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Last Sunday's Sermon - The Lord's Prayer & more

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The Gospel
Luke 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

And do not bring us to the time of trial."

And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

"So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

The Sermon

The Lord's Prayer and more.

There is probably no prayer in our world better known than the Lord's Prayer. It is in both the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The prayer we are most familiar with comes from Matthew. Many people assume that Jesus originated this prayer and it is true in a way. You will find segments of the prayer in the books of the Old Testament. Parts of the Lord's Prayer are found in Numbers, Isiah, and Psalms.

Jesus can be credited with composing this prayer using all of these sources. This gospel passage also tells us that Jesus had a thorough understanding of scripture. When I was a child this was one of the first prayers I was taught. I am certain I didn't understand it but I did have the words down. Words like hallowed and trespasses would have been way beyond me.

While I was researching the Lord's Prayer and its history one thing surprised me. The part that says “deliver us from evil” should be more accurately read, “deliver us from the evil one.” The concept of Satan was prevalent in this time of Jesus. The part at the very end of the Lord's Prayer in the Matthew version reads, “for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever” and is believed to have been added several centuries later.

The last part of the gospel reading is where some Christians get the idea of the prosperity gospel. “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened.” So the thinking is that if I am a good Christian and I really want a new house then all I have to do is ask and God will arrange it for me. I suppose if I am a good Christian and I would like to be smarter or better looking, God would arrange that for me too.

I don't believe that is what Jesus was saying at all. He was talking about the 'heavenly Father giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask him'. A better car, a newer house, or more money will not fill that hole in our lives we keep wanting to fill with such things. Jesus knew how to fill the hole. It can only be filled by the Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life and he Holy Spirit will make you spiritually prosperous.


Last Sunday's Sermon......kind of

Last Tuesday I wrote the sermon for Sunday.  By Thursday I decided to try something different and I'm glad I did.  So..dear reader, this is the sermon I wrote but never delivered.

Fr. Fred

The Reading

The Gospel

Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

The Sermon
I am easily distracted. I am easily distracted to a fault. I have been this way my whole life. There are so many things that interest me that it is often difficult for me to focus. When Sherry and I first moved here, there were so many things to attend to that I would jump from one thing to another. Before long I found myself on the library board, the chamber board, the historical society board and the inter-church council board. Sherry and I worked very hard at taking care of the delayed maintenance on our newly purchased house. I began the discernment process of becoming an Episcopal Priest. All the while I complained about being too busy, especially for a guy who was retired. I told several people it was lucky that I had retired because I really didn't have time for a full time job.

Then things started to change. I noticed I was having a difficult time running. My right foot would start to drag when I would get physically tired. I went to a doctor and he kind of brushed it off. I went to another doctor, then another and another until at the end of this frustrating journey I had gone to fourteen doctors. I also went to a chiropractor, massage therapist and an acupuncturist. By the time I got to Mayo Clinic and they confirmed a diagnosis of MS I was kind of re-leaved. They told me I would not get better and only get worse but that it would be a very slow process.

So why am I telling you this? Because I am a little like Martha. Martha was so busy worrying over the distractions of the day, the cooking, the cleaning and making sure all of the visitor's cups were filled that she was missing the big picture. She was in the presence of Jesus the Christ, the God incarnate and she was not listening to his Word. She was too busy! Mary is not the bad person here. Jesus loved Martha just as he loved Mary and I would guess there are just as many Marthas in heaven as there are Marys. Where do you see yourself? Are you more like Mary or Martha?

Often times when I am talking to someone who has faced some life changing event I will ask them the question, “What have you learned from this?” I had to ask myself that same question. What was I supposed to learn from this new reality of living with multiple sclerosis?

It has made me stop and examine what is really important in my life. I concluded that it had to be the call I felt to become a priest and to share God's word with the people in my life. All of those other things are good but I realize now that if I spread myself too thin, I will do nothing well and I, like Martha, miss what really, for me, should be my focus.

I ask you to do the same. Examine yourself, look within, and ask, “what is really important in my life? What do I need to spend more time on? What do I need to let go?” I am not asking that you drop everything in life and become something akin to a monk. What may be important is to look at life and all that you do through a different lens.

Several years ago I began carrying a rock in my pocket. It was a small smooth stone with a cross etched on the face of it. I carried it around with me as a reminder that I needed to view my life through my faith. When I was in contentious meeting on the city council I would place that rock on the desk as a reminder that I was talking to people who were children of God. When I made decisions, that rock with the cross reminded me that my decision could have a ripple effect that would impact far more people than I could realize.

That to me was the bigger picture. It was always being mindful that my life should be God centered and even if what I was doing might seem mundane, such as making sure a guests glass is full. If it was done with the understanding that the person whose glass was being filled was a part of God's creation, then I had not lost focus. I was showing love for my neighbor, that very important second commandment.


Last Sunday's Sermon

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The Gospel

Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

The Sermon

The Good Samaritan

This story of the good Samaritan is really important to our faith. It shows the depth to which Jesus wants us to love our neighbor. In ancient times when this story was first told, people from Samaria were considered foes if not enemies of the people of Israel.

Let me share a little information about the Samaritans. In the 10th century B.C., following the death of King Solomon, civil strife broke Israel in two, with Samaria the capital of the new northern kingdom. But an Assyrian invasion destroyed the north, exiling thousands. Those left behind were cut off from Jerusalem. Like Jews, Samaritans are monotheists. The Hebrew deity is their one true god. Also like Jews, the five books of Moses comprise their sacred text. Unlike Jews, Samaritans have only one prophet, Moses. The Samaritans placed their holy temple on Mt. Gerizim. The Samaritans considered Judaism a false religion and the Jews considered the Samaritans religion also to be false.

This split took place a thousand years before the birth of Christ. The divide was deep by the time Jesus came along. By using the good Samaritan as the good guy in this story, Jesus was telling his followers that they should not only love their neighbor but they should show love for even those considered enemies.

Jesus was very much a part of his culture. Remember the story in Matthew about the Samaritan woman who pleaded with Jesus for a miracle for her daughter. His first response was to refer to her as a dog which was and still is a very derisive term. In the end she shows such faith that Jesus heals her daughter.

We do not have exact time lines but I would like to think that this reading chronicles the latter part of his ministry. At the beginning of his ministry Jesus thought his message was just for the Jews. Later in his ministry, Jesus had a much more expansive view of that mission. It includes all of mankind including Samaritans.

This gospel reading reminds caused me to reflect on the Christmas truce during the first world war. The Christmas truce  was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. They were able to put a human face to those they had been shooting at.

I firmly believe that at our core all of us have much more in common than we have separating us. What we need to look for is common ground that connects us rather than those differences that set us apart.

I have been very troubled this week by the events in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas. Sometimes it feels like our culture is spinning out of control. I ask that you keep the victims and their families in your prayers. Also, I ask that you pray for those who committed these acts of violence. They are the hard to love and Jesus is telling us to pray for those as well.

I ask that you recite with me a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer: p. 824 No. 28
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord.