The Friend at Night

Luke 11:1-13 –

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.[
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c]
And lead us not into temptation.[

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e]he will surely 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 the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Prayer: Lord – God —- Savior – Redeemer — how good it is to come together this morning with our families and our friends – we are all here to praise you and to thank you. Help us, today, to be reminded of the special people that you have brought into our lives—those who bless us and love us. Give us the strength and courage to return our love to them. Amen

  1. Today is Father’s Day. This is a time when we honor our fathers – just like we did with our mothers on Mother’s Day. It is a day to remember – it is a day to cry – it is a day to celebrate – it is a day to appreciate — it may be a day to forgive.
  2. Being a father is much more than a biological action. Certainly, that was part of it, but that momentary flash of sparks was nothing compared to the intense relational role of being a father. And being a father is hard, but joyful work.
  3. I am certain that you are now wondering just how today’s Scripture ties into Father’s Day. Stay with me.
  4. Pause
  5. Most of the time in the New Testament, Jesus speaks in parables. There are over 40 different parables in the four Gospels.
    1. A parable is, literally, something “cast alongside” something else.
    2. Jesus’ parables were stories that were “cast alongside” a truth in order to illustrate that truth.
    3. His parables were teaching aids and can be thought of as extended analogies or inspired comparisons.
    4. A common description of a parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
  6. The parable of the friend at midnight is one of several parables that only appear in Luke.
    1. The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are two others unique to Luke’s Gospel.
    2. As we look closely at this morning’s Scripture we see that before today’s parable comes the Lord’s Prayer, which emphasizes Jesus’ close, prayerful relationship with God envisioned as Father.
    3. After the parable comes an urging to persevere in prayer to God.
  7. Pause
  8. If you came and stood on my front step and rang the doorbell, you might not notice the little tiny glass circle just above it.
    1. You might not realize that it’s a door camera.
    2. Whenever there is motion in the front of our house, my cell phone buzzes. It buzzes when the lawn mower comes by. It buzzes when the postal service drops a package and it buzzes when someone rings the bell.
    3. Also, the phone records the action at the front door.
    4. It is a security feature of our house and —- also a nuisance.
  9. If you had one of these Ring devices on your front door – just think what previews you may have before you answer the door.
    1. It’s our neighbor’s eight-year-old daughter in a green dress with sash covered with badges. Selling Girl Scout cookies – and I am an energetic buyer — the chocolate covered mint cookies — what kind to you like?
    2. Oh, look — there is a florist’s truck in my driveway and the florist standing there with flowers.
    3. Or dads– there is a nervous looking young man in a tuxedo holding a corsage. Your daughter dressed in that lovely prom gown, jumps up and starts to run to the door, then catches herself and begins to walk in a statelier manner. Remember this moment?
  10. Ring camera doorbells have only been around for several years. In the past hundreds of years, most of the time you would answer the door without knowing who was at the door.
  11. PAUSE
  12. You couldn’t get away with not answering the door in a first century Palestinian village.
    1. You wouldn’t grumble and try to get out of giving bread to the friend at midnight standing on your door, either.
    2. Everyone in the village baked their bread at the village oven. They all know who has fresh bread.
    3. The custom is that you serve your fresh bread to company.
  13. Plus, the houses were so close together that when the needy friend stands on your doorstep pounding on your door at midnight, everybody up and down the street knows they’re there and you’re not getting out of bed to help them.
    1. To grumble like this would bring shame on one’s family and one’s village.
    2. And nobody in that village 2,000 years ago would want to be the one to destroy its reputation for gracious hospitality to travelers with their grumbling.
  14. Today is Father’s Day.
    1. It is a day when we stand on our father’s doorstep and offer him thanks.
    2. How do you thank a good father?
      1. With a card and an invitation to lunch.
      2. With a cordless drill, a Weber grill, or a hobby tie? Those are the three most popular Father’s Day gifts this year.
  15. My father always worked hard. He worked for Bethlehem Steel Shipyards in Baltimore. I was a toddler during WWII and my father worked all the time. He was deferred from the Army because the construction of the Liberty Ships was a high priority. He worked all the time. But he also was there for my brother and me. On my father’s hourly wage, I was able to go to the University of Maryland – the first to graduate from College. Like most dads – my father was there when my car broke down on the BW Parkway. He celebrated my marriage to Ann with one of his ditty stories at our wedding. My father was there for his grandchildren – we were close together, but all families have good times and not so good times. My father’s mantra was that men do not cry and do not hug – especially other men. It took me a long time to change that.
    1. My father’s health declined as he aged, but his humor was always there. Hi emphysema began to take hold of him and restrict him to just sitting and wheezing. As he neared his 84th birthday, he was in Carroll Hospital for two weeks — and the family prepared a birthday party in his room. As the cake was being presented and the candles lit, we looked at my father and he had just died —we sang happy birthday and then said the Lord’s prayer.
  16. Pause
  17. The Lord’s prayer! It is an ancient prayer. A prayer that tells us so much about God in so few words: “Father, hallowed be thy name. They kingdom come. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins.”
  18. I recognize a good father when I see one.
    1. A good father, in terms of our parable, is someone you can count on to come to the door and offer you nourishment when you show up on his doorstep.
