Storming Heaven

2019-07-28 – Year C – Proper 12 – The Rev. Carrie Klukas Genesis 18:20-33; Psalm 138; Colossians 2:6-15; Luke 11:1-13

Lord Jesus we come to you today seeking your voice, your wisdom, and your comfort. Help us to see our unworthiness and yet your great love and generosity, help us to be rooted in you Lord Jesus. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

Fr. Chris and I have been watching a show on Netflix called Madame Secretary. It is a political show that seeks to depict what it is like to work for the President of the United States in handling domestic and world affairs. 

The show is intriguing as it shows the great balance between seeking peace and taking action in the face of atrocities. Over and over the Secretary of State has to make deals with countries seeking to bring peace or order. The story line through changes when there is an American involved. For even one American citizen she fights for their rights and freedoms, she fights to bring them home. When there is a group of citizens she wheels and deals with other countries to bring them all home alive. 

Her goal is that not one will be left behind. This stands also for those who help her or stand for democracy and freedom. She goes to bat for them with some of the most powerful people on the planet. She rarely gets everything she wants and often has to give quite a bit in order to achieve her goals. Her focus though is clear; save American lives and bring them home. This is so remarkable because it demonstrates what is happening in the Old Testament passage today. 

Our Old Testament passage today finds us in the midst of Abraham bending God’s ear with the petitioning of his people. Abraham knows God is going to go and sort out Sodom and Gomorah. He has heard God send the men out to discover the truth of this place. These were two towns known for idol worship, evil acts against the innocent, and complete depravity of human nature. 

They were dark and evil places where no one was off limits children, women, elderly, or any one else in need. Sodom and Gomorah were places that many followers of God thought should not exist. Abraham however was petitioning for a few people who still follow the ways of God. Abraham humbly sought out the creator of the world who made everything to ask that not one of the faithful be left behind. 

Abraham petitioned the Lord over and over again for the innocent. He relented only after asking the God of the heavens and earth for each of the people. Abraham shows us a way to pray, petitioning God for the concerns of our heart. When people suffer, make bad choices, need help, and experience scary circumstances we need to storm heaven for them. Not assuming that we know the right answer for their life but rather asking God to care for them, provide for them, and have his way in their life. God’s vision is so much clearer and wider than ours. We see life in a limited manner however God can see it all. 

There was a season in my life when my mother experienced a very serious medical emergency in which I drove everyday to the hospital to see her. She was in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and in grave condition. As I drove up and down the river in Pittsburgh I begged God for my mother. I begged him to let her live. One day as I begged for her to be well God stopped me and said my way was not always his way.

 To be well could mean a lot of things, death was not the worst thing. My heart that day was challenged to trust God in what he saw fit to have done and not what I thought in my limited view. She ended up surviving an incredible amount of intervention and miraculous surgery. Her life was spared and my faith grew. 

In the Colossians passage today we heard, “Therefore as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving,” 

Our faith is going to be tried time and time again as we walk in this life. Our faith in God is going to be challenged over and over again in our lives. Whether it’s suffering in our own body or watching another suffer we are going to be challenged to doubt, turn away, or control the situation. All of us have knee jerk reactions to situations, it’s important to see what it is you do that might draw you away from God and His direction for the situation.

 I am a fixer or enabler. I want to jump into situations, fix the problem, and establish order. This probably has a lot to do with my training as an Emergency Medical Technician in which I was trained to do just that. While order, problem solving, and direction are not a bad thing they can present a problem in distracting ourselves from what God might be doing in a situation. Often God wants us to be present in the situation trying to find things to be thankful for. 

The Colossians passage calls us to overflow with thankfulness in our lives. How could it look to see something to be thankful for in our lives when things are hard, scary, and downright depressing? How do we see the blessings of God in the hard and difficult moments of life? Perhaps the kindness of a stranger, a chance to experience neediness, a moment to feel humble, or a chance to see someone’s heart are the moments of thankfulness.

 It is often in the upside down moments of our lives, the moments where we feel undone, confused, scared, or overwhelmed that we can overlook Jesus encounters. It’s actually in these moments if we stand still long enough with our eyes open to Jesus we will see his hand working. Having eyes to see the good or blessings in our lives can change the way we think.

A study was recently revealed in which people who practiced giving thanks or being grateful actually change their brain health to be happier people. When people practice gratitude their brain becomes rewired neurologically to be more thankful with their lives. However people who constantly say negative statements such as you never do this, or I always have to do that, or this is not good are rewiring their brain towards negative depressing thoughts. 

I would have to say sarcasm is also in this category. Always being quick to say something sarcastic trains your brain and heart towards negative feelings and thoughts. When we learn to give thanks in the midst of our situations and cling to the truths of God’s Word we can have eyes, minds, and hearts that are open to what God might be doing in any given situation. 

The Gospel passage today shows the disciples of Jesus longing to know how to pray and Jesus teaching them how to come to the Father. Jesus used the Aramic word for God, Abba, meaning father or one who is close. Jesus used a word of familiarity, closeness, and kindness. Jesus shows them that God longs to know us, care for us, and bring us peace in the midst of difficulty and trial. Jesus shows us that God can be an intimate loving Father. One who is good and kind. All of us have had a wide range of experiences with parents and fathers. 

