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Sermon - 7/28/19
2019.07.28 22:37:40

Proper 12/C [Pent. 7] (2019): Genesis 18:17-33; Colossians 2:6-19; Luke 11:1-13.

 

Hide,             The LORD said, “shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice…” (vv. 17-19).

 

No doubt our omniscient God hears petitionary prayer from believer and unbeliever, heretic and schismatic, agnostic and atheist despite themselves. How God responds apart from faith is beyond my vocational pay-grade; that said, it is only toward the Baptized that God in Christ invites an on-going conversation.

 

In the previous chapter of Genesis, the Lord established with 99-year-old Abraham and his household after him, a covenant relationship sealed by a sign. Circumcision was the OT mark and promise of a more perfect putting off of man’s sinful flesh.

 

St. Paul describes Christian Baptism, “In Christ also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith…” (Col. 2:11, 12).

 

What then is the effect of Baptism concerning prayer or conversation with our heavenly Father? Last Sunday Mary, sister of Martha, modeled our posture in worship; that we see Jesus as Host delivering his word for new kinship, that his Father is now our Father as we daily follow Jesus to the cross to a perfected circumcision of our flesh into his death and resurrection.

 

In today’s Gospel disciples observed Jesus in prayer and wanted to be taught. Jesus directed, they address the “Father”, a name more than honorific, speaking to an intimate and mature knowledge (1:28) of him who is source of our being and every blessing.

 

This is knowledge, imparted in true worship, exhibited by Mary’s rapt attention to Jesus’ word and continuing by your desire for Holy Communion. By faith you recognize that “in [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him…” (2:9, 10).

 

If Mary exemplifies Christian hearing Jesus’ word; it is we, the “disciples the Lord loves”, who are permitted to rest our heads on his pierced breast (Jn. 13:23 NKJV), as Jesus eternally lays his head (Mt. 8:20) upon the bosom and heart of the Father (cf. Lk. 16:22 RSV, NKJV). Here then is the posture in which we pray in Christ at his table with heads firmly attached onto the bosom of God for our Eucharistic portion.

 

Once we recognize worship’s posture in the Spirit, then Christian prayer magnifies our baptismal orientation toward the Father. Jesus, by the parable of the Good Samaritan, self-identified as our Neighbor, and in today’s Gospel he reveals God as Friend among us, never too occupied not to provide his abundance of “loaves”. In this knowledge we “ask, and it will be given…; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened… [even and especially] the HS…” (Lk. 11:9, 13b).

 

It is the gift of the HS in whom we have the on-going abundance of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in Christ, that propells us to maturity of faith (Col. 1:28) in holy prayer.

 

I won’t belittle obvious immature denominational prayer desiring worldly things and its “glory”; “phone-chain” prayer; and “prayer warriors” who would bring God to heal; or those who assault God with mindless battology. We are, after all, a work in progress whom the HS advances to an ever-increasing Father-son and daughter relation.

 

Today’s OT Reading reveals Abraham, model of mature prayer. The Lord, after affirming his covenant, advised he intended to “go down” (18:21) to Sodom, which is to say, the Lord “goes down” for judgment (cf. Gen. 3:8; 11:7).

 

Before sending death-angels into Sodom, the Lord, conversing with the Father, reflected on their covenant relation with Abraham, “Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Gen. 18:17). God elected Abraham, fountainhead of man’s salvation in his Seed, the man Jesus, by whom “a great and mighty nation”, the Christian church, would be begotten from above through the Baptism’s perfecting circumcision (Jn. 3:3).

 

In time the incarnate Christ would “come down” (Jn. 1:14) and “go up” for the Life of the church for “keep[ing] the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19) and through whom all nations are blessed (v. 18). Thus, the Lord did not conceal from Abraham his intention for Sodom, a cypher for the world; rather in prayerful conversation, Abraham, and you and I, are invited into the counsels of God.

 

From God’s promises, Abraham knew God’s gracious and merciful character. Like the Midnight-Caller of our Gospel desiring loaves, Abraham knows God to be both Neighbor and Friend who will attend to his concerns especially on behalf of another for advance of righteousness and justice, Bread from heaven (Ps. 78:25; Wis. 16:20-21).  

 

Abraham is the scion of God’s promised Savior who is concerned for the Lord’s Way and integrity. To this end Abraham addresses God, merciful and longsuffering Friend about his friends in Sodom. Here we observe a tension: righteousness in the face of evil demands the sword, and justice delayed is justice denied; against God’s longsuffering abundant mercy.

 

Despite Sodom’s endemic evil, the Lord and Abraham resolve the tension brought on by the magnitude of Sodom’s sin. God’s saving work comes into the world through his church. An OT synagogue or congregation minimally consisted of ten believing men, a “minyan”. For the sake of ten righteous, the city, the world if you will, would be spared.

 

This today is where we liturgically stand, as a NT “minyan” in Sodom, the world. On hearing God’s word as Abraham’s seed, we are bold to extend counsel to God in the Church’s Prayer, segue to consecrating the Holy Communion. It is no accident that in the western mass, following the Prayer that the Church consecrates her Eucharistic bread and wine by the Lord’s Prayer and the “Verba” of the Supper.  

 

No matter how marginal the Church appears to the world, she is all that stands between those coming to faith in Christ and the Last Day’s universal destruction. Jesus is our righteousness “come down” for both judgment and mercy and “gone up” on the cross.

 

This is the lesson of Sodom: for the sake of God’s righteous way by faith or the lack; God’s justice and mercy resides solely in the crucified flesh of Jesus, into whom we are invited by Baptism and an on-going conversation with the Father; and so privileged to pray, “Father”. Amen.

 

pem.




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