19 June 2014

Catechesis on the First and Second Petitions

Jesus teaches you to pray: By His example, by His instruction, by making it possible for you to pray (by making Atonement and Reconciliation with God for you), by making His God and Father to be your God and Father, and by returning to the Father in the flesh by way of His Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.  In His own Body, with His own Blood, He is the One who prays and intercedes for you, and He is Himself your Prayer to the Father.

As the Lord gave the heavenly Pattern of the Tabernacle/Temple (to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and then to King David), so has He given the Pattern of Prayer: and Christ Jesus is both of these.

He teaches you to pray, and in doing so, He teaches you to know and love and trust the true and only God, who has called you out of darkness into the marvelous Light of Christ Jesus, so that you might be His own; that you should be His own dear child, His beloved son (in Christ) by grace and by adoption; and that He should thus be your God and Father.

He tenderly invites you to believe this, and to call upon God with bold confidence, as a beloved child, within the household and family of the Church: He is "Our Father."

"Father" is not His Name, but the identity of the First Person of the Holy Trinity in His eternal relationship with the Son.  This identity and relationship belongs to the distinction of the Persons, whereas the divine Name above all names (YHWH) belongs to the Unity of the one undivided Godhead.  The Name of the Father is also that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and this Name of the true and only God, once made known to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3), has been fully revealed and made known to us in the Person of the incarnate Son, in the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus, in His Word and Work of the Gospel, in His crucified and risen Body, and in His outpouring of the Spirit upon His Church (by whom we confess that Jesus is the Lord, YHWH).

As He teaches us to know the Name of God, He also bestows that Name upon us by the blessing of His Word, and by the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism, and so teaches us to know God as "Our Father," to call upon Him as our Father, and in doing so, to call upon the Name of the Lord.  You "invoke His Name" (and in doing so, you hallow His Name) by appealing to the Father through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the Holy Spirit, which is to say, as a child beseeching your own dear Father; for you now share the sonship of Christ Jesus.

It may seem a bit odd, though, the way He starts by teaching you to pray, first of all, for God's Name to be made holy; but note that Christ Himself prays this way in John 12, and in a similar way in John 17.  But why should you pray in this way, and what does it mean?

God's Name is already holy in itself, as He Himself is the Holy, Holy, Holy One; so there is nothing lacking in Him, nor in His Name.  There is nothing needed in this regard, in so far as the Lord Himself is concerned; for, in fact, all holiness derives from Him and depends upon Him, and whatever else is Holy is holy by the sanctification of His Name, by His Word and Spirit.

The holiness of God is absolute freedom and perfect Love.  He is utterly self-subsisting and self-sufficient, utterly complete within Himself, in the eternal relationship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: He is the "I Am," the One who was and is and is to come, and the One who is alone the Creator and Preserver of all things.  He is the One who makes things happen.  He is Life and Light and Love in Himself, in His own Being, and so also the Source of all life and light and love in His creation.  All things are created by Him, to be received in faith and used with thanksgiving, sanctified by His Word and prayer.  So are you also created to be consecrated by His Name for the life and love of God within the fellowship of the Holy Trinity.

As God's people were called by His Name — out of Egypt, through the waters of the Red Sea, to the covenant at Mt. Sinai — so are you called by His Name from out of the slavery of sin and death, through the waters of Holy Baptism, to the New Covenant of Christ's Body given and His Blood poured out for you and for the many in the Holy Communion.  So it is, that the Our Father is the prayer of the baptized.  You call upon God as your Father because you are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You are His child because you bear His Name.

So, what is Jesus actually teaching you to ask and to pray in the First Petition?

You pray that God the Father would sanctify you by His Name, by the Atonement, forgiveness, reconciliation, and life of Christ Jesus in the Holy Spirit; that He would establish and maintain this living relationship with you in Christ, the Son, and so enable you to use His Name rightly, and to call upon His Name (as per the Second Commandment).

It is not unlike the prayer of Solomon at Gibeon, that the Lord would grant (by His Spirit) the wisdom of a listening heart, in order to know His Word and to live and work according to it.

