But Deliver Us From Evil
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
The Lord's Prayer - The Seventh Petition
"But Deliver Us From Evil"
"Rescue." It's not a word that pops up in everyday conversation, but everyone seems to know what it means: to bring something or someone out of danger, to save. We've got rescue crews of dedicated people whose mission is to go out save others from hazardous situations, often putting themselves in harm's way. Firemen, paramedics, and other specialized workers often drive down the street right in front of our congregation, rushing to where this life-saving work is needed. But rescue doesn't have to come from a bright-red fire engine. So what does "rescue" mean to us?
We want rescue in our lives. It might not seem this way at first, but think for a moment about popular culture. For at least the better part of the past hundred years, we have lifted up stories of heroes, from the Shadow and the Lone Ranger to Superman and Batman. Heroes and superheroes who rescue people - even planets - from peril. Maybe sometimes you'd like to be the hero, saving the day for the people around you, taking a stand against the forces of evil and the legion of doom that threatens to overwhelm our world. We want rescue in our lives - not just in fiction, but in reality: how many of us have ever been in a situation where we find ourselves longing to be somewhere else? (Any classes, business meetings, or doctor's offices come to mind?) Are we like the rich fool in today's gospel lesson, hoping to find deliverance in the abundance of possessions, or a comfortable lifestyle, or a sizeable retirement account? We want rescue because it brings us to safety. And truth be told, we need rescue.
We need rescue in our lives because we are in danger. Last week, in our discussion of the Sixth Petition of the Lord's Prayer, we heard about how the forces of sin, the world, and the devil seek to do us harm. Just a few days ago, the people of Minneapolis saw firsthand a tragic consequence of our life in a fallen and falling-apart world when the Interstate-35 bridge collapsed. That which we've built up around us with our imperfect hands can fall down. We need to be rescued from the dangers to life and limb that surround us, both seen and unseen. We need to be rescued from evil men who plot and plan to steal from, hurt, kill, or exploit their neighbors. We need to be rescued from illness and disease. We need to be rescued from attitudes that place more emphasis on personal comfort than on reaching out to those in need. We need to be rescued from living lives that depend on the things of this world instead of depending on God. We need rescue: this is why we need to pray the Seventh Petition.
"... but deliver us from evil." With these words, we pray for rescue. In the Greek text, this petition literally reads, "but deliver us from the evil one." The devil is our chief enemy, and he is the one who sets out to see that we do not keep God's name holy, or that God's will be done and His kingdom come among us. The devil does not want us to get our daily bread and be thankful for it. He does not want us to have the clear conscience that comes with the forgiveness of sins. He is the one who wages war against us, and it is against the devil and all this evil that we pray to be rescued. In Luther's Large Catechism, he writes the following about the Seventh Petition: "So there is nothing for us to do upon earth but to pray against this archenemy without stopping. For unless God preserved us, we would not be safe from this enemy even for an hour."
Luther also notes that this petition of the Lord's Prayer is something of a summary of all the others that preceded it. If we are asking to be delivered from evil and the evil one, we are also asking that God's name be hallowed in us, that His kingdom come among us, and His will be done in our lives. Both in this present life and, ultimately, in the life to come, that is the result of the rescue: we are delivered from evil and delivered into a restored relationship with the God who gives Himself for us. When we need rescue, He is the only one to whom we can turn. God is the only source of true rescue, whether physical or spiritual. He is the One who gives us our lives as a gift, and He is the one who preserves them.
Perhaps you've seen dramatic stories of rescue in any number of popular magazines. Someone steps forward to act heroically, risking his or her own safety to bring a stranger out of harm's way. Sometimes, we read that a strong friendship developed between the rescuer and the one who has been saved, two people joined by a struggle between life and death. As Christians, we have been connected by an even stronger bond to the one who saved us from death. Jesus, who taught us how to pray, took our place on the cross to rescue us from the perilous situation into which we'd thrown ourselves. He acted heroically, taking the extreme measure of giving up his life to bring us out of death. He delivered us from evil and the evil one. And in Baptism, he binds us to himself with a bond that the devil cannot break.
Last week, I promised you a two-part sermon. This petition is that second part. The Rock of salvation, the Rock on which our faith is built, brings us rescue from the enemies that would assault us. Jesus is that Rock, and he is a work in our lives. He has sent the Holy Spirit to be at work in us, in you. He teaches us through his Word so that we might be equipped for life in this world and for the challenges that we face from day to day in a world that keeps collapsing.
The God who rescues us calls us to come to Him in prayer. Over the past eight weeks, we've reflected on how we should pray, what we ask God for in prayer. That which we most desperately need He gives freely: forgiveness. Rescue from our sin. When we call out for rescue in the Seventh Petition, we're not only asking for salvation in the here-and-now. The time will come when our life on earth will end; therefore, we come before our Father and ask Him to remember His Son, to rescue us from the evil one, to bring us into the life to come, for Jesus' sake.
And so we pray, "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," calling out to God. We can be confident that He is with us, that the One who prepares us for the battle stands guard over us in the day-to-day struggles of our lives. When we call out, the Rescuer is there.
Let us pray: Eternal Father strong to save, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil and the evil one. Your Son defeated sin, death, and the devil so that we may enjoy the fruits of His labor. Grant us faithfulness in this life, especially when we experience the attacks of the devil through misery and misfortune, uncertainty and evil. Having rescued us from our sin, lead us onward. Set our minds on things that are above, and deliver us safe to Your kingdom, which has no end.*