7 Pentecost - Luke 11:1-13

Especially in Luke's gospel, Jesus has been flummoxing preachers and pious theologians

for centuries with his wild, unpredictable images of God.

There's the shepherd who endangers the whole flock to chase one wayward sheep, paired

with the woman frantically sweeping house to find a coin.

There's the shameless old man running out to greet his sorry excuse for a son.

There's the boss who fires his business manager on a rumor and then praises him

for cheating him so cleverly.

There's the judge with no respect for anyone who is browbeaten into helping a widow.

Bible libraries are full of commentators twisting themselves into knots trying to

explain what Jesus really meant because it can't possibly be what it sounds like;

those images don't fit God at all.

Which, of course, is the point.

Jesus is at it again today, answering his disciple who looked over his shoulder at what the

other kids were doing with their teacher and asked, Lord, teach us to pray.

Jesus gives them a very brief, surprising prayer to say:

Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, give us tomorrow's bread,

forgive us because we forgive others, don't sue us.

Christians have since come along to edit, expand, and sanitize this into something that

sounds much more pious and prayerlike.

Jesus, however, keeps moving to more jarring analogies.

Suppose your friend shows up unannounced and hungry in the middle of the

night and you have nothing to feed him and Denny's is closed.

You go next door and bang on the window.

"Hey, I need some bread for my friend who just arrived!"

Your neighbor, groggy and trapped under children and pets in his bed, suggests

somewhere else you should go.

Yet because of his shamelessness (questionably translated persistence), he will get up and

give him whatever he needs.

Whose shamelessness?

Yours for banging on his window and waking up the house?

Or his shamelessness, avoiding the certain shame that would come upon him when the

story got out that he did not show hospitality in a crisis?

Is he reluctantly helping a friend or reluctantly covering his own social behind or just

giving in to get rid of a noisy nuisance?

Whatever the case, the grumpy neighbor delivers the goods; if you can get bread out of a

guy like that, why not ask God too?

After all, even evil people like you know how to give good gifts to your children.

How much more will the Daddy of heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask


Since God compares favorably to sleepy, grumpy neighbors and evil parents, Jesus

encourages us to ask, seek, knock, pray.

But he is doing more than making that rather pedestrian point.

He is also planting seeds, or maybe bombs, in the soil of his disciples' brains.

These seeds will expand and grow; these bombs will detonate.

God is like a grumpy neighbor?

I am evil and also good to my children?

What is this Holy Spirit that God will give instead of what I asked for?

And why all this talk with a traveling band of adult men about children?

When we pray, what, or who, are we getting ourselves into?

Jesus is stretching us beyond our mental limits to prepare us for the limitless Mystery.

He intentionally blows the lids off our neat little boxes to open us up to


He is leading us away from God, the idea in our heads, to God the reality, which is a

whole different kettle of snake.

He very intentionally paints pictures of things that we're sure God cannot be to dislodge

us from the lie that God cannot be; God can be anything God chooses to be.

If disciples pray, it will go to the living, dynamic creator and not some limited, stale

concept in their created minds.

Because what this real God constantly chooses to be is in relationship with us.

All of which leads us to the first two words of the prayer Jesus taught: