Today we start our sixth and last week of our Lenten Study of the Lord’s Prayer. Why did we spend six weeks on these small utterances of Jesus? This is the only time Jesus gives us word for word what to pray. Jesus says, "pray like this."
We have talked about the first four utterances of the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hollowed be they name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
Today we start our third week of our Lenten Study of the Lord’s Prayer. Why spend six weeks on these small utterances of Jesus? This is the only time Jesus gives us word for word what to pray. Jesus says, “pray like this.” Thank you for coming today. If you have been invited to worship this morning, my gratitude goes out to you and the one who invited you.
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There are some folks who just struggle, you know? Not through any fault of their own, necessarily, just hard times seem to follow hard times. Naomi and her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah have lived together for some time, now. The older woman’s face bears the lines of the greatest heartache, but all have experienced difficult days. They aren’t related by blood, but they are family in every sense of the word; they are bound together by the love that each one of them has lost.
A blind man sits alongside the dusty road, just outside of the city of Jericho. Jesus has been in Jericho, and he’s now heading on down the road to Jerusalem. There are lots of people with him. The disciples are there as always, but a crowd of others have joined the parade, as well.
It’s been an interesting season in my life these past couple of months as I’ve done sermon planning to the end of the year. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to share with you: you will be the last community where I will serve as pastor, and I want to share with you what’s in my heart and mind.
Scott and I have begun the process of packing—okay, I admit he’s done more than I have—and as he has pulled things out of the storage room downstairs, on more than one occasion, I’ve said—oh, so that’s where that’s been.
Every Sunday when we gather to worship together, we’re reminded that our mission, our purpose, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We say that we do that by loving God, loving others and serving others. That’s the plan. That’s the foundation of why we do what we do as a church. We gather on Sunday mornings to worship God and to be empowered for mission and ministry and outreach.
There are moments in life that take our breath away, aren’t there? Or, if they don’t take our breath away, these moments in life give us new breath. You and I may sometimes feel like the dry, disconnected bones described in Chapter 37 of the book of Ezekiel. We may feel like there’s no life in us. But then, God gives us this moment, this experience (37:5), when God’s breath enters us and we come to life.
Judie shared with you this morning the Bible she received from her teacher when she was confirmed in the faith. I’ve brought along my 3rd grade Bible that I received at Epworth Methodist Church in Fort Wayne. Mine doesn’t have my name engraved on it and it’s not in as good shape as Judie’s Bible is, though I know from Judie’s story that she used hers more than I did mine. I’m glad that we have more kid-friendly translations these days because the Revised Standard Version was too complicated for this 3rd grader to understand. The small print and lack of pictures wasn’t so inviting.
My computer is one of those things I depend on most every day. I write sermons and letters and documents that are important to the work and the life we do here together. I can connect to the internet and find the answers to most any question I might have. I can order things I need and don’t need, pay bills, listen to music, to broadcasts and other people’s sermons.
Jesus and the disciples have been traveling along, off the beaten path. There have been healings and miracles, teaching and tragedy. If you look back in the 6th chapter of the gospel of Mark, you’ll see that Jesus has sent his disciples out to preach, they’ve dealt with John the Baptist, they’ve fed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and they’ve seen Jesus walk on water and calm the wind, out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. They’ve been working hard, they’ve seen and done some amazing things out there in the trenches. Now they’ve sit down along the road for a bite to eat.
Life is hard. It can be good and blessed and wonderful…and sometimes it can be good for an extended period of time, one good thing after the other, like you’re riding a wave. Other times it’s just the opposite: you wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. What’s next? What now? How can this be? Life can be hard.
For some of us, faith is invisible and impossible. For some people faith is some far-out idea. Occasionally, you and I talk about blind faith. The faith I have in mind for you today is not blind. I am not asking you to do something that is against your good judgment or your good reason. Faith is seeing fully. Sometimes we talk about faith as being some kind of impossible dream or wishful thinking. The faith of which I speak today is not just a pipe dream.
Alice Lee Humphreys in her book, Angels in Pinafores, tells about her experiences as a first-grade teacher. She tells about one little girl who came to school one winter day wearing a beautiful white angora beret with white mittens and a matching muff. As she was coming through the door, a mischievous little boy grabbed the white muff and threw it in the mud. After disciplining the little boy, the teacher sought to comfort the little girl.
I trust in the last 4 weeks as we’ve talked about Travel as a Spiritual Act, the different places where you’ve visited have come to mind. Our emphasis these past weeks as we’ve talked about travel has focused on the people and the relationships we’ve gained, and on the lessons we’ve learned about our similarities and differences.
Whenever Scott and I have headed off on an adventure, he always tells me after maybe a week that he’s ready to go back home. For me, it’s taken about that amount of time to “let go” of the “to do” lists that never seem to get fully done and so my brain starts churning again, like the “pop-up” reminders that keep appearing on my computer.
As we continue this series Quest: Travel as a Spiritual Act, and look at this week’s focus on “reflection”, I decided I would like to share several experiences with you I’ve had—during seminary and afterwards—going to places I never thought I’d go and learning things I didn’t realize I needed to learn.
There’s a saying that was at one time a part of the daily devotions of Jewish men. It goes something like this: “Blessed art thou, O God, that thou hast made me human and not beast, Jew and not Gentile, man and not woman.” This is the context for us to keep in mind as we consider Jesus’ walk through Samaria, and his talk with the Samaritan woman.
Once it finally happened, it happened quickly. Each plague wore Pharaoh down. Each time, he would say the Israelites could be released from the captivity that had enslaved them for all those years, but then he’d change his mind. By the time the 10th and final disaster happened, we wouldn’t be all that surprised if Israel had given up hope that they would ever be released.
A hunter wanted to show off his new dog, so he invited a friend to the lake to see what his dog could do. The owner took a decoy duck and threw it out as far as he could. His dog ran across the top of the water all the way out to the decoy and carried it back. After three times, his friend seemed unimpressed.
I'm sure most of you have heard of an oxymoron. It's a Greek word that means "pointedly foolish." You make an oxymoron when you put two words together that are complete opposites. They contradict each other. Some of my favorite oxymorons are "clearly confused," "act naturally," "open secret," and "jumbo shrimp."
Thomas Wheeler was at one time the CEO of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. He and his wife were driving down an interstate highway when he realized he hadn’t paid close enough attention and needed gas.
One of my family stories involves a little girl born of a young woman who fell in love with a soldier before the end of World War 2. The young woman, without the knowledge or approval of her family ran away with the man and planned to marry him as soon as possible. Before that could happen, her aunts somehow located her and took her back home. When her pregnancy was discovered, she was promptly deposited in a home for unwed mothers in a different city.
This is Trinity Sunday, the last in a series of Sundays of the Liturgical Year (beginning with Advent and continuing to today) that lay out our salvation history in the life, death, resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
There are at least a couple of books entitled The Road; the first one I began reading because I read it was is a classic and among the top reads of the century, so I thought it would be a good choice. I decided about halfway through that just because a book is called a classic doesn’t mean I have to like it or finish reading it, so I stopped and picked up a second book with the same title.
Our daughter ran in high school. Her two main events were the 800 meter run and the 3200 relay. Over the years I watched a lot of relay teams passing off a lot of batons, and as you might expect, there is an art in doing that well. Both the one who hands off the baton and the one who receives it needs to be confident in what they’re doing and in what their teammate is going to do, in order that the race can continue as seamlessly as possible. The outcome of the race depends upon their ability to make a good exchange.