Sermon for Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2019
Our Father, Who Art in Heaven
Certainly, you recall times in your life when you have done something to offend against another person and you didn’t know how that other person would react. You may have betrayed a friend’s trust by revealing a secret or taking advantage of your friendship. Or you may have broken the house rules while living under your parent’s roof and you were afraid that nothing would ever be the same, there would be no way to restore your relationship to what it was before your infraction. At some point, you have been in a situation where you knew that the one that you sinned against had no reason to forgive you, no reason to accept you back as a friend or family member, there was no advantage for them, nothing that they would gain through forgiving you.
In some way, maybe in many ways, you know what it is like being that lost son in your broken human relationships, afraid to approach your accuser and humiliated by your sin and the resultant mess that you had created. You have just confessed that this is what your relationship with God has been like.
While you may not know how you can approach God and you run through possible scenarios in your mind as to how you might present yourself as appealing or, at least, not so bad. And while you hesitate, making false start after false start, God is, all the while, looking down the lane, trying to catch a glimpse of you, hoping and waiting for some sight of you. His son, making your way home. He is not looking for any elaborate excuses or plans on how you can be restored to His household. He is only yearning for your return, longing for your approach, so that He may forgive and restore you, not as a servant, but as His beloved.
During our Lenten fast, it is important for us to realize that whatever it is that we vow during this season, it is for our benefit. It is not that we might make ourselves more worthy of God’s attention or more presentable to Him by our efforts. That is what the lost son did as he concocted his plan to return. But note that his father did not allow him to speak any of those plans. It was simply confession of guilt and forgiveness proffered. It is these that restored the son to his father’s household. Such simple forgiveness is ours because the faithful Son, Jesus Christ went down the road of the prodigal and returned on our behalf. Jesus took our shame and humiliation to the pig pen and returned, leading the way to the heavenly household for us.
In explaining the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, Luther sums all of this up as he says that God is our true Father. His love is a true love that never ends, a love that causes God to look down the lane, always waiting, and always hoping for a glimpse of you and a word from you, that you would be welcomed and given the privilege not earned by you but freely given to you out of that love, as a true son of the Father.
For the next seven weeks, we will be focusing upon the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Today, we recognize that we have been welcomed home and are given a wonderful opportunity to call upon God. Without pretense, you have come home, confessed your guilt, and without expectation of reparation, God has welcomed you as His beloved and given you the right to call Him Father along with every other prodigal that the Church enfolds.
So then, with confidence, let us draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need (Heb 4:16).