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Bishop Michael Rinehart

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Prayer

10.9.16 is Pentecost 21C – Prayer

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. 

March 8, 2015 is Lent 3B

Exodus 20:1-17 – Moses’ covenant (age 80?). Ten Commandments. I brought you out of the land of Israel.

Psalm 19 – Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You…

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 – The gospel is foolishness to those perishing, but to us the power of God. Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified. God chose what was weak and despised in the world…

John 2:13-22 – Cleansing of the Temple. Early in John’s gospel. Then resurrection prediction. Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it.

The Covenant on Stone

Just a reminder that our Hebrew Bible readings are focused on the covenants during Lent. The first Sunday of Lent we had God’s covenant with Noah, who we are told is 600 years old. The epistle text from I Peter references Noah. Last week we read about God’s covenant with Abraham who we are told is 99. The epistle text from Romans references Abraham. This week and next week we will cover God’s covenant with Moses who is apparently 80. Lent 5 culminates with God’s promise in the prophet Jeremiah, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel… I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”

Paul picks up this thread in his second letter to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians). The new covenant is not written on stone like Moses’ Ten Commandments, but on hearts: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.“ He goes on to say God has made us:

ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory?For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory!

Exodus: The Mosaic Covenant. The Ten Commandments form the center of the Mosaic Covenant. In all there are 613 commandments in the Torah, a contract between God and the Israelites. “I brought you out of the land of Israel.” Moses was purportedly 80 years old when he ascended Mount Sinai. The Covenant consisted of laws, holiness codes, cleanliness codes, and dietary codes to protect the people and maintain their holiness before God. It also had punishments for those who broke those codes. This is a conditional covenant. Follow my laws and statutes, and I will go before you and be your rear guard.

1 Corinthians: Gospel foolishness. The message of the cross is utter folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. The idea that we find our lives by losing them, that we save them by giving them away, must seem idiotic to those with a zero-sum view of life. “Eat and drink for tomorrow we die!” “Life is short. Grab all the gusto you can get.” Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach this unexpected message of Christ crucified. The weakness of God is greater than the strength of humans. The epistle for Lent 3 does not reference the Mosaic covenant as the epistle from Lent 1 mentioned Noah and the epistle from Lent 2 mentioned Abraham, but there is a clear proclamation of the gospel that transcends all human forms of religion.

John 2: The Cleansing of the Temple. This is one of the few stories that appears in all four canonical gospels. In John’s gospel, the Cleansing of the Temple happens early in Jesus’ ministry, rather than at its culmination, after his arrival in Jerusalem. Rather than being the catalyst for his crucifixion, in John the Cleansing sets the tone for his ministry from the outset. It also sets up tension in the plot.

John’s gospel is a challenge topographically. Jesus is baptized in Jordan (down near Jerusalem). Then he chooses his disciples (up in Galilee, probably at Capernaum where we are told Peter’s house is). He turns water into wine at Cana. No one really is sure where Cana is, but John says it’s in Galilee. There’s a town about 10 miles WSW of Tiberias called Kafr Kanna. That might be it (See the red pin on the map). Jesus then makes a brief stop in Capernaum before heading to Jerusalem for Passover.

Capernaum can’t be seen on this map. It’s at the top of the Sea of Galilee. Permit me a brief excursus.

CanaLocate Tiberius, on the west side of the Sea of Galilee. There is a nice Sheraton Inn in this town of 40,000. Tiberius is mentioned only once in the Bible, in John 6. Drive north out of Tiberius along the Sea of Galilee (a.k.a. Sea of Tiberius or Lake Gennesaret), and you will come to Migdal, the home of Mary of Migdal, the Magdalene. From Midgal it is only six miles further north to Capernaum.

On the north side of Capernaum you will see the Mount of Beatitudes. Our guide tells us Mount Sinai gave us the “Don’ts.” On the Mount of Beatitudes, Jesus gave us the “Do’s.” Christianity is a religion of do’s. Mussolini built an octagonal church at the top of this hill. Further down towards the lake is the Bread and Fish Church. You can guess what they think happened there. Capernaum is about the same latitude as Dallas, but it has a bit warmer climate. Save your continuing educations dollars. At some point in your career it is worth a visit.

So, in John, Jesus goes like this: Jerusalem > Capernaum > Cana > Capernaum > Jerusalem > Samaria > Galilee, and so on. This is, of course, quite possible, but it would be grueling (many several-day trips on foot), and it is a bit different than the itineraries of the other gospels.

