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Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

Luke 24:13-35

“Stories from the Road”

Way In

Experience at The Open Door – Resident Volunteer

House Duty

Responsibilities of…

In charge from breakfast until yard clean-up

First day on the job

Tonnie King, “You got to come help us with Bear”

What I thought about dealing with a man named “Bear” at 6 a.m.

Didn’t help when Tonnie said he thought Bear was drunk or high

Describe my encounter with Bear

Describe Bear

Biggest, angriest man I had ever encountered before 7am

Somebody said something to him or looked at him wrong

My response

Non-violent community

Stepped into his space, asked him what’s wrong

Unable to reconcile

invited him to leave – come back tomorrow

Did I mention that he was drunk (or high)?

Didn’t want to go

So I gathered the others from the community and made a circle around him, to walk him out

I was surprised when Bear left without punching me

Kazy and I got to know Bear

when he was high on crack – mean as he could be

coming to breakfast, half dressed, cold, wet, beat up

we had several visits with him sober – he could be really sweet

in the yard, or saw him around town

learned his name, his given name, Eric

Most important thing we learned – why they called him “Bear”

assumed it was his appearance…or behavior

both were bear-like, grizzly bear, vicious

but that’s not it

when he was a little boy, he loved teddy bears

We met some people in Atlanta who were able to beat the demons of addiction and violence that stalk the streets.

And we met some whose backs bore the claw marks of the demons who rode them all day and all night.

Thank God, I never saw all of Eric’s demons.

Thank God, I never knew the ways the demons tortured Eric until he literally turned himself into a vicious bear to protect himself in the streets.

But it made me think about how I wasted years of my life and plenty of my father’s money at college, partying and skipping class, until I flunked out. And then I got serious

Was I better than Bear because I got out of that destructive spiral?

Or did I just have more options?

Bear was a man that culture threw away, a scary man that just seemed no good.

But for me, there were mornings when I went out in the yard to hand out breakfast tickets and there would stand Bear

Often only a blanket around him

Cold, wet, out of his mind

As I handed him his breakfast ticket and looked in his dark eyes….

I swear there were some moments when I could see all the way in to the sweet, gentle soul, of the little boy whose Momma named Eric, but called him Bear because he loved his Teddies…

Have you ever met a stranger

Who didn’t turn out to be like you thought they would be

Tell the Story

On the day of the empty tomb

Two of Jesus’ followers were on the road to a village called Emmaus – about 7 miles from Jerusalem

They were talking about what had happened over the last few days

While they were walking, they met a stranger

A fellow traveler on the road

Although the stranger was Jesus himself, their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

“What are you talking about?”, the stranger asked

Sadly, Cleopas told him about Jesus of Nazareth

They were not proclaiming the fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah’s death and resurrection

Rather they gave a sad account

Jesus, a prophet and teacher

was handed over, condemned, and put to death

…and we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel

Yet some said they had seen the empty tomb

And some said they even saw him

But we did not see him

Then the stranger put some hard words on them

how foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe the prophecies

then he interpreted the scriptures about Jesus with them

the travelers invited “their new friend” to stay with them at the next village

he did

and when they were at the table with him

he took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them

Then their eyes were opened, they recognized him

and he vanished

They remembered how their hearts were burning within them while he was talking to them on the road

they went to find the disciples

to tell them that the Lord had indeed risen

and they knew him the breaking of bread

So What?

The two travelers did not journey only from Jerusalem to Emmaus

They moved from hope to faith

from hoping and wanting the things they had heard about Jesus to be true

wishing, full of expectation

to faith in believing

when their eyes were opened, and they truly saw

their personal connection with Jesus gave them faith

knowing Jesus, truly learning him

they heard the scriptures – directly from Jesus

they remembered how their hearts were burning when they did

as they travelled along the road

Our faith is a journey

getting to know Jesus better

every time, learning his words and ways better

knowing and remembering him in the breaking of bread

no matter how far down the road we are on that journey of faith

Jesus teaches us to welcome others/strangers

Because, as the scriptures say

By doing so, some have entertained angels – unaware

Like Abraham who welcomed travelers into his tent

…out of the heat

… shared food and drink with them

… these were angels of the Lord

As we recognize Christ in others

.., treating each one we encounter as if

They truly are created in God’s own image

This is how community is built

getting to know him

taking the time

like the way I got to know my friend Eric/Bear

as I invited him to talk to me, and tell me about himself

I got to know who he really was

The disciples Jesus encountered on the Emmaus Rd were caught up:

They were caught up in their sorrow over Jesus’ death

Although they heard the reports of the empty tomb

They were caught up in the story of their own construction

Jesus was crucified, but they had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel

But for them, at this moment,

The empty tomb was a hollow ending

“how foolish you are … and slow of heart,” Jesus said

They still did not know it was him

“Don’t you see that what’s happening is just as the prophets said it would be?”

Then Jesus went back over all the teachings, beginning with “Moses and the prophets”

That is to say, the law and the prophets – the Hebrew scriptures, the scriptures of their faith

STILL not knowing this was Jesus walking with them

When the travelers saw that the stranger was headed past the village where they were stopping…

They invited him to stay

For it was getting late

“stay with us, have something to eat, be our guest”

Then, just as he had done a week before – in an upper room

“when he was at the table with them

He took bread, blessed it, and broke it

And gave it to them”

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus

Then he vanished from their sight

Then, even though it was late

… too late to still be on the road

For they had already taken lodging for the night

That same hour, they went back to Jerusalem

And found the others

And proclaimed “The Lord has risen”

They had seen the empty tomb

Strong evidence of the fulfilled resurrection prophecy

But they told what happened on the road to Emmaus

…and how Jesus made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread

As our journey of faith continues

We may miss seeing Jesus, even as he comes as a stranger

…when we get too caught up

Caught up in the story of our own construction

Overcome by our own “stuff”

So that the empty tomb – strong evidence of fulfilled prophecy – is just a hollow ending

What is that “stuff” for us that clouds our eyes?

Fear of the unknown

Fear of something different

Fear of failing

Fear of looking foolish

Yet, when we set those aside

And make room for the stranger … practice hospitality

Then Jesus is known to us

And we can proclaim that he is risen. He is risen indeed

Then we can practice the ministry of the greatest commandment

The one that Jesus himself said, upon which hangs all the law and the prophets

Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might. And love your neighbor as yourself.

So may it be with us. Amen

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Welcome

Tonight we remember the final supper Jesus shared with his disciples

simple and contemplative

scripture reading (OT, Epistle, Gospel) and prayer

name for this service comes from John’s gospel

“I give you a new commandment,

love one another as I have loved you” John 13:34

Latin: mandatum novum

communion tonight will be by intinction

come forward as you are able

if you are not able, I will come and serve you

our table is arranged to remind us of three sides – triclenium

how people ate in the time of Christ

reclined around tables

with space in the middle for serving

at the end of tonight’s service,

I will extinguish the candles, as …

we hear the passion story from the gospels

listen as the shadows fall over our Lord Jesus’ journey …

to the cross

Note: after the benediction,

please depart in contemplative silence

reminder about Good Friday services

12-3pm: Sanctuary open for meditation and prayer

7pm: Shadows of the Passion

reminder about Easter Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

Call to Worship

    + The Lord be with you

    And also with you

    + We gather to remember …

The night that Jesus shared his last supper

        with the disciples.

What shall we give to the Lord for all goodness to us?

    We will lift up the cup of salvation

and call on the name of the Lord

Opening Prayer (unison)

Gracious and merciful God, in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper you give us a memorial of the passion of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that the ones who receive these sacred mysteries may grow into him in all things until we come to your eternal joy through Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior. Amen

Scripture Readings

Exodus 12: 1-4, 11, 14; God’s instructions to Moses for the preparations for the Passover meal, which is the same meal Jesus and his disciples gathered for on this night in the Upper Room

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.


1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Paul reminds the emerging church that the Lord’s Supper is the practice and proclamation of the living Lord Jesus Christ.

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

John 13: 1-17, 31-35. Jesus serves his disciples and gives them a new commandment.

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord– and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

Invitation

This is not the table of the church, but of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been prepared for those who love him

This table is open to anyone and

everyone who wishes to come

There are no barriers to this table

So come, you who feel your faith is strong today,

and the ones who feel you are struggling;

The ones who have come to this table often,

and those who have been away for a while

or the ones here for the first time.

The ones who have tried to follow,

and the ones who feel you have lost your way.

Come, each one of you, not because I invite you,

for it is our Lord Jesus who calls, saying

“I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,

and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…

anyone who comes to me, I will never drive away.”

Prayer Before Communion

Lord Jesus Christ,
you draw us in and welcome us,
you invite us to be empty of pride and hungry for your grace,
to this your kingdom’s feast.
Nowhere can we find the food

for which our souls cry out, but here, Lord,

at your table.

Invigorate and nourish us, good Lord.
As we break this bread and take this cup

your love meets us
and your life completes us

in the power and glory of your kingdom.
Amen.

Words of Institution

    Bread

    Cup

Prayer after Communion

Gracious and loving God, we are grateful for this meal that nourishes our soul. May we go forth, strengthened with compassion, to work together for the coming of your kingdom of justice, love and peace, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Extinguishing the Candles

“Listen prayerfully to the reading of the scriptures for the passion of our Lord, and may the extinguishing of the lights be a reminder of his suffering, even when our hope for the resurrection may seem like a dim memory.”

The Shadow of Betrayal; Matthew 26:20-25

When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

The Shadow of Agony; Luke 22:40-44

When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

The Shadow of Loneliness; Matthew 26:40-45

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is ˃ weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

The Shadow of Desertion; Matthew 26:47-50, 55, 56

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

The Shadow of Accusation; Matthew 26:59-67

Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'” The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him…

The Shadow of Mockery; Mark 15:12-20

Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him.

After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

The Shadow of Death; Luke 23:33-46

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying,” If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Only the Christ candle remains lit

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Then slowly and deliberately extinguish the Christ candle

Blessing and Benediction

Keep us safe Lord, while we are awake, and guard us as we sleep, so that we can keep watch with Christ.

Now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding

keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God

and of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord;

And may the

Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

Love of God

Communion of the Holy Spirit

Be with you – and everyone you love

Tonight, tomorrow, and forever. Amen

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I Found some Christmas decorations at home

A Christmas card (walk around showing it)

Glory to God in the highest, on earth – peace and goodwill to all people

Unto you a child is born, in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord

Let us go and see this child, and worship him

Angels we have heard on high …

Palm Sunday

somebody said it’s like finding a Christmas card laying in the street

among the palm branches that still litter the street

for us, Christmas was only about 4 months ago

for Jesus, this was about 30 years after his birth in Bethlehem

The night the angels sang, and told the shepherds not to be afraid

This day, a few days before Passover

… a few days before his suffering and death

We see Jesus, riding a donkey

A stubborn and plodding creature – a humble ride for a king

Down the steep and narrow trail of a road

Down from the Mt. of Olives

Across the Kidron Valley

Up to Jerusalem – the Holy City

But not on a great white horse

Like we might expect of a king’s triumphal entry

not this King

Jesus, riding a humble, plodding, donkey

“Joy the World”

Christmas card among the trash in the street

Reminds us of the peace of Christ …

Good news to the world

And the coming of the kingdom of heaven still prevail

The Christmas card reminds us of peace and joy in Christ – Because we know what the coming week holds for Jesus

Today the religious officials tell Jesus to order his followers to back off

But as they persisted; the chief priests and scribes were looking for ways to stop Jesus – and they believed that to stop Jesus and his followers, Jesus must die

… even though we know how this all came about

We remember “Joy to the world.”

We know it wasn’t joyful for the whole world

Herod was out to get Jesus from the start

He was a threat to the political order

Herod was king, but people were talking about a new king

And when Jesus began to speak and teach

The religious officials were feeling more and more threatened by his message and growing influence

Because people were believing that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah

And he was preaching and teaching …

Calling others to follow

Even Gentiles and other sinners

we know what the coming week holds

The betrayal of Christ by his followers

The suffering – or passion – of Christ

Even the death of Christ

We know that Palms and Passion are not the end

Because we, with Mary of Magdala, have seen the risen Christ on Easter Sunday

“three days later” as he promised

With Mary we heard Jesus’ word of peace at the resurrection appearance

“Peace be with you”

Joy to the world

Yet we know that in his suffering, Christ knows our suffering

His brutal treatment we read of in the accounts of this week

Were done publicly to humiliate and discredit him

To warn others who were thinking of following

Yet Christ was unwavering in his purpose

Obedient to God’s will, even unto his death

And so may our response be the same

Not to lay blame, or carry ill will

But to respond with gratitude to the gift of grace

And commit ourselves to the ministry of Christ’s peace

That is for the world

Joy to the world

Through the ages pilgrims have visited holy sites

Shrines to the moments and places in the life and ministry of Jesus

And through the ages there have been those able to make the pilgrimage and those who have not

So we see the Stations of the Cross in some churches

Reminders of the way of Jesus – the road of sorrows

From the place of his accusation and conviction

To the cross and the grave

Now those who are not able to visit the sites can experience the way of Jesus

So we re-live the day of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem

Mark it with palms

And carry the message with us

And though we know that the suffering and death to come are not the final words

Let us not move too quickly to the joy of Easter morning

Take time this week to read the last chapters of the gospels

Stay in the moment of suffering for a while

And when you recall your own sufferings, know that Jesus remains with you

Take the time to worship with your community

Maundy Thursday 7pm – The Lord’s Supper

Good Friday – vigil from 12pm to 3 – the hour of Jesus’ death

Good Friday – 7pm – through word and music, experience the depth of shadows of passion

And do come together in the joy of Easter Sunday

But come on that day, in true joy

That Jesus suffered brutality and death

For the sake of the world

That we may know the peace that passes all understanding

And life lives that spread the same to all the world

That the world may know that Jesus Christ is lord

Joy to the World

So may it be with us. Amen

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I heard this story on NPR Weekend Edition Sunday for several years when I was in seminary.  I enjoy telling the story as an Advent sermon.  During Advent 2010, I have been thinking about the Christmas Crazy Train that whistles through many communities, churches, and homes.  When we choose not to board the train, we are free to live into the season of Advent – expecting and preparing, and free to resist the consumerism and commercialism that tempts us and distracts us from the presence of the living Lord, God with us, that reminds us of who we are and whose we are.  May we remember and share the gifts of grace, relationship, hospitality with the Christ among is.  So may it be.

 

John Henry Faulk’s

Christmas Story

Copyright: National Public Radio

The gifted storyteller and former radio broadcaster John Henry Faulk recorded his Christmas story in 1974. This story was a holiday tradition on Weekend Edition Sunday.  Faulk was born to Methodist parents on August 21, 1913. The fourth of five children, he attended the University of Texas. For his master’s thesis, he researched ten sermons in African-American churches and gained insight into the inequity of civil rights for people of color. He later taught English at the University and served as a medic in the Marines during World War II. Before the John Henry Faulk Show debut in 1951 on WCBS Radio, Faulk hosted numerous radio programs in New York and New Jersey. He was blacklisted in 1957, but with support from Edward R. Murrow, won a libel suit against the corporation that branded him a Communist. Faulk’s book, Fear on Trial, published in 1963, chronicles this experience. Later in his career, Faulk appeared on Hee-Haw, wrote and produced the one-man plays Deep in the Heart and Pear Orchard, Texas, and made an unsuccessful bid for a congressional seat in 1983. In 1990, John Henry Faulk died of cancer in his hometown of Austin. The downtown branch of the public library there now bears his name.

 


 


A Transcript of John Henry Faulk’s Christmas Story

The day after Christmas a number of years ago, I was driving down a country road in Texas.

And it was a bitter cold, cold morning.

And walking ahead of me on the gravel road was a little bare-footed boy

with non-descript ragged overalls

and a makeshift sleeved sweater tied around his little ears.

I stopped and picked him up.

Looked like he was about 12 years old and his little feet were blue with the cold. He was carrying an orange.

And he got in and had the brightest blue eyes one ever saw.

And he turned a bright smile on my face and says,

“I’m-a going down the road about two miles to my cousins.

I want to show him my orange old Santa Claus brought me.”

