Sunday, September 30, 2012

Show and Tell Prayer

James 5:13-20

You remember 'Show and Tell'?
 Describe; you picked your favorite thing and took it to school. You not only told about it, you showed it. Often your friends got to touch it too. 

Show and tell prayer sounds like a practice you'd find during a big tent revival.
The preacher, with her big black revival Bible...talks about all the healing we had seen this week, reads stories about how Jesus commanded the man to "pick up your at and walk"- Which he did, and walked away!

Then someone would walk down aisle and tell how they hadn’t walked a step in 5years ...until YESTERDAY...but now were healed. Perhaps others would come forward with an ailment to be touched and healed. THAT sounds like show and tell prayer.

But what I have in mind today is the ways we can SEE prayer. 
What are the many ways prayer is made visible?

James is talking about visible prayer. 
He says it is found in community. He has a lot to say about community and the way people act, the way people treat each other. The verses prior to this in chapter 4 and 5, “address the dangers of wealth and the tendency of the rich to oppress the poor.”
 It’s funny that the lectionary skips over it. One commentator, Elizabeth Johnson, suggests that perhaps it hits too close to home for most of No. America and much of Europe. At any rate, it is not unrelated to today’s passage about prayer. 
James makes the case that the mostly poor, who made up the Christian community in his day, must rely solely on prayer because of the behavior of those who oppress them.

Being careful to realize we live close to that line of oppressor or oppressed - especially in the eyes of much of the world, WE can look at his words about prayer and see if they fit OUR experience.

Show and Tell Prayer has to involve the senses;
Seeing, Hearing, Tasting, Touching, Smelling

Hearing; fits our typical spoken prayer....
Pastoral prayer = usually consists of my words
Prayer of God’s People = is my words echoed with your words
Sometimes a spoken prayer can involve more senses if the leader invite you to use your imagination, slow your breathing, or other physical aspects.
  Back in the day,brethren would turn and  kneel into the pew for prayer. (Must have left more room between those old benches.)

Last week we used another form of spoken prayer, 
A Song of Prayer = (sing a chorus) O Lord, Hear our prayer... Get someone who will start this. Tell Andy. We used this kind of prayer several times at the Women’s Retreat this weekend.

Seeing; We have also used visual prayer in our worship. Where I invite you to watch the images on the screen as we pray.
You likely use visuals for prayer when you are out in nature. Often this kind of prayer evokes our thoughts and feeling of praise and thankfulness to God, without us forming any words.

A less familiar form of visual prayer involves an

Altho the icons have been mis-understood as if someone was praying TO them, they are actually used as a ‘window’ into prayer. A way to focus the eyes, therefore center the mind while it opens to the presence of God. It is much like meditation, but instead of just emptying, the visual picture fills you and displaces all distraction.

          Some may use this dove, a symbol of God's HOLY spirit and of peace as a focus for prayer.

Smelling; Incense, is not part of our tradition in CoB, but it is not completely unfamiliar to us.  Churches of ‘smells and bells’ we said at Lutheran Seminary, typically indicate a ‘high’ form worship or more formal and elaborate traditions. 

Other smells that bring prayer to mind may come from memory. If you attended a church that was surrounded by active farm fields, you might smell fresh manure and think of prayer. (It may sound unusual in Arlington, but out in Midland, I guarantee there are days when fresh spread manure is the primary aroma.)
While others of us may smell fresh flowers  and think of prayer, especially those days when the sanctuary is filled with flowers like Easter, or when we have walked elaborate gardens singing, “I come to the garden alone...”

Tasting; prayer may seem unusual, but is as familiar as this (bring one) covered dish. Any time you’ve carried a casserole to someone and offered your assistance, you gave a ‘taste’ of prayer. . . In these cases, whether or not you added your WORDS of prayer, your ACTIONS let someone know they were ‘held in prayer’. 

Of course Communion, which we will observe next week, along with all the other Christians in the world, is a combination of taste, memory, words, and prayer that bring us closer to God is ways hard to describe..Next week is World Communion Sunday.

Touching: Touching Prayer brings us most directly to the message from James’ for today. Anointing...

The Jewish tradition of anointing showed that one was chosen by God. Samuel anointed Saul King, then David. Jesus was called God's anointed, which is the meaning of the Hebrew word Messiah also translated into Greek as the Christ.
Believed to have been practiced from earliest days of Christianity. Certainly by the time book of James' was written. 

Oil was associated with healing because it soften the skin to help it heal after the injury was washed. We have replaced oil and ointments with greaseless lotions and sprays filled with antibiotic. The OIL didn’t have antibiotic properties, but while it softened the skin, it also created a moment of caring touch.

Anointing is one of the Brethren ordinances. (We don't have sacraments, only ordinances or those things ordered or instructed by God.)

The Brethren understanding about healing is sometimes miraculous and unexplainable things happen. Altho, Generally, God uses human skill and wisdom to effect wholeness and healing. Medical and mental health professionals aid in the healing process and their skill can be regarded as a direct gift from God.

Anointing Does not guarantee healing; we do not control God's actions. It is God who invites us to become a community of prayer through the service of anointing. (p. 101)

Healing, when understood as forgiveness, shalom, and wholeness - is the response of God in every instance of faithful petition. Healing is most effective when it becomes a gateway into a richer quality of life." (P. 101-02)

When we think of how sick a body can be and all the things that cause sickness, we begin to understand the importance of caring touch. We, as a community of faith can do MORE than pour antibiotics on someone. We can touch, pray, speak, look eye to eye, LISTEN, and share compassion in ways that heal beyond any medical process. 

This is what anointing offers us.

 There is Traditional language for an individual service of healing and it would be something like this; "I anoint you
 for the forgiveness of your sins
 for the strengthening of your faith
 for healing and wholeness according to God's grace and wisdom.

An INDIVIDUAL service of healing involves several steps, a minister, deacons, family and possibly close friends from the faith community.

There is no doubt some amount of power in the ritual because it makes visual God's promise in the tactile action of the community, led by the pastor or deacon. Yet the REAL power is in the praying community. (Again notice, it’s not just the prayers, but the PRAYING COMMUNITY that effects healing.) 
Seldom do we agree to pray for someone and leave it at that. Usually those prayers are accompanied by wonderful and constant thoughts, cards or phone calls, and often a visit. Community does not take the place of God's actions. Still there is a role for us to play in support of however God works. It is this partnership and recognition of our servanthood to each other, that helps to form us and offer healing far beyond the physical alone. (Even when that is what we most desire.) 
I believe this wonderful partnership with God creates more than we can imagine as we participate in Divine Healing with God.

Today: I want you to have the opportunity to experience Show and Tell Prayer. You are Invited to visit a deacon station in one of the corners of the sanctuary during the last hymn which we will soon sing. 
Thanks to choir members, the verses will be sung for us, allowing us to focus on the easy words and sounds of the chorus...‘and I will RAISE you up..” 
  • I suggest your 1st fix in your mind a sense of what you seek in the way of healing, wholeness and/or strength. 
The deacon who touches your for head with oil will say, 
"you are anointed for strength and wholeness in body and spirit

You may answer with 'amen' or say nothing at all, What every you choose is fine. WE are a simple folk when it comes to ritual. 
But I want to stress that these rituals are important because they fix in our minds and the memories of body action, what our heads and hearts already know. 
God wishes our wholeness and God blesses us.. Thru the community of faith. 

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