Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lead Us Not Into Temptation but Deliver Us from Evil

Sermon based on Proper 16C

Today we have the fifth sermon in our series of six on the Lord’s Prayer and how it fits into our daily lives and the Revised Common Lectionary.   Deacon Henry gave us a great offering last week on forgiveness of debt and raised the bar for me this week!

In the original Gospel reading on July 28th, the words of Jesus are, “And do not bring us into the time of trial.”  We typically pray, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”   Evil – there it is – the scandal of believing in Evil as Christians, especially in our era of great knowledge and scientific proofs.  Bishop NT Wright says that there are three wrong ways to deal with evil for us as post-modern thinkers: 1.  We can believe that it does not exist – he believes the Sadducees might fall into that camp in Jesus’ day. 2. We can fall into despair over the overwhelming evil we see around us every day – he thinks those were the Essenes.  3. We can fall into a sense of self-righteousness – maybe like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel.  Maybe we believe we are not as bad as “those people over there” and therefore evil doesn’t really apply to us. 

This is yet again where we look to Jesus – to his life and example – Jesus recognizes and confronts evil.  In today’s Gospel lesson, he names the trouble in the woman’s life as Satan binding her with her stooped back.  Now please do not hear me say that the disabled, the sick, the mentally ill are possessed – I am not saying that at all.  In today’s world we know the causes of most disease processes and we have ways to combat those processes to set people free from illness.  In Jesus’ day, there was no medicine yet to cure her osteoporosis – she would have never been healthy without his healing touch.  He called to her and healed her – set her free.  He knew what is was like to experience evil – he himself had been tested & tempted in numerous ways – remember his wilderness experience?  He showed compassion on her – no matter which day of the week it was.

It is interesting to me that we pray “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” as the final pleading – the final petition – it is not the main focus of the prayer but it is a linchpin that anchors it.  I am struck by Jesus’ being led into temptation and testing and trial over and over again in His life - and look where it got him.  His final trial didn’t go so hot by our standards – evil seemed to have won.  “Thy will be done” was the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden – and seems to balance all of this out for me.  Praying “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” and “Thy will be done” are like the balancing scales that help us understand how we end up in trials and temptations.  Jesus gave us this prayer to help us understand that sometimes the answer to prayer in “No.”  In the “No” might come something better than we can ask or imagine though.  The answer for Jesus was “no” and he was obedient to death – so that we could all see evil conquered once – for us all.   Because of the “No” to Jesus’ “save me from the time of trial,” we are free to pray “Thy will be done” with utter confidence.  We are allowed to stand up straight.  We are allowed to look around and see God’s work in the world about us.  We can walk tall with the knowledge that evil does exist, and that we can help overcome even in this day and age. 

Here is the prayer I will ask you all to pray this week: Be brave and ask God to show you where evil still exists and how you can combat it.  It is still there – it has fancier names now: racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, ageism, fill in your own.  How can we stand up straight and confront it in our daily lives, in our community, in our state?  As we hear the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr this week in the 50th avviversary celebrations of the March on Washington, can we say that his dreams for our society have come true?  How can we usher in those dreams more fully today?  How can we be healed of the bondage of racial prejudices?  What evil will you see and how will God give you the strength to heal it? 

Breathe in the double clause of “lead us not into Temptation but deliver us from evil” – breathe it in and give it life.  Give it flesh and blood in your life and in your work.  Amen. 

Audio of this sermon is on the PodBean player on the right sidebar.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Give Us This Day our Daily Bread

Today I am going to claim an old preacher’s trick and change up the Gospel reading just a bit.   I want to back up to a piece of Luke that we just skipped over between last week and this week.  Remember last week when we read about the Rich Fool?  This is what actually follows that:
Luke 12:22-34
 He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

You heard the last bit in today’s gospel lesson and then the story of the watchful slaves.  In every Bible I own that has headings, the text is broken into the Do Not Worry with the Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also – and the watchful slaves is a stand-alone story that follows.  I would love to find the notes on how those who put the Lectionary together divided and combined sections. 

Every time I hear the “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” I think of Dumbledore.  I was so surprised when the boys and I were reading the Harry Potter books to find a Scripture quote.  It was in The Deathly Hallows, and it was the inscriptions on a gravestone. 

Today also, we have our piece of the Lord’s Prayer to factor in – Give us this day our daily bread.  Do you see now why I am reading a different part of the Gospel?  Episcopalians, Anglicans, do not talk a lot about Divine Providence per se.  Calvinists (Presbyterians) and Lutherans have a lot more developed and formal theology about Divine Providence.  The idea found in the reading I read – the idea that God will provide for our true needs.  As Anglicans, we have a core belief in Divine Providence – we have it is out prayers all the time “O God our times are in your hand,” “O God you have so consecrated the covenant of marriage…send your blessing” & Pg 840, #9 For the Harvest. 