But I wasn’t going to mention Christmas to him

because I figured he came from a family –

the kind that don’t have Christmas.

But he brought it up himself.

He said, “Did old Santa Claus come to see you, Mister?”

And I said, “Yes. We had a real nice Christmas at our house

and I hope you had the same.”

He paused for a moment, looked at me.

And then with all the sincerity in the world said,

“Mister, we had the wonderfulest Christmas in the United States

down to our place.

Lordy, it was the first one we ever had had there.

See, we never do have them out there much.

Don’t notice when Christmastime comes.

We heared about it, but never did have one ’cause –

well, you know, it’s just papa says that old Santa Claus –

papa hoorahs a lot –

and said old Santa Claus was scared to bring his reindeer down into our

section of the county

because folks down there so hard up

that they liable to catch one of his reindeer

and butcher him for meat.

But just several days before Christmas,

a lady come out from town and she told all the families through there,

our family, too,

that they was — old Santa Claus was come in town

to leave some things for us and if papa’d go in town,

he could get some Christmastime for all of us.

And papa hooked up the mule and wagon. He went in town.

But he told us children, said,

“Now don’t ya’ll get all worked up and excited

because there might not be nothing to this yarn that lady told.”

And–but, shucks, he hadn’t got out of sight up the lane there

till we was done a-watching for him to come back.

We couldn’t get our minds on nothing else, you know.

And mama, she’d come to the door once in a while and say,

“Now ya’ll quit that looking up the lane

because papa told you there might not be nothing.”

And — but long about the middle of the afternoon, well,

we heared the team a-jangling

and we ran out in the front yard,

and Ernie, my little brother, called out and said,

“Yonder come papa.”

And here come them mules just in a big trot, you know,

and papa standing upright in the bed of that wagon

holding two big old chickens, all the feathers picked off.

And he was just yelling, “Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.”

And the team stopped right in front of the gate.

And all us children just went a-swarming out there like a flock of chichis,

you know, and just a-crawling over that wagon and a-looking in.

And, Mister, I wish you could have seen what was in that wagon.

It’s bags of stripety candy and apples and oranges

and sacks of flour and some real coffee, you know,

and just all tinselly and pretty and we couldn’t say nothing.

Just kind of held our breath and looked at it, you know.

And papa standing there just waving them two chickens,

a-yelling, “Merry Christmas to you. Merry Christmas to you,”

and a-laughing that big old grin on his face.

And mama, she come a-hurrying out with the baby in her arms, you know.

And when she looked in that wagon, she just stopped, and then papa,

he dropped them two chickens

and reached and caught the baby out of her arms, you know,

and held him up and said, “Merry Christmas to you, Santa Claus.”

And baby, little old Alvie Lee, he just laughed

like he knowed it was Christmas, too, you know.

And mama, she started telling us the name of all of them nuts.

They wasn’t just peanuts. They was — she had names for all of them.

She — mama knows a heap of things like that.

She’d seen that stuff before, you know?

And we was, all of us, just a-chattering and a-going on at the same time,

us young’uns, a-looking in there.

And all of a sudden, we heared papa call out,

“Merry Christmas to you, Sam Jackson.”

And we stopped and looked.

And here comes Sam Jackson

a-leading that old cripple-legged mule of his up the lane.

And papa said,

“Sam Jackson, did you get in town to get some Christmas this year?”

Sam Jackson, you know, he sharecrops over there

across the creek from our place.

And he shook his head and said,

“Well, no, sir, Mister. Well, I didn’t go in town.

I heared about that, but I didn’t know it was for colored folks, too.

I thought it was just for you white families.”

All of a sudden, none of us children were saying nothing.

Papa, he looked down at mama

and mama looked up at him and they didn’t say nothing,

like they don’t a heap of times,

but they know what the other one’s a-thinking.

They’re like that, you know.

And all of a sudden, papa, he broke out in a big grin again.

He said, “Dad-blame-it, Sam Jackson,

it’s a sure a good thing you come by here.

Lord have mercy, I liked to forgot.

Old Santa Claus would have me in court if he heared about this.

The last thing he asked me if I lived out here near you.

Said he hadn’t seen you around

and said he wanted me to bring part of this out here

to you and your family, your woman and your children.”

Well, sir, Sam Jackson, he broke out in a big grin.

Papa says, “I’ll tell you what t’do.

You get your wife and children

and you come down here tomorrow morning.

It’s going to be Christmastime all day long.

Come early and stay late.”

Sam Jackson said, “You reckon?”

And mama called out to him and said,

“Yes, and you tell your wife

to be sure and bring some pots and pans

because we’re going to have a heap of cookin’ to do

and I ain’t sure I’ve got enough to take care of all of it.”

Well, sir, old Sam Jackson,

he started off a-leading that mule up the lane in a full trot, you know,

and he was a-heading home to get the word to his folks and his children,

you know.

And next morning, it just –

you remember how it was yesterday morning,

just rosy red and looked like Christmastime.

It was cold, but you didn’t notice the cold, you know,

when the sun just come up, just all rosy red.

And us young’uns were all out of bed before daylight seemed like,

just running in the kitchen and smelling and looking.

And it was all there sure enough.

And here come Sam Jackson and his team

and his wife and his five young’uns in there.

And they’s all lookin’ over the edge.

And we run out and yelled, “Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.”

And papa said, “Christmas gift to you, Sam Jackson. Ya’ll come on in.” And they come in and mama and Sister Jackson, they got in the kitchen

and they started a-cooking things up.

