Rev. Miller Hoffman
Open Door MCC
July 30, 2017
Ask and Receive
Last Sunday we celebrated Christmas in July and focused on the joy and celebration of giving and receiving and what it means for God to intersect with humanity through Jesus.
The gospel reading last week was also about giving. What does it tell us?
It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples. And he said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, holy be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day the bread that we need. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into trial.'”
Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to the friend at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey and I have nothing to set on the table. And from inside the friend answers and says, ‘Do not bother me. The door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though your friend will not get up and give you anything because of your friendship, yet because of shamelessness your friend will get up and give you as much as you need. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and the one who seeks, finds.
There are so many ways that this passage is troubling. Back home in Iowa, we learned a few things about social cues. One or two. You don’t show up on your friend’s doorstep at midnight asking for three loaves of bread. It just isn’t done. You don’t yell from the inside of the house and tell people to go away, neither. You lay there quietly and pretend to be asleep, like all well-mannered folk. And you always say please. There is nary a please in this entire passage of praying and asking and seeking and knocking. It’s shameless, really.
Jesus tells us to call God Father, and then proceeds to illustrate both father and friend. God is a father who knows, even better than we imperfectly know, how to love children. God is a father who gives not only fish and eggs when we ask, but gives us holy breath – that ease, that simplicity, that longing to have and participate in a world of Enough, of forgiveness and respite. God is a friend who will go next door to get bread for you when you arrive in the middle of the night. God is a friend who will get up at midnight to hand out the bread, though the door was shut and everyone was in bed.
I know this is upsetting to some folks who would say that I’m painting God in pastels and petticoats. Who would say that our image of God as Dad and friend is the very sort of namby-pamby, wishy-washy pansy God that is the very thing wrong with the world. (I’m using those particular words intentionally in a week when the White House has attacked trans servicemembers and LGBT workplace protections.) But, folks, as there is nary a “please” to be had in the text, there is not one word of fire, brimstone, wheat, chaff, or plucking out body parts anywhere in this passage. Jesus is saying that God is our parent, and God is our friend.
Moreover, when Jesus says that — “God is your parent. God is your friend” — God is revealed to us. The words are given magical power that transforms us. God, the all-powerful, all-knowing, Master Of The Universe is revealed to us as family and friend. A present God, a personal God. A God who knows us intimately and acts in love and compassion to bring us ease, to bring us enough, to forgive and carry us not to trial. A God who walks with us and talks with us, and tells us that we are God’s own. A God who calls us by a name better than sons and daughters. A God who rejoices and weeps with us. God becomes local. And radically local, I would argue. Because when we are fully and truly transformed through the magic of this prayer, God is revealed to us as our family and our friend.
The prayer, the parable, the sayings teach us that holy breath is given to us all. Each person you know, each person you sit behind waiting to make a left turn, each person who comes to you asking for bread at midnight is family, is friend, is God. Each of us carries within us divine spark, namaste, to provide, to forgive, to deliver from trial.
How many times do we keep our struggles to ourselves? How many times do we hide our hunger, loneliness, our broken hearts? Because we want people to think we’re holding it together. Because our boss or coworkers or clients might think less of us if they knew the extent of our daily need. How many times do we fail to ask, Friend, talk to me. Listen to me. Do you have time for coffee? I want to weep. How many times does our pride or fear or timidness stand in the way of seeking divine respite in one another?
Jesus says ask, and keep on asking. Seek and knock, and do it repeatedly. Do it until you find, until the door is opened. Not only is there no “please” in this text (a mid-west mortal sin) nearly every verb of the prayer that Jesus teaches is an imperative: let it be holy, let it come, give, forgive, lead us not. And there is the shamelessness. There’s nothing namby-pamby, nothing pansy about it. Boldly, fearlessly, shamelessly, we are instructed to ask, seek, knock, and keep at it until we are given what we need.
I believe, with all of my heart, that when we give an egg and fish to one another, when we rise at midnight to welcome a traveler into our home, when we come at a moment’s notice, when we talk, listen, share coffee, laugh and weep with one another, when we mow each other’s lawn, when we break bread together, then this is also Christmas. This is a world where God’s name is respected and honored, a world where God’s reign has come.
This Sunday is the fifth Sunday after Pride and the gospel reading includes the wonderful parables of the mustard plant and the baker’s yeast. Why wonderful? Because these are weeds and bacteria, things considered dirty, contagious, unwanted, worthless. This week the White House has treated communities we care about deeply as weeds and mold, burdens and distractions. But just as Jesus proclaims the discarded to be priceless, so are the people on the margins (LGBTQ and shepherds! POC and eunuchs!) valued, beloved, and exemplars of God’s country. Join us at 10 am this Sunday to celebrate the margins and to lift up the so-called weeds and mold! Stay after to woo-hoo for July birthdays. Open Door is and has food for our journey.