“Suppose one of you has a friend…” Maybe it is a family member, a close friend, someone you know, an associate at work, a friend of a friend – whatever the spectrum of how one thinks of friends. This person comes to you with a request. Maybe it’s easy – “can I borrow a cup of sugar?” Easily asked, easily answered and only takes a spot of time.
Maybe it’s not so easy. Perhaps it is a huge ask: time, money, commitment, the necessity to rearrange a schedule, change plans. Perhaps the request is one that is completely open-ended. Your “yes” gets you started but the end is not clear at this point of time. This is one of those times you wish you could freeze frame the moment, halt the flow of time, and take a moment aside for yourself to consider your response: “I understand. I can see this is important to you, but I need time to think about” or “I need to talk to the family” or “Let me pray about it.”
What is the Biblical response? Today’s gospel is from Luke 11. In Luke 14 we will be admonished to count the costs. Last week Jesus cautioned Martha not to be anxious about many things. Will this request cause you to be “anxious about many things”? Jesus noted that Mary had chosen the one thing; the one thing that was rooted in the Word of God. Does this request qualify for a “one thing” response? Can the Word of God shed light on your answer? Maybe the recent gospel of Good Samaritan speaks to this. Your request is from your neighbor even if they don’t live next door. Jesus’ response was for us to be that source of mercy for others. Is this a request for which mercy and compassion are needed on your part?
All of this is swirling in your thoughts and meanwhile the person is waiting for an answer.
For the sake of this homily, let’s say the request is far more than a cup of sugar, is important and impactful and you need to think about, to take it into prayer, and you inform the person. Now what? Well… you said you would pray, so take it into prayer. Why? Because you said you would. And then there is today’s gospel: “For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10) Does this moment ask you to be one who answers, who supplies, or opens a door?
So we pray the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.” Stop just there. How can these words shape your response? Let me come back to this question in just a bit.
I have spent this summer reading, studying and preaching on the Old Testament. One of the narrative themes I keep coming across is the presence of God, God drawing near, and what response that asks of us. Think about it – in the Garden of Eden, a metaphor for heaven, God and humanity are close. You know the story. Adam and Eve sin, are kicked out of the garden, forever to live in the created world. But they stay close, as it says in Genesis 4, they brought their offerings to the Lord. I wonder if that means they brought their gifts to gates of Eden now guarded by stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword to keep us out. Cain kills Abel, more sin released into the world, and we are farther than ever from the Gates of Eden.
Yet God ever draws near. He speaks to Abraham. Meets with Moses on Sinai and continues to draw close. Then in Leviticus 9, God dwells with the people as the glory of God descended upon the Tent of Meeting and the inner holy of holies, thereby remaining with the people. The presence of God and the Kingdom draw closer still. There is a lot more there, but here’s my point.
This sweep of salvation history keeps repeating and repeating. Our inner desire is to draw close to God, to again enjoy the easy fellowship of the Garden, but we sin, individually and collectively. We want to be part of the Kingdom, but we keep moving away – and God chases us. From the Garden to the Tent of Meeting and eventually in the person of his Son, Jesus. We can run, but we can’t hide. The Kingdom strains to draw near.
And then someone asks you for something, asking for your time, talent and treasures. Is this the moment that the will of God can be done in your response? Is this the moment when the Kingdom becomes just a little bit clearer?
In Leviticus there are five sacrifices God asks of us. Three are for atonement for sin, but the one of the other two gives thanks to God for what he has given us – our daily bread. In the other one we share what we have. A portion for God and a portion for our neighbors. It is a sacrifice, an offering, an act of holiness. And in that act of holiness, the kingdom draws near and the will of God is done. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What is being asked of you by your neighbor might well cost you. Might be a sacrifice. Sacrifice from the Latin sacraficia, to make holy. And in making the sacrifice, you take a step into holiness, a step toward the Kingdom and the God who is ever waiting, ever pursuing, ever loving. The step begins in prayer of gratitude for the daily bread given and continues in fulfilling the will of God with your neighbor.
We are not the answer to all prayers. But we are the answer to some and in those moments the kingdom draws a little closer and the will of God is done here on earth.