In John, Jesus goes into the Temple and uses a whip to drive out the moneychangers, giving this event more force. In the synoptics Jesus says it’s written, “My house shall be a house of prayer [for all nations, Mark adds], but you have made it a den of robbers.” In John, Jesus doesn’t mention the “house of prayer,” but simply says, “Stop making my Father’s house a house of trade.” The word here is οἶκον ἐμπορίου, oikon emporiou. You can see the word “emporium.” One might translate this, “Stop making my Father’s house an emporium.” The NRSV chooses, “marketplace.”

“Destroy this temple,” Jesus says, “and in three days I will rebuild it.” In a play on words, Jesus substitutes himself for the Temple, and predicts the resurrection for those with ears to hear.

Last week we had a crucifixion prediction; this week we have a resurrection prediction.

Some see Jesus calling for an end to the temple system. Perhaps so, but don’t miss the economic reforms implied here. John wants us to see Jesus as a reformer, like Nehemiah who drove out Eliashib’s grandson and turned over Tobiah’s furniture for leasing out the Temple storeroom in Nehemiah 13. Jesus is unhappy with what the Temple has become, an emporium. His anger is righteous indignation. Luther’s anger at the sale of indulgences comes to mind. It bothered him that Rome was being built on the backs of the poor, by the sale of forgiveness. The temptation to coopt religion for financial gain is great.

As an ecclesiam semper reformandum (a church always in reformation) we are called to evaluate and critique our religious systems, which can easily become so mired in the economic realities of resourcing organizations that they lose their primary purpose. This is as true of congregations as it is of denominations. We may want to look at others and reform them, but more in the spirit of Jesus is looking at the log in our own eyes. How do we need to change, reform?

There is a deeper meta-message here. For the early church, Temple worship eventually became House worship, Church worship. A building as God’s dwelling place was replaced by Jesus as God’s dwelling place. God’s locus shifted from a building to a person. Animal sacrifice as a central act of worship (in many religions) was replaced by Jesus as the final sacrifice.

There is a danger of preaching supercessionism here. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that for Paul, faith brings life and salvation that the law cannot. Jesus transforms the water of all our human religious systems to the wine of faith, which is trusting in God’s promises. For the gospel writers, Jesus is the new Moses, ushering in a new covenant not written on stone tablets, but on hearts.

This new covenant finds its strength not in the supremacy of Israel, but in the supremacy of humility and sacrifice. This all is nonsense, of course, by the world’s standards of power and privilege, but for those who have discovered in it a spring of water gushing up to eternal life, it is the very power of God.

How might our congregations encounter God through the humility of the cross? Might we not encounter Christ by seeking out those who are suffering most in our world?

Prayer

Those who are studying prayer this Lent, reading one chapter a day in Learning to Pray Again, are likely around chapters 15-21. After a short chapter on making time for prayer, which we discussed earlier, we cover walking, music, journaling, confession, table prayer, and praying for the world.

Walking has become my favorite ways to prayer in this season of life. It amazes me how different forms of prayer work in the various stages of life. For most of my life, journaling didn’t work at all. Then, at some point in my early 40’s I was stuck in my prayer life, and I began writing. As I mention in the book, I simply began each day by writing, “Yesterday…” I committed to only writing one sentence, but most days I poured out a page. The journal became the place I collected thoughts, ideas, hopes, dreams, and confessions. Many sermon ideas found their way onto those pages. I processed conflicts. The best thing was I could return to these pages and recall quite poignantly the feelings and issues at stake.

In a journal you can hand write a memory verse or prayer you are trying to memorize. Sometimes I would spend a week on a passage and memorize it in several languages. In my journal I would write my prayer concerns and those given to me by others. This became for me a treasure and ushered in a period of time where my prayer life was the most rich it had ever been in my life. I commend it to you. If you do nothing else, purchase a blank book. If journaling isn’t your way of praying this year, it might be next year.

One note about table prayer. If “Come Lord Jesus” is your only prayer time during the day, your family is missing out on a lot. But table prayer is sacred time. This chapter encourages the use of table prayers and offers options. I encourage reclaiming the table as a place of faith, scripture, and caring conversation. Turn off the television and make this time sacred.

Praying for the world is a holy enterprise. The world is in many ways smaller than ever. In this day of global telecommunications, what happens on the other side of the globe is known to us instantly and can affect life here in dramatic ways. It is easier than ever to be in relationship with people of other countries. Our companion synods in Peru and the Central African Republic feel closer than they did even 16 years ago when I made my first trek to Lima. Consider putting up a map of the world in your home or setting out a globe. When a country comes up at school, at work, or in the news, pray for it visually and tacitly.

As you experiment with these very different forms of prayer during Lent, I hope you’ll gather people for discussion. Listen to the stories. Share them. I would covet knowing that the time I spent writing this helped in some small way to bear fruit in someone’s spiritual life. Hearing these stories might encourage others to experiment in prayer.

May your continued observance of Lent be prayerful.

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