Forgive and Lead Us

Text: Fifth and Sixth Petitions

Today we move into the second portion of the Lord’s Prayer. As we said a few weeks back, the seven petitions can be divided into two categories: those petitions asking for blessings, and those asking for deliverance. In petitions 1-4, we asked God for blessings – for the hallowing of His name, the coming of His kingdom, for His will to be done, and our daily bread be given. In our petitions today, we move into the petitions asking for deliverance, particularly from sin and temptation. Although we are God’s children in His kingdom, we remain in the flesh. We ask in these petitions that God would not deny our prayer because of our sins, but instead, continue to forgive us and strengthen us against temptation until we enter His eternal kingdom of glory.


            Let us speak the Fifth Petition and its meaning together.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.

In this petition we pause to focus on the reality of our lives here on earth. Though we have been brought into God’s kingdom by the preaching of the Word and Holy Baptism, and have been made His children through the same, we still remain in the flesh and in this world. Though the guilt of original sin was washed away in Baptism, the effects of it remain. As we remain in this flesh, the temptation to sin also remains. Original sin is the corruption of our human nature that all humans have been born with since the fall of Adam and Eve. It means that we, by nature, are inclined to rebel against God and His Word. Original Sin is forgiven in Baptism, but the inclination to sin remains in our flesh. The Old Adam still hangs around our neck, Luther would say.

And, as the temptation to sin remains, we must confess that we do, daily and often, give in. We sin much and greatly. We have transgressed against God’s Law, and we have even enjoyed it. And, for our sins, not only do we deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment, but we don’t deserve to have our prayers heard…to say nothing of them being answered. We ask in this petition that God would not remember our sins against us or deny our prayers because of them, but that He would remember His steadfast love and mercy toward us. God the Father sent forth His only Son to fulfill the Law and die as the atoning sacrifice for us. By the working of the Holy Spirit, we have been brought to faith and have received the forgiveness of our sins. We ask in this petition that God would continue to forgive us our sins by His grace, as we do sin daily and stand in great need.

Included in this petition is also a reminder of how we are to live and act toward others in this world. The petition is “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” St. John, perhaps reflecting on this petition, wrote to his flock, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love because he first loved us.”[1] As we sin daily and much against God and His Commandments – and He has yet forgiven us – so we, too, are to forgive those who sin against us. St. Paul also said, “[Bear] with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”[2] God does not forgive us because we forgive; we forgive because we have first been forgiven. We ask in the Fifth Petition that God would not deny our prayers because of our sin, but continue to forgive them and also lead us to forgive those who sin against us. In the Sixth Petition, we ask that God would preserve us against temptation.


            Let us speak the Sixth Petition and meaning together.

And lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

Now, even though we have been brought into God’s Kingdom and are daily forgiven our sins by faith through the Word and Sacrament, as we’ve said, the Old Adam remains. As long as we are in the flesh we remain both saint and sinner. As sin remains, so does temptation. And, it remains in force. No one is so secure in the faith that they can’t immediately go from the most joyful moment in the forgiveness of sins to the depths and depravity of sin. Perhaps you’ve experienced this: as you leave the sanctuary, no sooner have you stepped foot outside, then have you started coveting. None of us are so sanctified that we do not feel the sting of temptation. Temptation to sin comes from three places – the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Our flesh tempts us to lust and covet, the world to doubt and deny God’s Word, and the devil all the above.

We ask in this petition that God would preserve us against the assaults of the devil, the world, and our flesh. Though we are in the flesh and daily sin much, we ask that God would strengthen and defend us against future sin. We ask that He would give us purity of mind and heart, and contentment; that He would strengthen us against the enticement of the world to deny or change what He has said; we ask that He would harden us against the old satanic foe. As we said a moment ago, “We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.”

