Rogate – Historic Lectionary – John 16:23-30 – May 21, 2017
Sacrament of Holy Baptism for Andrew Thomas
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Today the sad and unfortunate scars and divisions within the Church of Christ come to show themselves to us in the most joyous and holy of things.
For us, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism bestowed upon Andrew Thomas this morning is a marvelous and wonderful sight.
As Lutherans, as the confessors of the Historic, orthodox, catholic, evangelical, Christian faith, we take in today the unending depths of our Lord’s mercy, the very matter fact reality of His grace and love.
That He would reach down even to the smallest and most fragile among us, those who perhaps in the eyes of the world, have the least to offer, and to this one, to Andrew, He would call and name His own child.
Indeed, to us, the name of the Lord is mercy, the name of the Lord is holy.
But at the same time, among our brothers and sisters in the Christian faith, there are some who would not take in this day as marvelous and wonderful, but as a day of confusion, of scandal, and really to put it quite bluntly, of the wrong kind of teaching.
Our divisions as the Church of Christ come to a head this morning. And not simply in Holy Baptism, but in our reading from the Holy Gospel of St. John.
Rogate Sunday is the Sunday of Asking, and here our Lord tells his disciples for the third and final time on the eve of His passion, that “whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you.”
Our divisions in the Church of Christ, are not based upon that first part of the promise.
We do not disagree on the Lord’s invitation to ask whatever.
We confess together, that out of holy love and pure mercy our Lord invites us to bring to Him whatever we might think of, whatever happens to be on our hearts and minds, that He does not discriminate or limit our prayers, He doesn’t require them to be pious, or ask that they be prayed with eloquent words, or theological wisdom, He simply commands and invites us to speak.
Indeed, you can with all confidence and boldness, truly ask ‘whatever’.
Our true divisions in the Church, though, are found in what it follows, in this second part of our Lord’s promise, for they are based upon what it means to ask, “in the name of the Lord.”
To pray in the name of Jesus, is simply, to pray according to the will of Jesus.
It is the will of God that governs all of Christian prayer and all of our Christian life. This is where we were washed clean, it is how we continue to walk in His light, and it is ultimately, where He is finally leading us to Himself in the kingdom that has no end.
The will of the Lord which governs our prayer and the Lord’s answer is key. It is the most important thing.
For our Lord does not simply state, “Ask for whatever you wish, and I’ll give it to you”
He is not a vending machine, He is not some magic genie that is controlled by your passions and selfish desires, in other words, our Lord is not a terrible parent, even if we are terrible children.
Even greater than the wise and good father who refuses to allow his child to live off candy canes and gum drops until he’s grown, so our Lord gives to us precisely that which is good, that which is his gracious and good will, to keep us in His life and deliver us from death.
Our divisions as Church in this way, are founded upon what we confess is the Good and Gracious will of God.
For our brothers and sisters who might be confused and scandalized by the sacrament this morning, they would not call good the baptism of a child, they would ask us to reconsider what we are asking and praying for and demand us to see that the Lord, when he hears the prayer for infant baptism, looks over our ridiculous wishes and instead gives to us that which is good.
This is our division. It is question of Goodness, of Mercy, and of how the Lord’s will is done, with or without our prayer.
And what is this will?
Jesus goes on in John chapter 16 saying, “The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly about the Father.”
The name of the Lord, and praying according to that name, is a figure of speech.
It needs clarification.
Sometimes in the Church when we talk about the will of God, we end up playing a kind of guessing game, hoping that our desires somehow fit into this unspoken will, that our prayers are somehow in line with this mysterious and shrouded sentence of Jesus.
But our Lord tells his disciples that that which was hidden, that which was covered by figures of speech and parables about the kingdom of Heaven, that place where the Lord’s will reigns supreme, He says that this time is coming to an end, and soon, everything will become clear, that He will speak plainly.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is not like the will of God, it is not like the mercy of God, and it is not simply like the kingdom of Heaven, it is.
The passion of our Lord, His will to give himself up, to pour his blood down, to take our place in wrath, and bury our sins in his body is the plain speaking will of the Lord himself.
In this the crucified one, the Lord always gives, no matter what you ask.
This is what means to pray in the name of Jesus’, for it is pray according to the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is to pray according to the Father’s mercy who while we were yet sinners, sent His Son, Christ Jesus who died for us, took our place, and in His passion opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
What has been asked this morning in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, is not in question, it is not like the will of God, it is not similar to what God wants, it is Andrew Thomas, buried into the name of Christ the Crucified, and washed in the will of the Father who loves Him.
Holy Baptism is not like, becoming the Lord’s child, it is the very fact itself.
You are the Father’s beloved child, and in that, you can ask for whatever you think of, whatever you need, whatever you want.
You can be bold, so ask.
There isn’t a catch, there aren’t limitations, the Lord will give to you that which is good, and that’s not some cheap consolation prize, nor is it just a nice way of saying, “He won’t really answer you, but He’ll listen.”
You pray in the faith and the body of Jesus, and in that you should keep ever in your minds and before your eyes the sight and sounds of our Lord praying in the garden.
For there, He prayed what we might call not the pious prayers of someone trying to impress His Father, but in fact the whatever prayers of what He really wanted.
Jesus prayed in the garden that His suffering might be taken away from him, that His death might not happen, among what we might call impossible or unnecessary prayers, this is the chief of them all.
Of course He needed to suffer, certainly He needed to die, there was no other way…So why pray in the first place?
The will of the Lord is always good, and the will of the Lord is always done, it is the always answered prayer, where the Father, through His Son, by His Holy Spirit does not simply listen, but acts, moves and comes to your aid.
To pray in the name of Jesus, is to pray twice. First that we might not suffer, that we might not get cancer, that we might own a bigger house, pass our confirmation exams, not burn our tongues on the soup or have a happy birthday.
That is the first prayer, and your Father loves and invites you to speak it.
But the second is always His answer, and it is the answer we need, in the name of Jesus.
In this we pray, not just through our Lord, but as pray by itself, and in it, our Lord comes to mold and conform us to His good and gracious will.
He has done so for His own Son suffering in the Garden. His answer was yes, you will suffer, but I will make you ready, I will give you what is needed, I will bear you through.
So also for you. We may get cancer, our tongues might get burnt on the soup, our marriages might fall apart, and wars might make their way into our own land, but the Lord who has brought you into His name, by water and His own Word, answers theses prayers, and so gives what is needed, His own body, His own blood, His life and His peace.
That in suffering or in comfort, He might bear us home, unto Himself, and unto that kingdom in which we need not ask anything again.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.