Thus, it is a prayer or petition that you would sanctify God's Name in your life, words, and actions: by the catechesis, confession, and prayer of His Holy Word, and by doing what He has called you to do, to the glory of His Holy Name, by performing your duties within your vocation according to His commandments.

In much the same way, Moses and the Priests were to sanctify God and His Name before the people (though they did not always do so; e.g. Lev. 10).  In particular, on the Day of Atonement, Aaron and his sons were to sanctify the Name of God by performing their duties according to His command, and by coming into His presence on behalf of His people, bearing His Name by His grace (Ex. 28:36), and atoning for the sins of the people with His means of grace.

So does Christ Jesus sanctify the Name of God by His atoning sacrifice, bearing the Name of the Lord in His Body into the Holy of Holies eternal in the heavens (St. John 17; Hebrews).

You are not able to do or accomplish any of this on your own; for you are sinful and unclean in body and soul, in your thoughts, words, and deeds.  It is not simply that you have failed or fallen short; it is already true from the outset that you are not capable of sanctifying God's Name, until He has first of all sanctified you by and with His Name.

This is what Christ Jesus does for you, on your behalf, as your High Priest in all things pertaining to God; and this is what He also now does in you and with you, by His Word and Holy Spirit.  He does it by the way of His own Cross and Resurrection, and by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name (St. Luke 24).

The Father has given the Name above all names to Christ Jesus, to the incarnate Son of God, in His own Body of flesh and blood, crucified and risen from the dead (Phil. 2).  And Christ Jesus has revealed and bestowed this divine Name upon you (St. John 17): In Holy Baptism, in the Absolution of your sins, and really in the whole Ministry of the Gospel; in much the way that the Old Testament priests put the Name of the Lord upon the people with the Aaronic Benediction.

So, then, the Name of the Lord is hallowed in you, in your life, and in His Church, by the way of the Cross: By the preaching of repentance, unto faith in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

In the Invocation, and in the Absolution, you pray for and receive the blessed Cross of Christ upon your body and soul, upon your heart, mind, and spirit, in order that you be crucified, dead, and buried with Christ, as in your Baptism into His death, and so be raised with Him, also, unto newness of life in thoughts, words, and actions.

Certainly, among the foremost ways that you now sanctify the Name of God in your Christian life, is by calling upon the Name of the Lord in prayer.  You are able to do so in Christ Jesus, because He has been lifted up in death as the fulfillment of all sacrifice, and because He has been received by the Father in His Resurrection and Ascension.  He is the pleasing aroma and sweet-smelling Incense by which you are received by God in heaven and are pleasing to Him.  And, as you pray to God in Christ Jesus, so do you also live.

The Body of Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament, and of the Temple in particular.  His Body of flesh and blood is the House of Prayer for disciples, whom He calls to Himself by His Name from all the nations; for His crucified and risen Body is the Temple of God, wherein the Name and Glory of God dwell among His people, and from which the Lord reigns over His people in Peace and Love with the Gospel of His Cross and Resurrection.

Thus, you see that it is also in this same way that God's Kingdom comes, as Jesus teaches you to pray in the Second Petition.  He teaches you to pray, not for things that are in doubt or uncertain, but for that which He promises and does by grace alone before you or anyone else would ever have known or thought to ask for them.  He teaches you to pray in this way, so that you would thereby learn to look to Him, to trust in Him, and to live by faith in His Word and promise; that you would seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and, receiving these by faith in His Gospel, you would receive all His good and perfect gifts by grace.

The connections between God's Name and His Kingdom are implicit in every case, but are especially clear in a few key places: It is there in the Lord's promise to David that his son would build a house for the Lord's Name, and that the Lord would establish his kingdom forever; and in the fulfillment of that promise in the Annunciation of Gabriel to St. Mary (see 1 Chronicles 22; St. Luke 1; St. Matthew 1; 2 Samuel 7; and Isaiah 7).