And us young’uns started playing Christmastime.

And it’s a lot of fun, you know.

We’d just play Christmas Gift with one another

and run around and around the house and just roll in the dirt,

you know,

and then we started playing Go Up To The Kitchen Door And Smell.

And we’d run up and smell inside that kitchen door

where mama and Sister Jackson was a-cooking at,

and then we’d just die laughing and roll in the dirt, you know,

and go chasing around and playing Christmas Gift.

And we played Christmastime till we just wore ourselves out.

And Papa and Sam Jackson–they put a table up

and put some sheets over it,

some boards up over some sawhorses.

And everybody had a place, even the baby.

And mama and Sister Jackson said, “Well, now it’s ready to come on in.

We’re going to have Christmas dinner.”

And I sit right next to Willy Jackson, you know,

and he just rolled his eyes at me and I’d roll mine at him.

And we’d just die laughing, you know,

and there was an apple and an orange and some stripety candy

at everybody’s place.

And that was just dessert, see.

That wasn’t the real Christmas dinner.

Mama and them had done cooked that up.

And they just had it spread up and down the table.

And so papa and Sam Jackson,

they’d been sitting on the front porch

and they come in.

Papa, he sit at one end of the table,

Sam Jackson sit at the other.

And it was just a beautiful table like you never had seen.

And I didn’t know nothing could ever look like that and smell that good, you know.

And Sam Jackson, you know,

he’s real black

and he had on that white clean shirt of his and then them overalls.

Everything had been washed and was real clean.

Papa, he said,

“Brother Jackson, I believe you’re a deacon in the church.

I ain’t much of a church man myself, but since you’re a deacon, Maybe you’d be willing to give grace.”

Well, Sam Jackson, he stood up there

and his hands is real big

and he kind of held onto the side of the table, you know.

But he didn’t bow his head

like a heap of folks do when they’re saying the blessing.

He just looked up and smiled.

And he said,

“Lord, I hope you having as nice a Christmas up there with your angels

as we’re having down here

because it sure is Christmastime down here.

And I just wanted to say Merry Christmas to you, Lord.

Like I say, Mister, I believe that was the wonderfulest Christmas

in the United States of America.”

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3rd Sunday in Advent

Luke 1:47-55

Magnificat

 

What do you do when an angel comes to you in the middle of the night and announces that you, a young woman, engaged to be married, are one of God’s favorites, and that somehow the Holy Spirit will cause you to be pregnant with the Son of God?

And, by the way, one of your cousins, an older cousin, who has been unable to have children for all these years…she’s pregnant, too.

What do you do? What would I do? Well, I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a young woman, let alone a pregnant one. But I do know what it’s like to be engaged. So what would I do if I learned from an angel that I was about to participate in some miracle of God? Well, thinking back to my engaged days…I would definitely not have run to go tell Kazy’s parents. Or mine either, at least not right away. And I wonder how I would have broken the news to Kazy.

Well we know what Mary did, after the angel left her with the big news, she went to cousin Elizabeth. In fact, she went off in a hurry to see her. Was she in a hurry because she was excited, or afraid, or confused? We don’t know, Luke just said she went to her “with haste.”

Maybe she believed that Elizabeth, her elder, barren, yet somehow pregnant cousin could hear her wondrous story. Maybe cousin Elizabeth, who was in a similar situation, could help make Mary feel better.

Imagine their visit together. An old, childless woman; and a young, unmarried girl. One the wife of a respected priest, the other the fiancée of a village carpenter. Neither expected to be mothers at this time of their lives, one was old and barren, the other one a young woman, who had never been with a man. Yet they meet and embrace, both filled with the promise of motherhood. Elizabeth, now hopeful in her pregnancy despite years of hopeless barrenness, responds with hopeful expectation at the arrival of her young relative Mary.

These two women are the ones who introduce the Messiah in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel. They are prophetic and radical. Although they are Jews living under Roman occupation – where the Emperor is Lord and master, Elizabeth proclaims that her cousin Mary is to be the mother of her Lord…and it’s not Caesar. Mary, who today wouldn’t even be old enough to get her driver’s license yet, not only the mother of the Son of God, but the prophet of the poor, she sings a song telling of the overthrow of the social, political, and economic order…the powerful will no longer serve on thrones, but those who were thought low will be lifted, and the hungry shall be filled. Strength shall be shown by mercy and grace, and by how the lowly are lifted up.

Luke says that Mary’s visit to Elizabeth lasts three months. Imagine how they spent their time. I remember Kazy and her friend Amy spending time when they were both pregnant, expecting babies within weeks of each other. And I think about other expecting mothers I know and have known. Imaging about the babies they’re carrying. What would they look like? What color hair will she have? What color will his eyes be? Will he be tall like his grandfather? Will she have her mother’s fair skin?

Imagine them putting ears to stomachs listening for heartbeats, and talking to the baby inside. Imagine these mothers rubbing each other’s tired feet and sore backs, brushing and braiding hair.

Imagine them spending these few months knitting blankets and making clothes. Preparing beds and baskets. Nesting. Imagine them thinking about rocking bundles of joy, and playful childhoods. Could they have imagined what kind of adults their children would be, and mercifully they were unaware of how their lives would end.

Maybe the elder Elizabeth had some advice about marriage and relationships for Mary. Being older and barren, Elizabeth may have been aware that people talked about her behind her back. Childlessness was often looked down on, as a sign of punishment or failure. Maybe she could help Mary prepare for people talking about her behind her back…about being pregnant and not yet married.

