Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pentecost, Power, & Prayer

 Mt 6:5-15 /“Pentecost, Power, and Prayer” Pentecost; 5-24-15, ACoB

This is last Sunday's sermon. After Everett sang the Lord's Prayer, I was so touched, I had to stuff down tears to begin the message. Then at the end, when I relayed why I pray, I teared up. Don't think that has EVER happened before.
"The Holy Spirit comes with tears." I have often said!

(As previously, the highlighted orange questions are interactive with the congregation answering.)
ASK: What kind of power did the dis/apostles experience that day of pentecost?

ASK: What do you think they had been praying for?

How can Jesus instruction on prayer inform our need today? (think about your questions, jot them down. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I believe in our ability to hear the scripture speak when we gather around it.)
We begin with the words Matthew’s author has given us.

Text notes - In this part of the sermon on the mount Jesus is giving practical advice and we all like practical advice. He has given his interpretation of the LAW and the ways it is still in force for his followers, therefore for us. (1)
In his practical advice, Jesus illustrates the ways the HEART of the law leads to a new and greater righteousness.” (2) (remember “Greater Righteousness” is the theme)

He chooses for his examples the things that his followers do BECAUSE they are his followers, or CHRISTIANS as we are now called.
ASKWhat things do Christians do because they follow Jesus?  
. . .answers

Now, on a empty place in your bulletin, write down YOUR Christian practices. What do YOU do because you follow Jesus?
  • Everyone gets “credit” for being here today! Attendance in worship is one of your Christian practices.

Even tho traditions differ among our many versions of Christianity, some things are common to all followers; 
ASK: What are common Christian practices?

Tom Long names them this way, 
  • “1)Prayer, 
  • 2)gathering for Fellowship, 
  • 3)Studying Scripture, 
  • 4)Performing Deeds of Charity” (3)
You can fill out your own report card for this semester, I won’t ask you to evaluate yourself verbally.

The illustrations we focus on today are Jesus words about how to pray.

“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. 6 But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.

Translations differ on “that secret place” - a room, closet, it doesn’t matter because we are not to take this literally. AND because we aren’t to take it literally, it doesn’t mean that public prayer is never appropriate. After all, Jesus prayed in public and among his disciples.
The point, as Tom Long says, is WHO is doing the seeing or hearing. Are we praying for OTHERS to hear & see or praying for God to hear?

There are two ways of performing any of those Christian actions on our report card. 
1. One is called “personal piety” or the ways we act and the things we do when we are alone or at home. Maybe this qualifies as “when in our secret place”. (I asked Donna to share from that secret place today so that we might learn more about a tradition we are not all familiar with, from a sister.)
2. The other falls under, “Letting Our Lights Shine” as we learned about last Sunday sitting out on the grass, from another sister, Debbie. These actions are OUT in the world and on BEHALF of the world. (4) (Tom Long’s ‘deeds of charity’) 
The point of this being that people notice the deeds and give credit to God. . .by the way, it’s not supposed to be about people noticing and giving credit to our church. “What a wonderful church that must be…” which is sometimes what we expect…

Instead, we are to pray the way we speak to our mother, or father.  We speak from a deep relationship with God. This IS our MOST intimate relationship. 
Therefore we can say anything, or simply cry. 
We can scream with anger, or laugh with delight. 
Or merely be silent in God’s presence.
All these expressions are prayer.

As Anne Lamont says in her book I read last week, most of her prayers are simple words, “HELP, THANKS, WOW!”
ASK: Have you prayed those one-word prayers? 
Have you prayed NO-word prayers?

So, We are not to “Pour out a flood of empty words. . .because God knows what we need before we ask.” (6:7-8)
ASK: What do you make of that statement?
God knows what we need before we ask

If God knows everything, —why did Jesus pray that night in the garden? (point to slide)
This image in stained glass is what the people at the Nokesville church are looking at this morning. The stained glass window sits at the front of the sanctuary. (behind it is the baptistry) Our sister, Angela is there and it’s her first Sunday as their pastor.
Angela and I spoke about this text and the relationship to the Holy spirit. Angela said, “when we sing "Holy Spirit Come with Power" we're not soliciting the help of a fragile bubble like depicted on the bulletin cover :)”

Is that why Jesus prayed? To solicit the power he needed?

He instructed his disciples to pray and promised them power would come with the Holy Spirit. But it’s not magic. Prayer is not a formula we control
It is linked closely to the Holy Spirit, which makes it so pertinent today. —— How does prayer work?

Some people say “prayer changes us”. 
ASK: What do you think? Is that the point of prayer?
. . .
Does prayer change us?  Does it Change God? 
Can it Change others?
. . .answers
Does our relationship with God thru Christ guarantee us the Holy Spirit? . . .how do you know when you’ve got the spirit?

The apostle Paul wrote in his Romans letter; (8:25-26)
We ourselves who have the Spirit (as the first crop of the harvest) also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. ..26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. (NRSV: groans too deep for words) 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will.

