By Justin Rossow
Thy will be done: Jesus gave us those words in the Lord’s Prayer. Thy will be done: Jesus prayed those words in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thy will be done: Jesus still uses those words to shape in us a life of repentance, a life of joy, a life of following Him.
Our journey through Lent in 2017 will be shaped by the theme, Thy Will Be Done. On Sundays we will be considering God’s will in light of that prayer of Jesus. How do we think about God’s will and God’s Kingdom, or God’s will for salvation, or God’s will when we are not willing? How does the prayer Thy Will Be Done affect how I see my own will, my own expectations, my own suffering?
On Wednesdays, during our Lenten Midweek Worship services at 7:00 p.m., we will be hearing from different characters from Scripture who all lived through, and were shaped by, Thy Will Be Done moments in the story. People like Isaac, Moses, Lydia, and Mary all experienced what it looks like in real life to put your will under the will of your Father in heaven. Their perspective will help us pray for, and live out, our dependence on Jesus.
I am so excited about this Lenten sermon series! It couldn’t come at a better time as St. Luke continues to walk a path toward a clearer expression of our vision, mission, and values. The prayer of lay leadership, staff, and our entire congregation has been Thy Will Be Done in this whole process. We don’t want our own will for St. Luke or for our future; we want what Jesus wants for us! So leaning into the biblical teaching surrounding our Lord’s prayer of dependence on the Father couldn’t come at a better time in the life of our congregation.
But this sermon series is not only a way of committing our vision process more and more securely to God’s will and direction, it also participates in the vision and mission God is shaping in us. First of all, it is both creative and focused on Jesus, and one of the things I have learned well about our congregation is that we are sold out on being Jesus-centered while we rejoice in a variety of expressions.
Secondly, the goal of this sermon series extends beyond Sunday morning. St. Luke will be providing not only Home Group discussion questions, but a Thy Will Be Done daily prayer booklet that aligns with the themes and reading of our sermon series. We want to resource the daily practice of honest and formative conversation with Jesus as we pray together: Thy Will Be Done. You can pick up your prayer booklet at St. Luke whenever you are in the building next. Please take one home and use it daily with the rest of your faith family.
Finally, our Thy Will Be Done Lenten sermon series is highly collaborative and a resource for the broader church. The seeds of this series were planted last August when I was asked to write a prayer booklet for Lent, and the booklet we are using at St. Luke is broadly available for other congregations, as well.
But the collaboration doesn’t stop there. I invited other pastors, professors, and congregations to partner with St. Luke as we create a resource for Lenten discipleship that could be used by others in the future. The result is that we are receiving content from pastors in Michigan, Nebraska, and Iowa, seminary professors who teach preaching in St. Louis, and an author who teaches theology in London! Already this year our Thy Will Be Done resources will guide Lent at St. Luke, Ann Arbor; Grace Lutheran in Canton, MI; Journey of Faith, Grand Rapids, MI; Cross of Christ, Bloomfield, MI; and King of Kings, Omaha, NE. And the plan is to refine our work and share it more broadly next year.
From what I have experienced at St. Luke, this kind of a project seems like it is right in the center of what gets us excited: it is focused on Jesus, creative yet biblically sound, formative beyond Sunday morning, and a collaborative resource for the broader Kingdom.
I can’t tell you how much it excites me to be part of a congregation that values things like that! As we continue our vision process, we will be able say more and more clearly what our values are, and how they affect our vision and direction.
But for now, please join me in praying for our future together. And lean into what Jesus has for you this Lent as we pray together: Thy Will Be Done.