Two ordinary women, with whom God found favor…just like God, choosing ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Young Mary, the Christ-bearer, who responds with faith and expectation to God’s gift. Her song tells the story of God’s faithful acts. In today’s reading, known as “The Magnificat” she tells that:

God is faithful from generation to generation

God’s mighty arm, the same arm that freed the captive Israelites

has scattered the proud,

and brought the mighty down from their thrones.

This same God has lifted up the lowly

has filled the hungry

and sent the rich away empty.

God has kept covenant

and remembered to show mercy.

 

Mary imagines the world in her song, she expects this world because God has promised it. God has done these things, she sings about them in the active tense. The good news is that God has done these things:

God has freed the captive

God has lifted up the lowly

God has filled the hungry

God has remembered to show mercy, and kept His promises.

When Kazy and I lived at the homeless shelter in Atlanta, this was the sermon text one day, and one of the women who slept in the streets, told us after hearing Mary’s song read aloud, she said that was good news for her because God had lifted her up.

The woman told us that she was called names and treated with unbelievable disrespect in the streets, people assumed she was a prostitute, or tried to take advantage of her. But the song of Mary, an outcast woman favored by God, gave her hope and courage not to live in shame.

We know the rest of Mary’s story. But today the story stops before she has her baby. Today we find Mary just beginning her journey. After three months she leaves her cousin’s house and goes back home to Nazareth – pregnant – expecting – waiting.

The good news for me in today’s reading is Mary’s journey, and her hopeful expectation. It is good news that Jesus was born of a woman, an ordinary person living in an oppressive empire. It is good news that God has done, and is doing these things, and that we can participate as a reminder and as a witness to what God is doing in the life and witness of this church and in our community.

When I hear Mary’s song, I think about one of my favorite songs, Imagine by John Lennon.

Imagine there are no countries, it isn’t hard to do.

Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.

Imagine all the people, living life in peace….

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can.

No need for greed or hunger.

A brotherhood (and sisterhood) of man.

Imagine all the people, sharing all the world…

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

Can you imagine this world? Can you imagine a world not divided up by lines and borders? Can you imagine a world that does not build deadly weapons for people to carry into war? A world that no longer studies war, but prepares for peace. Can you imagine a world where there is no religion to call right or wrong; rather people living faithful lives for a common good? Can you imagine a world where things are not possessed but shared, where there is no need for greed or hunger? Can you imagine?

This is like the world imagined by Mary, the mother of Jesus. Indeed this is like the world expected by Mary. Today, as we imagine, let it not be wishful thinking or pretending. Like Mary, let us imagine a world that is different than the ordinary place where we live and work.

Imagine that a real, live woman, from Nazareth…out in the sticks, and ordinary girl who sang out, “My soul magnifies the Lord who has brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly. God has filled the hungry.” Mary sings of a living God at work in the world, the city, the suburb, the northside, and the southside, even in the church.

In the coming days, we may find ourselves traveling to be with family and friends, we may drive on crowded streets, and find ourselves in crowded stores. As we live our lives where we are, as we continue our journeys through the everyday and even the mundane, let us take this young girl’s song with us, let us carry Mary’s song – The Magnificat.

Let us remember that God has always chosen ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Keep this song in your heart. Imagine. Our Lord was born to an ordinary girl, in a barn. And the world is still talking about this marvelous baby and this amazing man who ate with sinners, taught people and healed them.

Will Willimon, a Methodist preacher, and Bishop in Alabama tells the story of an old woman in the Louisiana bayou who had raised more than a dozen children, most of them she took in because nobody else wanted them. Despite her own poverty, she raised them to be worthwhile adults. Somebody asked her why she did it. She replied, “Well, I saw a new world a’comin.”

This bayou woman had Mary’s imagination. An ordinary woman, with whom God did extraordinary things.

Mary believed. Mary imagined. Mary sang. Mary expected.

So may it be with us. Amen.

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 19:1-10

1. Way In

Let’s talk about Procrastination. To tell you the truth, I’d rather talk about it later, but we better do it now

New Yorker 10/11/10, article: “Later” by James Surowieki

Procrastination: an interesting subject because of its irrationality

Nobel Prize winning economist living in India

packages of things a friend visiting from the US left behind

economist put it off week after week

knew it would be a hassle, probably take most of the day

8 months later a colleague shipped a package to the US

economist threw his friends stuff in that package

moral: even Nobel Prize winners procrastinate

P., just a bad habit or does it reveal something about the limits of rational thinking?

each year Americans waste hundreds of millions of dollars because they don’t file their taxes on time

workers forego lots of money on matching 401-k plans because they never got around to signing up for retirement plan

Philosophers say P. is an example of what the ancient Greek philosophers called akrasia – doing something against your better judgment

willfully deferring something even though you expect the delay to make you worse off

although P. involves putting off unpleasant tasks, indulging in P. doesn’t make you happier

65% of students surveyed before they started working on a term paper said they would like to avoid procrastinating – they knew both:

they wouldn’t do the work on time, and …

the delay would make them unhappy

so why do we put it off?