    2. A good father offers you an egg or a fish, not a snake or a scorpion.
    3. A good father is someone who, though he has caller i.d., still answers the phone when you call and offers you encouragement.
  19. It’s a privilege to be the parent to a daughter and son. — it is interesting, when you get a phone call – it depends who answers the call — when the call is for Ann – it usually involves – some words of understanding and compassion – for me – “how is something to be fixed” — In time theses questions still tend to bond the relationships.
  20. In the story about the Prodigal Son— A good father, in Luke’s view, is one who doesn’t just wait inside the manor house for you to come crawling back home, but who, throwing dignity to the wind, runs down the path to meet you with tears on his face.
  21. In the Good Samaritan story —  A good father, in Luke’s view, is one who comes out to where you’re lying in the ditch, beaten up by life, and picks you up, binds your wounds, and loves you into healing.
  22. Maybe you’ve never known a father like that. Maybe you have.
  23. Jesus began his prayer, “Father,” not because he wanted people to equate God with their human fathers. God knows and we know human parents can hurt as well as heal.
    1. Jesus prayed “Our Father” realizing that God’s identity and purposes exceed our ability to understand or articulate them.
    2. But he also knew that we human beings, with our limited knowledge, need to make comparisons between God and what we know.
    3. We know about family relationships, at least what they could be.
    4. The prophet Isaiah portrays God as a mother, picking up her young and carrying them when they are tired. Jesus himself depicts God as a mother hen shielding her people under her wings.
  24. Jesus’ prayer was a simpler, more direct, personal prayer.
  25. “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins.”
  26. Why do you think this was the prayer that sprang to my mind as my earthly father lay dying?
    1. Because it addresses a God who is honorable (hallowed be your name)
    2. who is accessible (your kingdom come)
    3. who is dependable (give us this day our daily bread)
    4. This is the God to whom Jesus prayed and taught us to pray. The day my father died, he needed to be reminded who it was that awaited him.
    5. So, did I.
  27. I found a story about actor Burt Reynolds telling about his dad in an interview with Barbara Walters years ago.
    1. His dad was a sheriff in a small Southern town, beloved by everyone, but strict with his son.
    2. Burt respected and feared him but yearned for some sign of tenderness or approval.
    3. Burt said, “Our family lived by two simple rules: “No crying. No hugging.”
    4. He went on, “There is a saying in the South that ‘no man is a man until his father tells him he is,’ and I hadn’t yet gotten that message from my father. I kept hoping someday I’d hear it.”
  28. In the meantime, his hopes of being a professional football player were destroyed by an injury and his hopes of being an actor were growing dim. A few bit parts in his twenties left him, at age 32, the best unknown actor in Hollywood.
  29. Then his marriage to Judy Carne hit the rocks. This would be the first divorce in his family. He remembers staring at the phone, knowing he had to call home and break the news, but afraid that his dad would come to the phone instead of his mother. Yet, wanting more than anything to hear his father’s voice — standing there, staring at the phone, not able to make himself to pick it up.
  30. There is more to come.
  31. When people called upon Jesus – who did they meet when he opened the door? Who did they hear on the other end of the phone line?
    1. To his disciples, panicking in a storm at sea, “Help us, we are perishing in this high gale! (Luke 8:22) – Jesus was there.
    2. To Jairus, a leader in the synagogue who fell at Jesus’ feet, “My l2 year old daughter is at the point of death (Luke 8:40)  Jesus was there.
    3. To a woman who fell at Jesus’ feet and begged for mercy “I have suffered from a flow of blood for 12 years.” (Luke 8:47) — Jesus was there.
  32. When they called upon Jesus, knocked on his door, they were met by a person who had bread to give and who gave it gladly.
    1. Because he prayed. Early in the morning in a quiet place, late in the evening alone in the mountains, in a garden while the footsteps of your betrayers approached and your closest friends on earth lay sleeping. He prayed.
  33. And he gives us this advice about prayer in our lives.
    1. Ask and it will be given to you.
    2. Search and you will find;
    3. knock and the door will be opened for you.
    4. For everyone who asks receives and everyone who searches finds and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
  34. Back to the Burt Reynolds story.
  35. After staring at the at telephone on the table, dreading calling home to tell the news of his pending divorce, Burt Reynolds says he finally picked up the phone, dialed his parents’ number with shaking hands, and, thank God, got his mother on the phone. “Mom, Judy and I are getting a divorce. No, it’s final. Mom, tell him I’m sorry. Tell him I’ve failed again, and that I’m sorry.” Then,” he says, I heard this other voice on the phone. “Why don’t you come on home, son,” my father said, “and let me tell you about all the times I’ve failed in my life?”
  36. Pause
  37. Suppose you don’t have a door camera. Or if you have one, you forget to turn it on and when the doorbell rang, without thinking, you went to the door and opened it. And suppose God was standing on your porch. You chew on your lower lip and ask nervously “How can I help you?”
  38. God quirked an eyebrow and said. “It’s the other way around, or have you so soon forgotten what you said to me last night? I was listening. I certainly wasn’t sleeping. And I distinctly remember,” says God, “that at approximately 12:01 this morning, as you lay in your bed with anxious thoughts rattling around in your mind, you called out to me.”
  39. God continued, “I clearly remember what you said next. You said, ‘Lord, You are calling me to be a friend at midnight to others. Come to me now, be my friend at midnight. I need some bread.’”
  40. “Why do you look so surprised to see me? Did you think I wouldn’t come to the door? Well, here I am, as promised. Are you going to let me in?”
  41. Pause
  42. Thanks be to God!
  43. [1] Paraphrased from Alyce M. McKenzie is Professor of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University