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 SERMON TEXT 
Monday, October 31 2016

Becca Ehrlich

We made it! It’s the last week, week 8 of our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer! Man, we’ve covered a lot! We’ve talked about God as our heavenly parent, God’s name, God’s kingdom, God’s will, our daily bread, forgiveness, temptation and evil, and now we are at the final part of the prayer—“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.”

We call this ending of the Lord’s Prayer a doxology, which is a fancy word made from two Greek words—doxa, meaning glory, and logos, meaning speech or word. Doxology basically means “glory word.” So when we say this ending to the Lord’s Prayer, we are saying glory words, and giving glory to God. We are praising God.

And when we come to worship, that’s what we are coming to do. We are here to give glory to God, to praise God for all that God does for us. We are here to focus on God, to hear about God’s own son Jesus, to experience the Holy Spirit.

But we don’t just praise God here in worship. It’s not like we have a copyright on praising God. You’re not only allowed to praise God with these four walls. It’s not like you walk in these doors and you can say “Oh good, NOW I’m allowed to praise God!” It’s not like that at all! This is just the place where we have designated, set-aside times to praise God. But praising God is part of our lives as Christians, not just something we do on a Saturday evening or Sunday here at church.

In fact, you could say that Christians know the meaning of life. People spend their lives searching for the meaning of life—and we actually know it! The Westminster Catechism, written in the 1600s for Christians in Scotland and Britain, tells us the meaning of life. It says: “Man’s [and woman’s] chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy [God] forever.”

THAT is our purpose in life, what gives our life meaning. To glorify God and enjoy God forever. To praise God and enjoy God’s presence. That’s it. It’s so simple. We were created by God to praise God forever. That is what we are made to do.

That means that we don’t just praise God when we are here in church—since it’s our life’s purpose, we praise God all the time. We praise God when we are at work. We praise God when we are at home. We praise God when we are watching a Bills game (it may be less easy to praise God depending on how their playing!), or out to see a movie, or going to visit family or friends. We praise God all throughout our lives!

That’s not to say that praising God is always easy. When things are going well in our lives, in can be super easy to praise God for all the good stuff.

It’s when stuff isn’t going well that it can be much harder to praise God. Even though Jesus tells us numerous times in the Bible that being a Christian doesn’t mean it’s always going to be all hugs and puppies and rainbows, when awfulness happens in our lives we can get shocked, dismayed, and lose hope pretty quickly. Life throws things at us, and the last thing we feel like doing is praising God.

But here’s the thing—praising God in the middle of crud is actually in our DNA as Christians. In fact, the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, has this to a “T.”

When John of Patmos had the visions from God that he wrote down in Revelation, it was not a good time for Jesus followers. Scholars aren’t sure if there were officially-sanctioned persecutions of Christians outside of Rome at the time, but we do know that pockets of persecution and executions of Christians were happening, even without the government OKing it. Christians weren’t treated well, and sometimes were even killed for their faith. The early Christians were starting to lose hope.

Although the Book of Revelation can be confusing sometimes, and even trippy at other times, the over-arching message to those persecuted Christians, and to us, is clear. Even though our world is broken now, and awfulness happens, Jesus will come again and establish God’s kingdom here on earth once and for all.

In the passage we read from Revelation, we heard that every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea—that covers pretty much everyone-- are praising God, forever.

We are able to praise God even in the awfulness, because we know that evil and brokenness and the devil do not have the last word. God does. God sent God’s own son to die for us so that we could have eternal life with him. And Jesus will come again to make the world perfect, forever.

THIS was a message of hope to those Jesus followers reading John’s words in Revelation, and it is a message of hope to us now, too. We are able to praise God no matter what the circumstances, because Jesus has our backs. We know that God has GOT THIS. God is with us in the awfulness, because Jesus knows what it means to suffer. And as believers in Jesus, we know that we are saved and that ultimately God will WIN.

When we pray that doxology at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, we are saying that God is the creator and Lord over everything, on BOTH sides of eternity. That means that we acknowledge that WE are not the ones in control, GOD IS the one in control.

That can be both freeing and utterly terrifying. You could say that it feels dangerous to pray that. We like to think that we are in control—but we aren’t. God is.

And although that is scary, when we end the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying to God and praising God no matter what our circumstances. We are saying that God has it all under control, even if to us it doesn’t look like it. We are doing exactly what those first century Christians did when they read John’s words in the Book of Revelation—we are praising God even when life stinks.

Today, we celebrate the Reformation, which started when Martin Luther posted a whole bunch of things, 95 things to be exact, on a church door about how he saw the Church of the time as broken. One of the things he said was that we can’t make God love us or save us—we can’t earn salvation or love from God. God loves us and saves us freely, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Since I’ve hung out in different denominations and traditions of Christianity over the years, I’ve heard some “catch-phrases” that different flavors of Christianity use. One of the catch phrases that I heard quite a bit was: “PRAISES GO UP, BLESSINGS COME DOWN.”

