Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Lord’s Prayer: Our

We are continuing our look at Jesus’ teaching on prayer. Today, we start our meditations on the Lord’s Prayer itself, and we start right at the beginning with the first word of this prayer: our. As all of you grammar nerds know, this is a plural personal pronoun. The form of this first word, matches other plural personal pronouns in this prayer. It’s ‘our daily bread’, ‘our debts’, ‘deliver us from evil’ and all the rest.

Now, is this significant? Obviously, it is. When a Christian prays, he is not to pray merely for himself. He is also to pray for the rest of the group. That may not sound like anything new. But it is my hope that I will be able to help you to see more clearly important aspects of what this means so that together we will be able to pray thoughtfully for each other.

A Prayer

Father,

The great goal of our lives is to get to know You well so that we would be able to glorify and enjoy You, now and forever. We are grateful that getting to know You is not something that You expect us to figure out on our own. No, instead, You have revealed Yourself to us. You have done that primarily through Your Word. But You've also done that through Your creation, using things like the weather.

Father, according to Your wise and loving plan, You've caused a hurricane to come ashore. It is a very powerful hurricane with much rain and strong winds. It is very destructive. You've done this so that we can learn some things about You and us, about how You run this world.

From this it should be obvious to us, Father, that the things that we own are temporary. They will not last forever. Many treasures of the people affected by the hurricane have been destroyed, never to be restored. That is what will happen to everything that we own. Nothing will survive and join us in the age to come. In Your kindness You have destroyed these things so that we all, but especially those now suffering, might be reminded of how temporary the things of this life are. Help us, Father, to heed this lesson so that our hold on our possessions would not be too tight. Help us to enjoy them but only for what they are, temporary gifts.

This hurricane has killed some people, and that is sad. But the fact is that one day we also will die. And who knows if it will be Your plan that we die a calm and quiet death in our beds or in the midst of chaos and pain. Teach us to submit to Your wisdom and Your love now so that when we arrive at our last day we will be at peace with Your will.

These who have died now face You, the one who, as we heard from  Peter's letter, will judge us all according to our deeds. We ask for the grace to take that seriously so that we would be diligent to deal with our sins by repentance and faith.

In due time the skies that are now clouded over by the hurricane will once again be clear and beautiful. The sun will shine brightly in a very blue sky. There will once again be laughter and good times for those living there. This is a good reminder that after the difficulties of this life there will be happiness. The age to come will be filled to overflowing with laughter and good times. Help us to remember this, especially when life feels like we are in the midst of some destructive hurricane.

Thank You Father for the lessons that are all around us, lessons that reveal who You are and what You are about. Grant us the grace to learn these lessons well so that we will live well, and that to Your glory. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Scripture to Meditate On

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 
Psalm 119.15

The first part of this declaration is what lies behind these running comments on Psalm 119. Here is an example of a saint who meditates on the Scriptures. One of my goals is to aid all of you in imitating his example.

To appreciate the second part of the verse we'll need to take apart some of the words. First, there is 'ways'. What is the psalmist referring to here? What are God's ways? This is simply one of the ways that the Scriptures refer to how God acts. A history of His ways is recorded in the Bible. We can see how He has brought about and responded to various events in history. Sometimes He is pleased. Sometimes He isn't. There are important lessons to be learned about who our God is by considering His ways. And then, on top of that, there are our own personal histories of how God has acted in our lives, bringing about these things and responding to those.

The psalmist says that he will fix his eyes on these ways of God. What is this about, and why does he say this after his declaration about meditation? Here's one possibility. To understand God's words, you need to consider God's ways. And to understand God's ways you need to consider His words. The two interpret each other. So, to understand well some teaching that you've read in the Bible it will help to relate it to some appropriate act of God in the lives of His people. And as you see God at work in the history of His people you will be able to understand what He is doing as you consider those other places in the Scriptures that explain Him and His expectations. And all of this becomes so very helpful when you take what you are seeing of God's word and His ways, and use it to understand what He is doing in your life.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

For Sunday

Reading of the Law of God
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 1 Peter 1.17-19

Confession of Sin
Our Father, we admit to You that we are not as careful as we should be when it comes to how we conduct our lives. By our carelessness, we do not honor the precious blood of Christ. We know that You will evaluate each of us accordingly. We ask that You might be gracious again and forgive us this sin. We also ask that Your Spirit might make us more careful in conducting ourselves in ways that are fitting for disciples of Christ. Grant us our requests for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Declaration of Pardon
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Psalm 32.1-2,5

The almighty and merciful Lord grant you pardon and forgiveness of all your sins, time for amendment of life, and the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit.
The Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, September 9, 2018

When You Pray, Don’t …


We’re back again to listen to Jesus’ teaching about prayer. In teaching about this He obviously thought that there were things about prayer that His disciples didn’t know and needed to know. I think that it’s fair to say that we are in the same boat. There are things about prayer that we don’t know and need to know. So, let me encourage you to ponder Jesus’ words about prayer so that your own prayer lives will continue to develop. Much good comes from those who have a good grasp on what they are doing when it comes to discussing life with the Father.

As the title of the sermon makes clear, what we are going to look at this morning are some words from Jesus about how not to pray. Remember, there is a right way to pray and a wrong way. It is as we understand what to avoid that we will have a better idea about what to pursue.

Listen to Jesus.

A Prayer

Father,

The more we get to know You, the more we discover wonders that amaze. There is so much more to who You are that we have no clue about. But we know that, by the ministry of Your Spirit in our lives, that will change. We will get to know You better and better, and that even throughout eternity. That is something we look forward to.

Father, You have been quite clear about how precious we are to You. Through Your prophet, You have said that You rejoice over us with gladness. You quiet us by Your love. You exult over us with loud singing. Father, You are God, and we are mere creatures. And yet, You get emotional over us. And You look forward to the day when all Your saints will be gathered in the new heavens and the new earth for You to thoroughly enjoy.

Father, if we take this seriously, it really is a bit much to take in. So much of this life tells us that we are really quite insignificant. The things that we do don't really make a dent. It might be different if we were some political hot shot or a billionaire owner of some internet-related company. But that's not us. And so, while the world around us lets us live what it considers our unimportant lives, You tell a very different story.

So, Father, if this is part of the Gospel - and it is - then we need to believe it. And we want to believe it. So, we look to You. Grant us the grace that we need to believe something else that will look impossible to so many of the people around us. We make You glad. We are the inheritance that You are eagerly waiting to enjoy. You rejoice over us. Father, help us believe this all the time, but especially the times when the world's story is making too much sense. Make us to see any unbelief when it comes to this truth of the Gospel and to repent of it. We ask this so that we will live in a way that is so very different from the rest of humanity. And we ask this through Jesus who has made it possible. Amen.