God's Kingdom comes by the Incarnation of the Son: As David prays, “the Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand!”  It comes by His Cross and Resurrection and Ascension (Philippians 2).

Therefore, in Christ Jesus, God's Kingdom is established forever, and it will come, regardless of what man does or says or believes: Every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  But, again, we pray that the Kingdom of God would come to us in the grace, mercy, and peace of the Gospel, and that it would thus be established among us through repentance and faith in the forgiveness of Christ Jesus.

We pray that our Savior, our God and Father, would also be our own King; that the Lord would reign over us in righteousness and peace, with His wisdom and justice.  Therefore, the coming of Christ Jesus and the preaching of His Gospel necessarily begin with the preaching of repentance, because the Kingdom of God is at hand in His flesh and blood.

We pray, then, that our life would be governed by His Word and Will (which is already to anticipate the Third Petition, as well); that we should fear, love, and trust in Him as our King.

And we pray in this Petition, as well, that He would also exercise His rule over creation in our words and actions as His people, each of us within our own proper vocation.  The way that Adam and Eve cared for the Garden prior to the fall, and exercised dominion over all the works of God's hand: in His Name and stead.  So also pastors in the Ministry of Christ.  And it is so for you, too, as you care for your neighbor according to your calling, for example, as parents for your own children.  In all these ways, the Kingdom of God comes.

The Kingdom of God is a matter of living by faith and love in Christ Jesus, the King, "great David's greater Son."  The peace and prosperity, unity and strength of the Kingdom is located in the indestructible life and eternal reign of this one King, whom God the Father raised from the dead and exalted over all things at His right hand.

To pray for this coming of the Kingdom of God is to pray for the coming and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Small Catechism; St. Luke 11; Epiclesis): It is the Spirit who works faith by the Word of Christ, where and when it pleases Him, in those who hear the Gospel; and the Spirit teaches us to pray, as He also prays with us and for us, crying out in us, "Abba! Father!"  It is the Spirit who grants peace and Sabbath Rest in the Kingdom of God, in the Body of Christ Jesus.  It is the Spirit who sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith unto the life everlasting.

As the Lord Jesus is anointed by the Spirit as the Christ, the King (at His Baptism and in His Resurrection), so is the Church consecrated by the Spirit to be His Kingdom.  As it the Spirit who comes upon St. Mary to conceive the Son of God in her womb, who bears the Name of God and reigns upon the throne of His father David.  It is the same Spirit who is also poured out upon the Church with the apostolic preaching and ministry of the Gospel of Christ Jesus (as at Pentecost).

Notice that Jesus receives both the Name and the Spirit of His Father in His own human Body of flesh and blood, in order to bestow the Name and Spirit upon us.  And the Spirit who is given to us by the Father in Christ, then also brings us to the Father in the Body of the same Lord Jesus Christ, by way of His Cross and Resurrection.

The Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the Church on earth with the Gospel of Christ; and it is also then within the life of the Church in the Gospel that the Holy Spirit establishes the Kingdom of God among us through the Ministry of the forgiveness of sins in the Name of the Lord Jesus.  So it is the Church that prays the "Our Father," because the Church is the Body of Christ, upon whom the Spirit rests and remains from Holy Baptism unto the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting (St. John 1; Acts 2; Romans 8).

The Father, by the Holy Spirit, brings us into the Kingdom of His beloved Son; and the Son hands over the Kingdom to the Father at the last, in order to live with Him forever.  This is the goal, in fact, for which the Lord names us with His Name and establishes His Kingdom among us, on earth as it is in heaven — that we might live with Him.

We see this foreshadowed and typified in the building and dedication of the Temple by King Solomon in the Old Testament, according to the Word and promise of God: The establishment of what one author has aptly called a "Liturgical Empire," dependent not on military might or economic prosperity, but established by and for the blessing of the Liturgy, and governed by the divine wisdom of the King.  In all of which we see a picture of Christ and His Church.  This is where God causes His Name and His Glory to dwell with and among His people, that they might live and abide with Him.  He’s not “homeless,” but He makes His home with them, for them.

