Tag Archive | prayer

Jesus Tells Us To Share

Acts 4:32-35

This is the first Sunday after Easter, and Jesus is no longer there to lead the disciples or the people. They are all sad and kind of lost and missing Him. We heard in the Bible reading from the Acts of the Apostles today that the people who followed him began to live together like one huge family. That way they could share stories of Jesus so they wouldn’t miss him so much. Stories always remind us of a person who is no longer with us, and make us feel better. In this new big family they created, no one owned anything, everything anyone had belonged to everyone. They shared food and clothes and all their possessions. That is pretty amazing!

Think for a minute about all your toys and things that are special to you. Can you imagine sharing them with every other child? Think about how your little brother or sister may get peanut butter in the hair of your favorite doll, or break your favorite car or truck. That doesn’t sound like very much fun, does it?

Well, one of the main things Jesus taught us was that we are to care for and share with each other. Do you remember the verse in Matthew:

Do unto others are you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)

We all want to be good followers of Jesus, showing other people the love of Jesus. Sometimes we do a good job of it, and other times not so much. But you know what? God loves us anyway. Isn’t that great? As long as we try to be good examples, even when we don’t quite make it, we are all beloved children of God, even if we are 95 years old!

And Jesus asks us to share. I have a flower for each of you. Aren’t they pretty? Flowers are the sign that Spring is here (or at least we hope) – and another sign that, like all living things, Jesus rose from the dead. Lots of people really like flowers because they brighten up a room, smell good, and make people happy.

Don’t you like to be happy? Who doesn’t like to be happy?

So, like Jesus taught us, we should share with others. I want you to take a flower, and when you go back to your seat, give it to someone that you would like to make happy. It could be your parents or sister or brother, or maybe someone that you think could really use it to cheer them up.

This is what sharing is about and what our community here at Saint John’s should be like: some place where we care for each other and share our love. We hope, by doing that, we can help the whole world to learn to love and share.

So, pick out your flower – there are so many kinds in the vase. Take one that makes you happy, then give it to someone else – and make them happy!

And then we will pray.

(children pick out flowers)

 
 

Let us pray.

Dear God, you have created a world that is full of beauty, which you tell us to share with others. Thank you for sharing this beautiful world with us! Sometimes, when we don’t feel like sharing, forgive us. Help us to be nice to all those whom we meet and show them the love of God that you showed us!  Amen.
 
 
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 8 April 2018

We Are Healed So That We May Serve

Mark 1:29-39

May the words of my mouth be heard, written in our hearts, and acknowledged to God in prayer. Amen.

We are beginning a study of the Gospel of Mark, and as Father Philip told us last week, Mark is the first gospel, and in many ways a “just the facts, ma’am” account of Jesus’ ministry, In this rather short gospel (there are only 16 chapters), there are 65 stories of healing and 10 parables! As Jesus traveled through small villages surrounding the Sea of Galilee and onto Jerusalem, we learn of His encounters with 122 people as He walked and visited homes and markets – and another 100 people in temples and synagogues. He had a mission – He knew He only had a short time to accomplish it – and He had to be about the work God had sent Him to do!

Last Sunday we learned that the first person He healed was a man possessed by a demon as He taught in the synagogue in Capernaum. It is noteworthy to learn, as we do in today’s reading, that the next person He healed later that same morning was a woman: Simon’s mother-in-law. We read that after leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew for lunch. Simon told Jesus that his mother-in-law was ill with a fever, and asked Jesus to heal her. Immediately, He went to her, took her hand, and she was healed, and rose up to minister to Jesus and those with him.

Let’s take a moment to be aware of several interesting points in this encounter that illustrate the uniqueness of Jesus’ ministry from the very beginning.

First of all, the second person Jesus healed in His new ministry was a woman! Since women had a much less important place in the structure of Jewish society at that time, this was startling! Already we can see the work and world of Jesus was going to break the boundaries of both Heaven and earth. Women were to be of value – they became a part of His following, and in some cases, traveled with Him; they not only served, but they supported and witnessed to His ministry. Many of the parables and healings involve women.

Secondly, as was customary in Jesus’ time, women were often restricted to the home to protect their innocence and the reputation of the family; they were not ever involved with men outside the family except to serve food, and were certainly never in physical contact with them. In this case, the men asked Jesus to heal the older woman – as was proper – but Jesus went into her sleeping quarters, took her hand and she was healed forever. She rose up and went to work – everyone was so astonished and grateful that setting aside of long-held social ‘norms’ didn’t matter at all!

Finally, later that day, as the recovered woman served Jesus and His disciples, the house became overrun with crowds, seeking the healing power of Jesus and His message – and surely this woman, sick just a few hours earlier, had much to do to facilitate the gathering and miracles that occurred.