That phrase sounds pretty good at first. But if you stop to think about it, it’s not actually true. Martin Luther would have had a fit if he heard that phrase. “Praises go up, blessings come down.” It’s saying that praises go up, THEN blessings come down. In that order. It’s a conditional statement. Only if we praise God does God then bless us. So if taken to its natural conclusion, it’s saying that if we don’t praise God, then God doesn’t bless us. Woah.

We know that’s not true at all. We know that God blesses us and loves us and saves us, no matter what. We know that God loves us and blesses us, not because of what WE do, but because of what GOD DOES FOR US, no conditions required.

So this catch-phrase is patently untrue. But what if we turned it around? What if we reversed it?

Then the phrase would be, “BLESSINGS COME DOWN, PRAISES GO UP!”

HA! Now THAT phrase is true! God blesses us, provides us what we need, loves us, and saves us—and because of what God has done for us, then WE CAN PRAISE GOD! No matter what is happening in our lives, we can praise God because GOD BLESSES US AND LOVE US AND SAVES US. And ultimately, GOD WINS. Blessings come down, praises go up!

So no matter what’s going on in your life today—let’s praise God. Let’s praise God for creating us. Let’s praise God for loving us, even when we mess up. Let’s praise God for sending Jesus to die for us and rise again so that we could look forward to eternal life with Jesus. Let’s praise God because God will kick Satan’s butt and we will live in a perfect world when Jesus returns again. Let’s praise God because God’s blessings come down, and our praises go up!

Let’s praise God! Amen?                                                                                                 

Posted by: Pastor Becca Ehrlich AT 09:13 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 25 2016

Pastor Randy

It’s week six of our sermons series on the Lord’s Prayer! We’ve looked at our heavenly father, God’s holy name, God’s kingdom, God’s will for us, and God providing our daily bread. Today, we are going to look at the forgiveness part of the Lord’s Prayer—“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

At a congregation I worked at previously, there was a family who was very involved in the life of the congregation. They came to worship pretty much every week, they were leaders in the congregation, and their children were very involved in our youth program.

Their oldest son, who was in high school, was dating a young woman. He invited her to church, and soon she became very involved in our youth program as well. She invited the rest of her family—and soon her whole family was coming to worship every week as well. Both families became good friends and sat next to each other at worship. Her family met with me to discuss joining the congregation officially, and began getting involved as well.

Both families were excited, I was excited, the congregation was excited. This was a family who clearly saw the Christian faith as a big part of their lives and was on fire for Jesus. Both families had been given lots of gifts and skills by God, and they didn’t hesitate to use those gifts and skills in the congregation and in our community.

Things were going swimmingly and we were planning for the young woman’s family to take the new members class together and join the congregation.

Then it all fell apart.

The two families had a huge falling out. I never knew the details of what actually happened, but it was huge. The families stopped speaking to one another. The young woman’s family, because the other family had been at the congregation first, stopped coming to church and bowed out of the ministries they had been newly involved in. Their kids stopped coming to youth events. It was awful.

I spent many hours talking with members of both families, both on the phone and in person. One family was willing to reconcile. The other was very much not. Because of this, the families were at a standstill.

Needless to say, their teenagers who were dating felt like they were in the middle of it all. Thrust into the middle of this family feud, they kept trying to date but had a hard time of it. This went on for months.

At one point, the teenage son of the original family passed me a note at the end of worship one Sunday, making sure that his family didn’t see him giving it to me. When I had time after everyone had left church that day, I read his letter.

He wrote about how difficult it had been with the families feuding, how he and his siblings had lost their close friends. He wrote about how he and his girlfriend kept trying to get the families to talk to one another, but nothing worked. He talked about how he didn’t understand how one misunderstanding could cost two families such an amazing friendship. It was a heart-breaking read.

And he ended his letter with this one question: “Why is it so hard for my family to FORGIVE?”

This teen asked a question that we all ask at some point in our lives. Why is it so hard to forgive the people who wrong us? Why, as a human race, are we so good at holding grudges and remembering the wrong things that people do? Why can’t we just forgive each other?

In our Gospel reading from Matthew, Peter wants to know about forgiving others too. He wants to know how much he actually has to forgive people. “Lord,” he asks Jesus, “If another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” And Jesus turns to him and says, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

I can just imagine Peter’s face. I have to forgive that annoying dude who does everything wrong SEVENTY-SEVEN TIMES? Why, Jesus, why???

Maybe because of Peter’s facial expression, Jesus tells a story to illustrate his point. So the king wants all the people who owe him money to pay back what they owe. And this one slave owes him ten thousand talents. Just to give you an idea of how much that is— one talent was equal to about 15 years’ worth of wages. 15 YEARS WORTH. So that means this guy owed the king 150,000 years of labor. There is no way on God’s green earth he would have been able to pay that back.

