Tuesday, July 30, 2013


          Prayers, petitions to God, how do we pray? Do we pray? Do we pray constantly as Paul said in one of his epistles? How do we learn how to pray? And, why do we pray? Does it do any good? Is God really listening to our prayers?
          Don’t get nervous. I’m not going to ask any of you to answer these questions. But we do need to consider them. They’re important because it gives us some idea about our own spirituality.
          God does know everything about us but God also desires an intimacy with us that is only complete when we talk with God. I almost wrote “Him.”
          If God in the feminine gender is what you need to be intimate with God then I believe God can do that for us. I really don’t think about that too much, though I do say “he” and “him” but it’s habit more than anything else. I think God understands.
          So, how do we pray and why? Do we just have conversation with God when we do our devotions and then never talk with him/her the rest of the day? Or do we just talk with God right before we fall to sleep thanking him for the blessings and trials of the day? Or…do we have a running conversation with God…all day…and God’s probably happy when we do dose off. At least then he/she can pay attention to someone else’s needs.
          Speaking of needs, is that the only time we come to God in prayer? It may be true for some folks. When life is good and everything is running smoothly do we think that we don’t need to bother God with our prattle?
          Friends, those who’re married, do you only converse with your spouse when you need something or do you talk with them all day long? Think about that. Maybe our prayer life is patterned after our own lives.
          So, let’s go on to how we learn how to pray. How did you learn how to pray? Was there someone in your life who you thought was a good pray-er? And did you create prayers that were similar to theirs? I think that’s okay. The best teachers are those who teach us by their own examples.
          Or...maybe you’re still working on praying.  Actually we’re probably all still refining our prayers because we don’t think they’re good enough. But, you know, if we’re praying to God then whatever we’re saying is good for God. At least we’re making the effort to be in conversation.
          But, how to pray is a concern for most of us and it certainly was for Jesus’ disciples. They wanted Him to teach them how to pray as John had taught his disciples.
          So, Jesus gave them an example, a rough draft, of what prayer with God, the Father, should be like. I don’t think it had to be exactly, word for word, like that but it gave them an idea of how to pray to God.
          The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father is one of the examples Jesus gave his disciples and it provides a good foundation for us.
          We come to God in prayer with respect as if we were talking to our own fathers. We pray, realizing that God can and will do what is best, asking that His will be done, His will not ours.
          And…we pray that what is being done in heaven will be done on earth. We are letting God know that we desire heaven on earth. We desire peace and tranquility. We desire beauty and justice and righteousness.
          We then ask God to forgive us as we forgive those who do wrong against us. So, if we aren’t forgiving then it might be that God wouldn’t be very forgiving toward us.
          We pray that God will provide food to sustain us. We don’t pray for extra large portions but for just enough to get us through the day.
          And then we pray that God will keep us from the trial and temptations of life. I think we pray that because we know how weak our wills are. We know that we can’t resist the temptations of this world without God’s help.  Look how hard it is for us to give up cigarettes or alcohol or drugs or gambling or shopping or eating or any of the other things that we abuse just our bodies with every day. We want, we desire that God would keep us away from the evil things of this world.
          Not in Luke but in Matthew the petition continues by asking that God protect us from the evil one.
          And that’s where it ends. So, what’s the right way to pray? Friends, it may be that if we would do nothing else but begin by praying the Lord’s Prayer everyday, every time we felt the need to pray soon our prayers might evolve into prayers that were more conversational because we’d become comfortable talking with our Creator.
          The Lord’s Prayer is just the beginning, the foundation upon which to build our prayer life. There are many different and varied ways that we can pray. And, I believe, that God hears us and is paying attention to all prayers that are lifted up to him.
          I’d like to end today’s message with a reading from 2nd Chronicles… it says…
2 Chron. 7:14…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

          Thanks be to God for the gift of prayer and his grace. Amen.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Just Ordinary People

          How did Naaman happen to be in Samaria? How did Moses get so lucky to be found by the princess and still cared for by his birth mother? How did Joseph get to the level of prominence in the Pharaoh’s court?
          They all came to where they were because of ordinary people, people like you’d meet on the streets in Walnut, people like you’d meet at McDonald’s or Robert’s Bakery, just ordinary people. And yet, because of their actions these people’s lives were transformed.
          If it hadn’t been for Naaman’s wife’s slave girl he’d never have heard about a prophet in Samaria let alone traveled to the Jordan to be washed and cleansed of his skin condition.
          If Moses’ sister, Miriam, hadn’t hidden herself in the reeds by the river watching to see where the basket with the baby Moses landed he would never have learned about his heritage at his own mother’s knee.
          What about the people of Sychar in Samaria? They would’ve never come to know Jesus if the Samaritan woman hadn’t went to Jacob’s well at noon. If she hadn’t stopped to talk…and listen to Jesus they would’ve never come to the well themselves. They wouldn’t have invited him to stay for 2 days nor would any have had the opportunity to believe that Jesus was truly the savior of the world.
          Think how different Jesus’ ministry would’ve been without the help he and his disciples received from the women who followed Jesus, women like Mary Magdalene, Susanna, Joanna, and others who provided for them out of the resources they had.
          Just ordinary people, because of them the world was changed. Because of them others learned about God and his love. Because of ordinary people the world has learned about Jesus and the kingdom of God right here.
          We’re all here, more than likely, because of ordinary people. We’re here because someone cared enough, loved enough, to take the time to let you know that there is a God and he loved the world so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, to save it.
          Because of ordinary people we know God’s Spirit is within us lighting the fire in our bellies. Ordinary people are the reason this church is here today. Ordinary people who knew that people still needed a place to worship…and learn about God.
          And so it continues that the Word goes out today through ordinary people, maybe people like you and me. Just think, someone may not ever know about God and his Son, Jesus if you don’t tell them.
          Friends, even if you feel like you don’t have the gift or the skill to talk about your faith or your hope I ask you to put your trust in God to provide the courage, the desire, …and the right words at the right time.
          Someone’s life will be changed because you share your story of God’s love with them. Trust and have faith that God is still at work in our world today.

