Committed to Christ Series 

The next six weeks, we are in a series called Committed to ChristIn this post-Christian culture, it is wise each fall to do a series on the purposes of the church or the marks of discipleship. We cannot assume that people know what it means to follow Christ. Our world is as spiritually hungry as ever, but when they come to the church they often get inducted into club membership, rather than invited to grow spiritually. This series will focus on what it means to follow Christ.

My weekly blog posts for the next six weeks are going to focus on six marks of discipleship.

6 Marks of Discipleship:

  1. Prayer
  2. Bible Reading
  3. Worship
  4. Witness
  5. Financial Giving
  6. Service

The goals of this series are:

  • To engage the entire congregation in praying and growing together in faith
  • To develop small groups that grow faith and bond the congregation together in strong friendships
  • To welcome newcomers and close the back door of the church.
  • To grow faith and generosity.

The key components of the series are:

  • Daily devotions
  • Weekly home groups
  • Sunday worship

Pentecost 21C – October 9, 2016

The texts appointed for this coming Sunday in the Revised Common lectionary are posted below. Use this blogpost if you wish to read a post that focuses on the gospel text, Luke 17.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 – Thus says the Lord to the exiles in Babylon: Build houses; plant gardens; take wives; have children. But seek the welfare of the city to which I have sent you.
OR
2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c – Namaan, a Syrian, goes to Elisha to be healed of his leprosy.


Psalm 66:1-12
– Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth, for he has tested us, refined us like silver.
OR
Psalm 111 – I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

2 Timothy 2:8-15 – I endure everything for the elect, that they may attain salvation. If we have died with him, we will also live with him. Do your best to show yourself an approved worker.

Luke 17:11-19 – Healing of the ten lepers.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month

Prayer

Intro

It’s a great pleasure to be with you. I’m in a different congregation each Sunday. We are a community of 112 congregations, plus a camp, and some campus ministries at Texas A&M, Blinn, U of H, Rice, LSU, and so on, hospital chaplaincies, military chaplaincies and more. We do together what we cannot do alone:

  1. Send missionaries out into the world
  2. Support a network of global churches
  3. Prepare people for ministry
  4. Help congregations find pastors
  5. Plant new congregations
  6. Respond to disasters
  7. And this year we are raising $500K for ELCA World Hunger the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Thank you for being a part of what we are doing together

Committed to Christ

Mary Oliver asks,

What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?

You are starting a series called “Committed to Christ.” You’re going to be talking about what it means to be a Christian, to follow Christ. You’re going to talk about:

  1. Prayer
  2. Bible Reading
  3. Worship
  4. Witness
  5. Financial Giving
  6. Service

Today we’re going to talk about how to pray.

  1. What is prayer? Ask them to respond.

Responses will be talking with God. Communing with God. Listening to God.

How much of our praying should be talking, and how much should be listening?

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 

Pray like this…

Then he teaches them the Lord’s Prayer, which is remarkable because of how short it is.

Prayer is not blathering on and on. That’s what we were taught: “Now I lay me down to sleep…” We have to learn how to pray again.

Long ago when I was learning to type, I used to delight in typing letters to my friends without pressing the spacebar. Now when you don’t press the spacebar you’ve got a real mess and there is much decoding to be done. It is the spaces in between that enable us to understand the message.
Life is very much the same. It is the spaces in between that help us understand life. But some of us keep forgetting to press the spacebar. And why do we forget? Well, many of us have the disease that some doctors are calling hurry sickness.
– Macrina Wiederkehr

Be still and know that I am God.
– Psalm 46

Prayer is emptying ourselves.

God cannot fill what is full.
– Mother Teresa

What if, every day, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer, then a prayer of thanks, for our families and few prayer requests, and then spent 20 minutes in silence listening to God?

  1. If you were to take 30 minutes every day for this what might be some of the advantages?

I’m going to give you a few minutes. Make a list.

