Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What do the words "Our Father" teach you about prayer?

Jesus friends asked. "Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples" Luke 11:1. Seems reasonable. Why not ask the rabbi to show how prayers happens. After all John the Baptist taught his followers how to talk to God and now Jesus friends wanted him to do the same for them. Jesus told his friends how by 1) modeling words for prayer and 2) sharing stories to help imagine prayer in the middle of human life.

Jesus words--what we called the Lord's prayer (Luke 11:1-4) stick deep in the living tradition of many Christian communities today. He taught of prayer not as empty words. For Jesus of prayer reached into the very presence of God. His prayer Words of prayer are short and sweet--but in truth it's many prayers in one. For me the part that matters most is how it starts: Our Father

The way Jesus taught prayer is bold. Start by declaring of relationship of trust: papa--father. Forget all the flowery language of a distant and mighty deity. Start with words that are close at hand. Start by talking to the one who knows you. Jesus says start with Father--familiar and close. These are words of trust and humility.

For me as a pastor serving in Mid-Western Lutheran congregations over the past 17 years I've seen how vital this prayer is for me and many others. I've also been surprised by how many, especially young people, don't know these words. These words are basic. They are part of the foundation of my story as a believer.

Truth is I'm troubled to watch many in my own children's generation who don't have this starting for talking with God. This prayer has shaped my language of prayer. It's the prayer I've heard said at bed time when I was a child. It's the prayer I've heard at the end of AA meetings and church council gatherings. This is a prayer I've shared in with others and said alone. These words are what my old partner in ministry, Pastor Ron Allen, called a perfect prayer, because it touched on most every aspect of life. These words tell me who God is: God is my father and who I am as a child of God.

More that just the words Jesus taught an attitude of persistence in prayer. He told a story of persistent asking Luke 11:5-8 and reminded us that God gives the Holy Spirit to his people Luke 11:13

Jesus has a lot to teach us about prayer. And it's by listening that we open ourselves up to see our place in his kingdom.
Peace and thanks for reading, John.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

a place of grace Luke 10 38-42

Luke's story about Mary, Martha, and Jesus challenges me in a way that's uncomfortable. The story is short and sweet. Jesus is traveling and he comes to a village. A woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.

Martha got busy. She perceived “obligations” to her guests. She believed she had a duty to serve. She grew frustrated as she worked and her sister Mary sat with Jesus.

Martha wanted Jesus in the middle. She wanted her sister's hands dirty too. But she didn't talk to Mary in private. She aired her frustration trying make a triangle with Jesus in the middle. Martha assumed Jesus would back her up.

And Jesus responded in a way that surprises me. He didn't take Martha's side. “Mary's chosen the better part.”

I can honestly relate to both Martha and to Mary.

At times in life I can grit my teeth with Martha and look at somebody else who isn't working as “hard” as I am. It's easy to get steamed and sit with Martha.

And I can sit with Mary in grace and know that I could never do enough to make everything workout right.

There's a strong desire among believers to be right with God. There's a desire to be super-Christians. And when I grit my teeth with Martha I need to hear Jesus again. “Mary has chosen the better part.” Trust in God isn't proven by the number of good deeds done or prayers prayed. Trust in God is a matter more of the heart than of the hands and the voice.

Jesus' words about Mary choosing the better part just set me on edge. But in these words I hear the promise of the open place. Jesus was there for Mary. She didn't do anything to earn that love. That space Jesus had for Mary that's Grace. In faith I trust that there's a space—a place for me and for every sinner in the world. Grace isn't something I earned or deserved. It's real and it's free and it comes by faith. And it's for me and for every Mary who just sits with Jesus.
grace and peace to you, and thanks for reading, John