          Thanks be to God for his love and grace given to ordinary people. Amen.  

Monday, July 1, 2013


          Every time a loved one dies all of us are reminded that our days are numbered. Our physical bodies can only last so many years. We realize we aren’t immortal.
          But, my friends, death doesn’t have the final word. The writers of every scripture read this morning in their own way spoke of the hope they had in God and Jesus and the Spirit. God is righteous. God loves us. He is always with us everywhere we are. Even though our bodies wear out and we die our hope is in God who will raise us up at the last day. As Jesus said, “…my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
          Friends, that’s our hope, our faith is grounded in God’s love and grace. And I believe that’s what gives us hope and the assurance that one day we will all be reunited with those saints who’ve gone on ahead of us. Dorothy has just passed through the door before us but one day she’ll be reunited with her family and friends.
          In the meantime it’s our responsibility to continue the work she started through God’s good grace. God has blessed each of us with gifts that we’re to use to tell the story of God’s love to our families, our friends, and everyone we meet on our journey through this life.
          As Paul told the Ephesians, “18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
          We have hope because of God’s grace, that wonderfully free gift of love that we have by no stretch of the imagination earned.
          “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
          Our hope, our faith rests on God’s love and grace for his creation and we whom he created in his image. As Jesus said in John’s gospel for us today, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away… everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.
          Friends, that’s the good news. We believe and so we shall have eternal life and we will be raised up on that last day.

          Death doesn’t have the power it had before Jesus came and we need to be reminded of that. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Elijah was the voice of God until the time when God called him home. His successor, Elisha, had already been chosen by God.
Ahab died from a mortal wound he received in a battle with the Arameans. His chariot was taken back and washed at a pool in Samaria and the dogs licked up his blood as the word of the Lord declared.
So it was that Elisha began his apprenticeship with his mentor Elijah. Elijah and Elisha were on their way toward Gilgal when Elijah told him to stay behind because the Lord was sending him on to Bethel. But Elisha refused to stay behind and insisted that he continue on with Elijah on this his last journey.
Elisha knew this was the last hours he would be spending with his mentor and friend…and he didn’t want to miss out on any of it. As persistent as Elijah was that he stay behind Elisha was just as persistent that he wouldn’t leave him.
And so, they traveled on toward that place where the fiery chariot and whirlwind would take Elijah away.
Have you ever had to take over someone else’s job? Have you ever followed someone who was very good at what they did and wondered if you could really do it as well?
I suppose Elisha might have been experiencing those same feelings, having those same doubts about his ability to do what God asked Elijah to do. 
There were other prophets, disciples of Elijah’s who followed along at a distance. Elijah and Elisha walked from Gilgal, to Bethel, to Jericho, to the Jordan River. At each place more prophets joined the troop and followed them at a distance.
This group that followed was quiet and respectful. They just wanted to see what would happen. The air must have been electric with anticipation.
When the two reached the Jordan Elijah rolled up his cloak and struck the river. Just like what happened with Moses and his staff, when the cloak touched the water the flow ceased and they were able to walk across the river. When their feet touched the other bank the flow resumed.
The two men, the older and wiser one talking and teaching the younger less experienced one, walked on. The younger one not sure if he’d have what was needed to confront kings and queens as Elijah had. Elisha had to be afraid. Especially, since he’d heard all about Jezebel and her threats to kill Elijah.
But God had protected and cared for Elijah and therefore Elisha should have known that God would look after him too.
Elisha had known for quite some time that he would be Elijah’s successor. So, when Elijah asked him what he could give him he asked for double the power Elijah had.
Elijah’s response was that if he watched and saw him go home to God then his request would be granted.
Sound easy? Have you ever tried keeping your focus on just one thing? Have you ever stared so long at something that your eyes almost crossed? Don’t you kind of wonder how long Elisha had to persist in keeping his focus on Elijah?
And then, in the blink of an eye, all at once, there it was the chariot of fire pulled by fiery horses. Elijah was taken into the chariot and it ascended into the sky in a whirlwind and then…he was gone. 
There was stillness. There was quiet. Not even the birds were singing. Elisha saw it all, the flashing hooves, the dust, and then Elijah was gone. All that was left was his cloak.
Elisha received double the power that Elijah had. He also received his cloak which he picked up and began the walk back to the river. When he arrived at the banks of the river you know the prophets on the other side were watching to see what he’d do.
He rolled up the cloak, struck the water with it and said, “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” The water stopped flowing and he crossed over.
All who were witnesses knew there was a new prophet in Samaria.  They knew the Spirit of the Lord that had rested on Elijah now rested on Elisha because he had been persistent in staying with his mentor to the end.
No longer was Elisha’s job to plow the fields. He had a new job with new challenges and everything that went with being the voice of the Lord in Samaria.
          And so, Elisha followed in the footprints of Elijah prophesying s and queens just like Elijah.