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”[3] There are no temptations that are ultimately unique, St. Paul says. Although we are beset on all sides by temptation to sin, God has provided for us the means of escape, which we know as the Means of Grace. The Means of Grace are the ways in which God’s grace and forgiveness are given to us. They are: God’s Word, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Holy Absolution, and, “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.” Through these things, the Word and Sacraments, God forgives us our sins and strengthens our faith. Through these Means of Grace, God hardens and preserves us against the temptations of the devil, the world, and our flesh until such time as we receive the full victory at Christ’s return.

In these petitions, we acknowledge that we are but sinful human beings. Though we have been forgiven our sins, because of the weakness of our nature, we continue to live contrary to God’s Word and Commandments. We ask today that God would not remember our sins against us, but His mercy. We ask that by His grace through Christ, He would continue to forgive us our sins and grant us our prayers. So, we, too, will forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us. So that we may do that, we ask that God would continue to preserve among His Word and Sacrament, that our sins may be forgiven, and our faith strengthened against all temptation.

[1] 1 John 4:10, 19. English Standard Version.

[2] Col. 3:13.

[3] 1 Cor. 10:13.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Text: Fourth Petition

We learned last week that the Lord’s Prayer is divided up into seven petitions; it has seven different requests and supplications to God. In the first four, we are mainly asking God for different blessings, and in the last three for deliverance. We ask God in petitions 1-3 for spiritual blessings: that His name would be holy among us, that His kingdom would continue to come to us by His Word and Sacraments, and that His will would be done here and around the world. These are all spiritual things, after which we then turn to material blessings. Jesus told us in the Gospel to seek first God’s kingdom and all things would be added to us, and in the Lord’s Prayer He reinforces that. Daily bread includes all the things that are needed to support this body and life. In the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray that God would continue to provide for the bodily needs of ourselves and others, and that we would receive these things with thanksgiving.


Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.[1]

If you remember back to last year, or to your confirmation days, you might remember that in the First Article of the Creed we confess our faith God in the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. God, our heavenly Father, is the creator of all that exists. He formed the heavens and the earth. He molded man from the dust of the earth and made woman out of Adam’s side. We learn these things throughout Scripture, but especially in the first chapters of Genesis. Remember, also, that God isn’t just the creator of all things, but He is the preserver of all things as well. We do not believe in God the Watchmaker, who puts everything together and leaves it to work on its own. Rather, Scripture reveals God to be actively involved in His creation – chiefly in sending His Son for our salvation, but also even by providing daily bread and sustenance for all living things.

In the Psalms, for example, it talks about God who, “set the earth on its foundations… [who] covered it with the deep as with a garment… [who makes] springs gush forth in the valleys… [who makes] grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate,” who gives food to all things in due season.[2] In another part of the Psalms it says, “The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made… The eyes of all look to You [O Lord], and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.”[3] Jesus said,

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you…Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”[4]

God our heavenly Father, out of His great love and mercy for all things, gives to all things their daily bread. And, just as the Catechism says, daily bread “includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.” It includes everything we mentioned and more. When we think daily bread, we think mostly food and clothing and shelter. In this petition, we pray for everything that goes into those things – good weather, fruitful fields and harvests, good workers, good government and support services, deliverance from war, and so on. In this way, this is an especially far-reaching prayer, since we are asking God to continue to provide for all our bodily needs, and the needs of others, and everything that goes with that. We also pray against the devil here, because if he could, he would take away everything we have and drag us down to hell with him. He is actively at work disrupting the world and tempting people to despair. The Fourth Petition is directed also against the devil.


Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

So, what do we pray for in the Fourth Petition? We pray that, as God already does, that He would continue to give us our daily bread; that He would lead us to realize this and receive all these things with thanksgiving; and, that we would be content with what we have so that we may share our blessings with others. Jesus said that His Father clothes even the lilies of the field, He gives food to the young ravens that cry, He sends rain on both the just and unjust alike. We pray in this petition that He would continue these things among us also. We ask that, as God has provided for us up to now, that He would continue to do so. We pray that He would continue to send favorable weather so that our crops can grow, good workers so that the products we need may be made and repaired, and good rulers so that we may live in peace.

We also pray in this petition that not only would God continue to provide for us and the world, but that He would lead us to realize this and receive His gifts with thanksgiving. There’s a difference between believing that everything we have comes either from hard work or chance, and believing that we have what we do because God has blessed us. Indeed, we do work hard, but it is by God’s blessing that our work is productive. St. Paul might say that we water the field, but God provides the growth. We ask in this petition that God, by His Holy Spirit through His Word, would teach us that He gives us all things out of love. All that we need is already known by God, who provides for us as a loving father would his children. We ask that we, in turn, would be like the one leper who returned to give thanks – and not like the other nine.

Lastly, we pray in this petition that, receiving God’s gifts with thanksgiving, we would also be content with what He has given us. It is the truth that our sinful flesh always wants more. I can think at least seven Commandments that are meant to direct us away from the sinful pursuit of things we don’t truly need. St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”[5] If we learn to receive our bread with thanksgiving from a God who loves to provide, then we can also freely share with those who are in need. It may be that in doing so, God is using us to provide daily bread for others. We pray in this petition that we may be content with God’s gifts, and use the things He gives to provide for others in need.

In the Fourth Petition, we confess that God our heavenly Father is the maker and preserver of all things. He gives to all things their food in due season. We ask that He would continue to provide for us our daily bread, that we would receive His gifts with thanksgiving, and that we would be content with what we have so we may share with others. Next week, we’ll learn again the Fifth and Sixth Petitions: Forgive us our trespasses and lead us not into temptation.





[5] 1 Tim. 6:8.

Thy Kingdom and Will

Text: Second and Third Petitions

Last week, we began again our time of Lenten catechesis. It is during this season of the year that we turn again and take up the Catechism. In the Catechism are the basic teachings of Scripture which all are encouraged to know, and which we who are confirmed are to also believe and confess. Two years ago, we began with the Ten Commandments. Then, we took up the Apostles’ Creed. This year, having learned what we are to do and believe as Christians, we also learn again how we are to pray and what to pray for. This year, we are studying the Lord’s Prayer.

In short, to pray is to speak to God in word or thoughts. Prayers can be spoken or sung, or they may be offered only in our minds to Him who discerns our thoughts from afar. Prayers may be concerned with any number of things such as thanksgiving and praise, confession and supplication. In the Lord’s Prayer we receive a model of how to pray and what to pray for. In the Introduction we learned that we are invited to speak to God as His own dear children, and in the First Petition we pray that His name would be kept holy among us. Today, we study the Second and Third petitions. In these petitions, we pray that God’s Word would continue to dwell and be received among us and all the world, and that all who would prevent that be restrained and defeated.


Let’s recap a little bit, shall we, before we go further. One thing that I neglected to mention last week is, what’s a petition? I’ve said that word about four times already in this sermon, but what does that mean? A petition is a request. To petition someone is to ask for something you want or need. In the Lord’s Prayer there are seven petitions, seven things we pray for. These requests, petitions, are sandwiched by an Introduction and Conclusion. The first four petitions are all asking for some sort of blessing (spiritual in the first three and material in the Fourth) and the final three petitions ask for deliverance (from sin, from temptation, and from the devil). The Intro and Conclusion encourage us that God invites us to pray for these things and will grant them according to His good will.

Last week we began with the Intro, Our Father Who Art in Heaven. With these words we are immediately comforted with the promise that God truly does desire our prayer. He invites us to pray to Him with confidence, just like children speak to their beloved fathers. And, like a loving father, God provides. He hears and answers prayers which are made through faith in Jesus and in accordance with His will. So, when we pray, we always pray according to God’s Will – for His is truly best – rather than our own. Recognizing that we often have difficulty with that – submitting to God’s will above our own – we pray straightaway in the First Petition, Hallowed Be Thy Name.

As we’ve already learned, this petition is not asking that God’s name be made holy, because it already is. In the Psalms it says, “Let them praise Your great and awesome name! Holy is He.”[1] Again, it says, “He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name![2] The mother of our Lord also said, “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”[3] In the First Petition, rather, we pray that God’s name would be kept holy and used in holy ways among us. We pray that He would preserve us in the true and pure teaching of His Word and that we would not be given to false and human doctrine. We also pray in the First Petition that we, as God’s children, would live holy lives in keeping with His Word.


In the Second Petition, we recognize that we have been made God’s children by the power of His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, and we ask that these things would remain among us. We speak the Second Petition and meaning together. We pray in this petition that God’s kingdom would come to us also. But, what does that mean? The kingdom of God? It’s kind of a complicated phrase, because it can refer to a few things. First, there’s the “kingdom of God,” the universe. God is the King of Creation. He rules the world by His law; laws like gravity and cause and effect, but also His moral law. That means that the universe works, and crime is punished. That’s not the kingdom we’re talking about.

We are talking about the kingdom where God rules by grace and where He freely grants forgiveness and salvation. This kingdom is called God’s Kingdom of Grace, which we might also call the Church. This is the place we’re brought into by the preaching of the Gospel and the washing of Baptism. This is the place where sins are forgiven, and godly lives are led. We pray in this petition that God would continue to grant us a place in His kingdom by His grace and spread this kingdom of grace to all the world. In this petition we pray that there would be increase of the Gospel and its spread until all the world adore the saving name of Christ. We also pray here that God would finally lead us and all the saints to His kingdom of glory, heaven.


One of Luther’s favorite phrases was this, “Where God builds a church, the devil places a chapel next door.”[4] He meant that, where God’s Word is taught in its truth and purity, there the devil will also be tempting men to fall away. This has been true ever since the ancient serpent spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden. The history of the Church has also witnessed that whenever the Gospel shines brightest, then the devil is also hardest at work. Yet, the more he presses, the more the Church grows. That’s because we pray in the Third Petition that God’s will be done. We speak the Third Petition together.

As with the other petitions, where His name is holy and His kingdom comes even without prayer, we pray in this petition that God’s will may be done among us also. His will is done, first, when “He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world and our sinful nature.”[5] Here Luther reinforces where the temptations to sin come from: from the devil, from the sinful world, and even from our own sinful flesh. He echoes St. James, who says, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”[6] The devil, the world, and the flesh do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come. We pray in this petition that God would put to death in us our sinful desires and that He would restrain the wicked foe and all his horde until Christ returns.

God’s will is also done, Luther says, “when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.” So often, it seems, we’re hanging on by a thread. Either life gets the better of us and we despair, or we get the better of life and become proud. In either situation, most often, our faith is weakened. We ask in the Third Petition that God would not only put to death the sinful desires within us and restrain the ancient serpent, but that He would also strengthen and keep us in the faith. For this purpose, Christ gave His Word and instituted the Sacraments. Through His Word we are called and strengthened in the faith, by Baptism we are made God’s children, by the Supper our sins are forgiven, and in the words of Absolution our hearts are reassured that we are forgiven. By the regular reception of these things, God works to keep us firm in His faith until we die and enter His eternal kingdom of glory.

We’ve learned now the Introduction and first three petitions of our Lord’s prayer. With these words, God invites us to pray to Him as his dear children. We can know that He desires, hears, and answers our prayers. We pray that His name would be holy in our teaching and actions, that He would continue to call to faith all the world and keep us firm in His faith until we leave this vale of tears for the shores of heaven. Next week we will learn again the Fourth Petition, Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.

[1] Ps. 99:3, English Standard Version.

[2] Ps. 111:9.

[3] Lk. 1:49.

[4] Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Luther’s Works (American Edition), Vol. 23, pg. 284.

[5] Martin Luther, Small Catechism, Part III.

[6] James 1:14.

Hallowed Be Our Father’s Name

Text: Introduction and First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

From ancient times, the season of Lent – the season in the Church Year we have now entered – has been used as a time of catechesis, a time of learning. It was during this time of year that candidates for Baptism used to increase their devotion to God’s Word in preparation for receiving the washing of the Water and the Word on the Vigil of Easter – the Saturday before Easter, after sundown. Though we now Baptize in all parts of the Church Year, Lent, as a period of learning can still be seen in the readings for each Sunday, especially in the epistles.

In the Lutheran Church there has been a longstanding tradition of studying the Catechism during Lent. This stands as both a welcome refresher for those of us who’ve long since been through confirmation, and a continuing help to those who are currently receiving instruction. In our congregations, we continue this practice. Two years ago, we studied the Commandments, which show us what God’s will for our live is and what sort of actions are pleasing to Him. Last year, we confessed the Apostles’ Creed and learned what it means to believe in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This year we take up the prayer our Lord Jesus has taught us. We’ve already learned what we should do and believe. In the Lord’s Prayer, we learn how to pray. Today, we learn that in the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer we are encouraged to pray to our heavenly Father as His dear children, and in the First Petition we ask that His name would be kept holy in our words and lives.


Before we go further, perhaps we should answer this question first: What is prayer? A month ago, when we celebrated the Transfiguration, I asked this question at the start of the sermon: What is the Bible? Today’s question, what is prayer, is likewise simple but easy to overthink. Prayer is speaking to God. The synodical explanation in the back of the catechism says that prayer is “speaking to God in words or thoughts.” From there, prayer can take any number of different forms. The most familiar form of prayer is often the spoken. Prayers to God are often spoken out loud, especially when we pray as a congregation. When we pray as a congregation, we are praying as one body together. Praying out loud facilitates that. Prayers are also often sung, such as in the liturgy when the pastor chants a prayer or in the hymns the congregation sings. Prayers may be spoken or sung, but the most frequent prayers are those offered silently in our thoughts.

As prayers may take many different forms, they may also be concerned with many things. Prayers may be prayers of praise. They may be prayers of supplication, requests for ourselves and others. Often times, we offer prayers of thanksgiving and some are prayers of confession. We address our prayers to the Triune God first, because He does command it. In the Psalms it says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”[1] Our Lord also has said, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.’”[2] He says when, and does not leave it open for us not to pray. In addition to God’s command to pray, which also falls under the Second Commandment, He has promised to hear us. Our Father in heaven hears and answers all prayers made in faith.

Third, in addition to God’s command and promise, our own great need should move us to pray. None of us live such perfect lives that we have no wants or needs – to say nothing of our need for forgiveness. And, even if our own needs don’t move us to pray – those of our neighbors should. And finally, we can pray using words that our Lord Himself has given us. We call it the Lord’s Prayer because He is the author and it is for us both the best prayer and the model for how we should pray and what we should pray for.


Having said that, let’s say the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer together. With the words, “Our Father,” God invites us to believe that He is our true Father and we His true children, so that we might address Him with all boldness and confidence. The Lord’s Prayer, then, begins with a Gospel promise. Our God, the God, is not some distant deity who is not truly concerned for us inhabitants of earth. Instead, He is our Father and we are His children. We are His children by faith. Though we, by the Fall into Sin and by our own personal sin, had separated ourselves and become children of wrath, God the Father sent forth His Son to fulfill the Law and redeem us. Through faith in Christ we are restored to a right relationship with God. By faith, Jesus is our Lord and brother, His Father becomes our Father, and we His children.

Jesus teaches us to pray in this way, so that we might pray with boldness and confidence. This confidence is not based on anything in us, however. By faith, we address God as Father. By faith, He is our Father and we are His dear children. Therefore, we should not fear to speak to Him. In fact, He doesn’t just command it; He desires it. God wants to hear from us and for us to speak to Him. He invites us to. With the words, “our Father,” we are encouraged to speak to Him as children would their own fathers – with boldness and with confidence. In the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches and invites us to pray to God our father with boldness and confidence in His promise to hear and answer.


