Saturday, July 27, 2019

Sermon: The Prayer from Abraham’s Torn Heart

The Prayer from Abraham’s Torn Heart
              How should we pray?
-First we ought to address God as a kind parent or a good friend, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” This helps us, as Luther writes in his Small Catechism, to come to God boldly and with complete confidence, as a loving child comes to their loving parent.
-Second, we pray persistently… with shameless persistence, as most Greek geeks translate it… shamelessly persistent, desperate for hospitality.
“help! my friend has arrived at midnight!”
“help! the children need food!”
This is something we see often in Luke’s Gospel:
-the Samaritan shamelessly showing hospitality toward the desperate man on the road to Jerusalem,
-Mary & Martha’s shameless hospitality toward Jesus,
-Jesus shamelessly sharing space with every outsider he can find,
-the vision of the banquet at the end of time, where all those who can not repay, are graciously, generously, shamelessly, shown hospitality.
-Third, we pray all these things, not to turn God’s heart, but to turn our own heart toward what God is already up to
—God’s name is Holy without our prayer, God’s kingdom is coming without our prayer, God’s forgiveness and leading come without our prayer
—but we pray that we might enter into God’s Holiness & Kingdom, Forgiveness & Leading.
              How ought we pray?
Pray with utter confidence to God who loves us, pray desperately for hospitality, and know that you are asking to be turned toward what God is already doing.

              And that’s all true, but if I were to leave you there, with three points and a poem—I’d be sending you all out like sheep among wolves.
              For there is another side to prayer as well, what Luther calls Anfechtung—contending, struggle, temptation, trial
—that too, is part of prayer.
              We see this in no better way than in Abraham’s desperate prayers to God today
Prayers From Abraham’s Torn Heart.
Let us pray

              Prayers From Abraham’s Torn Heart.
              It all starts off well enough—Abraham relates to God as a beloved child, as God’s friend
—in fact, the story of Abraham is one long story of God’s ongoing faithfulness to Abraham and his kin. Abraham continually does things to threaten the promises made by God,
 and God continually makes a way out of no way!
God surely acts as Abraham’s Friend and Trustworthy Father.
              For that matter, when God and the Angels arrive, Abraham pulls out all the stops, he is exceedingly hospitable to the Three Men, he runs to them, bows, declares them lords, washes their feet, gives them shade from the hot sun, feeds them fresh bread, and then offers up a feast.
              And then the angels ask God, “Abraham is the Chosen one… shall we hide from him that we are going to destroy Sodom?”
              “No,” God replies, “He and his kin-folk are chosen for a purpose—to be righteous and just! So, he must know what we are to do.”

              And to this Abraham prays desperately for hospitality, shamelessly and persistently—50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10!”
I bet he thinks:
"well, Lot is there, surely he’s created a community of care in Sodom, at least those who are neighbors of Lot have been converted, have become righteous and just people for knowing him!”
I’m sure he’s doing the calculations:
“well there are four of them, then two sons-in-law, so really we just need 4 righteous! There has to be four righteous, right?”

              God has heard the cries of the victims
—as Ezekiel 16:49 makes clear, Sodom’s pride stunk to high heaven. They hoarded food and lived idle lives of leisure—and refused to feed the poor and the needy. (As our country chooses to kick 3 million hungry people off of food stamps, we might want to think on this)
              When the Angels arrive at night in Sodom, they seek to sleep in the public square, and cannot, because if they did, they would be sexually assaulted. (In a country where someone is sexually assaulted every minute and a half, we might want to think on this)
              Sodom is too dangerous for strangers and sojourners… immigrants. (The President of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services recently testified to congress about the difference between Christian Charities taking care of immigrant children like we used to do, and for-profit-prisons warehousing children and making nearly half a billion dollars off of them this last year… we might want to think on this)
              And then there is the kicker—Lot offers his daughters to be victims of Sodom—some excuse this as an example of ancient hospitality (can you believe that!)—but in reality it is simply a moment where Abraham’s kin are revealed to be neither just nor righteous
—Lot has NOT created a community of care, but is corrupted by the city in which he lives. (in a society where its been revealed that people regularly procured girls for Jeffrey Epstein, and his actions were winked and nodded at by powerful and influential people, we might want to think on this)
              God is saying, “Not one more victim!”
              Not one more victim!
              This. Has. To. End!

              You have to understand, talking to God is no idle pastime for Abraham—his nephew and grand-nieces, and extended family, are there in Sodom!
              He prays to God, not as some self-satisfied judge with God on his side, smugly looking down at those sinners and consumed with pride at his own righteousness…
His are not the prayers of a distant man, unmoved…
It tears at his heart—his own kin, those he loves, are unrighteous and unjust—wicked and biased!
              And that’s the stuff of Anfechtungtrials and temptations of the heart, or as William Falkner describes is, “The human heart in conflict with itself.”
—Abraham is desperately interested in the wellbeing of those he loves,
even as he enters into what God is doing to bring justice and righteousness.
God yes! Not one more victim!
Oh My God, it is my own kin!
              He’s praying desperately, “Maybe 45, 30… 10?”
              He’s praying from a torn heart.
              And if we pray to God who loves us, pray desperately for hospitality, and pray that we might be turned toward what God is already doing—we too will pray from a torn heart.

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