We know that Biblical writers often equated being healed with being ‘made whole’ – demons and fevers were symbols of dis-ease, fear, or depression – and when these ‘demons’ were cast out, the person was, in reality, made stronger in faith and wisdom. No rest or recovery was needed – those healed went forth at once to serve, to proclaim the good news, and praise God.

We further hear in today’s reading that after Jesus tended to the sick and broken at Simon’s house, he goes to a deserted place to pray. As is so often the case in Jesus’ ministry, his opportunities to find solitude were few and far between. Tending to the sick and the outcast can be hard work; He must have been physically and spiritually exhausted. This is just another occasion, and there are many in the Gospels, where Jesus goes off alone to pray.

Jesus didn’t “just happen” to find himself alone with time to pray. He took the time; He wanted to hear His Father’s voice. . .  in solitude, and peace. Beset on every hand by the demands of His disciples and the multitudes who sought His help, Jesus looked for, and cherished that quietness. When He could clear his mind and be strengthened by God’s voice giving Him direction and courage – times when He could withdraw from the cares and clamor of the world and re-connect with the peace and love pf the eternal world of God. If He was to do the work of God, Jesus had to have time with God! And so must we; we must make time to be alone with God for prayer and meditation, and to hear His voice, and get direction. It is the time that some people have called – “God Time”.

“God Time” – those words even sound good, don’t they? So many times, when we speak of prayer time, we think of such words and ideas as duty, habit, laborious, tedious, demanding, and a host of other words. The truth is, for many people, prayer has become a ‘thing,’ rather than a part of a growing relationship with God. Prayer is seen more as an exercise in being able to say certain words the right way, or as ‘talking to the ceiling’. Many see prayer as something abstract, an exercise to be conquered, an encounter that we know we need to experience, but one which we would really rather avoid. We know it is something that we are supposed to do, but it is also something that we are not sure does much good.

I would suggest to you that true prayer, real prayer is merely talking to God; an ongoing conversation between ourselves and God. It can be open, peaceful, enjoyable, challenging, insightful, and transformative. At times it involves debating and questioning while at other times, it may involve thanksgiving and peace.

Talking to God is never to be a chore. It is never to be stuffy or laborious. There is this idea that if we say the right things to please God, then we will get our answer, blessings or miracle. And if we don’t say what pleases God, well, then we are just ‘out-of-luck’. Our talking to God, and God talking to us is the core essence of prayer: our talking, listening, sharing life with God; our opening up our hearts, minds and our souls to be in one another’s presence; experiencing what it means to be one with God, and allowing God to be one with us.

Have you ever noticed what happened each time Jesus prayed? Heaven and earth came together; connected, and Heaven impacted earth in wonderful and marvelous ways. Jesus goes out into the wilderness to pray, and Heaven and earth touch one another. As a result, Jesus can come out of the desert and begin to rescue, redeem and restore all of creation. Jesus can come out of the wilderness, proclaim the Kingdom of God, preach repentance, forgiveness, redemption, heal and cast out demons, and call His disciples to His ministry.

Mark tells us that Jesus goes to a desolate place – a place without distractions. Jesus went out early in the morning while everyone was still asleep, and spends time in prayer, meditation, and contemplation. Then, after spending time with the Father, Jesus begins pouring out His life into the lives of others all around the Sea of Galilee.

Prayer (“God Talk”) leads us to being in God’s presence. Like any other practice, it gets easier the more we do it – it becomes less awkward, then begins to flow, and finally is essential to our day! Prayer leads us to be empowered by God so that we can help rescue and redeem those around us. Prayer leads us to open our hearts and our minds, to reach out, and receive those who need to find Jesus. Prayer leads us to understand that we can trust God, depend on God, and know that God will lead us the right way.

Today, more than ever, we need to get away as individuals and as churches to go to a quiet place, and invite God for some ‘God Talk’. We need to confess, surrender, open our hearts and minds, and commit to God to do whatever He calls us to do. We need to commit that we will do, and go, and be, whatever, wherever, and whoever He wants us to be. And, like the healed woman, then rise up ‘whole’ and ready to serve.

When I pray with parishioners in the Chapel, I don’t try to be flashy, but only express what is in our hearts. Sometimes it is halting and a little disjointed, but God doesn’t care. He is always there for some ‘God Time’.

We don’t have to use a lot of fancy words when we pray. You may feel that you don’t know what to say; or you don’t know how to say it. Just speak what is on your mind; God knows what is in our hearts and reads between the lines.

Let our minds be open, our hearts open, and our ears listening. Prayer is not a scary thing, it is the exact opposite – it brings peace, a calm, and a rest. The more we talk to God, the closer we will be to God, and the more we will know how to live the wonderful life He prepares for us.

