Trinity 12, 2015
The Epistle. 2 Corinthians 3:4-9
The Gospel. Mark 7:31-37
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
We are called on today to consider the readiness, the willingness of God to hear our prayers and requests. We are called on to compare the willingness of God to hear and answer our prayers with our willingness to pray and ask.
There is almost a paralyzing effect that sin has on us. Our minds are affected by sin, or else we would trust God at all times. But because of our sin and disbelief, there is a hesitation…a fear….a lack of faith….sometimes even a laziness…that in some way keeps us from going before the face of God and asking.
Again, it is a paralyzing effect that keeps us or makes us unable or unwilling to pray to God.
Perhaps its part of our nature as Americans. Perhaps we are too polite to ask.
Maybe we think that we don't need to bother God. He has bigger fish to fry….He has other things He needs to take care of that are of greater importance.
We have all been on hold for support of a product we have bought. But going before God in prayer has no hold time. He hears immediately. By nature, He is always present and ready to hear….almost as if each of us were the only person in the world that He was dealing with.
In fact, He knew you were coming. We cannot bring things before God and He at the same time, not see it coming…or be taken by surprise by our petitions…. It is He who draws us to Himself in the first place.
Maybe we are too self reliant. This too can be part of our make-up as Americans. We are do-it-yourselfers. We are problem solvers. We are rugged individualists. We will do all that we can on our own before asking anyone for help.
None of these are bad things. In fact they are virtues in and of themselves, but if we do not believe it when we say, “All things come from thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee,”….everything we have comes from you….and we give back to you….. then we need to relook at how we understand our rugged individualism.
Again….these are virtues in one sense, but our relationship with God is not to be this way.
And more importantly, we need to relook at how we understand the readiness and the willingness of God to hear our prayers and to give an answer to our prayers.
Are we intimidated?
Are we afraid?
Are we too proud to think that we need God?
If we understand and really believe that we rely on God for every breath we take, then we must make that connection and know that He is able to hear and respond to anything we bring before Him.
Are any of us here life-long Christians? Know for a fact that God does not get tired of us, nor is He unwilling to hear any more of our prayers.
Are any of us new Christians? In your case, God is just getting started with your lives.
Are some not yet believers? God’s ears are open to the prayers even of those who have not yet come to Him.
But remember we do have warnings on the other hand in Scripture about God closing the door of opportunity at some point to those who never come to Him.
The hard and impenitent heart is only storing up wrath upon itself….because the hard and impenitent heart has presumed on the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience.
But as usual, the Collect is being prayed by Christians. We have prayed that God would graciously call us to prayer because He wants to hear from us.
Moreover, this is not so He can hear from us because He is in some way lonely or bored or in need of dialogue or something to do. We treat God that way. Help me!!!..but only when things go bad.
Prayer is for our benefit. Asking in faith is for the benefit of our faith.
And we must square all of this confusion with one short line from Paul who says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
Since our lesson is from Mark 7 today we can go back just through Mark’s book alone and see how this willingness on the part of God is true with the example of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ.
Mark 1,….“And immediately [Jesus] left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon…..[and] Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” (Mark 1:29-31 ESV)
The immediacy of Jesus’ reaction and willingness to hear the request and heal Peter’s mother-in-law.
Mark 1:40ff – “…a leper came to [Jesus], imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” (Mark 1:40-42 ESV)
Mark 6 – “When [Jesus and His disciples] had crossed over, [the lake] they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” (Mark 6:53-56 ESV)
These are just some of the examples we have of the willingness of God to hear us….to answer requests and prayer. Jesus did grow tired and had to, at times, retreat to quiet places to rest and pray. But this is only because Jesus was a man.
But His ongoing efforts to preach to the people and heal them were His way of showing the mercy and willingness of God, not only to hear, but to respond.
We also in our prayer acknowledged that at times our conscience is afraid….and we posses an unworthiness to ask. But we persevere in asking so that God would be merciful to forgive us of our fear and trepidation.
And the Spirit of God should lead us to passages such as Matthew 11, where Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
This includes not only coming to Him in prayer, but acting on His promises to lighten our burdens that we bring to Him.
Or Paul says in Ephesians, about Jesus, “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” (Ephesians 3:12 ESV)
Jesus calls us to come unto Him. And we have access to Him and to the Father.
Obviously this is in prayer, since He is currently at the right hand of the Father in Heaven…and the Holy Spirit is now dwelling in us. But we come to Him by the Spirit…or He comes to us. The Holy Spirit is the connection we have to the Father.
And finally, the access and the confidence to come to God is through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ.
That too is key to understanding our whole relationship with God the Father. Our prayer ended this way.
“…and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
We are only worthy to ask God for things…. from Him on account of the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ.
“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” (2 Corinthians 3:4-5 ESV)
Paul is teaching here about his and the ministers he has appointed to the Corinthian Church who have confidence through the sufficiency of Christ to be ministers of the Gospel. But we also can find, even if we are not ministers in the official sense of the term, we also can find here that each of us as members of Christ’s body are sufficient because it comes from God through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ.
We are called to come to God in prayer. But we may only come (as our prayer says) and be heard on the basis of the merits of Christ.
Our whole relationship to God is mediated by the merits of Christ.
The relationship with God begins as broken. Alienated from God. And yet there is an important section in the Prayer of Consecration. We hear it each time we celebrate the Eucharist…offering our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.
It says in part, “AND we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we, and all thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion.
One of those “other benefits” of His passion, is the access that is granted to us to come in prayer to the Father. By the merits of Christ.
Why are these merits needed? Why can we not come on our own merit? Because our merit is insufficient.
This is where our worthiness comes from. It comes from the merits earned by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christ was “…delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25 ESV) This is a key passage….
“The merit of Christ—his righteousness to our account—lies at the very heart of the gospel. Without that imputation we lose everything. It is only by his righteousness that we have any standing in the presence of God.”
When we say that Jesus Christ died for us, we mean that his death was vicarious. Jesus did something for us in our place as our substitute. And further, God accepted the transfer of our guilt to his Son.
There is a dual imputation here. Our sin is reckoned to Christ while He is on the Cross, and His righteousness in paying for our guilt is imputed to us. “He gets our guilt; we get his merit. This double imputation is the great benefit of redemption that Christ won for us.”
And all of this is accomplished, not only through the Cross of Christ, but through the resurrection of Christ as well. He was raised for our Justification as we talked about last Sunday.
Peter Leithart says, “We are positively righteous because we are united to Jesus, who is declared righteous in the resurrection.”
If Jesus had remained in the tomb and stayed dead, we would have no justification. But we know that Jesus did not stay dead, but was raised from the dead by the Father. Therefore, the Father was saying to the world, “‘I accept this payment for the debtors who cannot pay.’
The resurrection of Jesus is not simply for his vindication; it is for our justification, because it is God’s demonstration to his unjust people that he accepts the payment in full for the moral debt they have incurred.”
This is in one way, complicated theology. Theologians have fine tuned this and wrestled with these things for centuries.
But in the simplest terms here today, let us rest in the promises of God when He says to us that He desires that we come to Him. He desires to pour down upon us His abundant grace. We need not be afraid to come to Him for He sees us through the righteous merits of His beloved Son Jesus Christ and we are also now His beloved people… His beloved children.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.