Thursday, February 5, 2015

In defense of the frequent use of the Lord's Prayer and Holy Communion


Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."  Luke 11:1

TODAY we will learn about true Christian prayer which is the easiest thing in the world because our Lord, like Abraham of old, sits at the right hand of God interceding for us at all times.  We are never forgotten day or night, in good times or in bad, when in peril of having too much or in danger of having too little.  We are not forgotten, never alone and never without the help of heaven, for God is our true Father and we are His true children; so lift up your heads and lift up your hearts to the Lord whose steadfast love endures forever.

Jesus does not only intercede for us.  He teaches us how to pray, for we, too, are His disciples who have His own words placed on our lips, so we can never go wrong.  However, if there is anything that we need to learn this morning it is to remember that the Lord's Prayer is also the Church's Prayer, and that its natural home is in the celebration of the sacrament where all of its petitions are answered for us.

In our day this prayer has become public property, used by believers and unbelievers alike.  It is regularly prayed at AA meetings and by rebellious Valedictorians at high school graduations, but in the earliest church it was not so.  These words were so sacred that they were kept secret from everyone, including the catechumens who only heard them for the first time on the day of their baptism.  Yet whatever the world does with this prayer, we should know that it is the church's unique possession, her pearl, to be loved, to be cherished as her dearest treasure and to be prayed by her always, especially in connection with the consecration of holy communion where all of its petitions are answered.

In the Eucharist we confess that God is our heavenly Father who loved us, who gave His Son to be our Redeemer, and by such faith we sanctify His holy name, for nothing brings greater glory to the Father than when we honor the Son He sent to be our savior; than when we believe that He came into the world to save sinners.   

In holy communion the kingdom of God comes to us and is given to us, for what is the Kingdom of God except Christ mercifully dwelling with us, in us and among us to be the Savior of His body, the church?  We are that body.  

In the sacrament God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven.  There are few articles of Christian faith that people reject as violently as the Eucharist.  Protestants of every stripe ask the same question today that they did in Jesus' day:  how can this Man give us His flesh to eat?  Because the Eucharist defies human logic and calls for the purest child-like faith, men have rejected it, scorned it and treated it as shamelessly as they did the Lord Himself during His earthly ministry, but the answer to all of our questions regarding the mystery of the Sacrament are answered in this one line: Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.  God can do whatever He likes; not only CAN, but DOES.  If He wills to give the true body and blood of Christ to us Christians to eat and to drink; if He wishes to impart all the benefits of the cross, the empty grave and the future promise of heaven to us in this sacrament, then may His will be done here on earth as flawlessly as it is in heaven.

In the supper, God also answers our prayer for daily bread both for the body and the soul.  We need many things to support this body and life, and without them life turns sour and life turns painful in short order.  What would happen to us if we were to go without a steady supply of food and drink for a day?  a week?  a month?  In this petition we pray each day that God would continue to keep us alive, to make us flourish, and that He would kindly supply all that we need to support this body and life.

We are asking for more besides.  We are asking just as tenaciously for the Living Bread that gives us unending life to all who eat of it.  This bread is our Lord's own body and blood given to us under the forms of bread and wine.  It is the bread that feeds our hungry souls and satisfies them like no earthly substance or possession possibly can.  It is the body and blood that forgives our sins, and gives us the grace to forgive those who sin against us.

We pray here that God would not lead us into temptation.  We know from Scripture that God tempts no one to sin, but we know that the temptation to live for the moment and to solve all of our problems by employing sinful means is a constant attraction.  Where do we get the strength to fight the mighty influence of the devil, world and flesh?  Where do we get the power to believe that "godliness with contentment is great gain?"  It comes from the holy communion that imparts peace and rest to our souls, and that turns our eyes heavenward to the future promises that God gives us in Christ, that one day our troubles will indeed, "soon be over."

Lastly we pray here deliver us from evil.  Nothing does that as well as the body and blood of Christ for it dissolves all of our sins and all of the evil that they bring about in our lives and in our world, both our own transgressions and those committed against us by others which often make us feel guilty, feel dirty, and feel the need for cleansing.  The pardon we pray for here is full, complete, washing away every stain of sin, every effect of sin, every reminder of evil, and renders us spotless and without blemish before our Lord and Bridegroom Jesus Christ.  What a tremendous blessing!

So let us pray the Church's Prayer often in God's house, in our own house, and whenever we need the love, comfort, strength, peace and power that Jesus gives; and let us be sure not to cut ourselves off from the answer God gives to this prayer each time we receive this Blessed Sacrament on our lips.  Instead let us love this prayer and desire this Sacrament that fills us to the full and gives us needed rest.  Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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