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Category Archives: Prayer

Made to Worship: The Possibilities of Prayer

(a sermon for September 16, 2018, the 17th Sunday after Pentecost; second in a series, based on Ephesians 3:14-21 and Matthew 7:7-12)

The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther said it:  “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”  And to this I would add that nowhere is this proven true more than in our time of worship together.

Actually, it’s so much a part of our routine here on a Sunday morning that it might just escape our notice how often we do pray during our service of worship.  There’s the “prayer of invocation” at the beginning of the service in which we quite literally invoke the name and presence of God on our time together, there’s the “pastoral prayer” in which I lead you in our prayers of joy, concern and intercession for one another, the church and the world, and of course, we almost always repeat the Lord’s Prayer together; but then, we also say a prayer to dedicate our offerings to the glory of God and the work of the church, we pray a simple prayer of thanksgiving with the kids following the children’s message, and I always need to ask that “the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts” be acceptable in God’s sight as I stand up here to start the sermon!  This is to say nothing of the additional prayers we say during communion or when there’s a baptism happening; and I should also add that it can well be said that so much of the rest of what we do here – the songs we sing, the times of laughter, tears and silence we share, and most especially the reading and proclamation of holy scripture – each in its own way includes and encourages an attitude of prayer!

All of this is to suggest to you this morning that everything we do here in our worship in fact constitutes a discipline of prayer; truly, without prayer at the center of it our gathering together – while communal and social in nature, inspirational and maybe even entertaining (!) – isn’t really worship at all! A discipline of prayer, you see, is what makes this time we share all about God, as opposed to all about us!  Moreover, prayer is essential to the Christian life and an imperative for the work of the church; it would not only be arrogant of us, but also foolhardy to think that we should do anything – in and out of worship – without first discerning the presence and guidance of God in that endeavor.  Prayer is, as Martin Luther suggested, akin to our very breathing as people of faith: it is what gives us life, it’s what invigorates us for standing firm in what we believe as God’s people and it’s what strengthens us for true discipleship in Jesus’ name. Indeed, if it is true that we are “made to worship,” than it is also true that we are made to pray.

Of course, none of this is to say that we are to adhere to some rigid interpretation of what that “discipline of prayer” looks like; the truth is there are as many “styles” of prayerful worship as there are traditions of faith, from the very liturgical “high church” approach to the order of service to a more deeply contemplative mixture of word and silence.  Quite often even the ways we hold ourselves in prayer varies widely from church to church and even person to person!

Some years ago, Lisa and I attended a week-long pastor’s conference out in California together with hundreds of other clergy-types and their spouses from throughout the country and across the denominational spectrum; and honestly our shared worship was one of the highlights of that experience.  But I will say it was different, in that we all had our own ways to worship and pray; in fact, I have to confess something to you: that one day while we were supposed to be deep in the spirit of prayer I kind of… well, looked up to check out what everyone else was doing!  (I know… but I was curious and wanted to see!) And it was an amazing thing to see: a few of my colleagues were in what one might consider  “reverent” posture – hands folded, eyes closed, head bowed – and yet there were many whose eyes and hands were lifted heavenward, their whole bodies swaying back and forth as they prayed.  Others were embracing one another, arm in arm with tablemates who perhaps up till that moment had been perfect strangers; and then there were a few who purposefully had gone off by themselves seeking some “blessed quietness” amidst the crowd, so to speak to God one on one!  And then there was the young man from the so-called “emergent church” tradition who had taken off both of his shoes and was walking around in bare feet – yup, his bare feet (!) – because, as I learned later on, he felt that when the church is at prayer, the sanctuary – whatever form it happens to take, be it cathedral or banquet hall – is holy ground, and so he was hearkening back to the Lord’s words to Moses, “Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) And here we all were, gathered together as the Body of Christ in that place, praying as one to the same God we loved and who loves us beyond measure!

The point is, there are as many styles of Christian prayer as there are people in this room, and then some; and that in the end, the words we say, the liturgy we use, or the stance we take in our prayers is of lesser importance than the place of God in that prayer.  And so it is with our worship together: whether the words we say come to us courtesy of a unison prayer printed in the bulletin, or if those petitions come directly from “the eloquence of a silent heart,” the bottom line is that as we worship, you and I need to be bringing ourselves and our lives wholly and completely to the Lord in the spirit of prayer.