In this prayer: “give us this day our daily bread” – there are different interpretations:
Give us each day what we need for sustenance – Providence - Lukan
Give us today tomorrow’s bread – Eschatalogical – Matthew
One is physical – like the feeding of the 5000, one is spiritual – Man Cannot live by bread alone. 

We all know there are differences between what we want and what we need – I have this conversation every year at this time with my children about school clothes and school supplies.  Give us this bread is asking for our needs to be met – not necessarily our desires.  We have other places when we pray for those to be sorted out, “Almighty God to you all hearts are open all desires known” is Cranmer’s way for us to corporately ask God to help us sort out need from desire, to help us bring order to the chaos.

I sometimes think those with less are better at sorting want from need because they have to be.  However, I wonder if this part of the Lord’s Prayer might also invite us to enter into God’s work of making sure those without daily bread get some.  How can we not only trust in God’s providence but also become God’s hands and feet in providing for those who cannot provide for themselves – be Kingdom-bearers?

The last part to consider is the bread we find here – at the altar – the body of Christ, the bread of heaven.  We approach with empty hands and are fed the bread, which gives not everlasting life, for solace and strength, for pardon and renewal.  Who is missing around this table – who should we be inviting?  How can we be more inviting to provide the bread the world so desperately needs?

Here’s you assignment for this week’s prayer challenge: every single meal – every place you are, give thanks and ask God to order your wants and needs for that day.  Let me know how that goes for you – I love swapping stories and hearing about God’s voice in your life.  Amen. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thy Will be Done

This sermon is the second in a set of six that will delve into the Lord’s Prayer.  We had the opening phrase last week, a beginning of Adoration.  Today we have a Supplication section; “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Sounds simple enough.

In the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer we are looking toward our intimate connection with our creator – our heavenly parent whom we adore as holy, hallowed.  In the Heart of Christianity, which the Wednesday Book Study group will begin this week, Marcus Borg rephrases it as “Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, Source of all that is and that shall be.”  That is who we are praying to – this is who we are appealing for thy will to be done.  All of a sudden we remember the Archbishop’s words from last week: “this is serious… wonderful and frightening.”

What would the earth look like if God’s will was truly being done everywhere by all of us?  We get a glimpse in today’s readings.  In Hosea we have the voice of God whose compassion is warm and tender.  We have a God who delivers us from hunger and thirst in the Psalm, Paul reminds of us some practical considerations of how we will should live as we strive toward the Kingdom.  Then we have Jesus speaking on one of his favorite topics in the Gospel – how we handle our riches.  I pass many self-storage businesses every day to and from here and they have stuck out like a sore thumb to me this week as I have been pondering our Gospel and this section of the Lord’s Prayer: “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

It’s easy to look at the Rich man in the Gospel and see a hoarder of riches – yet there was a story just this last week about the new bar set for those who consider themselves rich.  It used to be the to have $1 million dollars in assets seemed like enough, but now the bar has moved to $5 million.  The gospel story parallels our lives – the rich man – who was already rich – builds a bigger barn so that he can accumulate even more – from $1 million to $5 million.  This is relevant! 

What would daily life look like if God’s will were done?  I wonder how our earth would look to us if we could see it through God’s eyes – as a creation of beauty and wonder – as a creation abused and misused for the gain of a few and to the detriment of many, many more.  God’s will be done might be a lifestyle we might not choose if we are truly honest with ourselves. 

When we pray “God’s will be done” we are asking for the softening of our hardened hearts towards the least, the lost and the last.  We are praying that we will become compassionate towards everyone around us – not just those like us.  We are praying that we will be shown those who hunger and thirst and that we will want to feed them and give them cool water.  We are praying that we will become kingdom-bearers in this life – that this church will be filled with those who understand the fear that comes of praying God’s will be done – and that we will know fearlessness in living out the Love of God on this earth. 

“Thy will be done” sounds very passive at first listen – It sounds like “whatever God.”  John Wesley wrote a Covenant Prayer though that I believe encapsulates the fierceness of “thy will be done” – it has been important to me in my life and I want to share with you all:
I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will,

Rank me with whom you will;

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by you,

Or laid aside by you,

Exalted by you or brought low by you.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things

To your pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

you are mine, and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

Let it be ratified in heaven.


There have been times in my life when I have prayed that prayer with trembling and trepidation, trusting that God’s will would be done, yet not knowing what that would look like.  That's when I can lean back into the God portrayed in the Hosea reading: tender, compassionate, warm and loving.

This week, there will be a meeting on the possibility of creating a labyrinth on our church property.  If you do not know, labyrinths are an ancient way to pray – to put yourself in the presence of God – they foster prayers while walking and meditating.  Walking and praying a labyrinth can be life-changing. 

