My grandfather passed away before I was born. Though I never met him, I know through the testimony of those who knew him that he was kind, generous, and devoted to family and friends. I see his influence in my mother, my grandmother, my aunt and uncle, and others in my family that knew him well. Through them I can come to know something of who he was. Despite this, I personally never knew him and, this side of heaven, will never know him. Because of this, my relation to him is, at times, sadly perfunctory. It is true that he is my grandfather, but this doesn’t carry the same personal weight that it does for my older sister, who was able to spend her childhood with him.
Like my relationship with my grandfather, I’ve not known Jesus in the personal, physical sense. I did not roast fish with him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I was not at a wedding in Cana to be surprised with wine when I thought there was only water left to drink. It is sad that my relationship with my grandfather can become perfunctory because I didn’t know him when he was alive. It is far worse, and of eternal consequence, if my relationship with Jesus is perfunctory.
If we are honest, it is all too easy to slip into a short-sighted, amnesic faith that, like Thomas, demands to see Jesus’ wounds in person to conjure devotion. This, however, is not the way of faith to which we are called. Jesus rose again from the grave, breaking the dominion of sin and making good on God’s promises of redemption for His people, and then ascended to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the Father. In doing this, he ensures our access to the Father and intercedes on our behalf. Rather than living by faulty sense-experience, we are invited to a life of faith that, empowered and sustained by the Holy Spirit, experiences Christ in the remembrance of the eucharist, the sharing of life with other believers in the local Church, through the reading and preaching of God’s word, and, importantly, in prayer.
In this Sunday’s scripture passage, we see that the remedy to a perfunctory faith is found in a robust life of prayer. Rather than being a rote discipline, we see that the Bible portrays prayer as one of the most foundational, beautiful graces of the Christian life. In prayer we come to personally know and experience the goodness of our merciful, sovereign God. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Jesus the Son, we come to the Father with repentance, praise, thanksgiving, and petition. In doing this, we walk not by sight, but by faith, knowing that our God is not lost in the cosmos but is instead personally active in our lives, showing His love and care at every turn of life. Rather than demanding signs and evidences, we come to see that the intimacy of prayer is far better and satisfying.
Let us come to our good God in prayer, knowing that He is Immanuel, God with us!
Scripture: Luke 18:1-43
Sermon: Come Into the Shadow Of His Wings