Actually, there’s a wonderful quote from one E.M. Bounds, who was a 19th century Methodist pastor and prolific writer, on this matter of prayer that for me says it all:  Prayer, he wrote, “puts God in the matter with commanding force.”  Those words might have been written over 100 years ago, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s cutting edge Christian thought!  It’s a message that Christians today needs to hear (!); and, might I add, a truth that you and I at East Church would do well to embrace as our own, that whether it’s worship, fellowship or service we are always to put “God in the matter with commanding force.” And to do so begins with prayer.

Prayer spells the difference between trying to do things by our own strength and putting our lives and living in the power of God’s graceful and providential heart.  That is not to say that the Lord does not respond to our petitions and our persistence; that’s central to our gospel reading this morning:  “Ask and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you… how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”   After all, as Jesus himself said, what parent, when their child asks for bread, will give a stone?  God does answer prayer, beloved; with God, blessings abound, strength and peace are abundant, and miracles can and do happen; but first we must give our prayer to God!  What we’re talking about here is a difference in attitude; it’s moving from focusing wholly on ourselves and our own abilities to get things done, to focusing on God and his unlimited resources for our lives and for his kingdom in our midst.

E.M. Bounds again:  “How vast are the possibilities of prayer!  How wide is its reach!  What great things are accomplished by this divinely appointed means of grace!  It lays its hand on Almighty God and moves him to do what he would not otherwise do if prayer was not offered.  It brings things to pass which would never otherwise occur.”

It sounds incredible when you hear it that way!  And yes, God sometimes says “no.”  Sometimes our prayers seem to go unanswered, but the reality may be that God is responding to our need in a way we couldn’t even begin to comprehend when we said our prayer in the first place; it is true what they say about God working in mysterious ways! And also… oftentimes the response to our prayers is less about adjusting the situation we’re in than it is adjusting us for the situation!  But the point that Bounds makes here is that God does work; and the first step for God to work as God will work is for us to come to God in prayer.  It does seem to me, friends, that what with all the challenges we face in the church – and the world – in these times that the first and best thing we can do is to embrace all the many possibilities that prayer opens up before us and to truly let God act on those matters with God’s own commanding force!

I ask you today, wouldn’t it be great if our lives as persons and as a people could transcend the kind of concerns that always conspire to try and hold us back; you know what I’m talking about: the concerns, the fears, the “what if” questions that always seem to accompany boldness and risk?  Wouldn’t it be something if the decisions we make and the priorities we set for ourselves come about because of prayerful consideration, trusting in God to provide for us amidst our concerns?  Do you remember how just a very few years ago, every computer or laptop would claim that their PC’s are “Pentium Powered?”  That was the end-all be-all claim that that computer could accomplish… anything!  So, how would it be, then, if you and I were to make the claim that we are truly “God powered?”  We also could accomplish anything!

In the end, you see, prayer is not about the words we say, nor how we say them.  It’s the open heart attitude that we bring to God that makes all the difference; it’s loving God and trusting God to lead us to the place we should be with all power.  Indeed, as Paul said to the Christians at Ephesus, “for this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name… and I pray that you may have the power to comprehend… what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

It’s true:  after all, isn’t he the one who promises us the presence of his son, our Savior Jesus, both in times of trial and rejoicing, and who offers up his Spirit so that we might always have a sense of his presence and power as we go?  It’s our gift, beloved, one that is filled with possibilities; all we really need to is accept that gift with love and gratitude… to pray.

So let us pray with thanksgiving to the God who comes with commanding force into our hearts and lives and world.

AMEN and AMEN.

c. 2018  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Jesus Who Prays For Me

(a sermon for May 13, 2018, the 7th Sunday of Easter, based on  John 17:6-21)

What a feeling it is to realize that you have been prayed for.

It’s been almost 20 years now, but as you can imagine, the events surrounding our oldest son’s first surgery for the removal of a pituitary tumor are still indelibly etched in our family’s collective memory.  All of it: from the discovery, after a long search, of the tumor itself and the decision that something akin to brain surgery (the first of what turned out to be four such procedures over the next ten years or so) would be necessary to remove it; through the countless doctors’ appointments, consultations and follow-up visits; and leading up to all those horrible hours spent in hospital waiting rooms waiting for news.  It was a difficult situation, to say the very least; and this is to say nothing of the hard realization that all the medical advances in the world mean nothing when it’s your kid being wheeled into the operating room!