***There is a connection between prayer, our relationship to the Divine and the Divine presence known as the Holy Spirit.***

If Fred Craddock is right when he says, “ The Prayer of Christians is an expression of trust in God.” [then] Our asking is aligning ourselves in trust and acknowledging our need.” (5)

We ask in order to align ourselves with God - in trust. 
We ask in trust and it helps form us into God-like people as we were created to be. 
& We ask to acknowledge our need.

We DON”T have the power to change the world or ourselves - at least not most of the time. 
But the Holy Spirit does.
. . .
ASK: So who is changed by prayer?
Us, God, others? - Answer: YES?

We don’t really know how prayer works. But we trust it does.
We recognize that prayer is more than asking, yet we ask.

We we ask for life, for healing, for the end of pain, yet we know that all life ends in death and that people still experience pain.
Some would say, why pray then?

Only you can answer that question. 
***I pray because I’m in love and because I am loved - by something greater than I am, something at the heart of my life.*** 

So I sit in silence, even when my mind tries to wander.
I ask, even when I don’t know how that changes God or me.
I receive - A Peace, A Power, A Presence that is also greater than I am.  
—A holy presence, found only in prayer.
Dove At St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome

1.  Thomas Long Matthew - Westminster Bible Commentary (Louis:WJK, 1997)55
2. ibid 55
3. ibid 55
4. ibid 66
5.  Boring and Craddock People’s NT Commentary (Louis:WJK,2004)25-26

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sermonating - on a rainy day.

I'm so glad I set aside today to do reading and writing. It's been a long time since I had a whole day for this. Last week, thanks to Debbie's creative outdoor worship, I was able to catch up on visiting and much paperwork. This week, I began with a Reevesland Learning Center crisis, as the Arlington County Board of Supervisors voted to sell the historic farmhouse which sits in the midst of the garden beds the Reevesland Learning Center uses to educate children and adults on growing their own food.
see washington post article
Yesterday was an office, appointments, and people at regular evening hours. So today it's Matthew 6 and a return to the Sermon on the Mount in the shadow (or light) of Pentecost. How do we talk about power as in holy spirit, when we live outside of the power center of Washington, D.C.? Now there's a question to consider!

I'm actually enjoying the rain and cool air after the heat of the weekend and Monday. AND getting my wash done since I've been out every night this week. Looking forward to being home, and cooking something for dinner tonight. So that's life for now. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pastor's Diary May 2015

 nancy april 15____Pastor's Diary____ 
Hello {FIRST_NAME|friends},

It's been a long time since I did a Pastor's Diary entry. Thank you for the birthday wishes and the song and flowers yesterday. It was a nice quiet day. As some of you know, I was sick most of last week. It seems I can't fight things off lately. But I am better now and will be back to visiting and having apointments on Wednesday. (I'm not sharing my cold)

The above picture is from my last haircut. My friend and almost-daughter, Katie is a professional and manager of the PR Partners in Gainesville. It is a joy to see her every 6 weeks for a cut. She and Melody grew up together.

Lately Fitz and I have been enjoying some extra time with Melody and James' puppy, Bowser. We call him a 'grand-pup'.  
Our dogs have finally gotten used to him and they can play (or more often ignore each other) in the back yard. We were able to walk all three of them at Upton Park yesterday when we returned from the "lunch bunch" after worship.

I was reading some devotional material this morning and want to share this message from Reuben Job with you. His writing is always insightful. When I look out my window to the sky and trees each morning, sit in prayer, and read, I find his words touch my spirit. Perhaps they will yours too.

"Have you ever been extremely thirsty? If you have, you know how wonderful and refreshing cool water can be. When the Samaritan woman encountered Jesus, she was searching for that which would quench her body's thrist. In the presence of Jesus she recognized a deeper thirst, the thirst for God. (John chapter 4) 
The Thirst for God is universal because we have been created with a longing for the Creator. this desire to know and be known by the One who made us and loves us is often ignored, denied, and finally buried under a multitude of pursuits and interests. But then some event in life invites or forces us to pause, and the desire for God comes rushing back to our awareness. We know for certain that we need living water; we need what only God can give if we are really to live.

Today Jesus continues to offer living water, a way, and a companionship that can quench our thirst for God. Our part is to recognize the deep need for God within us and to offer hospitality to the One who seeks to fill and satisy that need. Like the psalmist, our souls thirst for God. The good news we share is that through Jesus the Christ our thirst can be satisfied." 
Rueben P. Job in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God. (Nashville:Upper Room Books, 2013)194-5

I feel my thirst for God when I slow down enough to realize I've filled life with business, not living water. Those moments in the morning help fill me. What helps quench your thirst for God? Can I help you find a way?

This month we will study the Sermon on the Mount under the them of Turning Our Eyes On Jesus. I hope examining the instructions for living the "Jesus' Way" found in his sermon will also prompt us to recall WHY we choose to live his way. With our eyes
Turned On Jesus this month, I trust we will drink deeply of living water.

Pastor Nancy

I try to post these messages on my blog and the church website. Link to my blog If you miss us, you can always catch up here on the web, Link to our website. I also change the pictures on the web and the church facebook page. We do try to post sermons either written or audio and sometimes both.