11 December 2019
If your child asks you for a box of pebbles to eat do you give him a box of stones? How long will it take before the child realises she has been fooled she does not have the thing she asked for, but something which leaves a bad taste.
Do we fob our children off with shoddy imitations something which outwardly looks like what they have asked for, but which does not feed them or harms them?
We seek the best for our children, we have hopes and dreams for them. And we would give them anything that would bring them into health and happiness.
One of the most humanly evocative statements in the bible is in the story of when Mary and Joseph bring the infant Jesus to the Temple. Ancient Simeon has been waiting for years to see God's salvation and is one of the few who recognises it in this little baby held in his parent's arms. Simeon takes the child and gives thanks to God for being able to see the future is as God has promised, but he also knows it will come at a cost.
He turns to Mary and says "this child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed. So that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed and a sword will pierce your own soul also. "
"A sword will pierce your own soul also" when we see a future for those we love and specially those whom we are also responsible for in which they may be hurt or suffer and which we are powerless to change, doesn't that hurt, pierce our hearts?
So it is not by accident that when Jesus' disciples ask him how to pray Jesus starts with say father, go as naturally as a child runs to their parent and says Daddy, or Mummy,
that first word centres us on a parent who yearns and longs for our well being. Pray , not to a distant inaccessible deity but to one who cares.
Holy be your name, a father who is holy, honoured, wonderful, one we can trust. And in the version we use we say , not my father but our Father, so we are claiming kinship, brother and sisterhood as the human family of God.
And then we bring our desires for a future which coincides with our Father's desire for the future of the world and as we do this we are changed.
May your kingdom come. May the world be where God reigns, todays psalm 85 says it "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, righteousness and peace will kiss each other, faithfulness will spring up from the ground, the Lord will give what is good". May there not be pain or death or the dark and dangerous journeys we fear for ourselves and others.
Then we pray give us the bread, the daily needs for life tomorrow. Let us know there will be provision for us.
For the disciples and Jesus moving among people and even themselves maybe being in the position , where they simply did not know where their next food or shelter would be, this is a life and death prayer in practical terms. This is once again not for me, but bread for the community who pray and for the world they live in. It reminds those who have plenty not to take their daily bread for granted and to be aware and respond to needs of others.
Give us O God what we need for daily living, to get through each day and have faith that tomorrow will be provided for.
Bread might not be our immediate need, for us it might be how to deal with the challenges that face us, the grieving, the caring the swords that pierce our hearts. The need to know that we will be able to cope with the future for those whom we love and the future of an increasingly anxiety ridden world.
Pray says Jesus knowing the father to whom you pray. When we know that the ultimate future is in the hands of a parent who loves and cares, that changes things, we can have confidence that somehow all will be woven together in God's love.
The Lord's prayer gives us space to celebrate and give thanks but also to trust to ask for the future.
We are taught to pray and long for God's world to be the place where God's will is done.
Prayer is basically dangerous if you want to stay undisturbed, because it sends us on a journey.
Sometimes that journey is one we are drawn into and other times we find ourselves flung into it, our lives turned upside down.. by events over which we have no control, we only have the choice as to how we travel that way.
When we refuse to accept the brokeness we see and face, and we have a need to struggle for wholeness, healing, salvation for those around us, those whom we love and those whom we do not know. we pray, surely God this is not your will! That restlessness and longing is a gift from God, and we can allow God to transform this into courage to leave the known and journey into the unknown -to leave the safe and head into the dangerous in our search to move from fear to love and tears to joy..
Listen, behind the superficial talk, to this community. Many who are here today can tell of their journeys made with courage and prayer.
When we trust that our daily needs will be met, and at times that is in the desparately hard times of just surviving, we do come to a place where we look back and see that the light of Christ has been with us and we have been blessed and have been a blessing to others in ways we could never have imagined. The tears of the night , no matter how bitterly shed, will become the joy of the morning...Ask and you will be given.
Then we pray - May our world be a place where we forgive others, and that reminds us of our own need to forgive. Knowing we are forgiven that the past is let go of makes our future actions different and we follow the same pattern of forgiving. IF we don't forgive, then we are binding ourselves into the past we will not let go of. We are refusing to break the cycles. We are not acting as those who are forgiven, not claiming our forgivenness.
So we pray God let us know, you do not bind us to the past, but free us so we in turn can free others and there is transfomation.
Forgiving is world changing, this is loving ones enemies, turning them into friends, this about the kingdom of God coming and we are part of the action.
And so we ask, do not let us be tested beyond our strength to resist, do not put us into situations of temptation which we cannot fight. Temptation to get the quick fix, to give up, to turn away from the journey because it seems too hard to go on. Do not let us be led into destructive things.
Give us the courage for the journey give us hope for the future.
Loving parent, father dad,
Jesus followers asked him teach us to pray - and he answered them with a prayer Acknowledge God as Parent, hope for a society which knows God's love, ask for food for daily living for us and others, and ask that we do not go in destructive directions.
Jesus then tells two stories. The first encourages us to be persistent in asking specially for others. The neighbour who wakes you up in the middle of the night saying the 24hour petrol station is closed and he needs some bread for a friend might be a real pain but in the end you go to your freezer and give him what he wants. How much more will God hear our prayers wanting good for another and God's own world. And how much more should we be willing to go and act to ensure the friend's needs are met.
The second story is about an ordinary average dad who of course wants to give his child good gifts. So how much more will the father of us all, who loves us with divine love want to hear our requests for others.
Prayer is at the heart of the christian life.
Children and adults we all need Spiritual nourishment to grow.
Many children used to learn to pray as tiny children the Christopher Robin way God bless Mummy, God bless Daddy, God bless me.
This starts them on a path of communication with God. But for many people prayer seems to remain at that childhood level forever. then give up on prayer because it doesn't satisfy their need. They are stuck with cupboard prayers, which ask God to Provide. Prayer for sun or rain or a parking spot in the city or more seriously for someone with a terminal illness to get better.
Nothing is wrong with a cupboard prayer - in the Lord's prayer we are told to ask for our daily bread.
But the way Jesus teaches us to pray leads us inward and outword and deep into the will of a loving parent for us and God's world.
we find we are changed as we pray. This prayer is as far from Christopher Robin as Shakespeare is from nursery rhymes. It needs to be practised and allows our faith to grow into adulthood and not relegated to something we did as children.
God gives good gifts, real life, hope and love. Not a superficial promise that all will be happy and well, but a promise that we will not be alone. If we have to go through dark places we will be given strength, that deep joy can be there in the middle of sorrow and when there seems to be nothing, God waits for us to keep on seeking and discover him in new an unexpected places and ways.
We are invited every one of us to ask. Seek and find, in our ordinary daily lives for there we will discover God. And our deepest longings will be met.
For the god's is the kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever Amen.
Prayer [from digtree resources]
Our Father, dreamer of the universe, speaker of the dream,
May your name and dreams be respected above all
May all your dreams for all of creation come real
Grant us what we need to live in the rhythm of your dreaming
have mercy on us and free us from our bondage as we do the same for others
Lead us not into deluded dreams of our hearts desires
And deliver us from our nightmares that bind us
For the dreaming, the sustaining love and the reality of hope are yours
Now and forever Amen
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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