Saturday, September 28, 2013

Praying to the One God Sermon at United Church of Beloit, Sept 22, 2013

Psalm 113
Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!
4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

1 Timothy 2:1-7
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

A young child was asked to say the prayer before dinner. The child began, asking God to bless Mommy and Daddy, siblings, and friends, each person at the meal, naming by name. Then the child thanked God for the meal, for each food, the roast, the potatoes, the gravy, bread & butter, the milk and juice, and then there was a long pause. Very LONG pause...and the child whispered to her parents, “If I thank God for the broccoli, won't he know I am lying?”

Paul is doing some teaching here on prayer. This is part of a lesson on correct worship.

2:5 there is one God. This is the fundamental affirmation of the Jewish religion
The phrase "there is only one God" echoes the Shema which is the central tenet of faith in Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD" (Deuteronomy 6:4). Here Paul uses this language to compare the oneness of God with the plurality of all-the “many” of humanity.

one mediator between God and men.There is One who arbitrates between God and humanity and reconciles them.
the man Christ Jesus. Paul’s focus is on Christ’s humanity, perhaps because the false teachers had denied that Christ was truly human. The full humanity of Christ is essential to His serving as Mediator of the covenant of grace. Jesus MUST be both fully human and fully divine in order to be the bridge for us who are only human, and God who is only divine.
Paul is teaching on worship and specifically here on prayer. Interesting that he specifies to pray for “kings and those in high positions”

he specifies 4 types of prayer.

supplications, a request, sense of urgency

prayer- to pray earnestly -sincerely, also a place to pray-set apart

intercessions-literally means to come together. intercession." Paul uses the verb form in Romans 8:27 to denote the intercessory role of the Holy Spirit and in Romans 8:34 to describe Christ's intercession for believers

To pray means to turn toward God. A deliberate turn our attention, thoughts and desires to God!

Psalms help us with the turning towards God process. That is why I generally use a Psalm as the basis for our call to worship each week.
When we pray, sing, “bless the lord”, we are not 'blessing” God, but we are giving recognition, Love and honor, giving God the glory, thanks and praise!
This comes right out of the hebrew tradition of saying a 'blessing prayer' of thanks for everything.

thanksgivings―giving of thanks, Greek word is Eucharista -from Charis-meaning grace..God's grace.
And Paul says to pray with thanksgivings for all people! The word in the bible for people is also translated nations, it is the word Ethnos...from which we get the word ethnic...we are to pray for ALL kinds of people aren't we!

So why pray? We are not going to change God with our prayers? God already knows our hearts, God knows our needs, why pray?
Prayer is part of our relationship with God. It is like when a small child tells parent what's on his/her mind through the day. Don't you sometimes feel better when you talk out something with a loved one? Prayer is like that too. Prayer does not change God, but it helps us in our relationship with God.

Henri Nouwen,
It is important to nurture constantly the life of the Spirit of Jesus―which is the eternal life―that is already in us. Baptism gave us this life, the Eucharist maintains it, and our spiritual practices―such as prayer, meditation, bible reading, and spiritual guidance―can help us to deepen and solidify it.
“to deepen and solidify it” that is our goal, to help our faith life which is what gets us through the daily life.
Do we NEED to deepen our faith life? Well, think in terms of what is going on around us in society....

Richard Foster
We are always being formed by something. If we remain passive, we are being formed in the likeness of our surrounding environment. That thought alone should give us pause before dismissing the importance of disciplined effort.

To follow Jesus, we need to nuture His Holy spirit within, through prayer, bible reading, other ways of 'spiritual formation'. We will talk about these over the next few weeks. The churches that are bearing fruit these days are all about this spiritual growth. It all comes out of a deep desire to follow Jesus.

THIS is how we as a church will determine our future together. This is how we will perceive our vision, move forward into our next chapter. I suspect right now many of us feel adrift, as tho we are on the water, but not moving with purpose. Maybe even without an anchor.

Personally, I don't see it that way. I see us reaching out to our community as we always have! And reaching out well, very successfully. Because of our people! You all! Recognizing a need and taking care of it. Helping to take care of each other and of our community! We are making a difference in lives of people here in Beloit and elsewhere through our mission and outreach! I see new folks coming to worship. I go to meetings, introduce myself and hear, 'Oh you are from THAT church! Tell me more!”

We are 'That church!” and we are doing a lot of things well!

There's a story about prayer...
When a nightclub opened on Main Street, the only church in a small town organized an all-night prayer meeting. The members asked God to burn down the club. Within a few minutes, lightning struck the club, and it burned to the ground. The owner sued the church, which denied responsibility.

After hearing both sides, the judge said, It seems that wherever the guilt may lie, the tavern keeper is the one who really believes in prayer, while the church doesn't. {-Herb Miller, Connecting With God: 14 Ways Churches Can Help People Grow Spiritually }


do we believe in the power of prayer? I am NOT advocating that sort of prayer. but do we believe that it could happen!? I do! Do you!? How about if we pray to see more people here in our community, fed, clothed, sheltered, living in safety instead of fear & violence....and we pray to be part of that solution?

Now, please know that I do not always find prayer to be easy. There are times I have no idea what to say and take great comfort in the knowledge that God DOES know what is on our hearts and that the Holy Spirit does interecede for us! That we do not have to be articulate and use 'correct' words or say 'thee and thou” to make our prayers heard. Because sometimes all I can think to say is God, You know all know how my friend is hurting, please, help!!! and God has shown me that a lot of times, words aren't even necessary....the best prayer can a hug, and maybe even to cry together.

Remember, Jesus wept.
I think that one sentence --that one verse, John 11:35, Jesus wept, is one of the most powerful sentences ever composed. Jesus wept, with his friends, sharing in their anguish...taking on their pain, as he would later take on our sin.

We love and follow Jesus not simply because of what he said, but because of the way he lived, died, and was resurrected. Jesus does not ask us to agree with him but to follow him. He takes us on a journey, toward truth, toward a Kingdom we would not have entered without his saying, "Follow me" (Mark 1:17).

Prayer is one of the ways we follow Jesus more closely. Today, tomorrow, this week, please make a bit more time for prayer. Pray for (5 finger prayer) those closest to you, for those pointing you in the right direction (including your pastor and church leaders!) pray for those in leadership of our nation and world, pray for those who are weak, ill, grieving, in economic straits...and pray for yourself, to follow more closely, to learn how to reach out in His love!

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