Asher Brown, Bill Lucas, Justin Aaberg, Seth Walsh, Raymond Chess, Jack Korritang.
You may not recognize any of these names, but they are all kids under the age of 16 who killed themselves recently.
What they had in common is that all of them where made fun of at school for being different.
For example, Seth Walsh who was only 13 was told by one of his classmates that, “the world does not need another queer. You should go hang yourself.”
What kind of world do we live in where people can be so cruel, so rotten, so mean.
I don’t only blame the kids who bullied these kids, I blame us adults too.
We have somehow placed the idea in kids’ heads that it is ok to talk like this or make others feel bad about themselves.
But I guess the larger question for me, other then who is to blame, is how can I live in this world?
How can any of us survive and thrive knowing that this kind of inhumanity goes on?
I think the answer to that question is in today’s Gospel reading from Luke.
“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.”
Luke tells us what the parable is about before we even here it.
It is about our need to pray always and not to lose heart.
This parable is not about God.
It is not about the way that God answers prayers.
The parable is not saying that if only ask enough God will eventually give us what we want.
God does not answer every prayer, no matter how often we pray it.
We know this because if God did then no one would ever die, or be sick, or get hurt.
It is saying that in a world where thirteen year old kids hang themselves because they feel there is no better alternative we need to pray.
We need to be in contact with God.
And we need to be in contact with God so we can ask why this might happen.
We need to be in contact with God so that we can have a place to bring our confusion and anger.
We need to be in contact with God to ask for justice to be done in the name of all the people in the world who feel down and out.
We need to be in contact with God so like Jacob in our first reading we can wrestle with God and understand our lives and God’s love better.
This is what prayer is all about it is about a conversation we are constantly having with God.
It is not about our asking and God giving.
But a constant wrestling that happens when we engage God in the deepest questions of our lives.
Martin Luther wrote in the Large Catechism, “…nothing is so necessary as to call upon God incessantly and drum into his ears our prayer that he may give peace, preserve, and increase in us faith…”
Truth is there are a million things in our world that on any given day disturb us.
There are things in our own lives that make us wonder if the universe might be against us.
I hear people all the time talk about how bad things are getting for them.
For example, the single mother barely making it that all of sudden loses her job, and her Mother dies, and her son gets sick, and her car breaks down.
The family of four that loses their health care, and can’t keep up with the mortgage payment, they can’t seem to get ahead because something always goes wrong.
You hear these things all the time.
They might not be major injustices but they make us wonder if we are cursed or something.
This is why we constantly need to pray because it keeps us in contact with God.
It helps us to have faith that God cares about us.
It reminds us that things get better and that this is not the end.
This week I was mesmerized as I watched the minors in Chile being rescued from the mine.
I can’t even imagine being trapped in the dark underground for 69 days!
It must have been dark and at times seemed hopeless.
But they preserved.
And I am sure they prayed a lot in that time.
One of my favorite images of the rescue was of Mario Gomez the oldest of the miners rescued.
It was of him on his hands and knees after the rescue praying.
He said, “I never lost faith that we would be rescued.”
This is what it takes for us to get through all those dark times in our lives and still have faith.
This is what it takes all those times when things seem impossible or lost.
It takes us constantly praying, not because of God need but because of our need.
And we need God always in our lives.
This morning we celebrate two really extraordinary things.
One is the Baptism of Mitch Bartels.
I don’t know how many of you know Mitch but I have gotten to know him a little bit.
I got to tell you that he is a good kid.
And today after sober thinking he will be baptized.
Not because he is a good kid, but because he knows that in his life he has needed God, and I am here to tell him this morning that he will continue to need God.
Mitch today you receive from God an eternal promise that all your days God will be with you.
Do not underestimate that gift.
Use it throughout your life to remain in relationship with God to wrestle with God so that you might know God’s blessings.
Pray always so that you will know what God is doing in your life.
We are also celebrating today the service of June Iffland as our organist.
I am sad that I did not get the privilege of working with June.
But I am honored always to be her pastor.
I don’t know if I could be any more impressed with how far June has come in her recovery from her stroke.
Her recovery has been remarkable.
For June it was always about a resolve to keep going, and to overcome the odds.
And I know that for June she depends on God.
That she prays often to God and wrestle with God to know what is happening in her life.
Two people this morning on the opposite sides of life and both of them need prayer.
Both of them need to not lose heart, but to keep going and keep praying.
Just like those miners, just like the families of those kids who killed themselves, just like each and every one of us.
We need to keep praying, and never lose that personal connection we have with God because it is what helps us to have faith in difficult circumstances.
It is why Jesus tells the parable because he knows that his followers are going to face tough times.
He knows they are going to be persecuted for their faith.
And Jesus wants them to keep that faith until he comes again.
Jesus knows that we too will face difficult times.
We might have a stroke; we might lose our job, our homes, our friends, our loved ones.
Jesus knows that we will see many injustices in our world.
Jesus knows that sometimes people will lose their humanity and act with cruelty instead of love.
Jesus knows that there will be miners trapped, soldiers shot, the poor starved.
Jesus advice to us in all these times is to keep praying, and to have faith that our just and loving God is listening.
Have faith and know that God hears our cries and cares deeply about our hurts.
Let us not lose heart, but have faith in God.
Let us never cease to pray so that in our wrestling with God we will always know of God’s care and love for us.