This morning we’re spending some time thinking about the second half of the Lord’s Prayer. Last week we gave some thought in how we encounter God in and through the Lord’s Prayer. This week we’re looking at the challenges we sometimes find in the Lord’s Prayer. We kind of like the Lord’s Prayer and at the same time if we’re completely honest with ourselves we acknowledge that we kind of sometimes, a little bit, don’t mean to just but do it anyway say the words without thinking about them. And then when we do think about them we are reminded once again there are some parts that we struggle with a little bit.
I think it’s kind of funny that we pray for God’s kingdom to come as some far off in the future kind of singular event that we’re all waiting for but don’t have to mess with it right now. I think it’s funny because I think in many ways God’s kingdom is already here. It ain’t heaven just yet but God still surrounds us with God’s presence, love and forgiveness. Like we talked about last week, we are just too busy, too often to see it much less experience it.
If we’re serious about meaning what we pray about God’s kingdom coming to us, what are we willing to do to make that happen? Will we shift our schedule around a little bit to make 15 minutes a day to spend time with God? I mean, God is with us all the time but will we adjust what we’re doing enough to give God some time? If we’re going to pray for it, we probably should be willing to do something about it. In prayer, we are assured of God’s presence.
It’s fairly similar to the idea of liking the idea of God’s will being done but we’re not always on board with being the ones to do God’s will. Now, we can’t all do all the things nor are we called to do so. Each of us are gifted in specific ways and we’re supposed to use those gifts to do God’s will. That’s not always easy, is it? And again, we see the busyness of our lives getting in the way. All the things getting in the way of all the things. It can be hard to make time for God but if we pray for God’s will to be done, what are we willing to do to make that happen?
The toughest part of the Lord’s Prayer? For many it is the forgiveness part. Similar to the other parts of the Lord’s Prayer that we pray about, we very much like the idea of God forgiving us, though we can be uncertain of that forgiveness at times. Which is kind of odd really and yet I know it to be the case on occasion. I mean, why would we be uncertain of God? Let’s try this. Take a moment and reflect for yourselves, answering this question. Is there something in your life where you feel guilty about what you have done or left undone? Is there something in your life where you aren’t certain of God’s forgiveness? Hang on to that thought for a few minutes as we talk about forgiveness and then release that thought when you hear the words of forgiveness and absolution here in a little bit.
Because it’s like this, forgiveness comes from God. When you hear the forgiveness and absolution following our confession, I’m not doing the forgiving; I’m declaring what God HAS ALREADY DONE! And it’s not only pastors that can do that. Anyone can declare forgiveness but few rarely do. Declaring forgiveness is a specific thing God calls pastors to do but really we’re all capable of declaring God’s forgiveness. And we should.
In confession, we are assured of God’s forgiveness.
Speaking of forgiveness, let’s be clear about one thing. The wording in the Lord’s Prayer can make it sound that God forgives us the same way we forgive others. If that were true, and fortunately it’s not, most of us would be in big trouble. Because there are times we don’t forgive others very well. God doesn’t condition our forgiveness on the way we forgive others. Or any other action on our part because WE don’t control God, much as we think we’d like to sometimes. God’s forgiveness is total, complete, and without condition or reservation. How you forgive others is between you and them. How God forgives you is between you and God. And we can and should be thankful that God’s forgiveness is all encompassing.
And let us not then forget our part in God’s forgiveness. Which is to say we don’t have a part in God’s forgiveness. There is too often the idea floating around that we should so something good so that God forgives us because not being forgiven would be bad. So let’s do something good. There is too often the idea floating around that we can do something good enough to earn God’s forgiveness.
Let me ask you this, how good would we have to be to earn God’s forgiveness? Add to that, can we think of an action that is so good that it would be worth God’s forgiveness? We’ve all done some good things, some really good things and some great things. Have any of those things been good enough for God to say to us, “Oh yeah, that was really great! You nailed it with that one!”
Truth is, there isn’t enough good we can be and do to earn God’s love and forgiveness. But God’s grace is so great that we are loved and forgiven. We experience God’s love and forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice, nailed to the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
What then shall we make of this forgiveness? Isn’t there some kind of “Yeah, so what?” question lingering out there for us? If there’s not, should there be? Yes, is the short answer to that question. Yes, we must answer “So what?” We can’t earn God’s love and forgiveness but we can, should, MUST respond to it.
Our world, our country, our state, and our city is waiting for us. Waiting for us to Bring Christ’s Love to Life because that is how we show the world the love of God in Jesus Christ. In prayer, we are assured of God’s presence. In confession, we are assured of God’s forgiveness. In our response to what God has done, OTHERS are assured of God’s presence and forgiveness.