Monday, May 30, 2011

Homily for Rogate–The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Easter 6)


John 16:23-33; James 1:22-27; Numbers 21:4-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In our lessons today, we begin to see more clearly why God the Father sent His only-begotten Son to be incarnated in human flesh as a man, and we begin to see more clearly why Jesus had to suffer, die and be buried, and then rise again on the third day. It was necessary. It was necessary to remove the barrier of sin that separated you from God. It was necessary to open heaven to you and to give you access to the Father.

And that is what you now have, access to God the Father through Jesus Christ. That means that you can go directly to God with your requests and concerns just as a child goes to her loving father. You have access to God the Father; you can enter His presence in boldness, without fear of punishment or reprisal, through Jesus. What was prohibited from you now is permissible; what was closed is now open to you through Jesus.

But, notice how I keep emphasizing through Jesus. You have this access to the Father that you now enjoy only in and through Jesus the Christ because of His incarnation, suffering, death and burial, and His resurrection on the third day. However, because of all that, you do have access. More than that, Jesus says that you are not a slave, but a son, and if a son then you are an heir of everything that belongs to God the Father through Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus says to you “Whatever you ask of the Father in my Name, He will give it to you.” He will give it to you because He loves you as His own son or daughter. He will give it to you because He has loved you in His Son. And, because He has given everything that belongs to Him to His Son, He will surely give you whatever you ask in Jesus’ Name.

Now, to be sure, people ask for all sorts of things from God their Father, whether in Jesus’ Name or not, and the Father does not give them to them. Perhaps you have asked of God and have not received. But, for what have you asked? Is what you have asked for something that truly abides in Jesus’ Name? Is what you have asked for something that truly belongs to God the Father, that is, of God the Father? Have you asked for new Cadillacs or winning lottery tickets and not received them? Were you surprised? Did you begin to doubt God’s love? Or, did you begin to doubt the strength of your faith or the sincerity of your prayer? Foolishness! Pagan, idolatrous foolishness is what that is! New Cadillacs and winning lottery tickets are not of God but they are of the world; they are not in Jesus’ Name. The things of that are of God, the things that are the substance of Jesus’ Name are described by James in the Epistle Lesson, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world, that is, the Father’s selflessness and sacrifice, humility and mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness revealed in the life, words, and deeds of His Son, His Name, Jesus. Therefore, Jesus promises you that whatever you ask in His Name, the Father will give to you. Whatever you ask in accordance with who the Father is as revealed in His Son, His Name, Jesus, He will give to you.

So, what’s in a Name? Names are, or were, important, meaningful, and even powerful things. Adam was given the authority to name all the creatures God had made. By naming them, Adam exorcized authority over them and was given stewardship over them and over all creation. Abram and Sarai, Jacob, Cephas and Saul, and many others were given new names when they were called into a new relationship with God. Likewise, a name was given to a child at the time of his circumcision even as a name is given to a child still at Baptism because the child has entered into a new covenant relationship to God. And so, asking the Father in Jesus’ Name encompasses all of these Biblical understandings of name; it means to ask in faith and trust and in communion with Jesus who is the revelation of God’s Name and all that God wills, and is, and does.

The Latin name for this Sunday in the Church Year is Rogate, a name which means ask. As you might expect, it comes from the Latin translation of Jesus’ words in the Gospel Lesson, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Of course, the way you ask God for anything is by prayer, so Rogate Sunday is very much about prayer. It’s not so much about how to pray, but it is about what to pray for. You are to ask, you are to pray for, anything that is in Jesus’ Name with the promise that your heavenly Father will give it to you.

To ask for things that are not in accord with God’s Name is to take the LORD’s Name in vain. Jesus has taught you to pray “Hallowed be Thy Name.” We confess in the Small Catechism that “God’s Name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it.” “In our prayers we should ask for everything that tends to the glory of God and to our own and our neighbor’s welfare, both spiritual and bodily blessings. We should also praise and thank God for who He is and what He has done.”

God the Father has promised both to hear and to answer the prayers of His children through His Son Jesus Christ. This truth was demonstrated in our Old Testament Lesson when Moses prayed to God on behalf of the people bitten by poisonous serpents. God heard and answered Moses’ prayer and commanded Moses to “make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” But, this was only a type, a shadow, of how God truly intended to answer Moses’ prayer. In the fullness of time God would send forth His Son and raise Him up on the tree of the cross in death that everyone who is bitten by the poisonous serpent Satan, when he sees it, shall live.

When Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, heaven was opened to Him and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. The Father was well pleased with His Son and would give to Him whatever He asked. Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, on the Day of Pentecost, from the heavens opened by Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended upon His Church. Now God’s children, baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, have access to the Father so that whatever they ask in Jesus’ Name, the Father will graciously give to them.

“Baptized into Your Name most holy, O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I claim a place, though weak and lowly, among Your saints, Your chosen host. Buried with Christ and dead to sin, Your Spirit now shall live within.” Those words we sang and confessed together in our opening hymn. Baptism into the God’s Name, the Name of the Holy Triune God revealed in the incarnation, life, words, and deeds, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of God’s Son Jesus the Christ, His Name, has given you access to your God and Father so that whatever you ask in Jesus’ Name He will surely give to you. To pray in Jesus’ Name is to pray as one who has been baptized. For it is in the water that He put His Name upon you, claiming you as His own, making you a son of God with access to the Father. By His incarnation and crucifixion, our Lord Jesus broke through the barrier of sin which separated us from God, opening a portal to the Father. To pray in Jesus’ Name is to pray with faith in Him as the one Mediator between God and men, who gave Himself a ransom for all. Like Moses in the wilderness, Jesus is our go-between and intercessor before the throne of heaven. He was lifted up for us on the cross that we might be saved and restored to fellowship with the Father. Looking into this perfect teaching of liberty we pray with boldness and confidence as dear children of God.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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