Are we (the procrastinators) just stupid and lazy?

if we act against our best interests, does that mean we don’t know what’s right?

are we unable to rightly plan how long something is going to take?

we don’t always put something off and do something fun instead

in fact some of us will do anything as long as it’s not the thing we’re putting off

author even cites Gen. George McClellan who led the Army of the Potomac

missed a chance to take Richmond in 1862

convinced there were hordes of Confederate troops

did the same thing later at Antietam

McClellan never felt that he had enough troops, well enough trained or equipped

another Union general said McClellan had an immobility that exceeds all that anyone can think of

Lack of confidence, unrealistic dreams of heroic success often leads to procrastination – self handicapping

rather than risk failure, P. prefer to create conditions that make success impossible

sometimes seen in excessive planning

another thing Gen. McClellan was accused of

P. coming from perfectionism

article goes on to evaluate other psychological/emotional issues that drive procrastination

i.e. weakness, ambition, inner conflict

offers tools for overcoming P.

not necessarily something you can beat by just trying harder

suggest to employ techniques to help the parts of ourselves that want to work

In Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses tells his crew to bind him to the mast of his ship

he knows he will be too weak to resist the song of the Sirens

and want to steer into the rocks to pursue them

the business traveler who is willing to pay extra for a hotel room with no TV

divide the task into smaller, well-defined chunks

these are easier to accomplish than open-ended tasks with distant deadlines

P. is partly driven by the gap between effort (required now) and reward (comes in the future, if ever)

There are times that P. arises from a sense that there is too much to do, and it truly is time to ease off a little

May be useful to think in terms of 2 kinds of P.

akratic

telling yourself that what you’re supposed to be doing has no real point

the procrastinator’s job is to figure out which is which

Bridge

Spent a lot of time on this before talking about the gospel lesson today

I want you to be thinking about procrastination – the akratic kind (putting something off in spite of your better judgment)

especially as you notice Jesus’ urgency

Read the text now

2. Tell The Story

Luke tells us that Jesus was passing through Jericho

There was a man named Zaccheus there

a chief tax collector

And he was rich

Z. was “trying to see who Jesus was,” but he was having trouble

could not see on account of the crowd around Jesus

and because he was short

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree “to get a better look”

already a sense of urgency

When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up

told Z. to hurry up and come down

because I must stay at your house today

So Z. hurried down and was happy to welcome Jesus

The crowd started to grumble

Jesus has gone home with this sinner

Then Z. promised Jesus that …

I will give half of my possessions to the poor

If I have defrauded anybody, I will pay them back 4 times over

And Jesus said

Today salvation has come to this house …

Because this one is also a son of Abraham

The son of man came to seek out and save the lost

3. So What?

A lot to preach on here

redemption, restitution, salvation

save these for another day

Today – I want to think with you about … Today

Zaccheus – what an unlikely disciple

tax collector, outcast

made his living by overtaxing the people

remember, he got to keep all the extra he taxed

if a person owed 10%

Z. could collect 20%, send 10% to Rome and keep 10%

probably jacked it up even more since he offered to pay back 400%

but on this day – he wanted to see Jesus

made a great effort

Jesus recognized Z.

was probably expecting to see Z.

already knew which tree to look in to find him

And Jesus knew all about Z.

just like the Syrophoenician woman at the well

the one he met and told her her whole story

Jesus knew about Z.’s tax collecting, and his extortions

J. knew what the people thought of Z.

Today was the day for Zaccheus

Jesus didn’t ask Z. to come talk to him sometime

he told him to hurry down and take him to his house today

he didn’t tell Z. to go make everything right – then come back …

didn’t tell him to go return all the money he extorted – then come see him

he told him to hurry down and take him to his house today

Jesus didn’t say, “we’ll have to get together sometime when your whole family’s at home. Call me.”

he told him to hurry down and take him to his house today

Jesus didn’t say, “Hey Z., I know you’re job’s really tough right now, but if we get that new emperor, then maybe you can get a better job. Then be sure to call me and we’ll get together.”

he told him to hurry down and take him to his house today

Jesus didn’t say, “I know tonight’s the new season of CSI – 24 – Monday Night – So You Think You Can – Dance With The – Jersey Girls – Glee; but when that’s over, you’ll have to give me a call.”

he told him to hurry down and take him to his house today

And Jesus calls us – Today – and this is not the time to procrastinate. This is not one of those times like the New Yorker article about procrastinating being a warning against doing something not worth the time. This is Jesus calling, this is our discipleship calling – and he calls us today

Like with Zaccheus, Jesus doesn’t say to us:

wait until you get it all together …

get past that busy schedule for _______

You get over being mad at _______

or when _______ isn’t mad at you anymore

you get over that thing that happened at church

Jesus is saying – come down out of that tree today

because it’s not about us

it’s about transforming the world – starting where we are

even up in our own tree, about our own stuff

Jesus calls us down – today

to be about being the Kingdom of Heaven

take our place in the beloved community

being about the work Jesus calls us to

clothing the naked

feeding the hungry

reconciling with our brothers and sisters

being the church of Jesus Christ, today

What’s our excuse?

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 18:1-8

Pray Always and don’t Lose Heart

 

Way In

Do you have a problem with prayer?

I don’t mean do you think it’s alright to do it …

But are you satisfied with prayer?

Are you comfortable praying?

Are you satisfied that it does any good?

But what good is prayer, anyway?

Does God always hear me?

Does God always hear you?

Funny that when I find myself in certain situations, I miss the prayer.

As a minister, I’m used to being called on to pray.

… I’m used to opening up a meeting or event with prayer

I notice when I attend a non-church meeting or event

…well, first I notice when nobody asks me to open with prayer

Then I remember, “Oh yeah, this is a room parent meeting

or book reading at the library or a book store

etc..

Sometimes I feel surprised to be praying

like once when I was participating in a march in Atlanta about healthcare for the poor

One of the organizers handed me the bullhorn and said, “Here Joe, open us with prayer.”