Last week, I asked you to go away and pray prayers of Adoration, stopping to hear God each day.  I got a few texts and emails through the week as you did that.  It was a significant exercise for some of you as you prayed and listened.  Here’s your assignment for this week: Simply pray “thy will be done” each day (without qualifiers) and listen to God for how you can facilitate that.  Amen.

Audio of this sermon can be found in the PodBean Player on the right sidebar. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Our Father...

This summer is flying by in our house – how about yours?  Maybe it’s because our son and niece are getting ready to head off to college, maybe also because our other son and nephew are getting ready to start high school.  I know these transitions are happening in your households also – kids, grandkids, teachers, students, all are starting to look toward the beginning of the school year.  It can be a fun and exciting time – it can also bring on stress and anxiety. 

“Lord, teach us pray” – that’s what we hear from the disciples in today’s Gospel – yes, please!!  Lord, teach us to pray!!  Prayer has a many facets and styles – it is our work as Christians, even though we are never quite sure how it works.  Prayer can be a source of comfort and connection between God, and us but also among us as a community.

Our worship service is inundated with prayers: formal and informal, from the Collect to the Psalm, to the Prayers of the People, Confession, the Eucharistic Prayer, Post-Communion Prayer, the Benediction – Prayer is the bedrock of our liturgy.  Throughout this service, we are either praying together by speaking or singing or we are listening – which is another component of prayer.  Speaking and listening is essential in every good relationship.

For the next several weeks, Henry and I are going to tackle preaching and teaching about prayer.  We are going to use the Lord’s Prayer – introduced by Jesus in Luke today – as our outline.  We will tackle a different section each week and maybe even practice some prayer types as we go along.  We get an abbreviated version of what has evolved into what we as Anglicans think of the Lord’s Prayer – this is Luke’s version – Matthew has a different one.  We value it so highly that the Lord’s Prayer is said at every Eucharistic service, as a meal prayer if you will.  Growing up in Texas, I can report it was said at every high school football game and basically anytime a group of Christians gather, it unites us.  It has been estimated that on Easter morning, at least 2 billion people all over the world pray the Lord’s Prayer.  It is both an example of prayer to memorize and recite as well as a form to imitate in our prayer lives. 

I have the first section today: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”  We are children of the living God – we are intimately connected to God – who you may refer to as Father, Mother, Aunt, Uncle – whomever in your life makes you feel loved and valued and treasured – I hope those were your parents, but I know that sometimes it in not the case.  Papa was the name of God in the Shack.  The important part is not in the uttering of the name, as much as feeling and truly knowing the intimacy of the relationship. 

By declaring that we believe that God is in heaven, we are acknowledging the majesty of our savior – belief in something so much bigger than ourselves that we can barely imagine it.  We believe God is in heaven and God is holy – hallowed.  When we hallow something, we are declaring that it is sanctified, holy; we venerate it.  You will hear echoes of this language in our Eucharistic prayer as ask God to bless and sanctify the bread and wine.  We believe God’s name is hallowed, holy – and we believe that we should never take it in vain – there’s a Commandment about that.

By saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” we are expressing our adoration of God.  It is an ancient formula.  We can never forget that Jesus was a Jewish man, not a Christian.  These first lines are also found in the Evening Shema prayers of our Jewish brothers and sisters, “Our God in heaven, hallow thy name, and establish thy kingdom forever, and rule over us forever and ever. Amen.”  We are continuing the adoration of God from before Jesus walked on this earth.

As Jesus continues to teach about prayer in today’s Gospel, he tells us to be constant – ask, search, knock – keep at it.  Do it continually.  Be persistent and steady.  Intimacy also comes through the continuation and persistence.

This may only be me but the God voice in my head, at least the voice I think of as God in my head – yes get out the straitjacket now – is always loving, and also kind of sarcastic – kind of like Jesus in the end of the Gospel today.  I can hear him saying those last lines with a teasing tone in his voice.  “who among you would give your child – your beloved child - a scorpion, or a snake?”  How is God’s voice heard in your life?  When we pray, we must also listen – and we must know which voice in our head is God’s. 

The last Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said “Understand what you are talking about when you’re talking about God, this is serious, this is the most wonderful and frightening reality that we could imagine, more wonderful and frightening than we can imagine.”  Next week, we will talk about the frightening part – there’s your cliff-hanger to entice you back next week. 

Here is your assignment for this week: rest in your adoration of God.  Let the love of God wash over you – name the intimacy of the relationship if you have never done that before.  Adore God by praying this week – naming where you see holiness every day, where you see God at work in the world around you.  Every day when you pray, primarily remember that you are a beloved child of the living God and express your adoration.  Amen.

Audio of this sermon can be heard through the PodBean Player in the right sidebar.