Now, the First Petition. We speak it together. In this petition we ask that God’s name would be kept holy in our words and our lives. In the Large Catechism, Luther points out that “Hallowed be Thy name,” doesn’t make for good German – and maybe neither English – because God’s name is holy in and of itself. Simply put, God is holy. His name is holy. There is nothing that can change or add to that. In this petition, we’re not praying that God’s name be made holy but that it be kept holy in our lives. That’s exactly what we just spoke, “We pray in this petition that it [God’s name] may be kept holy among us also.”[3]

How is God’s name kept holy among us? Two ways. First, when God’s Word is taught among us in its truth and purity. That is to say, God’s name is kept holy when His saving Word is taught, spoken, and preached rightly, without any human doctrine snuck it. Second, God’s name is kept holy among us when we, as His children, lead holy lives according to His Word. Just as unruly children often reflect poorly on their parents, we dishonor God when we – as His children – live contrary to His Word. In this way, the First Petition is asking God to lead us to keep the Second Commandment. The Second Commandment means that we should fear and love God so that don’t lie or deceive by His name, but instead call upon it in every trouble, “pray, praise, and give thanks.”[4]

So far, we’ve learned what it means to pray. Praying is speaking to God in words or thoughts; be they spoken, sung, or simply prayed in silence. We pray because God commands it, but also because He promises to hear and answer – and because of our own great need. In the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, God invites to pray to Him as dear children speak to their own dear father. God, indeed, desires to hear from us – His children. In the First Petition, we ask that God would lead us to keep His name holy by keeping His Word pure and undefiled, and by living our lives according to it. Next week we will continue with the Second and Third Petitions: Thy Kingdom Come and Thy Will Be Done.


[1] Ps. 50:15, English Standard Version.

[2] Lk. 11:2.

[3] Lutheran Service Book, 323.

[4] Ibid., 321.

Call Upon the Lord

Text: Psalm 50:1-15

Bulletin: 2017-12-13 Advent Midweek II

Right in a middle chunk of the Augsburg Confession, the Lutheran confessors bring up a great point that goes with our psalm tonight. The Augsburg Confession, beyond Luther’s Small Catechism, is what defines us as, “The Lutheran Church.” The Augsburg Confession is divided into 28 articles, the first 21 of which are given just for the sake of clarity. They show that the Lutherans did not teach anything new, nor did they depart from what the Church throughout the world has always taught. The last of those articles talks about praying to the saints. There, it says, “Scripture sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Atoning Sacrifice, High Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to. He has promised that He will hear our prayer. This is the worship that He approves above all other worship, that He be called upon in all afflictions.”[1]

I bring this up, because it bears on our psalm this evening. In Psalm 50, God is described to us as drawing near for judgement. He summons all earth and heaven, and testifies against His people. He testifies against them for, although their sacrifices were continually before Him, their hearts were far away. Instead of offering sacrifices of thanksgiving from cleansed hearts, they offered only out of obligation. They blessed with one side of the mouth and cursed out the other. God urged His people in this psalm to call upon Him in their times of trouble, for He will deliver them. Tonight, we confess that true worship of God is to call upon Him in trouble, for He will deliver us.


In their statement, the confessors found themselves aligned with God in their sentiment. In the time of the Reformation, the worship life of the Church at large had become corrupted. In many cases, no parts of the service were in the language of the people, so they went only out of obligation or fear. In places where the common language was spoken, it was often not a level people could understand. There were priests whose sole job was to offer private communion services for donors day and night. It would be one thing if people were seeking the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament at all hours of the day – but that wasn’t the case. Instead, receiving the mass was an act to merit grace.

This is a similar picture to how God’s people throughout the Old Testament, and what is described in the psalm. At many points, the people are described as misusing God’s Word and misunderstanding the sacrifices. In the psalm, God says the point He is upset with His people over is not a lack of sacrifices. Those were always before Him. Rather, God testified against them, “You hate discipline, and you cast My Words behind you…You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit.”[2] God’s people lied and spoke evil, they did not live according to His Word. Then, they came to offer sacrifices out of obligation, and thought that was worship.

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble.”[3] When the topic of worship is brought up in the Book of Concord as a whole, Psalm 50 is called upon to define the Lutheran understanding of worship. True worship of God is not to just go through the motions, but to look to God for all things good. True worship is begun in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Through the Word, He convicts us of our sins and points us to Christ, who made full payment for the sins of the whole world. True worship is to look to God for the forgiveness of sins and for all blessings, both temporal and eternal. Especially, as God named, true worship is to call upon Him in the day of trouble.


Psalm 50 portrays God as drawing near to judge His people. He testifies against them. For, although their sacrifices were always before Him, their hearts were not, and they did not call upon Him in the day of trouble. If they would call upon Him in faith, He would deliver them. Often, instead, the people treated the sacrifices like pagans would. Their understanding was, if you wanted Baal to act, you had to bribe him first. Or, they treated sacrifices like doing God a favor. You do right by Him, He does right by you. Or, they treated God like a vending machine. Sacrifice a goat, get a boat. For this, God bore witness against His people.

God teaches and calls upon us here to pray, because He wants to answer. As we learned in the Catechism, God answers our prayers not because we deserve it, but because of His own fatherly, divine, goodness and mercy. To those who call upon Him in faith, He does answer and bless. Jesus has said, “Whatever you ask in My name, this I will do.”[4] Throughout our lives, we have received blessing upon blessing from God. Everything that we have, we receive from His loving hand. For all this it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

God also offers this promise to those who worship Him in truth, who call upon Him in faith, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”[5] As our lives have been filled with blessing after blessing, so also has God delivered us from our troubles. We would not be here today, had not God brought us this far. And, who knows how many traps the devil has laid out for us, that God has sprung – we unaware? What great comfort this is for when we are suffering; we can call upon God and He will deliver. He will deliver us, also, on that Final Day when our redemption draws near.

The Augsburg Confession states with our psalm, that the worship that God desires and approves above all others is that we call upon Him in times of need. May God, by His Holy Spirit, keep us mindful of the deliverance He has provided us in the past and in the confidence that He will deliver us from all troubles, even on that Last Day.

[1] AC XXI, 2-3. Reader’s Edition.

[2] Ps. 50:17, 19.

[3] Ps. 50:14-15.

[4] Jn. 14:13.

[5] Ps. 50:15.

What do You Seek?

Text: John 6:22-35

There’s a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where King Arthur and his knights encounter the Bridge of Death. This bridge spans across the Gorge of Eternal Peril and is guarded by a bridge keeper. Each knight must answer three questions or face certain death. Lancelot is the first up and answers wisely. The three questions: What is your name, what is your quest, what is your favorite color? Robin and Galahad fare poorly and are thrown into the chasm before King Arthur prevails by asking the bridge keeper whether he would like to know the airspeed of an African or European swallow. It’s the second question that connects us to the Gospel reading: What is your quest? To put it another way, What do you seek? In our text Jesus teaches us not to seek the food that perishes, but the food that endures forever.


What do you seek? That is the question, or at least it’s one we’re brought to by the text. We pick up in John’s Gospel after the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus’ walking on water. St. John writes that the next day the crowd that was fed began looking for Jesus. They had been so satisfied with Jesus earlier that they tried to make Him king by force, but He withdrew from them. They go to find Him and see that only one boat remains on the shore. Jesus did not depart with the Disciples, and yet He wasn’t there. (We know it’s because He walked on the water.) Some other boats come from the other side, but without either Jesus or the Disciples them. The crowd then hops into their own boats to go find Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’”[1] The crowd found Jesus back on the west side of the sea, but were confused at how He got there. This is another clue that they weren’t thinking the way they should. Jesus didn’t ask them what they seek, because He already knew. He says to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” These people that were looking for Jesus were not looking for Him; they were looking to get fed again. They didn’t believe the signs but assumed that the Gospel had more to do with filling their stomachs than saving their souls.

