In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Three in One who grants us good gifts. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
When was the last time you had to ask someone for help? Who was it that you asked? Did they say “yes”? Did they turn you away?
I had to ask someone for help just last Sunday. Right after the morning service, before my ordination, my family and Liz’s family wanted to go to lunch together. I started counting people up, 10 people all in all. “Ten people on a Sunday after church,” I said to myself, “trying to find a place that will seat us all and cater to the tastes of all of those people is going to be interesting…”
Finally, after a little looking through the phone book we decided on a place near my house – Old Times Country Buffet up there on Monroe by Lake Ella. I called the place up and asked, “So do you think you could handle 10 people if I brought them over?” The answer was yes and I arrived at the restaurant with my family just a little before Liz and her family got there. I rushed to the line at the restaurant and said, “Hey, I just called – I’ve got 10 people, where can you seat us.” They pointed me to the back of the restaurant where there were supposedly enough chairs.
And there were enough chairs. The problem was, that the largest table was for 6 people. Now I have a history of working in catering and I should have known that it was the wrong thing, but I immediately grabbed my brother and he and I began to put tables together so that we could seat the families together. That’s when “SHE” came over. I don’t remember what her name was, but it’s probably better that way anyway.
She came over to my brother and I right away and started saying, “You can’t do that, the fire marshall….blah blah blah.”
“Ok,” I said, “but I need to seat 10 people at a table and they told me that I could do it up front. If you want to talk to them, that’s fine, I’ll wait here.” She left and my brother and I exchanged sheepish glances, the kind that naughty and caught kids give each other when they’re sitting in the principal’s office together.
Just about that time, J.B. showed up. J.B. was about 6’2 and built like an FSU football player. In fact, when the season rolls around, I’m going to scan the bench and the players for the FSU team to see if I see J.B.’s familiar face. This dude was BIG. He had a big gold chain around his neck and two big diamond-looking earrings in his ears. J.B. and his friend came up and asked me what we were doing and I told him the situation. He grabbed some other worker from the restaurant and began doing exactly what I was doing.
Immediately I interrupted him saying, “Hey, uhhh…the other lady that was here said we couldn’t do that.” As soon as I said that, his posture changed. He stood a little straighter. He widened his shoulders like a strutting peacock and putting his hand to his chest he said, “I’m your server. She’s not. And I think the table is just fine this way.” I thought it was too. I also thought, “I really don’t want to argue with this guy.”
I hadn’t really thought about J.B. until I read this week’s Gospel lesson. “Suppose one of you has a friend who comes to you at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, a friend of mine has arrived.” The conversation ensues that it would be ridiculous for a friend to refuse another friend 3 loaves of bread. It was the culture of the time. People usually traveled at night in the mid east during Jesus’ time. It was a lot cooler. Having a friend arrive at midnight might have even been early for someone to show up. The host might have even thought, “I’ll just wait until morning and then I’ll run to the market and pick up some fruit, some Captain Crunch and some milk.” But the traveler arrived early. He wasn’t prepared for the task – so he runs to his neighbor across the street and says “Hey! I’ve got a guest! Can I get some bread?”
The expected answer was, “of course!” Hospitality was a very big part of life in those days. The host had the same expectation of getting bread that I did of getting a table for 10 after I called ahead. Maybe even more so.
Do any of you know that person who has everything figured out? The “go-to guy?” They know where to go to get the best deals on this and that. They seem to intimately know the guy at the car dealership and they always get a better deal that you do. They just seem to have it all worked out. They’re so FRUSTRATING. Aren’t they? They’re the types from this Gospel story that would not reply from inside the house, “I am already in bed with my children, so on and so forth,” instead they would reply, “Nope, not getting out of bed, but if you go down to the corner market right now, there’s a guy named Levi. Tell him that you know me and he’ll let you in the store to get a couple of loaves of bread and whatever else he has…” You would stand at the door and steam would start building up in your ears and you would want to kick the door down and grab the bread for yourself mutter, “go and see Levi, harumpf, I’ll show you go and see Levi…”
That’s sort of the feeling that the disciples seem to have with Jesus. “Hey Jesus, they say, uhhh…you’ve got like this direct connection to God thing going on…uhh…can you tell us how to do it? I mean John’s disciples….” It wasn’t crazy for them to ask this. Most disciples who followed a rabbi in that time would get a sort of special prayer that you could identify them by. It would be sort of like our Lutheran common table prayer. When you hear someone start saying, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest…” you perk up and say, “Hey! Are you a Lutheran?” That Rabbi would be giving them that special link to God. He would be divulging the secrets, like I divulged the secret of Old Time Country Buffet to you – if you’re bringing in a group of 10, ask for J.B.
Too often though, in our Christian lives, we forget the prayer of our Rabbi. We forget what it means to pray the prayer that He taught us. We decide, you know, I think I’m going to try to work this project out on my own. We decide, you know, I think I’m going to try to fix this marriage by myself or try to find God without consulting other Christians.
We end up wandering aimlessly through the streets late at night, looking at all of the closed stores and shops and saying, “Why isn’t anybody open?” Why isn’t there anyone to help me out with this? And at that point, we go as stealthily as we can to God’s door. We feel kind of ashamed about it but we just can’t let it go. We finally knock on the door and start to pray, “Dear God, I know it’s late…uhhh…but you see I’ve got this situation…” In a lot of ways we expect Him to reply, “Nope, sorry, too late. I’m already in bed with my children…” Some of us might even be ok with that. We might go home, deflated, and tell our wives, our children, our friends, and our parents, “You know, I’m sorry, I prayed for this but I guess it was too late.”
Our God, however, is not that kind of a guy. That’s what Jesus is telling His disciples. He’s telling them, “Look, here’s the deal. You’ve got it all wrong. You ARE His children in bed with Him late at night.”
“You ARE His sons and his daughters because I am His Son. Because I am fully God and fully man, I get to call you all my brothers and sisters and because I call you my brothers and sisters – He calls you sons and daughters. You can go to him. You can start your prayers off saying, “Father…” because I love you enough to die on a cross. You can ask Him for daily bread, you can ask Him for the forgiveness of sin. You can even ask Him that you can be a part of His kingdom coming on earth through the Church.
You can ask all of that because of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son who tells you to call on God and say “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done as earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever and ever, Amen.”