Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God– the LORD, the God of their ancestors– even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” (2Ch 30:18-20 NIV)
“A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.” (Luk 19:2-3 NIV)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always +
Dear friends of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ: In this mornings readings we are reminded that all depends on God’s gracious favour and mercy to grant pardon even to the best of us and even if we are convinced that we are but “a poor soul, whose intentions are good” (The Animals). That was true from the very beginning and continued to be so even in the heydays of Israel. There is nobody, who can just enter the forecourts of God, demand an audience with him or even just catch a glimpse of his face without he himself granting this privilege, honour and right to do so. Not even the greatest of old prophets Moses himself could do that without God conceding this license and noblest of freedoms. It was the essence and joy of paradise that Adam and Eve could walk, talk and be with their God and creator face to face on a daily basis. That’s what was lost with the fall into temptation trusting the serpent’s charms more than God’s clear rules and regulations. With paradise lost (Milton), mankind was on an ongoing quest to seek God’s face yet unable to find it. Restless he would transverse the globe, plodding the pathways through jungle and desert, across mountains and oceans he would go, seeking the lost grail, the vanished arc and the elusive unicorn – only to realize in the best scenario that it was all in vain and trying to catch the wind. Not even by philosophies profundities or religious complexities and extremes was this goal attainable. It remains the sad truth of fallen man, “that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.” (Martin Luther’s Explanation of the 3rd Article of the Apostolic Creed) and without him, there is no finding of God, never mind getting to him, seeing, appeasing or staying with him on good terms. Outside of Christ – the centre, head and life of the Church – there is no life and salvation, but only condemnation, empty vanities and desolation and never ending death and dying.
The wonderful tiding in this context however is, that the triune God himself did not let man just vanish from his presence to get lost and perish. Rather from the very beginning it has been God’s mission to call Adam back to him and restore him to paradise and the lost privileges of his enduring care and most merciful and gracious presence and favour. So God opened up the way to him. He let his son Jesus Christ go and seek and find the lost, so that he would repair the broken relationship of those lost sons and daughters with their heavenly father, return them to the family mansions in heaven and open up the communication so that they could call upon him as the little children do with their dearly beloved and most trusted father. That is why he has taught us to pray with the “Our Father” for “God would thereby [with this little introduction] tenderly urge us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.” (Martin Luther’s introductory explanation of the Lord’s prayer). See, God himself encourages us to pray and has promised to hear us for Christ’s sake – just like he heard Hezekiah’s prayer for the people and consequently healed them. He still does so today: Hear and answer our prayers and do great things, because he’s our heavenly Father and wants us to love, trust and fear him above all things. That is why he daily and mercifully fills us with goodness in the works of his creation, salvation and sanctification.
He even sees the hidden desires and hopes in our hearts like he did with Zacchaeus. He goes and calls him down from the tree, visits him at home and restores him to the holy family of God consisting entirely of forgiven sinners, who are at peace with their heavenly Father through the gracious forgiveness worked by the Lord and saviour of the world: Jesus Christ. Wherever he enters in, there life and salvation follow suit. Thanks and praise be to him our God and savior, he our Lord and king, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit – one God now and forever. Amen.
The peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with you always + Amen.
- Hear us, Father, when we pray, through Your Son and in Your Spirit. By Your Spirit’s Word convey all that we through Christ inherit, that as baptized heirs we may truly pray.
- When we know not what to say and our wounded souls are pleading, my Your Spirit, night and day, groan within us interceding; by His sighs, too deep for words, we are heard.
- Jesus, advocate on high, sacrificed on Calvry’s altar, through Your priestly blood we cry: hear our prayers, though they may falter; place them on Your Father’s throne as your own.
- By Your Spirit now attend to our prayers and supplications, as like incense they ascend to Your heav’nly habitations. May their fragrance waft above, God of love.
(Chad L Bird: * 1970.)