Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Rogate – Easter 5 (May 29, 2011, rev. from 2003)
TITLE: “I Have Overcome the World”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on Jesus’ words, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Today we discuss God’s gift of prayer, and how all prayer goes through Jesus Christ in order for God to hear us.
Prayer is not a right or an entitlement. We often think about it our treat it that way, but it is a great privilege from God our Father. Now to be sure, it is a right and entitlement as an American citizen. We have freedom of religion, so that I may worship whichever god I please without government interference. That is a big part of what this Memorial Day weekend is really all about. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. We have the freedom to worship whomever you please whenever you please. But that is from the government’s point of view. We thank God for that right. But that is not God’s point of view.
From God’s point of view, you have no right to pray. Neither do I. We are sinners, poor and miserable. We have transgressed God’s Law, denied His ways and work, we refuse to call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. We make a mockery of everything He is and does for us time and time again. You don’t deserve to come to God in prayer, because you have squandered that gift and tossed it aside so many times.
Prayer is not a right. It is a gift. How can prayer be a gift? Prayer is a gift because when you pray, you are confessing who you are as a sinner and who God is as the one who gives you life. Prayer is a gift that God gives you by faith in His Word. The only way you can pray is through Jesus Christ, our Lord. St. Paul put it this way: For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Jesus’ death and resurrection for you means that He is your go-between. He always stands at the right hand of the Father. And when you go to your Father in prayer, He is the only Way you get there. As Jesus Himself said, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.
This is an incredible gift from God. Your life is bound to Christ’s, and His death and resurrection tie you to God in such a way that nothing, nothing can come between you and Him. His life-giving blood flows in your veins. His holy waters washed over you in your baptism. He is yours and you are His. So when you pray, it is not as a servant or as a stranger. You pray to God as one of the family. For Christ is your brother, and when you pray in His name, that is to say, in faith, that prayer is always heard. It must be heard, for Christ is the very Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
But prayer is not easy. If you have ever tried praying with friends or family members who are not Christians, you know what I mean. In the presence who do not confess Christ, the boldness of our prayer becomes a whisper, and our asking God for everything in His name changes into some vague hope that God is here, somewhere. Prayer has a way of laying us all bare. Think of Peter outside of the high priests house. I do not know the man. How often do we think and act this way in our prayers? We speak to God not as a Father who longs to hear our prayers, but rather, if we speak to Him at all, it is more like talking to the clerk at Wal-mart. Ok, I’ll talk to you, but no more than absolutely necessary.
Now this may all sound like a lot of Law. I suppose it is. But hear the kernel of the Gospel that is planted here and grows a hundredfold. These things I have spoken to you, Jesus says, that in Me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. This struggle, this trial of faith and unbelief is the tribulation of the world. That’s what it means to be in the world. It is a part of the Christian life.
But the Good News is that Christ has overcome the world. It is not as if we are giving up something good for us by clinging to Christ and His Word of forgiveness alone. Think of it this way: if a man offers to give you a drink of clear, pure water, and asks to throw away the gross, dirty water you are holding, is he trying to take something from you or give something to you? Really, it’s both. He takes what is bad and replaces what is good.
That is what Christ does for you by praying in His name, in faith. He takes what is yours: your sin, your fears, your hurts and pains, and takes them into Himself. He then gives to you forgiveness, life, salvation, peace. Sound like a pretty good trade? It is.
That is why prayer in Jesus’ name alone and no other is so important. At the Reformation, everything clung on one little German word, allein. Alone. Martin Luther held according to the Scriptures that we are saved by grace through faith alone. No additives. Nothing else could be included. Faith alone saves. Today I believe that we must confess that same faith by clinging to the truth according to the Scriptures that we pray through Jesus’ name alone, and that there is no other way to pray so that our Father hears us. By clinging to Christ’s name alone, we receive all the gifts that only God can give. That is the gift of the Gospel.
But if that isn’t enough, there is still more. When you are unable to pray, who you are too afraid or uncertain or timid, Christ prays for you and with you. The Holy Spirit prays for you with groanings beyond words. It is impossible to pray alone, because Christ is always with you. You are washed in His name, which means that He has won the victory for you. Pray, sing, and rejoice! Christ has overcome the world for you.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.