Some of us have known loving, present Fathers, some of us have had negligent Fathers, some of us have had Fathers who are not present and everything else in between. Jesus is showing us the truth of God that he is hallowed or a holy God who is good, kind, and loving. He is a God worthy of praise and worthy of listening too. 

When we pray your kingdom come in the Lord’s prayer we are reminding ourselves that we long to see the second coming of Jesus. May God’s rule in peace and righteousness swiftly come into effect. 

This is a prayer for God to act by hastening the coming of the day of the Lord. We are longing to see order reign on the earth. Thy kingdom come looks for the bringing in of the kingdom that was the constant subject of Jesus’ teaching. There is a sense in which it is realized here and now, in the hearts and lives of people who subject themselves to God and accept his way for them. But in another sense it will not come until God’s will is perfectly done throughout the world. We are constantly praying in a state of come Lord Jesus and waiting for the kingdom. 

When we come to God we can not come with our own agenda but rather an openness to how He will use our life and our daily struggles. I love planning. I love seeing an orderly schedule with everything in its place. If only that is how life would work but alas it does not. Things happen, accidents happen, not everything can be planned for and properly shouldn’t. 

God has a plan for us even when things seem out of control and scary. In the Lord’s prayer we hear Jesus teach us to ask for our daily bread. This may be a petition not just for ordinary food but also for the bread of life, the gift of God without which we cannot live.  Our daily bread can mean more than food but energy, kindness, mercy, or direction in our lives. Jesus longs to give us what we need for each day, He is a peace giver and provider.

The continuous present, ‘keep giving’, and the each day make it clear that we should look to God constantly, not ask for provision for a lengthy period and then proceed to forget him. Christians live in a state of continual dependence on God. For so many of us we have access to clean water, electricity, daily food, and clothing. It can be hard to remember that we need him every day. However in times of crisis, or difficulty we are reminded once again how much our lives are in the palms of God’s hands. 

Jesus teaches us to pray for the forgiveness of our sins as we have forgiven others. As we walk through this life we sin constantly making bad choices, judging others, being unkind, and worrying excessively. Our sin is ever before us. Jesus desires to forgive us if only we will come to him. Our sin is like a very heavy weight that weighs us down and keeps us from the good and holy relationships. 

Jesus longs to free us from that weight and set us free. We have such a loving Father that there is always a way out to flee temptation. The next time you experience temptation look for the way out. Can you walk away? Can you be quiet when you want to speak? Can you remove yourself from the temptation? As you experience small victories over sin you will be encouraged to give more of the weight to God and to run more freely. 

Early on in our marriage as the kiddos arrived and the evenings became all chopped up with caring for little ones in the middle of the night we found ourselves rather cranky with each other the later it got in the evening. It seemed there was some magical time I could never figure out when we would begin arguing back and forth in an endless cycle of disagreement. It was toxic and non-productive. One night I heard God say go brush your teeth and go to bed. So up I got from the bickering session went to the bathroom and angrily began brushing my teeth. 

Chris came in and wanted to talk about it and I refused and proceeded to say Jesus told me to brush my teeth. Thus was the beginning of changing some sin in our lives. We eventually learned how to stop arguing and go to bed even if it was abrupt for the sake of sparing one another unhelpful and unkind words. Jesus has the power to change your life, Jesus has the power to set your sinful patterns right. 

Jesus follows with a humorous parable which drives home the point that prayer must be persistent and that God is always ready to give. The setting is a small village where there are no shops. A household would bake the bread each morning. Jesus pictures a man whose household has used its supply and on whom a journeying friend makes an unexpected call. It is at midnight, which probably means that the friend had travelled after dark to escape the heat. 

The man must feed his friend, for hospitality is a sacred duty. So he goes to another friend for three loaves, i.e. three small loaves which would suffice for one man. But this second householder has shut his door and gone to bed with his children. He could not get up without waking his entire household to help his friend. With great persistence the friend pesters until the man rises and helps him. 

Jesus says that whoever seeks will find and whoever knocks the door will be open. In our prayers we are supposed to be like the pestering man who must provide for his guest. We are to ask the desires of our heart to God and trust Him to provide for us. Jesus longs to see us grow in trust, faith, and love. He longs to give us the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance. I find the more I uttered to God that I need him the more I hear awesome ideas of dealing with hearts and messy situations. So often we view prayer as a last ditch effort or a mark of failure when it is far from that. 

Prayer and admitting that we need help from God puts us in a beautiful humble position. A position to receive wisdom, peace, and comfort in the midst of life’s challenges. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a profound gift that can speak truth into your life and give you wisdom to live by. Abraham lived a life connected to God and heard his voice and knew His provision and comfort. We too can have this same relationship with Jesus. 

So may you go from this place today encouraged in your faith. May you go from this place challenged to call upon the living God who loves you so very much in prayer and thanksgiving. May you experience his power in overcoming sin and setting you free from temptations. And may you know the gift of the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and guidance in your life. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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