But that said I also have to say that what I also remember about that time was being awed, amazed and utterly humbled by the prayers being prayed for our son.  Now, we knew that our families and our friends would be praying for Jake as he was going through this, and that of course meant everything; and given not only that we were members of a close-knit church family but also that I was pastor of that congregation, we were very grateful to know that the church would be praying as well!  But I guess what was surprising was the depth, intensity and the utter expanse of that prayerfulness; as revealed by the women who gathered in the sanctuary on the morning of the surgery so that they could pray together at the exact moment the doctors were operating; or as evidenced by the prayers coming from the people in other churches in town, as well as from those at Jake’s school, others throughout the community and even from perfect strangers (!) who would came up to us in the supermarket to embrace us and let us know in a variety of ways that they’d been praying for us.

Friends, over the course of several months we got cards and letters from people we hadn’t heard from in forever or barely knew at all; and not only that, but also notes from churches out of town (and even out of state!) who wished us well and who wanted us to know that Jake’s name had been brought up in prayer concerns during morning worship!  I think my favorite, however, were the cards and pictures that came to us from an anonymous someone in Connecticut – we never did find out exactly who – but which was always signed by their cat, “Mittens;” as in, “Mittens is praying that Jake feels “purr-fect” very soon!”

It was amazing, it was uplifting… and it mattered.  It not only offered up to us a large measure of comfort and encouragement at a time when it was sorely needed, it also revealed something to us of the love of Christ in the midst of all our worry and stress.  All those prayers, no matter what their shape or form, made a real difference in our lives; it was such an incredible feeling, and so very important for us to know that our son was being prayed for; that Lisa and I and our whole family was being prayed for; and that there those out there who cared about us and who loved us and, moreover, who trusted God to hear them and respond to them as they prayed for us!

Those who have been there know what I mean when I say that this was life-affirming and in many ways, life-changing; and that’s why we should never underestimate the meaning of what we do together in our prayer time every Sunday morning.  There is power in prayer, and there is love expressed in the act of prayer; which is what makes it all the more remarkable to discover through our text for this morning that in the midst of those final moments just before the events of his crucifixion begin to unfold; even as, as David Lose puts it, he is “anticipating an immediate future that will include betrayal, trial, condemnation, beating, and execution,” Jesus stops everything to pray or those he loves… for his disciples… for those closest to him… and for you and me.

This passage from John’s gospel we’ve shared this morning continues on with what’s referred to as Jesus’ “farewell discourses,” but biblical scholars and church theologians often talk about these verses from the 17th chapter as being Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.”  This is a reference to Old Testament tradition, in which the temple priest would go into the “Holy of Holies,” which was the central-most part of the temple, so to offer up prayers of the people and bring a sacrifice as a payment for their sins.  In our Christian faith, of course, we understand that Jesus stands as a mediator between God and ourselves; offering up the one, true sacrifice – himself – as the final and complete payment for our sin before God.  So… the tradition of the church has always held that this prayer of Jesus in John’s gospel represents Jesus acting as our temple priest; quite literally standing before the throne of grace offering up prayers for his people in preparation for the sacrifice that’s to be made.

And that’s certainly true; in fact, these are verses central to our whole understanding of Christian theology; in particular the idea of Christ’s atonement for our sin, all for the sake of our salvation before God!  But I also have to say that because of how incredibly rich and dense the language in John can sometimes be, we can easily miss how very personal a prayer this is.  I mean, think of it; Jesus is speaking these words to his heavenly Father just prior to that moment in the garden when Judas and the soldiers come to arrest him.  Jesus knows that his hour is nigh, that very soon now he’s going to have to leave his disciples; and so he wants them to be prepared for what’s going to happen next.  Actually, you know, if you read all through these “farewell discourses” in John, you realize that up till this point, Jesus has been giving his disciples a whole series of last minute teachings – about his nature, about the sure and certain hope of life eternal, about peace that the world can’t give nor take away, and about the disciples’ own mission of love moving forward; three chapters’ worth of these teachings in John’s gospel (!) – but now, the lessons are done and in these last few moments before what’s destined to happen happens Jesus needs to pray for them!