Let me invite you to try it a new this week – find a quiet place, (maybe get up a bit earlier so you can be alone) – and begin your practice of “God Talk” – and listen – and then, go forth and serve!

Amen.
 
 
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 4 February 2018

Here We Are, Lord

Today’s scripture continues the great commissioning of the disciples which started with last week’s gospel reading. Jesus had been traveling through the cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues, healing the sick and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. He quickly realized that there was much more work to be done than He could accomplish by himself – that He would need help. So He began to select his apostles. The word ‘apostle’ in Greek may be translated as ‘sent ones’. These apostles He selected followed Him, watched him preach and teach, heard his parables and tried to become prepared to help Jesus with his work – sort of like a ‘disciple school’. [They were now prepared to proclaim and spread the good news, just as Jesus had done.]

It is important to notice that Jesus called all sorts of people – you didn’t have to be as pure as driven snow. None of these men were born leaders, highly schooled, or well-positioned in the synagogue. And although Matthew does not tell us this, we also know from other scriptures that Jesus called women to be disciples. None of his followers had training to heal or preach before they met Jesus; none would have been considered persons headed for sainthood or martyrdom. But they dropped their nets, left their jobs and families and followed Jesus without looking back. What a motley crew they must have been. Scripture tells us that they didn’t even get along with each other; there was all kind of jockeying to be Jesus’ favorite. Some mothers even got into the act.

Let me remind you who they were:

Simon Peter, a fisherman, became the spokesperson for the group, although his impetuousness often got him in trouble. Although his faith always seemed to go from strong to doubt (remember he denied Jesus three times and almost drowned while trying to walk on water), Jesus called him ‘the rock’ on which the church would be founded. He spent his life after Jesus’ death evangelizing and eventually ended up in Rome and was crucified upside down for his faith.

Andrew, also was a fisherman and the brother of Peter, stopped following John the Baptist to join Jesus. Andrew was the one who introduced Peter to Jesus, letting him step into the limelight as the apostles taught and converted people. He spent his life bringing people to Jesus and like so many of Jesus’ followers he was killed because he preached the gospel. History suggests that he was crucified on a cross shaped like an ‘X’.

James was one of the fisherman sons of Zebedee who followed Jesus. He is often called ‘James the Greater’ to distinguish him from the other apostle James. He and his brother John were known as the ‘Sons of Thunder’ because of their loud voices and desire to punish anyone who slighted Jesus. James was the first of the 12 apostles to be martyred, killed with the sword on orders of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea, about 44 A.D.

John, the brother of James and also a fisherman, was called ‘the apostle that Jesus loved’. John obviously was one of Jesus’ favorites because he entrusted his mother, Mary, to him at his crucifixion. John is credited with writing the gospel of John, first, second and third John, and the book of Revelation. John continued to teach and preach against heresy until he died of old age, the only apostle who did not die for his faith.

Philip was one of the first apostles to be called, having left John the Baptist to follow Jesus. And he wasted no time calling others, like Nathanael, to do the same. Although little is known about him after the ascension of Christ, Bible historians believe Philip preached the gospel in Phrygia, in Asia Minor, and died a martyr there at Hierapolis

Nathanael is thought to have been known as Bartholomew, who was introduced to Jesus by Philip and immediately recognized him as the Son of God. Although little is known about Bartholomew, legend has it that he preached in India and was crucified upside down.

Levi, who became the Apostle Matthew, was a customs official in Capernaum who taxed imports and exports based on his own judgment. The Jews hated him because he worked for Rome and betrayed his countrymen. But when Jesus said ‘follow me’, he did and became the author of the Gospel of Matthew. Legend has it that he traveled to Ethiopia and was martyred there.

Thomas, who we all know as ‘Doubting Thomas’ spread the gospel to the east after the death of Jesus and was martyred.

James the Less, son of Alphaeus, was called ‘the less’ to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee. He is the least known of all the apostles – he is only mentioned with all the other apostles in the Upper Room.

Simon the Zealot has almost no mention in scripture except in lists of the apostles. Sometimes he is referred to as ‘Simon the Canaanite’, as we heard in last week’s gospel. His life before following Jesus and after the resurrection is a mystery – the name ‘zealot’ may refer to his religious zeal or that he was a member of the Zealots, an assassin group during that period.

Thaddeus or Jude is another one of the unknown apostles, only referenced in a list of the apostles. Some biblical scholars think Thaddeus wrote the book of Jude. Church tradition says that he founded a church in Edessa and was crucified there.

Judas Iscariot is probably the most infamous apostle, and not for a good reason. We all know the story of his betrayal of Jesus, followed by his suicide. There is some theological thought that Judas’ betrayal was part of God’s plan, but that is for discussion at a later date.

