Summary: This sermon is about overcoming Christians overcoming social prejudices through prayer.
Text: Matthew 6:9
Title: Our God, Our Family
-By Reverend A. LaMar Torrence, Cross of Life Lutheran Church
Four score and seven years ago, one of our founding civil rights fathers James Weldon Johnson published one his first novels entitled “Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man”. In that same year the African National Congress was founded in South Africa. Blacks in this country and around the world embarked on a treacherous journey towards civil rights. That was 1912. It is now 1999 and still we march on into the next millennium seeking racial and cultural harmony. We seek to become the “church 2000” - A church where there is truly no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female. We seek to become a church without a spot or wrinkle prepared to scale heights of heaven upon our Lord’s return. It is this preacher’s belief that such as church can only become a reality through the act of prayer. Through prayer we who are filthy rags can behold the perfecting glory of a Divine God. We who are citizens of these United States can become inhabitants of the New Jerusalem – the holy city once beheld by John. Prayer is the key to contextualizing the Christian church in a multicultural, economically stratified, racist society. Prayer is the resolve to break down the last barrier keeping Americans from obtaining Utopia.
You see prayer changes things. Prayers changes people, places, situations, and circumstances. Prayer changes things. And in our ever-changing society, prayer can be effectual in changing those things that seem immutable. Poverty seems to be immutable. Even our Lord Jesus said that the poor you would have with you always. Hunger and disease will be a permanent fixture to remind us of human frailties. Crime and violence will persists as long as we have lustful hearts and unmet desires. Disappointments and depression will continue to occur as long as we have hopes and dreams. And yet, with these life sentences of pain and agony, toils and troubles I still believe that prayer has the power to change things.
You see it is not the prayer itself that changes things but the person we pray to that changes things. If prayer itself had power then the prayers of wicked and ungodly will avail just as much as the righteous. No, it’s the object of our prayer that has the power to change things. He alone can change that which he has ordained and created. God and God alone can calm the stormy seas that he brought up from deep. Only Jehovah can take H2O and remix the molecular structure to produce new wine. Only Elohim can tell the sun to stop shining during high noon while Jesus passed from life to death. Prayer changes things because our God has the power to make a change. It changes attitudes by drawing the people of God closer and closer together.
Prayer unites believers in the body of Christ. Whether you pray alone or in a group of two or three prayer is both social and communal. People are linked together through their relation with Christ.
This is the first lesson Jesus teaches the disciples about prayer. He teaches them about the power of prayer to unite humanity. Jesus tells them to begin their prayers by simply saying “Our Father”. He tells us to begin a conversation with the almighty transcendental God with the possessive pronoun “our.” Now that three letter word is full of meaning. First it tells us that we are all one in Christ Jesus. We are all equal in his sight. Even a slave-owner Jefferson would have to say, “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.” God is our creator and we are formed in his image. In fact, if we wanted to truly see a glimpse of God, we would have to collectively view ourselves in action. We who colored in the many hues of the rainbow collectively mirror our triune God. We look more like him united than we do as individuals. That’s why Jesus said where there’s two or three gathered together in Jesus name they would he be also. In other words, the dark shades of Africa mixed with pastels of Europe and the florescence of South America all together the mosaic stain glass windows adorning the human temple. We are one. Therefore, there should be no earthly distinctions. In prayer we all can meet on equal terms. The poor can get has much manna from heaven as the rich. There’s enough bread at the lord’s table for all us.
When we pray ‘Our Father’ we declare no only our equality in Christ but we declaring our kinship. We are a part of the body of Christ. In order to call him your father, you must first be willing to call me your brother. In order to tell Jehovah how much you love and adore him, you must first be willing to love me. And I’m not talking about tolerate me, but love me. You see we live in a nation were we tolerate others but we do not love them. Our nation prides itself on being a ‘melting pot’ of cultures but we are unable to bring people from different racial backgrounds to function in harmony. It’s tragic that God’s people who are to be models of cultural congruence have not been able to overcome the social barriers that separate people. We can safely say that 11:00 am to noon on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week in America. Christians of different backgrounds effectively separate themselves to worship the same God. We divide ourselves by denominational lines. Jehovah declares that the Lord our God is but one God, but we say to worship him you must be a Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian, or Pentecostal. He is one essence but we stratify ourselves economically and socially. The prophet Malachi asks Have we not all but One Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another? Why does it matter to us who sits on our pew or bows next to us at the altar? Why does it matter if we worship in the crystal cathedral or a storefront church? Why does it matter if we clap our hands, sway to a beat, or meditate in silence? If we all call him Father then he’s just as must my father as he is yours. To pray “our father” you must recognize that I am a member of the family too. We are blood brothers washed in the cleansing blood of Jesus. We are family and the church is a family affair. And as in all families, there is an occasional tense moment. When our family gets together somebody is going to say something to get on somebody else’s nerve. Come one now. When is the last time you ever known a family reunion to go on with out somebody’s feelings getting hurt? When was the last time your family got together and no one was offended? Oh we may fuss and fight but it doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other. You may ruffle my feathers and I may step on your toes but we still got to love each other. After all, if you can’t fight and fuss with your family then who can you fight with? I like to think that on occasion, we have loud heavy discussions.