“Jesus Provision is Our Freedom” 07.14.2016 Sermon

Matthew 6:25-33 • July 10, 2016

Click here to view a video of this sermon. 

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord of all provision, our Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Whether it’s in a physical location or on the internet, sometimes I find myself buying things I don’t need. I have nothing on my list of things to get. Nothing. I simply am browsing the really good deals.

Aahhh…you smile. You know what I’m talking about.

Two of the worst places for me are Menards and an online store called 6pm.com. I don’t know why – but I always come away from these stores with things that I didn’t even know I needed.

I can go into Menards for one item and walk out with enough items to completely redo all of the electrical service in my house. I browse around the 6pm.com website for a few minutes and, for some strange reason, a few days later a new pair of shoes arrive at my front door.

I think part of the problem here is that our hearts have come to believe that satisfaction can come from things. And truth be told, we never seem to be satisfied with the things we have, so we continue to live thinking that acquiring more things will eventually satisfy us. I don’t know, does it make us any happier? Are we satisfied? Can we ever be satisfied?

Well, there is a bit of good news in all of this. We are not the first people to struggle with this. The people in Jesus’ day were just as consumed with consumption. And Jesus had a great deal of wisdom to share with them about this. In fact, in our gospel reading from Saint Matthew today I believe Jesus gets to the center of this issue. Did you hear it? Jesus says, “Do not worry.”  Worry!! Is that what this is all about??

Maybe Jesus is on to something here. Maybe you and I need to pause for a second and look deep inside and see what’s going on in our consumption crazy hearts. What need are we feeding or trying to feed? Especially in light of the fact that for nearly every person in this worship space today, you and I already have way more than we really need.

I think we’re looking for some sort of security in our lives. That’s where the “need” language of our consumption appetite is justified. Security needs things. And if we don’t have things, we’re insecure. Then we worry.

But Jesus says, “Do not worry.”

He will provide the security our hearts need to exist and even to thrive as children of God. Look around! The birds and the flowers are taken care of, so why not you? Jesus loves you and does provide for you. What can worrying do? Take a few seconds and think about how much time you have spent worrying recently? I believe that most of the things we worry about, either don’t happen at all or are not changed because of our worry. In spite of that, we still spend time and energy worrying.

And I also believe this is a bondage to a false sense of self and a sin-filled human characteristic that causes us to believe that we are in fact in charge. That we actually are in control. So, at the heart of the matter, it’s the bondage to our unbelief that causes worry or an obsession for accumulating things. Our unbelief that God actually does care for us and about us and is in fact the God of all creation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the one who who was sent by God, who came into the world to save us and who continues to come into our lives to break the chains of this bondage. In the last verse of our gospel reading today, Jesus says “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Simply stated, Jesus provision is our freedom. God’s gift of a savior in Christ Jesus is our freedom.

So what might that mean to you and me as we walk through this next week? How might the freedom that we receive from God through our Savior Jesus speak to us tomorrow at work or with our coffee group or softball team or even when we are shopping.

As you pray the Lord’s Prayer this week – and I really hope that you do in fact do that – focus your attention on the fourth petition “give us this day our daily bread.” Say it over and over.

Because we don’t pray this part of the prayer to receive stuff. We pray it because we believe that God can and will take care of us. We pray it so our focus is not on us or on all the things we think we need. We pray it to remind us that God and God alone is the one who provides for us and for all things, like the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields. We pray it to refocus our attention, and call forth faith from our worry worn hearts.

Jesus’ provision is our freedom.

In our journey of faith this week, when you and I find ourselves with the compulsion to buy something that we have to actually convince ourselves that we really need, when in fact, we don’t. Call someone. That’s right. Have someone on speed-dial and call them right away! Because our heart wants relationship, and more things in our life do not give us relationship. People do. So call someone, not something. Move from something to someone to the One who gives us all the things necessary to truly love.

Jesus’ provision is our freedom.

And in addition to the call someone idea, the next time you find yourself with a compulsion to buy something that you have to convince yourself that you really need, when in fact, you don’t, buy it anyway. But not for you! Give it away. Bring it to a homeless shelter like Ruth Meier’s or Welcome House. Or stop by the Bismarck Emergency Food Pantry or Ministry on the Margins. Bless another child of God with your purchase.

In all of this, my hope and prayer is that this helps us to begin to love our neighbor as our self in new and life-changing ways. This week, as you pray the Lord’s Prayer, maybe the Holy Spirit will lead you and me to give someone else their daily bread.

Jesus’ provision is our freedom.

Think about the events of this past week in our world and the experiences that you have had in your own life. Imagine a world where you and I live for God and our neighbor, actually trusting in God to provide for our daily needs. Imagine a world in which you and I live into the idea that Jesus’ provision is in fact our freedom. That’s what it means to pray “give us this day our daily bread.”

Jesus’ provision is our freedom from the fear that betrays our compulsive buying habits.

Jesus’ provision is our freedom from the fear that keeps us gathering things rather than giving them away.

Jesus’ provision is our freedom to find faithfulness in everyday living – even as we continue to live in this broken and violent and sin-filled world.

Jesus’ provision is our freedom to, in Jesus’ own words from today’s gospel reading, to “strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus’ provision is yours today and for all of the days to come. Amen.

“Hallowed Be Thy Name” 06.26.2016 Sermon

Ephesians 1:15-23 • June 26, 2016

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Every one of us longs for connection with someone whom we can identify with and relate to during the joys and struggles of our daily life. On a deeper, even more profound level, each one of us has been created with a longing for connection with God. Whether we acknowledge it or not, or even whether we know it or not, every one of us is wired to know and be known by the One who created us for deep connections. Connections with God and with each other.

