July 25, 2004
8th Sunday after Pentecost: Luke 11:1-13
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be ever pleasing to you, O Lord our God. Amen.
Good morning! It is a true honor to be able to worship with you today and to share the Gospel message.
I want to tell you a story about me. I love riding my bike. I often go biking in the middle of the day, as a sort of re-charging time. My favorite route is to leave Church House and come down Wisconsin, catch the Crescent Trail around to River Road, take River back to Wisconsin and back to my office. It’s a fantastic workout. The only thing that makes cycling even more rewarding is being able to work on my bike myself. And while it’s rewarding to get the job done and to feel the bike ride a little better when you’re done, it is often an exercise in frustration.
One weekend while my wife was out of town, I decided that I would spend Friday evening replacing the brake pads on my bike. I had done this once before several years ago and remembered it not being that difficult of a task. I set up my work area in the living room (Lots of newspaper on the floor) and put Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in the DVD player for a little background noise and entertainment. I took the tires off my bike (easy enough) and released the cables from the brake arms. I put the allen wrench into the socket to loosen screw that held the brake pads and turned with every ounce of strength I had. Nothing worked. They were in their so tight I didn’t think a hydraulic screw driver would have done any good. I began to think that I didn’t know my own strength since I had put them in a few years ago. I tried all four of the screws, and only one of them turned. So, I took a rest. My bike is in several pieces on the floor, and I’m sitting on the sofa watching Harrison Ford take on the Nazis in the Middle East.
After about 30 minutes, I decided to look for some grease or oil or something that might help loosen the screws. I found some WD-40 under the kitchen sink and lucky for me, it was a full can. I sprayed it on the three screws that were being stubborn and started to work them loose. Two of them came out relatively easy, but that third one… it was the most stubborn of all. So, I sprayed a little more WD-40 on it and kept fighting with the allan wrench. By this point, Harrison Ford is in a bad mood because after all he did to save the Arc of the Covenant from the hands of the Nazis, it’s going to be locked up in some U.S. Government warehouse. And I’m starting to feel his level of frustration. I glanced at the can of WD-40 and noticed that it had an important word on the instructions: “Wait.”
Do I think that the can of WD-40 was really going to work instantly? Well, no, but I wanted it to. I had sprayed it on the screws so it should work right away. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long for that last screw to come loose. I put a little more WD-40 on there, waited about a few minutes (long enough for me to put in the next Indiana Jones movie) and sure enough, still with a lot of muscle on my part, that con-founded screw came loose and I could replace my brakes.
In our fast-paced, I-want-it-now society, we expect things to happen on our terms and in our time frame. Today’s gospel would lead us to believe that Jesus was of the same mindset, but in reality, he is saying something different. Jesus says, ask and it shall be given, search and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you. And, my friends, Jesus is right. But before he gives that lesson, he talks about the persistence of the neighbor, who receives what he is asking for not because of his friendship, but because he doesn’t let up in asking for it.
Going to God with a request one time is a lot like going on a diet for one day and quitting because that 15 pounds you were trying to lose didn’t evaporate. Searching for a truth about God for one day or one moment is like lifting weights for an hour and being disappointed you aren’t suddenly toned and firm. It takes patience and persistence. Jesus tells us right here in today’s gospel that if we continue to turn to God, our persistence and dedication will be rewarded.
There are some important things that we need to recognize in Jesus’ teaching about Prayer. First, he teaches his disciples that before they ask for anything, they need to honor God’s name and recognize that God is the one who is in control. Then, when we do take our supplications to God, we shouldn’t ask for anything more than we need. The alterative Lord’s Prayer in the New Zealand Prayer Book says, “With the bread we need for today, feed us.” Jesus doesn’t teach his disciples to ask for bread for today and tomorrow; just today. There is also an amazing piece about forgiveness, which I think tells us more about God’s nature than any other part of scripture. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about the fact that each time we pray, we are to forgive those who have done something wrong to us. It’s a tall order, but one we are not required to master the first time.
While Jesus is teaching his disciples about prayer, he is also teaching them that prayer is an ongoing thing. As Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman says, “Our prayer doesn’t end just because we say the word ‘Amen’”. We are called by God and taught by Jesus that our prayers must come to him in all ways and at all times and more than once. It is large and daunting task. But it is a task that we can share with others who follow Christ, as we walk with him and grow in his grace.