  • “I believe I’d have more peace.”
  • “It might calm me down.” (Glass of water)
  • “I believe it would help me listen for God’s voice more acutely.”
  • “It would give me more time to reflect my life and my relationships.”
  • “It will refocus me on what is important in life.”
  • “I believe it would make me more attuned to and available for others.”
  • “It would deepen my faith.”
  • “It would give me more focus and energy.”
  • “When I pray in the morning it sets my day on the right foot.”
  • “When I pray in the morning, I am more likely to pray during the day.”
  • “I want to grow spiritually.”
  • “Prayer lowers my anxiety.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
— Phil. 4:6

Isn’t it interesting that Paul connects anxiety and prayer? He understands that prayer does something to us.

Mother Teresa understood this as well. She said,

The fruit of silence is prayer
the fruit of prayer is faith
the fruit of faith is love
the fruit of love is service
the fruit of service is peace.
– Mother Teresa

I have so much to do that if I didn’t spend at least three hours a day in prayer I would never get it all done.
— Martin Luther

  1. Learning to Pray Again

When – Uninterrupted
Place – Same place
Prepare – Have a pad handy
Method – There are lots of ways to pray

  • Collect some prayers that you like and read them or memorized them. (Oratio) Book.
  • Pray off the top of your head. (Oratio)
  • Write in Pad/Journal – “Yesterday…” “Thank you.” Meister Eckhart: “If the only prayer you ever prayer is ‘Thank you,’ it would be enough.”
  • Read the Bible slowly. (Lectio)
  • Mantra (meditatio)
  • Silence (contemplation)
  • If you don’t believe in God, it’s okay. Silence is silence. Listen to the universe. Prayer is a matter of where you put your focus. It’s the best way to start the day.
  • Walking
  • Focus
  • Art, music, many more (book)

Here’s the good news. God has built in a natural, anxiety-reducing, hope-inducing, life-enhancing, all-natural remedy for the craziness of life. God invites us to get off the treadmill of life, and find joy and refreshment. And it’s completely free!

Come away to a deserted place and rest for a while.
— Jesus, Mark 6

Conclusion

Would you take out the card in your bulletin for a moment and look at it?

So each week we are going to ask you to think about one aspect of your faith and spirituality.

This week I’m inviting you to try out prayer. Pray about it. Pray about praying.

Look at your commitment card. As I read through these, check all that apply. You can check more than one if you want. Pick the ones that work for you.

commitment-card

  1. Today I am not ready to make a commitment to pray. If that’s you check it. It’s okay. We’re all in different places.
  2. Beginning today, I will pray when I am in a worship service. At least once a week, I’m going to pray.
  3. Beginning today, I will pray every time I am facing a difficult decision. I will pray every time my back is up against a wall. Hey, it’s a start.
  4. Beginning today, I will strive to pray once a day. This could be 10 seconds. Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you ever prayer is ‘Thank you,’ it would be enough.”
  5. Beginning today, I will pray daily, using a devotional guide or resource. Let them know what is available.
  6. Beginning today, I will pray daily, remembering the prayer requests shared in worship. This is a commitment to pray for those in your bulletin each day.
  7. Beginning today, I will pray daily, setting aside at least 15 minutes for prayer. I’m hoping you’re willing to try this. I guarantee it will bear fruit for you.
  8. Beginning today, I will pray daily and be in the church prayer chain or prayer group. Tell them how they can get involved…
  9. Prayer will be a priority in my life, growing to include the following: This is the last one. Daddy always said to read the fine print.
  • I will surround my family and friends with prayer.
  • I will surround my church with prayer.
  • Through prayer, I will find strength, power and direction to face the week.
  • Through prayer, I will trust God with my life, my family, my job, my finances, and my immediate and eternal future.
  • Through prayer, I will learn to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself.

Come close to me now. Here what I have to say.

There is a resource available to you. To renew your strength. Restore your soul. To calm the storms of life. You will encounter the Spirit of the universe. You will encounter Christ, who offers us life, who gives to us freely.

I’ll close with these words from the prophet Isaiah (40:29-31):

God gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.