Tenth Sunday after Pentecost by The Rev. Richard Toll

 

Lessons:

Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-19
Luke 11:1-13

 

 

What do we do about living life to its fullest?

How do we address God?

How do we even know God?

Does God mean anything to you or me?

Why do we even care about the answers to these questions?  If, there are answers.

 

“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.”

One of the most important parts of life is asking questions and being able to receive answers.  And, the answers we receive are often not the answers we want.

Do you remember when you were a child and growing into the awareness of God?  Do you remember how you prayed?  I do.  I remember thinking that prayer was a magic formula for getting what I wanted.  And, as adults we often may have the same thoughts.  I can remember wondering about God when I prayed that our team would win a football game and we lost.  Darn it!  “Who does God think he is any how ?” was something of my childhood response.  And yet we asked and received.  The answer may not be what we hoped, wanted or needed.

The Lord’s Prayer is a simple prayer and a very profound prayer.  “Lord, teach us to prayer,” the disciples ask of Jesus.  Matthew’s Gospel gives us the fullness of the Lord’s Prayer as we know it in our Prayer Book.  Luke gives us his version at the end of the 1st century.

The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer of relationship.  God is addressed as “Father” which is a very intimate understanding of God.  It places God within our experience and recognizes our dependences.  It places us as a part of God’s creation.  It places us in relationship in such a way that we enter into the mystery of life itself with the one who created life.

In the intimacy we experience with God, the prayer speaks of Heaven and Earth, the Will of God and the Kingdom of God.  This is why the prayer is such a profound prayer.  Thousands of books have been written on all of these topics and thousands more will be written in the future as people like you and me experience God, Creation, Life and Death.  We live into mystery every time we say the Lord’s Prayer.

As individuals, we live in a very fractured world.  As individuals, we feel alone and isolated.  We wonder about who we are and what our role is within creation.  Can we , or do we make a difference?

I believe we are created in order to make a difference.  We often do not know what happens with our actions or prayers.  Because we do not see the results for better or worse.  Sometimes we do know.  Recently I heard from a dear friend whose child died 25 years ago.  The loss was very painful.  The father and family were hurting and he told me about a prayer I offered at the time.  I have no idea what I prayed or how God used me as a vessel.  But, my friend informed me how much it meant to him, his family and friends.  He is still uplifted by the memory.  I thanked him for sharing with me after 25 years.

We learn to pray in many ways.  First of all by reading and writing prayers.  The Lord’s Prayer is one of those prayers.  As life teaches us many lessons, we move beyond words to a deeper level of prayer that is within us, surrounding us and often it is not verbalized.  We often can find ourselves in prayer that is not focused.  I find that at times the best way to focus our moments of discernment within the life of the spirit is to simply say “Thank you_________” and begin to say thanks for where ever the Spirit leads.  It may be thanks for a hard lesson learned or thanks for being delivered from an injury or illness, or a relationship being repaired or an insight into a problem to be solved and thanks for and on and on and on.  To have a way of saying thank you for not giving into temptation.

Our thanks in prayer makes us aware of that beyond ourselves and helps us live beyond ourselves.

It can also remove a sense of isolation and bring us into the understanding of community and the realization that we come together to offer prayers not just as individuals but within community.  Can you imagine a world that does not intentionally as individuals and as community enter into prayer?

Repeat—can you imagine a world that does not intentionally as individuals and as community enter into prayer?  Self centered—without reflection—without forgiveness, relating only to our own wants, competing for more and more at the expense of others?  My guess is the world would have more wars and more of what we do not like in today’s world.

One of the things we learn from prayer is that we realize in our prayers that there is an expectation that we become answers to our own prayers.  Do we pray for healing for another person without visiting them and doing our part in any way we are able.  Do we pray for justice and find ourselves ignoring issues of justice within our own life?  Do we pray for a concern thinking someone else needs to address the concern or God will take care of it while we choose to ignore or dismiss.  It is like praying for the election in November and not voting.  Complaining but not acting.

We can become answers to prayers we offer.  And maybe that is what God is asking of us in order to be within the Kingdom of God.

We are gathered in community today.  Praying, singing, listening, discovering each other and discerning our lives within the presence of God.  Right at this moment there are individuals in countries throughout the world who are saying the Lord’s Prayer, receiving communion, saying prayers, reading the Bible, engaging in worship—all over the world—people together are offering themselves and giving thanks to God.  At the Church of the Pater Noster in Jerusalem the Lord’s Prayer is presented in over 100 languages on the walls of the church.

Funerals are taking place right now—somewhere grieving and loss are occurring.

Weddings are taking place right now—somewhere rejoicing as people join their lives together.

Baptisms are taking place right now—somewhere promises are being offered to honor the life of Jesus and to become a member of a community of Faith.

Births are taking place—somewhere new life—in hospitals, homes, jungles, at sea, anywhere and everywhere—“Give us this day our daily bread”.  May we receive food to nourish us.

And not just in Christian churches—Moslem, Jewish,  Hindo, Buddhist.  People drawing near to the presence of the One who created and is made know.  And of course we know that the impulse of good versus evil always can move us away from the spirit of love because of the gift we have of freedom to choose.  Thus, the Lord’s Prayer, “deliver us from evil”.

This past month our entire family (our son, his wife and two children and our daughter with her husband and two children visited Washington, D.C. for a week.  We went to Mt. Vernon, the Capitol, the White House and overdosed on Smithsonian Museums.   One of our most meaningful museums was the space museum.  A fantastic visit into space was offered as we were able to experience the vastness of space and the overwhelming sense of what is beyond us.  It is amazing what we have been able to discover about our universe in the past 100 years.  It is almost beyond belief.  We have been given the means to discover what God has done in creation and continues to do.  Within this creation, we offer the simplicity and the majesty of the Lord’s Prayer our gift from Jesus to draw closer to the Father, closer to each other and closer to our own selves.

“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.”  And the journey continues.

Amen.