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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- the Jesus Prays Edition

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

Prayer is the place where we take the stuff of life, the stuff of faith, and blend them together into faithful living. It is where we bring ourselves to God and we are transformed. It is the place where we talk. Maybe more importantly, it is the place where we listen. It is a place where we cannot hide from God, when the masks we don to face so much of life are translucent, invisible to the power of a God who loves us so deeply and knows us inside and out. Prayer is the place where we are fully honest, about our hopes, about our pain. It is the place where we blend our lives with God, the place where, if we get good at it, we give our lives to God and gain food for our journeys.

The passage for John for today is the beginning of Jesus’ prayer for us. It’s one of those prayers that is intended to be heard so that we can join in the prayer.

What does it mean for Jesus to pray for us? I often say in the declaration of pardon:
'Who is in a position to condemn? Only Jesus the Christ, and Christ was born for us, lived for us, died because of us, rose for us, reigns in power for us, and Jesus prays for us.'

Have you ever gone into your sanctuary and gone pew by pew and prayed for those who normally sit there? When I do that it never fails to be transforming. How much more transforming is it to know that Jesus does the same thing?

So often prayer is the default comment of the church, something we throw out there like spilled salt over the shoulder, just to be safe. But what does it mean to know that you have church members who pray for you, seriously and honestly?

Finally, here is one of my favorite benedictions. It was used by the Rev. Dr. Doug Oldenburg frequently as he traveled the country as moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

"As you leave, I charge you to remember this above all else.
No matter how frightening this world may become;
No matter how frightening your life may be today or may become tomorrow,
You need not be afraid, for GOD GOES WITH YOU.
God goes before you to guide you;
God goes beside you to be your best friend;
God goes behind you to protect you;
God goes beneath you to strengthen you;
God goes within you to comfort you;
And God goes above you to give you vision and hope.
Remember that: no matter how dark and frightening this world may become; no matter how frightening the individual circumstances of your life may be today or may become tomorrow or next week, you need not be afraid, for God – Almighty God – goes with you! If you will remember that, then the 'peace of God that passes all understanding' will go with you too."

So. What are you thinking?


  1. I am thinking that I wish now I'd chosen John.

    I am preaching on Acts, adding the first few verses so I have all of 1-14 in chapter one. I debated a long time between a focus on "why are you standing here looking up to heaven?" and "go back and wait for the Holy Spirit/they dedicated themselves to prayer, along with many of the women." I ultimately decided on waiting--how often do we act without praying? I think in my congregation especially, prayer is something that can be cursorily done, for instance at meetings. Even in worship we don't pray for a very long time--we're more the "don't heap up empty phrases" type. But I wonder what having that kind of prayer life does to our ability to be a witness?

    So I'm going with waiting and praying...and I have no other ideas besides that. I have to get the bulletin done today, so hopefully at some point I'll have more ideas! If I get a brainwave, I'll be back. If I don't, I'll be back hoping someone else did!

  2. I'm going with Acts, and something hit me about the passage. Jesus assumed that his followers would be engaged in a discipleship that NEEDED the Holy Spirit. How much of discipleship today actually needs the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we need the power of the Holy Spirit to come to church once a month, or to put a check in the offering plate, or to tell people that we will pray for them? What would discipleship look like if it needed the Holy Spirit? That's where I'm headed.

  3. I'm preaching Acts, too.

    But today, it's the closing prayer that is most fitting. I was with one of my older church members last night because her grandson had been murdered. "no matter how dark" Amen

  4. Anyone else going with the Ascension texts on Sunday? I'm curious about children's time ideas.

  5. I am thinking that it is time for me to memorize a new benediction!

    Thanks - as always - for your starting thoughts.

  6. juniper, for children's time, I have had a helium filled balloon on a string and let it go to talk about "ascension"

    we had a really high ceiling and the balloon must have had a good knot because it was still very close to the ceiling on Wed night during choir practice. They started a pool on whether it would be down by Sunday

  7. I was first going to use the title Preparing for Change and talk about the post-ascension disciples as a lead in to PEntecost. But then I changed it to Abandoned to Suffer?? making use of the PEter, and some of the prayer of Jesus.

    No idea what that will look like as yet.

  8. I'm going with the Luke passage for Ascension, which is pretty close to the Acts passage. Of course I have no ideas on children's sermons--that's what the Saturday party is for. Or, er, Sunday morning during the prelude (REALLY need to get out of that habit). Title is "You Are Witnesses." Not sure where I'm going, but I think a focus on what we're called to do as disciples rather than on the Ascension itself. Plenty vague, huh?