Solomon's prayer of dedication and his offering of sacrifice on that occasion recall the promise of God to his father David, and focus on the Temple as a house of prayer and forgiveness.

In the fire and glory that come from heaven to receive the sacrifice and fill the Temple, and in the feast with which Solomon feeds the people of Israel in joy, the Lord proclaims the outpouring of the Spirit and the "apostolic doctrine and fellowship, the Breaking of the Bread and the Prayers," which will constitute and consecrate the Church of Christ as God's Kingdom on earth.

Solomon's prayer of dedication (comparable to the seven petitions) also looks to the Lord for repentance and the fruits of repentance, for rescue from enemies, from sin and death and every evil, and for a life with God characterized by thanksgiving and praise.  For David and Solomon, this thanksgiving and praise is given voice in the singing of the Psalms: by the Levites, et al.

If one does not care for the "Liturgical Empire" language, the Kingdom of God is, in any case, a priestly kingdom, and, as we Lutherans like to say, it is a “royal priesthood.”  So it is a liturgical kingdom, defined by sacrifice, prayer, and praise in accordance with the Word and promises of God, for the sake of bringing the people into His presence.

Therefore, both David and Solomon, in particular, like Moses and Samuel before, exercise both priestly and royal duties.  There is also Melchizedek, who is both priest and king of Salem; and in the Prophet Zechariah (esp. chs. 3, 6, and 14), one sees the coming together of the Offices of Priest and King, in anticipation of the coming of the Christ Jesus.

In Christ Jesus, YHWH is the King of Israel, and of all those whom He calls to Himself through His true Israel, the Christian Church, upon whom He pours out His Spirit, and whom He names with His own Name, in order to sanctify them for life everlasting with Himself.  God comes to us in Christ, in order that we might come to God in Him.  He is thus the one Mediator between God and Man by His Incarnation, by His Cross and Resurrection and Ascension, and by His Ministry of the Gospel of forgiveness.

The Lamb upon His Throne in the midst of His people — who has been slain, and yet, behold, He lives — He reveals the Name and bestows the Spirit of His Father, and He feeds His people with the Spiritual Food and Drink of His Body and His Blood.

He is thus both Priest and King, the Temple, the Altar, and the Sacrifice (including the Meal — the Host, the Waiter, and the Feast); He is both Prophet and Apostle, Bridegroom and Shepherd, Redeemer and Lord; and it really is in Him that all of your prayers are both asked and answered.

He is the Lord who rescues you from the devil's kingdom, as demonstrated especially by His casting out of demons throughout His ministry on earth (St. Luke 11:20; St. Matthew 12:28), and so also by the ministry of His sent ones in Holy Baptism, in Holy Absolution, and in the whole Ministry of the Gospel (St. Luke 10).  And He brings you into the Kingdom of His God and Father, already now within His Church on earth (which is His Body).

He liberates you from slavery to sin and death, and He provides for all your needs of body and soul.  He prepares a Feast for you at His Table in His House, where you belong to the one family of one Father (to the one Kingdom of this one King Jesus).  And in His Body and His Blood you do have a genuine foretaste of the neverending Feast to come.

As the Name of God is hallowed among us especially in Holy Baptism, so does the Kingdom of God come to us especially in the Holy Communion.

And, because He sets you free and provides for all your needs — because He, not sin and death, but He is your Lord and King — you live a godly life in, with, and under Him in His Kingdom, both now, by grace through faith in His Gospel, and forevermore in the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of your body and soul in His heaven.

It is by the gracious gift and work of the Holy Spirit through His Word that you believe and live in this way; because God sanctifies His Name in you, and He sanctifies you in His Name, and He thereby gathers you into His Kingdom, now and forever.  All of this the Spirit does in, with, and through Christ Jesus, your merciful and great High Priest, your Good Shepherd and your King, crucified for your sins, raised for your righteousness, and ascended to the right hand of the Father as your acceptable Sacrifice, your sweet-smelling Incense, and your answered Prayer.  Amen!

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