Lord's Prayer

Preached: June 15, 2008

O Father, How Great Your Love Is
Romans 8:32

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit assures our hearts today is Romans 8.

[God] did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all. How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Fatherhood carries many responsibilities. Today, Father's Day, we give thanks to our fathers for all that they do. Consider some of the responsibilities fathers carry. A father sees to it that his family is provided for -- food, clothing, shelter, not just for himself but for his wife and children as well. A father wants to protect his family and bring them up in safety. A father is to love his wife as his own body, sacrificing himself for her needs. A father is to love his children bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord, disciplining them, even severely at times, but always in love.

Yet the greatest responsibility, which includes all these and more, is that fathers are a reflection of our heavenly Father. How a father treats his family will lay the ground work for how his family thinks and feels about God the Father. A cruel father, by his actions, portrays God as a cruel tyrant. An irresponsible, permissive father portrays God as a pushover who isn't serious about his Law.

For you see, Jesus teaches us to call God, our Father. In that word, he wants us to see the greatness of God's fatherly. For God the Father's love provides, protects, and cares for you as the good and merciful Father in heaven he is. And God the Father's love also trains, disciplines, and punishes us for our good, always in love, always as the good and merciful Father he is.

Think about that as you pray the Lord's Prayer. With that single word Father you are confessing his love. You are saying, “O Father, how great your love is!” That's our theme today.

A. How far down your love reached for us!

How often do you marvel at this mind-blowing privilege to address the Almighty as Father? He is the Eternal One, the Ancient of Days, the Creator. We are but dust. Our days are like grass. We might flourish like a flower but then the wind blows and it is gone and our place remembers us no more (see Psalm 103:14-16).

He is the Holy One. He dwells in light inaccessible. Even the holy angels, the seraphim, cover their eyes and feet in his glorious presence, shouting, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3 NIV). But we are a people of unclean lips. Sin darkens our hearts. Our sinful flesh lurks in the shadows afraid of the light that exposes our evil deeds. How dare we call him Father!

Yet that is exactly how Jesus himself teaches us to pray. For how great the love of the Father is that reached down into our cesspool of sinfulness to pull you out. Earlier in this letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul made clear how great our sin was but how much great the Father's love is. In chapter three he wrote, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12 NIV). How great our sin! In chapter five he reminds us how we were powerless, ungodly sinners, and then he points us to God's great love that reached down into our depths. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). And we'll have more to say on that in a moment.

But for now, when you call on God as your Father, marvel at his great love. How far down he reached for you! He picked you and me out of the cesspool of our sin. Now without having to be too graphically explicit here, consider what that word cesspool means. Consider the bodily waste, filth, and stench, like a septic tank or an outhouse - but the filth of sin is even worse. The Father's love reached down into our cesspool to pull you out. He washed you in the water and word of Baptism. He washed you clean and adopted you into his family.

As you begin the Lord's Prayer saying, “Our Father,” think of your Baptism. For that he how he pulled you personally out of that cesspool. In Baptism you were reborn into his family, reborn of water and the Spirit, reborn as a child of God. So he is your true Father and you are his true child. Only our baptismal faith can call God, our Father.

Now to accomplish all this, the Father's love gave up his dearest treasure. And that brings us to the second part. How much, O heavenly Father, your love gave up for us!

B. How much your love gave up for us!

Remember that passage from Romans 5:8? “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). Paul reminds us of that in the text as he writes, “[God] did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32 NIV). What love that we cannot comprehend!

For we cannot truly pray, “Our Father,” unless the Son is reigning in our hearts and our eyes are looking up at his cross. For what a mystery of love as you gaze at that cross. Who is it that hung there bloodied and beaten, pierced and forsaken? Is it not the Son. From all eternity he's begotten of the Father. He and the Father are one God in unity closer than any relationship we can imagine. In perfect harmony, mind, and will, one Being, one God.

Yet, how great the love of the Father for us rebellious sinners that he gave up his Son for us! Martin Luther writes, “A Father's heart he turned to me, Sought my redemption fervently; He gave his dearest treasure. He spoke to his beloved Son: ‘'Tis time to have compassion. Then go, bright Jewel of my crown, And bring mankind salvation.’” (Christian Worship, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice,” 377:4, 5). And Paul Gerhardt, the great Lutheran hymn writer of the following century wrote, “O wondrous Love, what have you done! The Father offers up his Son, Desiring our salvation, O Love, how strong you are to save! You make his bed within the grave Who built the earth's foundation” (Christian Worship, “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth,” 100:4).

We cannot pray “Our Father” without the faith that confesses, “How much your love gave up for us. You did not spare your own Son but gave him up for us all” Yes, for us all, including you.

C. How constantly your love cares for us!

Now, since the Father's love has already given you his dearest treasure, how could his love fail you in anything else? Or consider how the text puts it: “[God] did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all. How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). As you pray that word Father think, “How constantly your love cares for us!”

Think of how in the explanation to the 1st Article of the Apostles Creed from Luther's Small Catechism we reviewed some of the ways the Father constantly cares for us, providing all that we need for our body and life, protecting us from every danger. Yet he cares not only for our body but also for our souls. As we continue over the next weeks looking at the Lord's Prayer, we will see how we are asking our Father to guard us from the spiritual dangers of the devil, the world, and our flesh, from sin, temptation, and death. And oh, how he has provided for us spiritually! He has revealed his saving name to us, brought us into his kingdom, forgiven our sins, and he will deliver us safely from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven. How constantly his love cares for us!

And all this, all this love and care is his gracious gift -- undeserved, unmerited, unearned by us. All this flows from his good will, his free generosity, his unbounded kindness. Think of how Luther put it. “All this God does only because he is my good and merciful Father in heaven, and not because I have earned or deserved it” (Luther’s Small Catechism: A Contemporary Translation-Enchridion Only © 1979 Northwestern Publishing House, Wauwatosa WI). “How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

So pray, pray with the same confidence and sureness of a dear, beloved, little child going to his dearly loved father. Pray with your heart, mind, and soul focused on the love that flows from that word Father. Yes, he has adopted you into his family washing you clean in Baptism. How far down his love reached for you! Yes, he sacrificed his Son on the cross for you. How much his love gave up for you! Yes, he graciously gives you all that you need for body and soul. How constantly his love cares for you!

All that in that one word Jesus teaches us Father. We haven't even talked about how Jesus unites us to our fellow Christians in the family of God by teaching us to prayer “Our Father” instead of only “My Father.” We haven't talked about the assurance those words “in heaven” bring us, that God is able to do anything and everything that is best in answer to our prayers for he reigns in heaven above.

You have enough to ponder this week with just that one word Father. For that word alone brings to your mind that you were baptized into his family, that the the Son, was sacrificed for you, and that Father's hand is open to continually care for you. How deep and high and broad his love is! How great the Father's love!

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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