And it makes sense; after all, these are the ones who have been the ones closest to Jesus, and these are the ones – whether they understand it or not at this point – who will carry on his ministry! Certainly Jesus wanted his disciples to have the protection and the assurance of God the Father in every uncertain moment that was to come to them, in the days and years to come.  So yes, he would pray for them, which in and of itself is an act of great love and affection; but – and this is important – it turns out that it’s not just the disciples that he’s praying for… Jesus is praying “not only on behalf of these” but also “on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,” (vs. 20)   and that includes you and me, “that they may all be one.”

And I don’t know about you, but the very idea of it fills me with awe: that the very same Jesus who in his moment of deepest despair would seize that time to pray for his disciples is also the Jesus who prays for me!

And what a prayer it is!   It’s certainly not a prayer that all will go easily for his disciples, because Jesus knew it wouldn’t; that it couldn’t!  It’s interesting to note that all throughout this prayer, Jesus talks about how the “world” that hated him would also hate his disciples “because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”  The Greek word that’s used here for “world” is kosmos, which more than just suggesting the physical nature of the earth, really means that which is totally alien and hostile to God’s intention to love and redeem all; in other words, Jesus knows that there will always be that “dark side” of humanity who will hate them simply because of who – and whose – they are!

So Jesus doesn’t pray that all will go along without incident, devoid of any difficulty or conflict in their lives ahead;  but rather that they, and we, might always be protected by the power of God’s name, “so they can be of one heart and mind” just as Jesus and his heavenly father were of one heart and mind.  And his prayers of intercession build from there: praying that more than simply having protection from their troubles, “they may have [his] joy made complete in themselves,” as they go forth with God’s word on their tongues and in their lives; praying that because of this they not be lost as Judas had been “so that scripture would be fulfilled;”   and praying finally, and above all, that they may be sanctified – that is, consecrated, made holy“in the truth;” which is God’s word.

And that’s important, too.

For what Jesus understood would be true for his first disciples would also be true for any of us who are followers of Christ: that the very nature of being his disciples, of adhering to the Word they’d received from him, would mean living their lives as outsiders, living “in the world but not of the world,” and yet because of this, having a clear purpose and mission for life itself; to be made holy for what we do, or as the word from the original Greek, hagios, suggests, to be “set apart for sacred use.”  Jesus – the Jesus who prays for me and for you – prays that in and through all our journeys and all our trials and all of our crises of life and even faith we might be set apart by God himself for sacred use!

It’s a big prayer; really, there’s no other way to describe it.  But in the end, you see, what it all comes down to is while that life is difficult, full of the unexpected, the unimaginable and very often the unmanageable, our Lord, in infinite love and care, has prayed – and is still praying – for us: that we might find the strength we need to get through; that we might glean joy in the midst of sorrow; and that we will be made aware in ways both large and small that we are not, and have never been alone in the struggle.  Jesus prays for us with the same constancy of care and compassion as that of the one who knows us the best; he shows us the deep and abiding love of God who brings to us life both abundant and eternal; and he assures us that even right here and right now, in the midst of it all, we’ve been set aside for a sacred purpose.

What a feeling it is to realize that you have been prayed for. 

I wonder what Jesus is praying for in us today.  Maybe that we find the strength, the encouragement or the patience to get through the stress and uncertainty of whatever it is we’re having to face at this moment; a medical issue, perhaps; or a “rough patch” in a relationship with a loved one, a friend or co-worker?  It could be that Jesus is praying that we find the courage we need to stand up in the face of injustice (both personal and societal), or that we might we finally get some sense of healing of mind, body, spirit… or all three at once.  Maybe he’s praying that we have the grace to receive and accept the forgiveness we’ve needed for so long; or else that we figure out that what we really need to do is to be more forgiving of others!  Maybe Jesus is simply praying that we’ll stop for a moment, and pay attention… pay attention to God’s presence and power, and remember how much we’re loved.

Whatever the need happens to be today, friends; know that Jesus already knows, and that he’s praying for you and for me; and that we are the recipients and the stewards of that truly amazing grace.

There is power in his prayer; there is power to comfort us, to strengthen us, and to move us through the joys and struggles of this life… and I pray that each one of us here today might be strengthened and renewed by the power of that prayer.

Thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2018  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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And When You Pray: The Threefold Benediction

(a sermon for August 27, 2017, the 12th Sunday after Pentecost; last in a series, based on 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 and Matthew 6:9-13)

And so now, after all these weeks, finally we come to the final petition of our Lord’s Prayer, and what a word it is:  “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever… Amen.”