So the king says that in order to pay off this humongous debt, the man and his wife and his children and all their possessions would have to be sold. The man begs for the king to reconsider—and the king is moved and releases the man and forgives his huge debt.

This is a great story of forgiveness—that king forgave probably one of the biggest debts he had ever seen. I wish the story ended there.

But the story doesn’t end there. You would expect that this man, free of his huge debt, would want to pay it forward, would want others to be free and forgiven too, right?

Not so much. Immediately after having his huge debt forgiven and his family saved from being sold, he grabs a fellow slave by the throat, who owes him WAY less money than he owed the king. He insists that he pay him back. And when the man can’t pay him back that instant, he has the man thrown in jail. No forgiveness happening here!

So the king finds out about what happened, and tells the man “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” And then hands the man over to be tortured until he would pay back his original debt to the king. Which we know, is impossible to pay back.

And then Jesus says to Peter and his disciples, “So my heavenly father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

EEK. This is definitely a convicting story. We all can think of someone who wronged us, that we weren’t able to forgive. You may still have to deal with this person on a regular basis. Maybe your life paths went different ways, and you don’t see them anymore. Maybe it’s someone you had to cut out of your life.

Now we have to remember-- forgiveness doesn’t mean that we let people back in our lives who are toxic or abusive, the people in that last category. But it does mean that we no longer hold the pain that they caused us inside of us anymore. It means that we don’t hold on to that grudge, or those bad feelings about what they did. Because, honestly, holding onto that pain hurts us more than it hurts them. Holding on to a grudge is damaging to our wellbeing—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So how are we able to forgive people? How do we forgive seventy-seven times, as Jesus said?

The answer lies in what God has done for us.

We read in Psalm 103: “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.”

As high as the heavens are high above the earth…as far as east is from the west. What shape does that get us…? A cross.

God’s love and forgiveness is in the shape of the cross. The cross that Jesus died on, for us. When he died, he took all our sins—those things we say, think, or do wrong-- on himself, so that those sins died with him. So everything you have done, are doing, and will do wrong died with Jesus. ALL of those sins. He died so that you could be forgiven. You could be free.

You could say that Jesus died to pay our debt. We’re like that slave in the story—our debt is so huge, there is no way we could repay God. But Jesus did it for us. And the king, our amazing God, remembers our sins no more. Even if you keep messing up, you are still forgiven. Because of Jesus, we have this amazing gift of forgiveness that can never go away.

And are only able to forgive others because God forgives us first. We can’t do it alone. That slave wasn’t able to forgive the debts of the other slave, because he was doing it all himself. Jesus wants us to live with one another, forgiving each other when we mess us up, and he helps us do it. We can only forgive because Jesus helps us forgive.

Richard Wurmbrand tells the story of when he was in a Communist prison in Romania. He was lying in a prison cell reserved for those who were dying. In the cot on his right was a pastor who had been beaten so badly that he was about to die. On his left was the very man who had beaten him, a Communist, who was later betrayed and tortured by his comrades.

One night the Communist awakened in the middle of a nightmare and cried out, “Please, pastor, say a prayer for me. I have committed such crimes, I cannot die.” The pastor feebly got up, stumbled past Wurmbrand’s cot, and sat at the bedside of his enemy.

As he watched, Wurmbrand saw the pastor caress the hair of the man who had tortured him and speak these amazing words: “I have forgiven you with all of my heart, and I love you. If I who am only a sinner can love and forgive you, more so can Jesus who is the Son of God and who is love incarnate. Return to Him. He longs for you much more than you long for Him. He wishes to forgive you much more than you wish to be forgiven. You just repent.” There, in the prison cell, the Communist began to confess all his murders and tortures. When he had finished, the two men prayed together, embraced, and then returned to their beds, where each died that very night.

That pastor was only able to forgive the man who tortured him and beat him and ultimately killed him because of Jesus’ forgiveness. He himself knew Jesus’ forgiveness, and Jesus helped him to forgive that man, and to help that man to know Jesus before he died. He would never have been able to do that without Jesus’ help.

Praying that God forgive us as we forgive others is dangerous, because forgiveness is powerful. Through forgiveness in Jesus Christ, people who have murdered, people who have raped, people who lie, who cheat, who steal, who treat other people badly, people who WE would say don’t deserve forgiveness—they are forgiven. Through Jesus’ forgiveness, all sins are forgiven. All YOUR sins are forgiven. And all the sins of that person who wronged you—those sins are forgiven too. And because those sins are forgiven, we are able to forgive those sins ourselves—both our own sins and those sins of other people.

Hear the Good News today—Jesus died for you and forgives you. He loves you, no matter what. Nothing you can do will make him love you less. Nothing you can do will make him love you more. He loves you and forgives you, unconditionally, and helps you to forgive others, in his name.

