Year C — The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12)

Commentary for July 28, 2012
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s readings
Click HERE for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast with the Rev. James Dixon

Hosea 1:2-10
God asks an awful lot of God’s prophets — but asking Hosea to go and find his wife in the “red light district” may push the limits of credulity!

The story illustrates the lengths to which God is willing to go in the redemption of God’s people. Neither angry nor vengeful, God rather is merciful.

Psalm 85
The psalm is an excellent companion text to the first reading, making explicit what is implicit in Hosea’s call. 

Genesis 18:20-32
What is it like to “bargain” with God?

Abraham asks fervently for God to change God’s mind — and God apparently agrees to do so. Does God ever give us what we ask for with a greater lesson in mind?

Psalm 138
How long does it take for God to answer our prayers? The psalmist says that God answers, “on the day we call.” 

Of course, sometimes that answer is not the one we were hoping for.

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19
This is an excellent passage on Christian maturity, not that that is something we ever attain, exactly; rather, it is a quest that begins and continues throughout our lives. 

Luke 11:1-13
We have here Luke’s version of the, perhaps, more famous words found in Matthew. Lots and lots of Christians know and recite “The Lord’s Prayer.” How often do we stop, in all of our familiarity, to consider what we are praying for?

Additionally, Jesus gives us words about asking for and receiving gifts. Not that God is a disgruntled neighbor, awakened from sleep and answering our prayers to get rid of us!

The Father in heave knows how to give good gifts!

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

I heard this story on the Paul Harvey radio show a few years ago.  A three year old goes with his mother to the grocery store. As they started in the door, Mom says to son, “Now, you’re not going to get any chocolate chip cookies, so don’t even ask.” She puts him in the child’s seat and off they go up and down the aisles. He’s doing just fine until they get to the cookie session. When he saw the familiar packages, he says, “Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?  Mom replies, “I told you not to ask.” 

They continue up and down the aisles, but, like always, they backtrack looking for a few things and wind up in the cookie aisle again. “Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?”  Mom holds firm, “I told you not to ask.  You’re not getting any cookies.”

Finally, they arrive at the checkout. Junior is an experienced shopper. He knows this is his last chance. He stands up in the seat and shouts.IN THE NAME OF JESUS,MAY I HAVE SOME CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES?” Everyone in the checkout area stares, then laughs, then applauds. And then, while Mom watches with open mouth, 23 shoppers go and buy her little boy his chocolate chip cookies, 23 boxes of them. What was it Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given?”

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is talking with his followers about prayer. First he teaches them the very familiar words we know as the Lord’s Prayer. Then he tells them a weird story about bothering your neighbors in the middle of the night. He finishes up by urging them to keep at it with prayer; to search, to knock, to ask!

As the story begins, Jesus has been praying while the disciples wait for him. When he has finished, they ask him to teach them to pray.  They have noticed that John the Baptist has taught his disciples to pray, and they want Jesus to get with the program and to teach them this secret knowledge as well. And so he does. But the prayer he taught them is probably not exactly what they had in mind. 

Of course, it is impossible for us to get inside their heads and know for sure, but they probably wanted to learn the secrets to powerful prayer, the kind of prayer that changes things, fixes things, gets you things you want, like chocolate chip cookies. But instead of getting a prayer that changes things out there, in the external world which they hoped to control with God’s help; Jesus teaches them a prayer that changes things in here, inside our hearts and minds and souls.

Martin Luther once said that to be a sinner is to be bent, to be crooked, to be twisted in upon ourselves.  The root of sinfulness begins in selfishness; in looking at the world as a place to get my needs met, my life straightened out, my career, my enjoyment, my fulfillment, my future, my happiness.

But the prayer Jesus teaches us to pray is not my prayer, it is our prayer, directed to our father, and it is not a prayer aimed at getting what I want. Instead, it is designed to turn us away from our wants toward what God wants. 

It is in praying this prayer that we become the people God made us to be, wants us to be in Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Prayer is a powerful prayer, and its power lies in its ability to mold us into a Christ-like shape.  As we pray and meditate upon this prayer throughout our lives, we discover that it constantly pulls us away from our focus upon ourselves and then bends us in a new direction; in the direction of loving God and serving others.

Having taught his disciples a basic prayer, Jesus drives home its lesson with the story about the grouchy neighbor and the noisy friend.  Remember; a parable does not operate on a one-to-one, this represents that, basis. The neighbor is not God and beating on doors in the middle of the night is not prayer. Jesus’ point is to be persistent in prayer; you are not afraid of your friends, do not be afraid of God. Ask for what you want. 

Remember, Jesus didn’t say anything about going to a stranger in the middle of the night to ask for food. He said to go to a neighbor, a friend, someone with whom you have a relationship; someone you know and who knows you! The point of prayer is to talk with God, to be in relationship with God, to move your heart and mind and soul into cooperation with God in loving and serving the world.

Jesus’ teaching on prayer is that we should pray so often, and so regularly, and so persistently that we become as familiar with God as we are our neighbors and friends. 
And it is within that relationship and familiarity that God changes our lives, unbends us from selfishness and evil and turns us in the direction of love and goodness.

And as a result of having our lives changed by God, we find ourselves empowered to change the world. We embrace Christ as the way of salvation for ourselves and discover that we have become a part of the way of salvation for those around us. 

AMEN

One thought on “Year C — The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12)

  1. Pingback: The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (Proper 12) | The Lectionary Lab

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