  9. I love the benediction!

    I'm going with the Luke passage for Ascension. And that's where I am today. Need to get hymns together at least so that we can have "Digital Musician" on Sunday, as our musician (as well as most of the musicians in the city) are part of a mass choir concert on Sunday afternoon (when we have services).

    I've used the helium balloon idea before for children's time.

    Not very creative this afternoon...which I need to be as I'd like to get the bulletin put together in the next hour!

  10. I"m using the Acts passage and also the great commission from Matthew (since it's our church's mission statement... two weeks from now, I'm focusing solely on the genesis passage).

    anywho... my sermon is titled "What are you standing around for?" - again from the end of Acts. We have a servanthood project after church that day, but I'm really intrigued by chilly fingers question about what discipleship would look like if we needed the holy spirit. I think it would tie in really nicely.

  11. I am going with waiting but I also love the Dali Ascension -- here. Re: waiting - what can we learn from the gathered women and men - pray, tell the story, stay together....

  12. I'm not preaching, but we always do Ascension instead of 7 Easter. We also snuff out the Paschal candle during the reading from Acts 1 (about Jesus going into heaven). I can't remember much about children's messages, but one of them involved a balloon, I think.

  13. HI All,

    Glad to hear that others are also "ascending" or witnessing or whatever this weekend!

    I thought I was focusing on Luke, but want to spend some time on the flow between Luke and Acts, how the story grows and changes with retelling and how that is still an ongoing process.

    But also have the Ephesians text in mind, and want to talk about What Does the Body of Christ Do in times of food shortage?

    Might be a bit much, as we have communion and so it has to be shorter than usual.

    RE Kids' Time - cant do a balloon, we just did that at Easter....Other ideas?

  14. Can't believe I've even got as far as thinking about it this early in the week - but sermon's almost done! Suppose that gives me more time to rewrite. For now, inspired by Theolog Blogging toward Sunday, I'm going with the cloud thing - exploring the mystery of ascension and how much of our faith is practised in the murkiness but, occasionally we are enabled to soar through the clouds and emerge transformed.

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  16. I'm intrigued by "glory." To us it is powerful and shiney, but Jesus is talking about the cross. Our ideas of glory are not God's.

  17. Liz- I like Theolog's 'cloud-thing' also, but it may be because I'm in a bit of a fog today! A head cold is brewing. Why is it always after I've visited some of our most vulnerable shut-ins? Some day I'm going to be responsible for their 'last' cold. yikes.

  18. I'm a day late, but better late than never! I posted my thoughts about the Acts lesson and the direction I think I'll go.

    p.a. your comments about glory sort of fit where I'm going, too. Our expectations of this whole resurrection experience (including in there glory-as-crucifixion) aren't necessarily the same as God's intentions with it.

    I'm hoping for some help sorting out the last little piece of my thoughts, so if you have time and comments (in any direction) I'd LOVE them.

  19. Whew. So I just finished my weekly lectionary post, and it turned out to be very different from what I'd expected... which is what usually happens when I sit down to really engage with the readings, no matter how much time they've had to percolate in the back of my brain before I write.

    I love the "so why are you still standing around here?" part, but it always makes me wonder, "so what do you want me to DO, then?" And I saw an answer to that in the gospel lesson this time, that just shone out for me today and took me completely by surprise.

    Peace to all,
    warriormare (aka hedwyg)

  20. Hey, friends,
    Coming late to the party this week, but also early as I won't be writing on Saturday (going to be in Nebraska with family).

    The title this week for me is "Faith-Filled Initiative." When the disciples ask Jesus in the passage from Acts, "NOW will you restore the kingdom?" Jesus responds by telling them it's time to go to work themselves.

    Our denomination (ELCA) is kicking off a "Bible: Book of Faith" initiative. We, of course, sat back and waited for the programs / promo materials / resources to pour out. Churchwide said, "No, YOU get to do this one - we're just giving you a nudge in that direction." It is SO not what we're used to doing! Yet that's what Jesus calls us into: faithful living without His immediate presence, trusting the power of the Spirit to accompany us (as some of you noted in your thoughts on discipleship)

    I'm closing with a benediction that has played on our ELCA radio program for years:
    "As you go on your way may Christ go with you:
    May he go before you to show you the way
    Behind you to encourage you,
    Beside you to befriend you,
    Above you to watch over you,
    Within you to give you peace."

    I'm certain it's an Irish blessing of some sort but can't find the source online - any citations would be appreciated.

    Blessings to you all!

    1. This is a cletic blessing used by the Chaplain Olgilvie of the U S Senate and included in a song book by John Ylvisaker. I used it to close many services. Beautiful song.


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