Amen, indeed! I mean, from a literary standpoint alone, this is the grand finale of a remarkable work, is it not; it’s the pinnacle of everything that’s been said and prayed up until this point, each phrase and petition having built upon the one before so that now there’s nothing left for us to offer up except this ultimate expression of our praise and thanksgiving unto God: to proclaim with whole hearts and loud voices that thine is the kingdom, and thine is the power, and thine is the glory forever and ever, Amen!

You know what I’m saying; it’s there in just about every musical setting you’ve ever heard of this prayer, most especially in the beautiful version by Albert Mallotte that we’ve heard sung and played here on a couple of occasions this summer; and I don’t know about you, but even on those numerous occasions that we speak this Lord’s Prayer together in worship, there’s nonetheless this same crescendo that peaks the moment we come to the final verse!  It’s a true benediction and powerful way to end this prayer of our Savior, and not only am I grateful, as we’ve said so often through this sermon series, that this is the prayer that Jesus himself gave to his disciples and to us, but also that Jesus – Jesus himself (!) – also chose to conclude this prayer he gave us in just this way!

Except…

…that maybe he didn’t.

I’m sure you’ve probably noticed by now that this particular part of the Lord’s Prayer is not included in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ teaching of it.  Luke doesn’t refer to it at all, and Matthew’s gospel relegates it to a mere footnote, claiming that “other ancient authorities, in some form” included these words about the kingdom, the power and the glory; but frankly, most biblical scholars argue that that’s not even the case!  The likely truth is that this final petition to the Lord’s Prayer was something added on by the early Christian Church (probably sometime around the fourth or fifth century) as a way of making it more liturgical in form; that is, to “complete” the Lord’s Prayer as an all-encompassing affirmation of faith by adding what is referred to in “church language” as a doxology, which in the Greek literally means to give a “word of glory and honor.”  Obviously, the addition caught on because we’ve been saying the Lord’s Prayer that way ever since; although if you’ve ever repeated this prayer with a group of Roman Catholic worshippers, you’ll know that they end their unison prayer at “deliver us from evil,” owing to the fact that addition or no addition, as far as we know from the gospels Jesus most likely did not say those particular words in teaching his disciples how to pray!

Now, does this mean that the Lord’s Prayer, or at least the way we’ve been praying the Lord’s Prayer, has somehow become nullified by our mistaken translation?  Absolutely not!   To begin with, adding those words about “the kingdom, power and glory” at the end of Jesus’ prayer does bring an appropriate (and dare I say, triumphant) conclusion to these series of petitions that, one after the other,  speak not only of the presence and power of the divine but also to our relationship, yours and mine, with the divine.  Moreover, there’s a symmetry to how that last verse relates to everything before:  we start out the Lord’s Prayer by praying that God’s, our Father’s, name be hallowed and requesting that his kingdom come, that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven; and we finish with the unequivocal affirmation that “thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.”  It’s a true doxology, a threefold benediction that serves to remind us, even as we pray, that everything we are and have and can ever hope to be is solely by virtue of the power and glory of God!

So it does seem a fitting addition to our prayer; and besides… though Jesus might not have spoken the words in that specific context, he most certainly knew them to be true; in fact, as a teacher himself, Jesus likely spoke of that moment we read about in our Old Testament reading this morning, in which King David, toward the end of his life and about to pass on the task of building the temple to his son Solomon, gathers the people and prays unto God, “Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom O LORD, and you are exalted as head over all… and now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.”  That those words are familiar to our ears is by no accident at all; to quote one commentator, “It is fitting… that a portion of David’s kingdom prayer should be attached to the Son of David’s kingdom prayer.”

You see, at the end of the day (or the end of the prayer, as it were), what we pray in this amazing series of petitions that Jesus gave to us is that it’s God’s kingdom, God’s power, and God’s glory that prevails over everything… everything in our lives, now and eternally.  Our God is the Creator of heaven and earth, who has breathed the very breath of life into each one of us; whose presence and power is felt in every passing moment of our lives, whose very strength is felt in each and every joy and sorrow and challenge that we face.  Our God is the one who nourishes us with daily bread, who offers us forgiveness of sin along with the grace that we might forgive others in kind, who leads us along the surest of pathways that deliver us from evil. Our God is the one who decries all kinds of evil in the world by proclaiming a gospel of love and justice and peace, sending forth his own Son as the example and expiation, and then calling you and I to proclaim that same Word by our very lives.  Our God is the one who intends for his truth to be made real in and through every one of us here; so that truth – God’s truth, the truth of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ – might finally begin to penetrate the walls of division and hatred that are the ongoing construct of a sad and misguided culture.  Our God is the God who wishes that in all things – whether that applies to the ways we approach one another around the breakfast table or how we stand on the streets of Charlottesville or Boston –  that in all things we might live as true reflections of God’s kingdom, his power, his glory and yes, most especially, his love.