So we pray that part of the Lord’s Prayer —“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Amen?

 

 

 

Posted by: AT 08:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 18 2016

Pastor Becca

It’s week six of our sermons series on the Lord’s Prayer! We’ve looked at our heavenly father, God’s holy name, God’s kingdom, God’s will for us, and God providing our daily bread. Today, we are going to look at the forgiveness part of the Lord’s Prayer—“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

At a congregation I worked at previously, there was a family who was very involved in the life of the congregation. They came to worship pretty much every week, they were leaders in the congregation, and their children were very involved in our youth program.

Their oldest son, who was in high school, was dating a young woman. He invited her to church, and soon she became very involved in our youth program as well. She invited the rest of her family—and soon her whole family was coming to worship every week as well. Both families became good friends and sat next to each other at worship. Her family met with me to discuss joining the congregation officially, and began getting involved as well.

Both families were excited, I was excited, the congregation was excited. This was a family who clearly saw the Christian faith as a big part of their lives and was on fire for Jesus. Both families had been given lots of gifts and skills by God, and they didn’t hesitate to use those gifts and skills in the congregation and in our community.

Things were going swimmingly and we were planning for the young woman’s family to take the new members class together and join the congregation.

Then it all fell apart.

The two families had a huge falling out. I never knew the details of what actually happened, but it was huge. The families stopped speaking to one another. The young woman’s family, because the other family had been at the congregation first, stopped coming to church and bowed out of the ministries they had been newly involved in. Their kids stopped coming to youth events. It was awful.

I spent many hours talking with members of both families, both on the phone and in person. One family was willing to reconcile. The other was very much not. Because of this, the families were at a standstill.

Needless to say, their teenagers who were dating felt like they were in the middle of it all. Thrust into the middle of this family feud, they kept trying to date but had a hard time of it. This went on for months.

At one point, the teenage son of the original family passed me a note at the end of worship one Sunday, making sure that his family didn’t see him giving it to me. When I had time after everyone had left church that day, I read his letter.

He wrote about how difficult it had been with the families feuding, how he and his siblings had lost their close friends. He wrote about how he and his girlfriend kept trying to get the families to talk to one another, but nothing worked. He talked about how he didn’t understand how one misunderstanding could cost two families such an amazing friendship. It was a heart-breaking read.

And he ended his letter with this one question: “Why is it so hard for my family to FORGIVE?”

This teen asked a question that we all ask at some point in our lives. Why is it so hard to forgive the people who wrong us? Why, as a human race, are we so good at holding grudges and remembering the wrong things that people do? Why can’t we just forgive each other?

In our Gospel reading from Matthew, Peter wants to know about forgiving others too. He wants to know how much he actually has to forgive people. “Lord,” he asks Jesus, “If another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” And Jesus turns to him and says, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

I can just imagine Peter’s face. I have to forgive that annoying dude who does everything wrong SEVENTY-SEVEN TIMES? Why, Jesus, why???

Maybe because of Peter’s facial expression, Jesus tells a story to illustrate his point. So the king wants all the people who owe him money to pay back what they owe. And this one slave owes him ten thousand talents. Just to give you an idea of how much that is— one talent was equal to about 15 years’ worth of wages. 15 YEARS WORTH. So that means this guy owed the king 150,000 years of labor. There is no way on God’s green earth he would have been able to pay that back.

So the king says that in order to pay off this humongous debt, the man and his wife and his children and all their possessions would have to be sold. The man begs for the king to reconsider—and the king is moved and releases the man and forgives his huge debt.

This is a great story of forgiveness—that king forgave probably one of the biggest debts he had ever seen. I wish the story ended there.

But the story doesn’t end there. You would expect that this man, free of his huge debt, would want to pay it forward, would want others to be free and forgiven too, right?

Not so much. Immediately after having his huge debt forgiven and his family saved from being sold, he grabs a fellow slave by the throat, who owes him WAY less money than he owed the king. He insists that he pay him back. And when the man can’t pay him back that instant, he has the man thrown in jail. No forgiveness happening here!

So the king finds out about what happened, and tells the man “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” And then hands the man over to be tortured until he would pay back his original debt to the king. Which we know, is impossible to pay back.

And then Jesus says to Peter and his disciples, “So my heavenly father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

EEK. This is definitely a convicting story. We all can think of someone who wronged us, that we weren’t able to forgive. You may still have to deal with this person on a regular basis. Maybe your life paths went different ways, and you don’t see them anymore. Maybe it’s someone you had to cut out of your life.

Now we have to remember-- forgiveness doesn’t mean that we let people back in our lives who are toxic or abusive, the people in that last category. But it does mean that we no longer hold the pain that they caused us inside of us anymore. It means that we don’t hold on to that grudge, or those bad feelings about what they did. Because, honestly, holding onto that pain hurts us more than it hurts them. Holding on to a grudge is damaging to our wellbeing—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So how are we able to forgive people? How do we forgive seventy-seven times, as Jesus said?