Prayer is that connection. Prayer is the personal experience and intimate connection with a loving God who invites us to know him by name, regard his name as holy and call him Father. God desires for us to experience deep connection with him through the holy conversation that is prayer.

Sounds simple, right…?

I have a confession to share. I struggle with getting my head around this. I have questions about and struggles with prayer. My struggles aren’t so much about speaking to God – I like to think that I have a fairly disciplined practice of prayer in my life and I’m invited to pray at public and private gatherings and with people individually dozens of times each week. My struggle is more with God’s response, or seeming lack of response that gets to me sometimes. There have been many times when I have shaken a fist at God and yelled – “God are you there!?” or even “God, with all due respect, I’m beginning to wonder whether or not you even give a rip about anything I’m praying about!”

I struggle with God’s silence.

God’s timing.

God’s response.

During one of these times of thinking that God doesn’t really care about me or any of my prayers, I drove by a car with the bumper sticker “Prayer Changes Things.” Now, I’m not a big fan of bumper sticker theology, but I want to believe that. I really do. But too often when my prayer life doesn’t change things the way I’d like them to be changed I get a little frustrated with God and have even said something like “You know what God! If I were you, I’d be doing things a lot differently!”

But then I take a deep breath – in case you haven’t noticed yet – a lot of the materials available to you and I during this worship series involve learning how important the relationship is between our breath and our prayer. So, I take a deep breath and realize that if I were in charge of everything, most of what I would do would only benefit me. And if it only benefits me, I’m probably harming someone else and that’s not very God-like at all – especially not very God-like in the God revealed to us in Christ Jesus.

I know many of you, ok – let’s be honest – all of you, have struggles similar to this with prayer and your prayer life from time to time. So, here’s what I think God is saying to us today about all of this. Jesus’ disciples were, at the very least, a bunch of guys who deeply resonated with Jesus, his life and what he was teaching. They were willing to set everything else aside – family, jobs, even their safety just to follow him and learn from him. They had seen Jesus heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, preach and teach and even raise the dead. But when it came time to ask Jesus to teach them how to do what he did, they had just one request, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And what came out of Jesus’ mouth next is one of the most important things that God’s creation has ever heard. Jesus said, “When you pray, pray in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

The phrase, “Hallowed be your Name,” may best be understood when we consider Martin Luther’s explanation of this phrase in the Small Catechism. Nearly 500 years ago, Luther wrote, “God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we ask in this prayer that we may keep it holy.” Keeping God’s name holy, it seems to me, is the place where God’s invitation to know God runs into our need to be known by God. Keeping God’s name holy implies relationship; it implies movement and action on our part, which leads to change and transformation. Keeping God’s name holy happens when we are actively respecting and honoring God’s name.

We disrespect and dishonor God’s name when we misuse it in any way. And most of the time, I fear that we don’t even know we are doing that.
You and I say things daily that dishonor God’s name. I don’t think I need to waste any time giving you examples – although social media provides an abundance of them.

And you and I do things every day that dishonor God’s name. I don’t think I need to waste any time giving you examples of that either – although a few minutes with a news broadcast will easily prove that statement to be true.

Hallowing God’s name is to honor God and to honor the relationship that God desires to have with each one of us. Hallowing God’s name keeps open the window into God’s character and the doorway into God’s presence.

In the scripture reading that we received today from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul is talking about the blessing of knowing God, hallowing God’s name and being named and known this God.

Paul says, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”

At the end of a prayer, we often say “in Jesus’ name we pray” or something similar to that. We are not offering our prayer in the name of Pastor Craig or Governor Dalrymple or President Obama or our neighborhood school principle. We are framing all that has been said in our prayer, or done because of that prayer, or hoped for through praying that prayer at that particular time – in the power and authority of God and affirming the relationship that binds us together with God through the Savior of the world, Jesus the Christ.

So…as we walk through the second week of this worship series, here are two things to carry with you.

First – I invite you and I to rethink how we use God’s name every second of every day. Think about how you use God’s name and when and why. Think about how you refer to God. Ask yourself what poor habits I might need to be given up or what new ways of
spiritual practice I can enter into in order to honor God’s name in every part of my life of faith, not just when I happen to be inside a church.

Second – I want to suggest one way that you and I can hallow God’s name together so that we can move through this week intentionally practicing, respecting, and honoring God in all that we say and do. If God is the one who first breathed life into us – and God is the one who did that brothers and sisters – we can honor God simply by offering prayer to God with our breath.

Simply breathing the second phrase or petition of the Lord’s Prayer over and over this week can serve as a prayer to remind us that our very breath comes from our Father, and that prayer is just about breathing in and out. It’s not about giving God a list of our grievances or begging God for the things that we want or think that we need or deserve. Prayer and being in relationship with the God of all creation is as simple as breathing in and breathing out.

I invite you to try it with me right now.

And if you’re comfortable, I invite you to even close your eyes.

Together we breathe in. Together we breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. As we breathe in “Hallowed be…” we breathe out “…thy name.”

As you continue to breathe in and breathe out in prayer, I offer prayer for us…

Jesus, we ask you to be with us in prayer today and throughout the week as we glorify your Father’s holy name. Open our hearts to the precious words you taught us to pray. Let these words connect us in new ways, not because we know them by heart, but because they come from our heart. Holy is your Father’s name, precious with mercy, hallowed with both judgement and loving forgiveness. To the Lord of heaven and earth, we offer this prayer with praise, thanksgiving, and reverence as we ask for safety, forgiveness, peace, and grace in the coming days. Amen.

[I’m forever grateful for the resources of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN that are an incredible help with Good Shepherd’s Summer Worship Series on The Lord’s Prayer. Much of the content of this sermon is based upon a sermon of Rev. Jeff Marian’s from the summer of 2009.]


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