This morning I had the privilege of preaching a funeral sermon for the father of a man about to join our church. Over the past few days I've gotten to know the family members a little bit. Their loss is immense. He died too young. My words to them came from Luke 11:1-4. It is a shorter version of the Lord's Prayer:
When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.
Here is, roughly, what I said:
How can we live in a world that is full of unspeakable tragedy and despair? We can pray. We can all pray. Each and every one of us is invited to pray. This is an amazing thought. Our prayers transcend space and time. Hollywood spends billions of dollars making movies to capture our imaginations. For a couple of hours they want us to experience another world. But when we pray, we are able to do what no film producer could ever do. We are able to transcend this reality and engage with the Author of Life.
Why did the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray? They believed Jesus could help them. They asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” "Lord" was a title of respect and honor and authority. That’s how they saw Jesus. Jesus’ followers believed he was special. John taught people to pray, but we don’t know what John taught. We do know how Jesus taught them to pray. I don’t know who you think Jesus is. I believe he is God! His followers were still figuring this out, but they knew he was special, and they knew he could tell them how to get close to God.
So how did Jesus teach them to pray? I hope you pay attention to what I’m saying. As you work through your loss, as you struggle to make sense of life and death, as you reflect upon your own mortality, you will have lots of questions—questions that other people will not be able to sufficiently answer. What will you do then? Let me encourage you to pray. Jesus taught us how.
First, pray to the Father. Remember, Jesus was a Jew and his disciples were Jews. They had a long history with God. They believed God made the world and they believed God had chosen them to be a special nation. And they are special; Jesus came from the Jews. When they heard, “Father,” they thought of a God who created everything. They thought of a God who made them, too. This is true of you. God made you!
Second, pray “hallowed be your name.” Maybe you have heard of “hallowed” ground. Think of the blood of soldiers spilt on a battlefield. We say that ground is “hallowed.” When we pray, we are supposed to pray that God’s name would be hallowed. In other words, we are supposed to pray that we and others would know that God is special, that he is holy, that he never sins, that he always does what is right. Is that hard for you to believe? It may be hard for you to believe right now, as you mourn the loss of your husband and dad. But it is more important to believe it now than ever. In the midst of this tragedy you are called to pray, “hallowed be your name.”
Third, “your kingdom come.” Jesus is always forward looking. When Jesus came into the world, he came into a world full of warfare and hatred and envy and pain. He came into a world full of dying and suffering and horror. He came into a world full of rape and murder and recessions and poverty. Whey my parents left home, my brothers and sisters and I could make a mess of the house in two seconds flat. We have made a mess of our Father’s world. Someday, he is going to come back. On that day, there will be no more suffering and no more pain. Just this past week, my five year old daughter asked my wife, “Mommy, how old will I be when the world ends?” Do you think this world is going to come to an end? I do. I believe God is coming to establish a new world where he reigns. I believe that I am called to pray for the coming of this King and his perfect kingdom.
Fourth, “give us each day our daily bread.” Isn’t this amazing?! God cares about your mortgage. He cares about your clothes. He cares about your food. He cares about your rent. He cares about your medicine. So many of us live our lives as if God doesn’t care—as if he is standing back, in the corner, laughing at us as we make all kinds of stupid mistakes. But God is not like that at all. God is loving and kind and he wants us to depend upon him. Why else would we be charged to pray, “give us each day our daily bread.” You may be thinking, “If he knows we need the bread, why does he want us to ask for it?” My wife knows I love her, but she wants me to tell her. God knows what we need, but he wants me to depend on him. God knows that you are struggling deeply right now, and he wants you to come to him—humbly. He wants you to pray, “Father, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to think, and I don’t know what to feel. I need your help.”
Fifth, “forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” Most of us are fine with half of this part. We consider ourselves good people—people who are nice and kind and forgiving to others even when others treat us poorly. But I wonder if you believe that you need to be forgiven of your sins? The Gospel or Good News of Christianity is that we can be forgiven of our sins. We have failed to honor God who made us. In fact, we have rejected him, and he has the right to punish us as surely as an earthly father has the right to punish his son. But because of his love, God sent his Son into the world, Jesus Christ. Jesus never sinned. When Jesus died on that cross he died for sinners like you and me. And he rose from the dead to prove that everything he said was true. Now we are called to place our faith in Christ. To believe that his death is sufficient to take away the punishment we deserve.We are called to believe this Good News and live faithfully in light of it.
Some of us may think it is too late for us. It is too late to rebuild our lives around Christ. I understand how you feel. It is an overwhelming thought. Sometimes it takes an earthquake before a city will be rebuilt. Sometimes it takes a spiritual earthquake to help us understand our need for Christ and our need to have lives built around him. This is what you have just experienced with the death of your husband, father and friend--a spiritual earthquake. Don't let it go to waste. Count this as an opportunity to submit your life to Christ.
Sixth, “lead us not into temptation.” When you leave this morning you are going to open that back door, step down those brick steps, and start walking toward you car. As you do, something is going to go on in your heart. You are going to be deciding what path you are going to take for the rest of your life. Are you going to follow a path that takes you to a Father in heaven who forgives sinners because of the blood of Christ, or are you going to take your own path where Jesus is a nice guy who lived a long time ago but doesn’t have anything to do with you today? You are going to be tempted to disregard my words as the words of a religious man. Please don’t. There are two roads you can travel. One road leads to safety and peace and joy with the God who made you—on that road Jesus is the driver. The other road leads to danger and anarchy and eternal pain and suffering—on that road you are the driver. You will always be tempted to drive and, so, Jesus prays, “lead us not into temptation.” Follow God.
Thank you for allowing our church to play a small part in this service to honor your Dad’s life. We love you and want to serve you however we can.