The answer lies in what God has done for us.

We read in Psalm 103: “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.”

As high as the heavens are high above the earth…as far as east is from the west. What shape does that get us…? A cross.

God’s love and forgiveness is in the shape of the cross. The cross that Jesus died on, for us. When he died, he took all our sins—those things we say, think, or do wrong-- on himself, so that those sins died with him. So everything you have done, are doing, and will do wrong died with Jesus. ALL of those sins. He died so that you could be forgiven. You could be free.

You could say that Jesus died to pay our debt. We’re like that slave in the story—our debt is so huge, there is no way we could repay God. But Jesus did it for us. And the king, our amazing God, remembers our sins no more. Even if you keep messing up, you are still forgiven. Because of Jesus, we have this amazing gift of forgiveness that can never go away.

And are only able to forgive others because God forgives us first. We can’t do it alone. That slave wasn’t able to forgive the debts of the other slave, because he was doing it all himself. Jesus wants us to live with one another, forgiving each other when we mess us up, and he helps us do it. We can only forgive because Jesus helps us forgive.

Richard Wurmbrand tells the story of when he was in a Communist prison in Romania. He was lying in a prison cell reserved for those who were dying. In the cot on his right was a pastor who had been beaten so badly that he was about to die. On his left was the very man who had beaten him, a Communist, who was later betrayed and tortured by his comrades.

One night the Communist awakened in the middle of a nightmare and cried out, “Please, pastor, say a prayer for me. I have committed such crimes, I cannot die.” The pastor feebly got up, stumbled past Wurmbrand’s cot, and sat at the bedside of his enemy.

As he watched, Wurmbrand saw the pastor caress the hair of the man who had tortured him and speak these amazing words: “I have forgiven you with all of my heart, and I love you. If I who am only a sinner can love and forgive you, more so can Jesus who is the Son of God and who is love incarnate. Return to Him. He longs for you much more than you long for Him. He wishes to forgive you much more than you wish to be forgiven. You just repent.” There, in the prison cell, the Communist began to confess all his murders and tortures. When he had finished, the two men prayed together, embraced, and then returned to their beds, where each died that very night.

That pastor was only able to forgive the man who tortured him and beat him and ultimately killed him because of Jesus’ forgiveness. He himself knew Jesus’ forgiveness, and Jesus helped him to forgive that man, and to help that man to know Jesus before he died. He would never have been able to do that without Jesus’ help.

Praying that God forgive us as we forgive others is dangerous, because forgiveness is powerful. Through forgiveness in Jesus Christ, people who have murdered, people who have raped, people who lie, who cheat, who steal, who treat other people badly, people who WE would say don’t deserve forgiveness—they are forgiven. Through Jesus’ forgiveness, all sins are forgiven. All YOUR sins are forgiven. And all the sins of that person who wronged you—those sins are forgiven too. And because those sins are forgiven, we are able to forgive those sins ourselves—both our own sins and those sins of other people.

Hear the Good News today—Jesus died for you and forgives you. He loves you, no matter what. Nothing you can do will make him love you less. Nothing you can do will make him love you more. He loves you and forgives you, unconditionally, and helps you to forgive others, in his name.

So we pray that part of the Lord’s Prayer —“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Amen?

Posted by: AT 08:36 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 11 2016

Pastor Becca

An older man went to a diner every day for lunch. He always ordered the soup of the day, which came with two slices of bread. One day the manager asked him how he liked his meal. The old man replied "It was good, but you could give me a little more bread."

So the next day the manager told the waitress to give him four slices of bread. "How was your meal, sir?" the manager asked. "It was good, but you could give me a little more bread," came the reply.

So the next day the manager told the waitress to give him eight slices of bread. "How was your meal today, sir?" the manager asked. "It was good, but you could give me a little more bread," came the reply.

So...the next day the manager told the waitress to give him a whole loaf of bread, sliced up, with his soup. "How was your meal, sir?" the manager asked, when he came to hand him the bill. "It was good, but you could give me a little more bread," came the reply once again.

The manager was obsessed with seeing this customer say that he is satisfied with his meal, so he went to the bakery, and ordered a six-foot-long loaf of bread. When the man came in as usual the next day, the waitress and the manager cut the loaf in half, buttered the entire length of each half, and laid it out along the counter, right next to his bowl of soup. The old man sat down, and devoured his bowl of soup, and both halves of the six-foot-long loaf of bread.

The manager now thinks he will get the answer he is looking for, and when the old man came up to pay for his meal, the manager asked in the usual way, "How was your meal TODAY, sir?"

The man replied, "It was good as usual, but why you are back to giving only two slices bread?!"

We’ve been making our way through the Lord’s Prayer the last few weeks. And today, we’ll be looking at “Give us this day our daily bread.” Clearly, that guy at the diner wanted his daily bread—in abundance!

