise God for allowing us to approach him with a naïve, childlike and innocent trust. Let us praise God knowing that our call in the dark cave of existence is heard and answered, every door is opened in prayer. Amen.