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.”

Perhaps Jesus didn’t speak those words in exactly the context we like to think he did; but we do know that it’s exactly what he meant, and what he means for you and for me as we are sent out into this world to walk the walk of discipleship in these days of sad, confused and conflicting situations.

As you might imagine, and perhaps like a lot of you, I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past couple of weeks reflecting on the faith implications of everything that’s been happening in the world and in our own country; specifically, how we as the church ought to be responding to the kind of destructive hate that’s been so much on display as of late.  I mean, I think it’s obvious that we in the church need to be loud and clear in naming “the evils we deplore,” denouncing all manner of racism, violence and bigotry as being not only un-Christian, but un-American as well.  Moreover, though I must confess that I was more than a little skeptical as to what good it could do, I stand in great admiration of my brothers and sisters of faith (especially my clergy colleagues) who linked arms in Charlottesville and Boston and stared down the Neo-Nazi’s and White Supremacists, witnessing to love and justice quite literally there on the front lines of conflict.

But that said, what I’ve been wondering about is the rest of us?  How do we respond?  How about those of us who sit in these pews every Sunday morning and who need to spend the week ahead at our jobs, or running errands, going to doctor’s appointments, running kids (or grandkids!) to school on time and all the rest of the “stuff” of life: what are we to do about those who would so easily and deliberately dismiss the law of loving one’s neighbor as themselves.  Honestly, friends, these days, all it’s taken is ten minutes watching the news to make one feel helpless about the state of the world!

But then in my reading over vacation I came across a piece from the Christian Century, actually written a couple of years ago by Samuel Wells, regarding the great 20th century theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who, as you may recall, was imprisoned and eventually executed by the Nazis; the result of speaking out against the Third Reich and having been implicated in a plot to kill Hitler.  Ultimately though, writes Wells, it was not Bonhoeffer’s politics that got him put in jail; it was Jesus!  It was Bonhoeffer’s confession that Jesus was over and above any and all of the powers and principalities of this world; that it was and is God’s incarnation in Christ that makes us the Church and what moves us surely and steadily toward the Kingdom of Heaven. Wells writes that “Bonhoeffer knew that when the church stops talking about Jesus, it has nothing to say.”  It’s truly the difference between death and resurrection; and it’s what not only renews the Church in every generation, it’s what empowers us to stare down the face of every new evil that arises in this world… for thine is the Kingdom, and thine is the power, and thine is the glory forever!

You’ve heard me say it before from this pulpit: that the first and best thing you and I can do in these times is for us to truly be the Church of Jesus Christ; and that begins, I believe, with making God in Christ the centerpiece of everything in life.  And no, it’s not always, if ever, an easy thing to have one’s faith take priority over that which is safer, or more expedient, or more profitable in a worldly sense.  In fact, it’s almost certainly going to involve some risk; but it is, truly, the way, the truth and the life that Jesus spoke about, and not only will it change us for the better, it will change the world as well.

So, friends… “and when you pray,” how will you pray?  Will you let the words of Jesus simply roll off your tongue in the same manner as you have countless times before?  Or will you let the phrases and petitions that we’ve been given be the means by which let our Lord have leadership of your life?

What’s interesting is that beyond the King James Version of the Bible, this final part of the Lord’s Prayer isn’t included in most modern translations of scripture for the reasons we mentioned earlier.  It does, however, appear in The Message (which, given that it’s technically a paraphrase of scripture rather than a translation, gives it a little leeway in interpretation).  But this is one “rendition” of the Lord’s Prayer that, while decidedly untraditional, kind of says it all from beginning to end, and seems as good a way to conclude this sermon series as any I can think of:

“Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

And so, beloved, may it truly be, “Yes, Yes, Yes,” forever and ever…

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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