But as a minister, I feel more and more urgings just to go ahead and pray

There was a Presby. minister in Birmingham, AL called Brother Bryan

he was pastor of a parish in the city in the early 1900s

with iron workers, firemen, policemen

Brother Bryan was always praying with and for people

when he met them in the street, or at their job

on the telephone and on the radio

if you visit Birmingham today you will see a statue of Brother Bryan

at 5 Points – on the southside of the city

kneeling in prayer with his hands folded and his face reaching earnestly towards God

But I fall short of Brother Bryan’s earnestness and eagerness to pray

Sometimes I feel like I start out okay

but I start to ramble, or lose my place

I had a friend in seminary who kept a journal of what she prayed for

more like a record

Because she would go back to God and say, “Hey, remember back on 9/17 when I prayed for ___ ?”

sometimes, Heaven forbid!, I fall asleep

that’s why it’s good to pray out loud or with others

Do you ever wonder like me what happens when we …

Pray for healing and don’t get well?

Pray for peace and the war doesn’t stop?

pray for “this” and “that” happens

Bridge

Jesus tells a parable in today’s gospel lesson about problems with prayer

See? It’s not a new problem

And Jesus seems to get at the questions we have

when prayer doesn’t turn out like we want it to

Tell the Story

Today’s reading from Luke’s gospel gets off to a unique start. This is one of the few parables that begins with an explicit comment stating what the following parable is about. “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not lose heart,” but he ends it with a question about faith

There are two characters in the parable

mean judge

has no respect for God and no respect for people

poor widow

who was persistent in coming to the judge for justice against her opponent

the woman persists, she is always in this judges’ court with the same demand for justice

Judge relents

“even though I have no fear of God…

or anybody else,

I will grant this woman her justice”

because she’s driving me crazy

This is Jesus’ teachable moment:

“Now God is not like that unjust judge…

God will grant justice to those who cry to him day and night

and he will grant it quickly

Then he ends the parable with a twist – a challenge

“Yet when the Son of Man comes. will he find faith on earth?”

Bridge

The widow had nothing

no husband, no money, no power, no standing, no authority

she was insignificant

one commentator said she probably couldn’t find justice in a good judge’s court, much less this one

she owned nothing, but she had the dignity of a child of God which nobody can take away

so she stood in her dignity before the judge demanding justice

probably followed him home, or went to where he had lunch … she stayed after him

her persistence finally wore the judge down

So What?

“How does the parable teach us to pray always and not lose heart? And why does Jesus add the question at the end about whether the Son of Man (himself) will find faith on earth?”

“Pray always and don’t lose heart”

even though things seem hopeless (even though this judge was awful) … PRAY ALWAYS

Because God’s righteousness will prevail…

light will overcome darkness

good will overcome evil

love will always prevail against hate

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God (John 4:16)

“Don’t lose heart”

don’t be discouraged, don’t give up hope

One of Pauly’s videos about a kid’s baseball team has that message

a kid who has sat on the bench all year keeps asking the coach to put him in.

the coach keeps saying that maybe the next game will be the time…

the coach tells the boy, “Don’t give up hope.”

and sure enough, the very next game the kid gets to play

But the message is not just, “Don’t lose heart.” Jesus says, “Pray always and don’t lose heart.”

one preacher tells about Mother Theresa visiting a wealthy executive to ask for a donation to her work with the poor

the man had already decided not to make a donation, but he decided to hear her appeal, then make a gracious exit

he said Mother was like a little sparrow sitting at the edge of his grand desk – and when she made her appeal

the powerful man told her that he was touched by her work, but his answer was “No.”

Mother Theresa said, “Let us pray.” Then she went back over the same appeal and asked for the money again.

Again he said, “No.” And again Mother Theresa responded the same way – “Let us pray.”

She made the same appeal again, and again the man said, “No.”

Again, she said, “Let us pray.”

then as she got into the same appeal, the man said, “Oh for God’s sake, let me get my checkbook.”

So it goes beyond being hopeful

Pray always

be persistent like the widow

let us “bang on the doors of heaven” with our prayers

claiming our inheritance of God’s covenant

and proclaiming through our words and presence that we stand for and claim a better world than the one we see at present

Bring it Home

This is no trite, simplistic message to keep up hope

there’s no gospel (good news) in saying, “Just hope for the best, and don’t lose heart.”

It’s an exhortation to “Pray always, and don’t lose heart.”

To claim and proclaim that …

God hears the prayers of the people

and as we pray, we articulate for ourselves – before God, that we believe in a better reality than what the present situation may indicate

we believe and proclaim that good will prevail against evil

… that love is more powerful than hate

… a friend (Zenie Miller) had a note taped over her kitchen table. It said, “God, there’s not going to be any problems today that me and you can’t handle together.”

we always prayed like that

now the question Jesus asks in the last verse , “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth?”

In praying always and not losing hope

we are claiming and proclaiming that we trust in the good news of the gospel, the kingdom of heaven …

that following the Living God is trusting in a better reality, and committing ourselves to working for the sake of the good news

and that bears out the definition of faith we find in Hebrews, chapt. 11

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible … But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. (1-3, 16)

So yes, when there are people praying always and not giving up hope…

there will be the ones who are trusting in the assurance of things hoped for, convicted of even what they cannot see, desiring a better reality

in other words, those having faith as described in the Book of Hebrews.

Pray always, and don’t lose heart.

For in this we have the living of our faith.

Trusting in and proclaiming a better reality than the one we see now.


So may it be with us. Amen

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