Lest we fault the crowd for their ignorance, a large part of Christianity has fallen into that trap as well. How could we not? It takes weeks to die of hunger, a slow and painful death, and yet most of us can’t even go 6 hours without food unless we’re asleep. We have families to feed and houses to fix. We’re Christians and so we naturally pray to God that He would provide for these needs. When we look at our own prayer lives, though, what would the ratio be of prayers asking for temporal blessings versus the prayer of the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”?[2]

Jesus said to them and us, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”[3] Do not seek the things that perish, Jesus says. God causes the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. God actually gave us many temporal blessings before the Fall. But food, clothing, homes, cars, will all perish. We must long for the food of eternal life.


Jesus told the crowd to seek the food that endures to eternal life, but it doesn’t click with them. So they resort to a different question: “What must we do to be doing the works of God?”[4] Jesus told them to seek the food of eternal life, but they didn’t ask what it is or where to get it. Instead they attempt to self-justify: “What must we do to get this bread of life?” Jesus answers, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”[5] What must we do to work for the bread that endures forever? Nothing.

I love that verse because I think Jesus is being a little smart. They were asking what they must do to be saved, and He answers that the work of God is to believe in the one whom He has sent. The work that they must do to be saved is believe, but believing is the work of God. With these words Jesus cuts out all works-righteousness. Works-righteousness is the teaching that the good works we do merit righteousness and favor before God. But all our attempts to please God or to do good works turn out to be working for food that perishes. Our good works are meant to serve our neighbor, but as with anything, they fade and are forgotten.

The jailer in Philippi was terrified when God opened the doors to all the cells. He was about to kill himself, fearing that the prisoners escaped, when St. Paul called out him that they were all there. The jailer later asked him, “’Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ [They replied], ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.’”[6] What must we do to be saved? Seek not the food that perishes, but that which endures forever. Do not long for a full belly, but for a full soul. But without Christ, that is impossible.


The crowd was convicted by Jesus’ instruction not to seek food that perishes and that the only work of God is to have faith, and so they tried to defend themselves one last time, “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”[7] Jesus showed them that what they were really seeking was a full stomach, and that they were wrong to assume that they could perform the work of God. They lifted up Moses as the reason they believed in God, because Moses gave them bread. Moses, the great figure of the Law, wasn’t the one who gave the bread, Jesus says. In fact, what He says is that Moses didn’t give them bread and he still doesn’t; the works of the Law will not merit eternal life.

No, Moses wasn’t the one who gave them bread in the desert. It was God, who is now giving them the true bread from heaven. Jesus said, “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”[8]

What do you seek? That is the question. What do you seek? Do you long to be well-fed and warm? Health, wealth, and happiness are good and fine, but when you come to church, is that what you’re after? If so, you could’ve just as easily stayed home, because God provides those things whether ask for them or not because He loves us. But food and clothing and house and land, those things fade. Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”[9] What you don’t get just by staying home and sleeping, though, is the food of eternal life.

What is the food of eternal life? Jesus. In Him we find our security, our peace, the forgiveness of our sins. Because we are human we all long to have full stomachs and good lives, and that’s fine, but those things fade. Jesus’ forgiveness doesn’t. In Him we find the true food and the lasting peace. Through faith we feast on His body and blood knowing that as far as the east is from the west, thus far are our sins removed from us through His death and resurrection.

What do you seek? On our own we might answer any number of things. The reason we are here today, though, is because we have been called by the Holy Spirit. You have been given the gift of faith in Christ and are daily drawn out of your own sinful to nature and taught to seek after Christ and Him crucified. In Him we have the full forgiveness of our sins and the food that endures to eternal life. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn. 6:25.

[2] Lk. 18:13.

[3] Jn. 6:27.

[4] Jn. 6:28.

[5] Jn. 6:29.

[6] Ac. 16:30–31.

[7] Jn. 6:30–31.

[8] Jn. 6:33–35.

[9] Jn. 6:27.