And that’s what we typically think of first, when we think of this part of the Lord’s Prayer. We think of food. Bread is a staple of our diet—I mean, raise your hand if you’ve eaten a sandwich in the last three days?
How about a piece of toast?
How about garlic bread or bread with a meal?
Eaten something made with bread crumbs, like a meatball or mac and cheese?
Eaten crackers, or pita bread, or a wrap or quesadilla or soft taco?
Even if you eat gluten-free, you aren’t exempt! There are a ton of bread and cracker versions made with different types of flours, so you can still have your sandwiches and toast and breadcrumbs. They just taste a bit different, and fall apart a bit easier.

Our first Bible reading from the Gospel of Matthew shows God giving literal daily bread to people. It’s the famous story that we call “The Feeding of the 5,000” because…? Yeah, 5,000 people were fed by Jesus. Actually MORE than 5,000 people were fed, because back then they only counted the men. It didn’t even count the women and children. So there were way more fed than 5,000.

So Jesus is teaching and healing the sick all day, and it gets to be evening and people are hungry. There’s no real place to get food unless they all walk to nearby towns and villages. No McDonald’s, no Panera. (See what I did there? Panera! BREAD.)

So Jesus takes the only food around, five small loaves of bread and two fish, and miraculously multiplies them so more than 5,000 people have enough to eat—and there is so much food that there are 12 baskets left over.

So Jesus, who is God in human form, gives people the food they need in that moment. So daily bread is God providing food for us, like in the Feeding of the 5,000.

But daily bread isn’t just food. Jesus didn’t just provide them food. What else did he give them…? Yeah, he was teaching them and healing them, even before the food.

Our daily bread isn’t just food—it’s everything we need to live. Martin Luther, the guy who our Christian denomination is named after, says that our daily bread is: “Everything included in the necessities and nourishment of our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”

That covers a whole lot of what God provides for us every day! When we pray that God gives us our daily bread, we aren’t just asking that God provide us with the food we need. We are asking that God provides for us all of the things we need to live a full life. And God does provide for us, every day. That’s our daily bread.

And Jesus gave them more than just their everyday needs—he gave them spiritual needs too. He taught them and showed them his love for them. We need that, too. We need that spiritual nourishment.

In our reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus says “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Is Jesus saying it’s gonna rain down bread from heaven, like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, that kid’s book where it rains food? Probably not, although he’s Jesus—he can make anything happen. But in this statement, he’s talking about himself. Jesus is our spiritual food, when we are spiritually hungry and thirsty.

This means literally—when do we eat and drink spiritually…? Yeah, when we take Holy Communion. Every week, when we gather here to worship God, we come to this table and Jesus feeds us with his body and blood, the bread and wine. Jesus literally feeds us and becomes part of us.

And Jesus feeding us spiritually isn’t just at Communion—he fills us with what we need spiritually. We hunger and we thirst for God. How many times have you or someone you know said something like, “I knew something was missing…?” We all have a God-shaped hole in us, that can only be filled by God. We sometimes try to fill it with other things—food, material possessions, you name it—but ultimately the only thing that can satisfy us is God.

Jesus fills that God-shaped hole. Jesus feeds us so that we will never be spiritually hungry or thirsty. Jesus gives us that spiritual daily bread that we need.

That guy at the diner didn’t need more bread—he needed Jesus! No matter how much bread he ate, or how the bread was sliced before he ate it, he wasn’t satisfied. Only Jesus can fully satisfy us when we are hungry and empty and longing for meaning in life.

We have been calling the Lord’s Prayer the Dangerous Prayer—and praying for our daily bread is dangerous because we are praying that God gives us what we need—not what we want. Needs and wants are different. We need all those things Luther mentioned—we WANT the new iphone, or that new pair of sneakers or shoes, or that really cool toilet seat that lifts up automatically when you walk into the bathroom. When we pray for our daily bread, we are telling God that God knows what we need, and we trust God to give us what we need—not what we want. We may never get what we want. But God promises to give us what we need.

Praying that God give us our daily bread is especially dangerous because it means that we are asking God to give us what we need AND to fill that God-shaped hole. And when we are satisfied and have what we need—it means that we are now free to help others and share God’s love with them.

Because when we have what we need—we can help those who are in need. That can mean material things like food and shelter and other stuff, but it can also mean spiritually. Even people who have what they need in all other aspects can still have that God-shaped hole. And you can be the one God uses to tell them about Jesus and how Jesus has made an impact in your life.

This is the second verse of the song we are about to sing: "Christ is able to make us one/at the table he sets the tone/teaching people to live to bless/love in word and in deed express."

When we experience Holy Communion here in worship, we are experiencing what God wants for our world. Everyone is welcome, everyone comes and eats and drinks and gets what they need—materially and spiritually. God wants that for everyone. God wants everyone to have what they need for a full life.