So those were the apostles that Jesus called to follow and help him throughout his short life on earth – rather an ill-assorted crew, people from all walks of life. But what it says is that Jesus can, and does call all kinds of people to follow him – people that would normally never be friends or associates, but were brought together because of their belief in Jesus and his message.

How little did those disciples know what lay ahead for them. Their path would be fraught with discomfort, persecution and often painful death. Yet, so intense and amazing was this man Jesus and their attraction to him that they followed Him anyway.

The apostles were told to gather the ‘lost sheep’ into the fold. Sheep without a shepherd are a foolish lot; they will wander off and not be able to find their way home. There is absolutely nothing more pitiful than a group of sheep with no one to lead them. Jesus commissioned the apostles to bring these sheep back to the fold, and He clearly gave them the power to do so. In Matthew 10:19-20 Jesus told them:

“do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time”

Today, as then, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls all people to know and be part of the Kingdom of God. So throughout the ages He has sent, and today He sends, apostles, prophets, evangelists, priests, deacons and teachers to go forth and preach His word.

And YES, he even sends YOU and ME!!!!

Each and every one of us is called to be disciples for Jesus. The word ‘disciple’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘learner’. We are called to be disciples when those three handfuls of water are poured over our heads in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and we are brought into the family of Christ. We cannot escape – we dare not escape – that calling from the baptismal covenant. As members of the Body of Christ, we are called to proclaim the Gospel.

As Christians, we have a special responsibility to stop the church from becoming complacent and forgetting its commitment to God and God’s purpose in the face of struggles with changing demographics, budgets shortfalls, ecclesiastical protocols and Biblical interpretations. The church is, first and foremost, asked to build a community where one does not exist, or reinforce a community that is fractured. We are challenged to bring calmness and peace to the chaos of individuals’ souls and lives and to reach out and follow Jesus’ command to ‘feed my sheep’.

Just as the apostles were directed, we can learn to reach out to bring lost souls to the grace and salvation of Christ. As members of His body, it is up to us to do His work. And just as the apostles were varied and an unusual lot of people, so are we. Just as Jesus looked into their hearts and knew what they were capable of, so does he look into our hearts and knows us far better than we know ourselves.

Now, I expect some of you think that you can’t be shepherds to lost sheep, that you are not called to do the work of Jesus. We all have many excuses why we can’t be disciples for Christ:

  • We don’t know what to do;
  • There are ‘professionals’ to do this;
  • “It’s not my job”;
  • We don’t know what to say to people;
  • We are not good enough Christians to witness to others;
  • We are afraid.

So I ask you, how did YOU get to know the love and grace and salvation of God through Jesus???????

Didn’t someone gather YOU in like a lost sheep? Didn’t someone show you the grace of God and welcome you into the fold, regardless of who and what you are?

  • Was it a pastor?
  • A friend or family member?
  • A stranger who gave you love or hope?

The love of Jesus comes to us through the eyes, hands and hearts of everyday people, just like you and me. We are all called to be shepherds, to love and guide each other in the path of Jesus.

A visionary from the fourteenth century, Saint Teresa of Avila, reminds us:

God has no hands but our hands, to do his work today;
God has no feet but our feet to lead others in his way;
God has no voice but our voice to tell others how he died;
And, God has no help but our help to lead them to His side.

You say you do not know what to do. God has equipped all with the tools necessary: Prayer!!

  • Pray for open hearts, ready to hear the hope in God’s love
  • Pray for the strength and courage to share that hope with others
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to work his power in the hearts of others.

The best evangelist is one who reaches those around them. Perhaps first learn to talk about your faith to fellow church members through study groups and witnessing. Through this you may then learn to talk about your faith to the disenfranchised and strangers. Most of all, be an example of the gospel message, then the needs, hurts and fears of the lost sheep will be made known to you.

Remember, God is love in this world!

This love is free and need not be earned and cannot be bought.

This love is complete and total, with no restrictions and no boundaries.

God sent His Son Jesus, to live as a man and die a most painful death as a man to teach us God’s love, to teach us that our ultimate fear – death – does not exist – Is not an end, but a beginning.

What good news indeed!
What great love!

This is the love that we can grow into and learn to give each other freely and without end.
We are reminded that we are all children of God. And no matter what happens to us, we will always be His children and He will always be there for us.

This, then, is our great commission: our great baptismal pledge, to live this love every day, to show it in every choice we make and to everyone we see. This is how we become his true disciples.

God will give us the tools,
God will give us the words,
God will give us the strength,
God will teach us.

A well-beloved mission song says:

(sung) Here I am Lord,
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.

Let us all become true disciples of Jesus, follow him and feed his sheep with love peace, forgiveness and joy!

Let us pray:

(sung) Here I am, Lord,
Here we are Lord,
Send the people of Saint John’s.

To do your work.
Amen.
 
 
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 25 June 2017