Sermon based on Proper 16C
Today we have the fifth sermon in our series of six on the Lord’s Prayer and how it fits into our daily lives and the Revised Common Lectionary. Deacon Henry gave us a great offering last week on forgiveness of debt and raised the bar for me this week!
In the original Gospel reading on July 28th, the words of Jesus are, “And do not bring us into the time of trial.” We typically pray, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Evil – there it is – the scandal of believing in Evil as Christians, especially in our era of great knowledge and scientific proofs. Bishop NT Wright says that there are three wrong ways to deal with evil for us as post-modern thinkers: 1. We can believe that it does not exist – he believes the Sadducees might fall into that camp in Jesus’ day. 2. We can fall into despair over the overwhelming evil we see around us every day – he thinks those were the Essenes. 3. We can fall into a sense of self-righteousness – maybe like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. Maybe we believe we are not as bad as “those people over there” and therefore evil doesn’t really apply to us.
This is yet again where we look to Jesus – to his life and example – Jesus recognizes and confronts evil. In today’s Gospel lesson, he names the trouble in the woman’s life as Satan binding her with her stooped back. Now please do not hear me say that the disabled, the sick, the mentally ill are possessed – I am not saying that at all. In today’s world we know the causes of most disease processes and we have ways to combat those processes to set people free from illness. In Jesus’ day, there was no medicine yet to cure her osteoporosis – she would have never been healthy without his healing touch. He called to her and healed her – set her free. He knew what is was like to experience evil – he himself had been tested & tempted in numerous ways – remember his wilderness experience? He showed compassion on her – no matter which day of the week it was.
It is interesting to me that we pray “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” as the final pleading – the final petition – it is not the main focus of the prayer but it is a linchpin that anchors it. I am struck by Jesus’ being led into temptation and testing and trial over and over again in His life - and look where it got him. His final trial didn’t go so hot by our standards – evil seemed to have won. “Thy will be done” was the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden – and seems to balance all of this out for me. Praying “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” and “Thy will be done” are like the balancing scales that help us understand how we end up in trials and temptations. Jesus gave us this prayer to help us understand that sometimes the answer to prayer in “No.” In the “No” might come something better than we can ask or imagine though. The answer for Jesus was “no” and he was obedient to death – so that we could all see evil conquered once – for us all. Because of the “No” to Jesus’ “save me from the time of trial,” we are free to pray “Thy will be done” with utter confidence. We are allowed to stand up straight. We are allowed to look around and see God’s work in the world about us. We can walk tall with the knowledge that evil does exist, and that we can help overcome even in this day and age.
Here is the prayer I will ask you all to pray this week: Be brave and ask God to show you where evil still exists and how you can combat it. It is still there – it has fancier names now: racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, ageism, fill in your own. How can we stand up straight and confront it in our daily lives, in our community, in our state? As we hear the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr this week in the 50th avviversary celebrations of the March on Washington, can we say that his dreams for our society have come true? How can we usher in those dreams more fully today? How can we be healed of the bondage of racial prejudices? What evil will you see and how will God give you the strength to heal it?
Breathe in the double clause of “lead us not into Temptation but deliver us from evil” – breathe it in and give it life. Give it flesh and blood in your life and in your work. Amen.
Audio of this sermon is on the PodBean player on the right sidebar.