We are fed so that we can feed others—literally and spiritually. God provides in our world enough of everything so that everyone can have what they need— we are called to redistribute so that everyone is provided for. We are called to help people get what they need—and to share the good news of Jesus so that they can be fed spiritually.

And we are only able to do that because God first provides for us. We pray “give us this day our daily bread” because we know that God provides for us and gives us what we need. We continue to pray that prayer so that we may be satisfied and can then feed others.

You have been given bread to share, by God. Those twelve baskets leftover from the Feeding of the 5,000-- where Jesus feeds us so much that there is more to spare—those baskets are ready to go. How is God calling YOU to feed people? Amen?

Posted by: AT 09:28 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, October 03 2016

Pastor Randy

Mark 14:32-38; Isaiah 55:6-11; Psalm 40:1-8; Romans 12:1-2; 9-21    
    I would not be surprised in the least that today’s sermon is the one that everybody’s been waiting for.  In this series that we’re doing on the Lord’s Prayer – a series that we’re calling “The Dangerous Prayer – what could be more dangerous than when we pray, “Thy will be done”?  Thy – or your – will be done.  

    Remember that it is God the Father that we are addressing this prayer to.   And therefore it is God’s will that we are asking to be done.  And since that is the case – I’m guessing you’re thinking, “Just what is God’s will?”  
 
    Well, let me tell you.  Let me tell you that I don’t always know.  But!  But that is not say that we can’t know God’s will.  And I would like to suggest that when we talk about God’s will – we can talk about it in two ways.  

    The first way we can talk about God’s will is to talk about it in a broad sense.  That is to say that God’s will for His creation is that we learn what it means to live in peace and harmony – and then for all people – governments, countries, businesses, communities – you name it – to work for peace, justice and harmony in everything we do.

    What we also know about God’s will is this – that “[God] desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  That’s what we read in the Bible in I Timothy 2:4.  So we can talk about God’s will being done in a universal or general way.  

    The second way we can talk about God’s will is in more specific ways.  Like, “What is God’s will for my life?  Where does He want me to go?  What does He want me to do?”  These kinds of questions are not so easy to answer.  And I gotta tell ya, sometimes I still wrestle with these kinds of questions.  As I enter into my early to mid-60’s, those questions are still something I wrestle with.  When I was a younger man, that question, “What is God’s will for my life?” was always right there staring me in the face – just like it is with all young people today – especially young disciples of Jesus Christ.  “What do I want to do with my life?  Or more importantly – what is God’s will for my life?”

    I can’t answer that question for you.  I can’t answer that question for anybody but myself.  And even then, it isn’t always clear – at least not right away.

    But one thing I want to make clear.  God’s will is not to be confused with fatalism.  Fate says that everything is predetermined, and that there is nothing we can do about our fate.  And it usually sounds like this.  And by the way, some of you are not going to like what I’m about to say.  But fate often sounds like this, “Things happen for a reason.”  I hear that a lot.  And quite frankly, I hear it a lot from people at this church.  And usually it is said when unpleasant or bad things happen.  Yes – we can and should learn from the experiences of our lives – both good and bad experiences.  And yes – there are times when something good just might come out of a bad situation.  But that’s not to say that things always happen for a reason as though the universe were guided by some unknown force called fate, and there is nothing we can do about it.  

    Or what I also hear a lot of times is, “Well, I guess it’s just God’s will.”  When it’s said like that, there’s a level of bitterness, or even a level of resignation.  “Oh, well, it must be God’s will.”  

    Let me tell you something.  When bad things happen, I don’t think that that’s God’s will at all.  I don’t think it is God’s will when bad things happen to good people.  And that’s why I hope you see why we need to pray, “Thy will be done,” because what we are asking for is that God’s good and gracious will will be done – here – right here among us!  The very same way that it is already being done in heaven.  

    So when we say the words, “Things happen for a reason,” or “I guess it must have been God’s will,” what we are giving into – what we are saying we believe in – is fatalism.  And fatalism is not the same as God’s will.  Fatalism is not what God’s will is all about.  

    So what do we mean – or what should it mean – when we pray, “Thy or your will be done?”  We are asking that God’s good and gracious will be done among us.  

    But sometimes – maybe a lot of times – we resist God’s good and gracious will.  This I think is the primary reason why we can say that the Lord’s Prayer is a dangerous prayer to pray.  The prayer says, “Lord, I want what you want.”  In other words, we are praying the same prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane – just before he was arrested, placed on trial, and crucified.  The same prayer.  “Not what I want, but what you want.”  Or another way to say it is, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

    You see, we want things the way we want them.  We want to be free to choose whatever it is we want to do.  Like that great theologian – Frank Sinatra – sang, “I did it my way.”  Yeah!  We want things our way.  Some of you remember the old Burger King commercial that told us, “Have it your way!”  We say things like, “It’s my way or….”  Or the highway.  Yeah you know how to finish that sentence, don’t you!

    Listen!  Let’s be honest here.  What we want – what we really want – is things our way.  But the prayer doesn’t say, “My will be done,” does it! No.  It says, “Thy will be done.”  

    This past week, I was visiting someone in the hospital.  In the room with us was another man.  I’ll call him Hank.  The person I was visiting was called out of the room for a few moments, and Hank started talking to me.  “So you’re a minister?”  “Yeah,” I said.  Then he said, “They kicked me out of the Baptist church, and the Assemblies of God church kicked me out too, and it’s because I’m living with my fiancé, and having an affair with another woman.  You know, I really don’t want to marry either one of them.  My fiancé doesn’t want to be intimate with me and the other one does.  So I live with one – and have sex with the other.  Tell me Pastor.  Would I be welcome at your church?”  And I said, “Well, yes, Hank.  You’d be welcome.  All are welcome at my church.  By the way, do both of these women know about the other?”  “Oh yeah,” he said.

    Now folks, I really did not want to have this conversation with Hank.  And thankfully about this time, the person I had come to see had returned.  I visited another 10 minutes or so with the person I had come to see.  And on my way out the door, I turned to Hank and said, “You know Hank, the Lord wants you to choose between these two women.  You can’t have both.”
    To my surprise, Hank said, “Yeah Pastor.  I know.  I know.”

    Sometimes the will of God for us is obvious.  And even when we know what God’s will is in a certain situation, still we sometimes say, “I want things the way I want them.  I want things my way.  My will be done.”  

    I’d love to say that the two women in Hank’s life were named Kate and Edith, because then I could have said, “You know Hank, you have to choose between those two women, because you can’t have your Kate and Edith too!”  I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help it.  And I know – I shouldn’t make light of Hank’s situation.  But apparently he wants things his way – even when he knows his way is not God’s way.

    All joking aside, do you see why praying “Thy will be done,” is such a dangerous thing to ask for?  Do we really want God’s will to be done in our lives?  I would think so.  I would hope so.  

    And yet, we struggle, don’t we!  It really is a matter of attitude.  It is an attitude of the heart.  And really, this attitude of the heart should govern all of our prayers – whenever we pray.  “Lord, I want what you want.  I want to want what you want.  I surrender my will to yours.”  This is one of those not easy parts of what it means to be a Christian.

    You see, the purpose of prayer is not to get God to do for us whatever it is we want God to do in order to get from God whatever it is we want or think we need.  The purpose of prayer is to grow closer to the Lord God – our Father God.  It’s hallowed be your name – not mine.  It’s your kingdom come – not mine.  It’s your will be done – not mine.

    So how can we become more aware of God’s good and gracious will?  One place to turn is the love chapter in I Corinthians 13.  You know the love chapter, right?  That’s the one that says, “Love is patient.  Love is kind.”  You remember that one?  That’s the chapter that says, “Love does not insist on its own way.”  Oh!  Love does not insist on its own way.  Oh!  Yeah!  That one!  Doesn’t that sound a lot like, “Not my will – not what I want – but your will be done.”  

    And then there’s today’s reading from the 12th chapter of the book of Romans again.  I love this passage.  When you hear me say that we are Romans 12 Christians living in an Acts 2 church, this is what I’m talking about.  Listen!

Do not be conformed to this world. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another... serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering,...persevere in prayer...Contribute to the needs of the saints…Extend hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you;...Live in harmony with one another;...Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Okay, so that was the Readers’ Digest version of Romans 12.  But if you want to know what God’s will looks like for you in your life, this is a good place to start.  Let me encourage you to read the whole thing, verses 9-21 on your own.  Take your bulletins home so you won’t forget.  “Now what did Pastor Randy tell us to read?”  Romans.  Chapter 12.  We are Romans 12 Christians living in an Acts 2 church.  And while you’re at it, you can read Acts 2, especially verses 41-47.  Write it down.  There will be a test.  By the way, you’ll find the six marks of discipleship in Acts 2:41-47.  I guess you could say that Romans 12 tells us what God’s will for us as individuals is, and Acts 2 tells us what God’s will for the church is.  So until we meet again, you’ve got homework to do.  

    But do you see why Pastor Becca and I are saying this prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer is a dangerous prayer to pray?  Because it goes against everything that our human nature wants.  My will.  My will be done.
 
    So when we pray, “Thy will be done,” I want you to be aware of what it is that we are really asking for in this prayer.  Thy will, not mine, be done.  And that’s a good thing!  Because God’s will is good and gracious.  

    So when we pray, “Thy will be done,” what we are asking for is that God’s good and gracious will will be done not only TO us – but THROUGH us – in our families – in our places of work – in our schools – in our neighborhoods – and in the world – through us.      I’m Pastor Randy – and I approved this message.  Amen

Posted by: AT 09:15 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

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