Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Sermon for second mid-week Lent service - Second and Third Petitions


Second and Third Petitions



          I love it any time my work gets two things done at the same time.  So for example, it has often happened that a church newsletter article results from research or reading that I am doing for some project.  As I learn something, the idea for the newsletter article naturally presents itself, even though the work was directed towards some other goal.

          When we pray the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” we are actually doing two things at the same time.  This is true because of what the phrase “kingdom of God” means.  After sixteen years of preaching and teaching you are by now well aware that it does not refer to a place.  Instead, it refers to the reign or rule of God.

          This reign of God arrived in the person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.  Jesus began his ministry by saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Jesus announced that in his person the reign of God was present, turning back the forces of Satan and sin.  Jesus told the Pharisees who opposed him: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

          Jesus’ work of bringing God’s reign reached its crucial moment during the week that we are preparing to remember.  It did in Holy Week as Christ suffered and died on the cross on Good Friday and was buried in a tomb.  Yet God did not allow Jesus to remain dead.  On the third day – on Easter he raised the Lord from the dead.  As Paul told the Romans about Christ, he was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

          Before he ascended, Christ promised that he would send the Holy Spirit.  After he had ascended, two angels said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”  We learn here that the coming of the kingdom – of God’s reign - takes place in two ways.

          First, it comes to us now through the work of the Spirit.  As Luther says in the Small Catechism, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so that by his grace we believe his holy Word and lead godly lives….”  The Spirit takes what Jesus has won in his death and resurrection, and give it to us.  He creates faith in Christ, sustains us in faith, and enables us to live lives of faith.

          We pray in the Second Petition not only that God would give us faith.  We also pray that we would grow daily in it.  And we don’t only pray that the kingdom would come to us, but we also ask that the Gospel will “gain followers among other people and advance with power throughout the world.”

          But as we pray “Thy kingdom come” we pray for more than just the present work of God’s reign.  We are also praying for the consummation of God’s reign. We are praying for the return of our Lord Jesus in glory when his reign will raise our bodies and bring about the final end of sin and death.  Every time we pray “Thy kingdom come” we are saying, “Come Lord Jesus!”  We are calling for our Lord to return and bring us the final rescue for which we long.  We ask for the day when faith and hope end, because we will live by sight in God’s presence forever.

          The Third Petition follows in line with the first two as it also directs us to pray about God. Yet once again, as we pray about God, we are asking for his aid and help.  Here we pray, “They will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  What is God’s will?  It is what we have just prayed for in the previous two petitions: that his name be hallowed, and his kingdom come.

          We need God’s Word to be taught in its truth and purity, and for us to live holy lives according to it.  We need God to give us his Spirit so that we believe that Word.  We need the Gospel, faith and the Holy Spirit, for only in this way can we have salvation and live as God’s saved people in this world.

          We need this because while we have been saved by the work of the triune God, there is an unholy “trinity” that seeks to take all of this away.  We are attacked by the devil, the world, and the flesh – our sinful nature.

          The devil trapped man in sin through his temptation of Adam.  However, Jesus Christ the second Adam has won forgiveness for us through his passion and death.  He has begun the resurrection life that will be ours when we he rose on Easter.  The devil does not want us to have this salvation.  Although he has been defeated by Christ, he wants to control as many people as he can and lead them to share in his own damnation.

This means that he is particularly focused on you.  He already has the unbelievers. As Paul told the Corinthians, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

However, the Spirit has shown you the light of the Gospel.  You are the child of God. And so the devil has his sights set on you.  Peter warns us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  The devil seeks to tear you away from faith in Christ, for if he can accomplish this you belong to him – he is your lord.  He is relentless, and he is very, very good at what he does.  He has been doing it a long time, and people are pathetically predictable in our sinful weaknesses.

The devil works through the means of the world. John warns, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.”

The world is our culture and all of the ways it influences us.  You will note that John highlights the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions.  Sex and wealth – these are two of the main tools that the devil uses in order to lead people away from faith.  The world says that sex should know no bounds – that people should use it in any way that pleases them.  The world surrounds us all with all of the allurements of wealth.  It teaches us to value life based on what we have and what we get to do.  The devil uses both of these to smother faith as people value what the world says about them more than the truth of God’s Word.

Finally, there is our own flesh – our own fallen nature.  Baptized into Christ we are a new creation.  We have been born again of water and the Spirit.  Yet that does not mean that the presence of sin is completely gone.  We live in the now and not yet – and the not yet causes so many problems.  Paul saw this in himself when he told the Romans, “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” This inclination to sin and evil is used by the devil to lead us away from faith.

When we pray “Thy will be done,” we are praying that God through his Spirit would protect us from these temptations – that he would give us strength to resist them, and instead cling to Christ.  In fact, the Third Petition should establish in us a mindset the recognizes the Christian life to be one of challenges and difficulties. 

Luther wrote in the Large Catechism, “For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed, and bears fruit, there the holy and precious cross will not be far behind.”  Then he went on to add, “And let no one think that we will have peace; rather we must sacrifice all we have on earth – possessions, honor, house and farm, spouse and children, body and life.”

Why are we willing to do this? How can we be ready for such things?  That is why you are here tonight.  You are preparing to remember the passion of our Lord.  Paul told the Corinthians, “You are not your own, for you were brought with a price.”  You were bought with the price of the suffering and death of the Son of God in your place on Good Friday. 

But our Lententide preparation does not only lead us to death.  It leads to an empty tomb on Easter.  It leads to the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has defeated death. The risen Lord is now exalted at the right hand of God.  We who pray “Thy kingdom come” know that the Lord will return and give us the final victory on the Last Day.  So that we may remain faithful until the end, we pray “Thy will be done.”   












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