By Stephen C. Rose
ON ASKING FOR GRACE AND GETTING IT
Matthew 7:7-11 >
Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and those that seek find. And to anyone who knocks, the door shall be opened. Who, when their children ask for bread, give stones? Or if they ask for a fish, give a snake? If you, being evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give to those who ask him?
Luke 11:5-13 >
After teaching them the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said to his disciples, “Suppose you go to a friend at midnight and ask to borrow three loaves of bread, because company has just come and you have no food in the house? Suppose your friend tells you he cannot do it, his children are sleeping and there is just no way he can lend you the bread. Well I say he may not get up for friendship’s sake, but if you press him hard
enough he will get up and give you as much as you need. So I say 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 all who seek find and to those who knock the door opens.
“Now if a son asks bread from any fathers among you, will you give him a stone? If he asks for a fish, will you give him a snake? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?
WHAT IS THIS?
A familiar teaching. It has almost become a bit of philosophy that refers to our everyday life. But it is clear from the texts that Jesus is speaking of the utter necessity of turning to God, not on the basis of friendship (though that exists) but because of deep need. Luke makes it clear that this gift is the same force or energy that envelops Jesus at baptism and protects him in the desert: the Holy Spirit. Again, we see Jesus as a grace-bearer. Not by their goodness will the disciples be rewarded, but by their turning, believing, their asking, seeking and knocking. Seeking access to the source — to God alone.
WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT JESUS?
It says he is aware that God has reason to judge all of us. He knows we are enmeshed in the very evil from which we are taught to pray for deliverance. It is not outside us, but inside as well. The only gift that can cleanse us and make us happy in the sense of the Beatitudes, is the Holy Spirit. And only God can give it. It says Jesus is laying out what is close to a law — that from now on God will listen to a plea for the cleansing by fire which the Spirit brings. But we must ask.
HOW TO … ACCORDING TO JESUS?
Turn to God for the basics — always, even when you feel sunk in evil, self-pity, guilt, remorse. Know that God does not give to one because of friendship and withold from another because of non-friendship. The giving is based on the turning, the asking, the seeking, the knocking. That is the key, not anything else you do or don’t do.
There has been a strand of understanding that suggests that prosperity and salvation are synonymous. Is this so in the light of the Beatitudes and the subsequent teachings that Matthew and Luke (and sometimes Mark) record?
A N U N C O M M O N L E C T I O N A R Y
Wednesday, February 22, 1995 MAKE OF OUR LIVES THE OFFERING YOU SEEK
[Make of our lives the offering you seek DO Ti La So Fa Mi Re Do]
EZEKIEL 43:21 You shall take the bullock also of the sin offering, and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house, outside the sanctuary.
MARK 7:21 For from within, out of your hearts, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders.
2 CORINTHIANS 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; so you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound in every good work.
Seed Thoughts: Is this Paul, the apostle of justification, speaking? Certainly. To the wayward Corinthians he includes sufficiency in good works as the fruit of the abundant grace he wishes for the people. And I promise that I am not stacking texts. We simply have another catalogue from the mouth of the one Abba asked us to listen to: To previous utterances we must now add murders and evil thoughts, recalling
at least one point when Jesus links those two transgressions. To turn to Ezekiel is to be forced to ask the question: What does the seeming absence of sacrifice in the form of the slaying of four-footed creatures in the work of Jesus say about its presence in the ritual worship of not only the Israelites but any other sects which happen to share a sense that animal sacrifice is efficacious. Why murder a beast to get right with Abba? And even if one could show that there was some sacred motive to all this bloodshed, is it worth
it to cast the ministry of Jesus to us in these terms, turning it possibly from one thing into another? I do not pose answers at this point. Only the hint of one: I believe that there is a great rift in understanding between people who see “us” as unique and the animal-vegetable-mineral world as essentially a stage and equipment that, like the body, is a passing thing; and those who in the name of eco-awareness and even New Age understanding posit a continuum. No dualism has any ultimate place in the world-view of those who follow the author of the statement that a house divided cannot stand. So even the distinction just posed is not absolute — merely a way of phrasing a query. All part of an effort to come to terms with … everything.
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