It feels as if the end of our time together is coming very quickly. I am very aware that I will be with you for just four more Sundays, after today. As I read the lectionary readings for this week,I decided to take a break from Matthew and his love ofjudgment, to focus on the kinder, gentler words of Paul, in his letter to the church at Philippi.
In our reading from Matthew’s gospel,l we hear yet another parable of the kingdom and another pronouncement of judgment.
The events in Charlottesville challenge us to become aware of our exclusionary attitudes, to remember who we are – Christ’s body in the world – and to be transformed by our encounter with the frightening reality of white supremacist hatred into witnesses to God’s love for all God’s people. With this in mind, I would like to share with you a pastoral letter from the Officers and the Council of Conference Ministers of the United Church of Christ.
This past Sunday, the Pastoral Search Committee brought you the exciting news that they have a candidate to recommend to be your new settled pastor. Plans are afoot to meet and greet the candidate, and to hear him preach and lead worship. I hope that as many of you as possible will be here for this important event, ready to welcome the candidate and his wife, to listen, to ask questions and to discern if this is the one God is calling to be your next settled pastor.
In today’s reading, Paul gives guidance to those who were trying to follow the Way of Jesus, in the earliest years of the church. He begins with love: Let love be genuine. Some of his advice is about how to live in close community with others: Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Live in harmony with one another …
When I was in seminary, the minister at my field education church preached a sermon on forgiveness. And in it he said something that really struck me: “Jesus wants us to be like him.” Oh! Yes, of course. How very simple. How impossibly hard. And perhaps the hardest part of being like Jesus is this business of forgiveness.
It can be quite interesting to imagine oneself into a biblical story. Choosing a role and placing ourselves into the scene can open up aspects of the story we might not have seen before. So I invite you to hear the story of the blind man and Jesus and to imagine that you are hearing it fresh, as if it just happened.
Three weeks ago, I began a sermon series on prayer. So far, I’ve talked about ways to pray, and the importance of intercessory prayer–praying for others. Today I’m going to finish this series with a consideration of the prayer that Jesus taught us, known to us as the “Lord’s Prayer,” the prayer that we and countless others offer to God at least every Sunday, if not every day.
Each week, during Sunday morning worship, we take time to share our joys, concerns, and prayer requests, confident that we are among friends who will pray for us and for those we are concerned about. But why do we make prayer requests, and what do we hope will happen as a result? Almost always, our requests involve an illness, problem or situation that needs healing, and healing was one of the most important aspects of Jesus’ ministry.
Prayer is an important part of our worship, every week, and our faith has always encouraged us to make prayer a part of our daily lives, but we don’t often talk about how we pray. And so we may wonder if there is a “right” way to pray and if we are doing it. What are we actually supposed to do when we pray?