Tuesday, June 7, 2011

prayer and prayers.

Sunday's Sermon manuscript. 
(It's funny how when it's time to proclaim the message, it comes out differently at each service.)

June 5, 2011
7th Sunday of Easter

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

Please pray with me,
We do not often know what to expect in our world, Holy God, and we are painfully aware that we are not in control.  Wars begin or continue despite our efforts for peace.  The poor are still poor despite our efforts to proclaim good news.  Friends, colleagues, and family members still fall ill despite our efforts for healing.  We still face death despite our faith in your resurrection hope.  So we thank you that in our struggle to live and serve you, you do not leave us alone.  You bring us together in this community called the church.  Deepen our trust in one another, so that in our living and in our serving, we may support each other as one community.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen. 

As I read this prayer in preparation for worship this weekend, it sort of grabbed a hold of me.  It caught me right where I was, right where I am, and reminded me that in the midst of all that I go through, it is this community, through Christ, that strengthens and supports me along the way.  I even posted it in my blog earlier this week. 

There is something about prayer, isn’t there…I’ve heard so many stories from people about the power of prayer.  People attest to feeling the love and support of others through prayer. 

I was talking with a good friend of mine recently.  I we talked about life changes, about moving about new jobs and settings and congregations…she continued to lift up how strong I was for moving half way across the country all by myself to start a new call in Robesonia.  But I truly couldn’t take all the credit myself.  You see, there were people here, you all, praying fervently for me in the midst of my transition.  As I said goodbye and packed things up in Indiana, as I traveled in my truck with a crying cat for 12 hours and how I unpacked and continued to get settled in my new home.  I knew I could do it, because 1,400 people were wrapping me in prayer.  I knew that God would give me the strength to make this transition. 

There is power, there is love, there is support in prayer.  I think that’s why our gospel lesson for today speaks so loudly to me.  You see, Jesus is praying to God, for the future of the faith community.  As Jesus departure discourse continues, he lifts up those who follow him, those who believe, those who will make up the future of the church into God’s hands, for protection, love and empowerment. 

In Jesus’ prayer, we are reminded that Jesus is praying for us, as a faith community.  That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?  Think about being lifted up in prayer, by Jesus, the Son of God, as he talks with his father about his future and the future of the church in the world…now that’s a powerful feeling. 

Jesus entrusts the future of the faith community to God. 
Let me say that again, because I feel like it’s important for us to hear.
Jesus entrusts the future of the faith community to God. 

The church’s life rests in and depends on God’s care.  The future of the church does not rest in the church, but in God.  When we hear Jesus’ words, we think about the greater faith community, the church around the world, I think we can also put it in terms of who we are as the body of Christ here at Trinity. 

Think about it, we at Trinity need to understand that our life rests in and depends on God’s care.  The future of Trinity does not rest in Trinity, but in God. 

Those are powerful words, aren’t they.  On some levels, it is a scary thing to hear.  Because when we say that, when we come to understand that really and truly God is in control…and sometimes that can have a calming, comforting effect, but other times it may shake us up a little.  Because we are reminded that we are NOT in control. 

And who here doesn’t like to give up control…or give up being in charge…no doubt that is many or most of us.  Okay, so maybe not all of us want to be in charge of everything…but we do like to have a good handle on the things we face in our lives every day.  We so quickly and so often fall into the trap of sin, that I am in control, I can handle everything that life has to offer.  We fall into sin…and putting ourselves first.  We find ourselves turning away from God and turning in on ourselves.  (How does Trinity spell sin?)  Exactly, the focus is on me, myself and I!

And then life happens.  National disasters sweep through the country destroying homes, communities and families.  Loved ones within the congregation die.  Wars continue around us.  Those whom we love get sick.  And so often in the midst of it, we struggle, because we can’t control the world, we can’t fix the problems, we can’t stop bad things from happening. 

Yet in the midst of all of this, what does it mean to us…to know that we are a community for whom Jesus prays?  In the midst of troubles and turmoil, in the midst of the world sometimes being flipped upside down around us…what does it mean to each of us, that this…this faith community is one for which Jesus prays? 

There is comfort in that.  There is hope in that. 

And, dare I say, a little bit of worry in that. 

There is comfort, because we are assured that Jesus' prays for us. Because we can't do it by ourselves. That’s the painful truth.  We can’t do it on our own. 

But, the comfort comes from knowing that we are guaranteed help from God.

That’s good news, right?  I would say yes, but we may not always want God's help that Jesus has asked for. Sometimes it’s easier to say, I’ve got this, I can do this…even if it’s wrong, rather than to let God lead us somewhere that we do not want to go. 

That’s the mixed blessing that comes from this prayer from Jesus. 

The comfort that we are never alone and are surrounded in prayer by Jesus and by one another…yet, at the same time, that prayer may call us out of our comfort zones, into areas of our community and the world that we’d rather not see or know about.  We may want to fit in with society rather than raise up injustices that we see. 

It’s a challenging hopeful place to be as the community for which Jesus prays. 
We are reminded of our sinfulness and our humanity….and our desire to be in control.  It is also a chance for us to listen carefully to what Jesus has requested of God….and to be ready for answers we may not want to hear. 

Knowing that the future of the church, of our faith community is in the hands of God…is a scary and exciting place to be, we may not be sure of the future, but God is.  And through Jesus, God has brought us together to be on this journey together, so hold on tight, here we go…and thanks be to God for this community who continues to pray together and do God’s work together with our hands.   

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.

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