Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lead us not into temptation

There’s a bumper sticker that says,
“ Lead me not into temptation…
            I can find it myself.”

Ain’t that the truth!

I think the guy who wrote that bumper sticker must have been Lutheran – and he must have been paying attention in confirmation class.

Martin Luther writes in the Small Catechism (the explanation for this petition) that God tempts no one.
Luther also tells us that as humans, we are easy prey for temptations:  the devil, the world and our own flesh (meaning our sinful desires) deceive us and mislead us into all sorts of tempting situations.

“Time of trial” is another way of saying “temptation.” 
There are all sorts of trials and temptations we face.  When we pray ‘lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil (or the evil one),” we are asking God to safeguard us, to protect us, to sustain us, to save us in those times.

In asking God to ‘lead us not into temptation, and to deliver us from evil,’  we’re also remembering that this is something we cannot do for ourselves.  This petition reminds us that we totally rely on God.

I’ve often hear people say, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”  I used to say it myself.

But then there was a time in my life when it seemed like one thing after another was going wrong, when life seemed to be crashing down on me.  Have you ever been in a place like that?

And I began to think about that saying - I felt so overwhelmed, there was no way I could handle it on my own.  And I thought, ‘if God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, God must think I can handle a lot more than I think I can!”

I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and I think the answer is in this petition of the Lord’s Prayer:  Lead us not into temptation, lead us not into the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. 

Because it’s not about us handling it with God’s help.  It’s about God handling it for us.

God never gives us more than God can handle for us, never more than God can carry us through.

Yes, there are trials and temptations, there are bad things that happen in life.  I am firmly convinced that there are things that happen that are not part of God’s plan.  I don’t believe that God’s plan includes planes flying into towers, or hurricanes ravishing cities, or crazy individuals opening fire in an elementary school, or babies dying…or any of those horrible things that happen that we say must be part of God’s plan.

Those are part of the evil that’s in this world – the evil that opposes God’s kingdom coming and God’s will being done.  We prayed earlier in the prayer for God to bring God’s kingdom, defeating the powers of evil, sin, death and the devil.  Now we pray again, “God sustain us in those times of trial, strengthen us in times of temptation and protect us from evil.

·       Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for , you God are with me
·       God who has known us from before we are born, promises to go with us, and to deliver us from evil.
·       God goes with us in all our going out and our coming in.

Even in those evil times, when it seems like all is lost.

The Apostle Peter can tell you about those times. He was with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying.  Well, he was supposed to be praying…but he fell asleep.

Jesus prays in the garden, asking God if there was any other way, he prays, “Thy will be done.”

Then Jesus goes and finds his disciples sleeping.  He wakes them and tells them – especially Peter – that they need to pray that they don’t ‘come into the time of trial.’

And if anyone ever needed to pray, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil, it was Peter.

I don’t know what Peter prayed, or if he even kept awake long enough to pray in the garden that evening with Jesus.  I do know he went from the garden straight into temptation - to deny Jesus in order to save his own skin.  Then his whole world came crashing down around him when his Lord died on a criminal’s cross and evil seemed to have won.

Later, Peter writes:  Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  

He knows what he’s talking about.  He’s been there.

But just before he writes this reminder for us to be alert to the dangers the evil in the world has for us, he writes:  Cast your cares (on God) for he cares for you.

God cares for us. 

Yes there is real evil in the world.  Yes, bad things happen to good people, to Christian people.  Yes, sometimes things happen that are not part of God’s ‘best’ for us, not what our loving Father in Heaven wants for his children. 

So we pray, knowing that God’s kingdom is still coming, and God is still redeeming the world, bringing it in line with God’s will and sending the powers of evil running.

And yes, God can even redeem those times of trial, those times when bad things happen.  God uses those moments to teach us, to challenge us, to encourage us to grow in faith. 

And when we turn to God at those moments of greatest need, we discover that God is with us all along…always.

So we pray, as Jesus taught us, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…

A plea for God’s help
A statement of trust in God’s promise to be with us, to care for us, and to carry us through those times of trial.

So, let us pray… .
1.   As a congregation, we’re going to pray the Lord’s prayer, stopping after “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” 
2.   Next, we’ll take time for each of us to pray silently, lifting up to God those places where we are tempted, where we are facing trial, where evil seems to be winning.  This might be a prayer for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our community or for the world – whatever is on your heart today.
3.   After a few minutes, we’ll close with “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”

“Jesus, Lord, use this time to teach us to pray…

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil …

Time for individual prayer

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

13th Sunday after Pentecost: Forgive us as we forgive....but do I HAVE to forgive THEM?

Readings for Sunday:  Jeremiah 23:23-29; Psalm 32:1-8;Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 11:1-4

There’s a VeggieTale video called “God Wants Me to Forgive Them?”  It has are two short stories, one in which Junior Asparagus has to forgive this family of grapes (yes – all the characters are veggies and some fruits!) who insulted him.  And then he has to forgive them – AGAIN – when they insult him AGAIN.  In the other story, everyone is angry with Larry the Cucumber, who crashed the tour boat on a deserted island (much like that island Gilligan landed on) – and they have to learn how to forgive him, even if they never get off that island.

Can’t you just hear it?

God wants me to forgive…THEM!?!

Veggie-silliness aside, that’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when you really think about the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”…


God wants me to FORGIVE…THEM!?!

The second thing that probably comes to mind is:  but, but…I thought God’s forgiveness was unconditional, you know, grace – no strings attached.  Isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross?

Let’s start with that second thing first.

Yes.  God’s forgiveness is unconditional.  You ask for it, you got it.  In fact, you have God’s forgiveness even before you ask for it!  This is what Paul writes in Romans 5:8-10:  But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.  Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

You ask for it – you got it.

That’s what we just did at the beginning of the service – we confessed our sin, those things we did and those things we left undone.  We confessed that we don’t love God and the neighbor as we should.  And we asked for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

And then I got to proclaim the good news that  - you got it!  God, who is faithful and just, does indeed forgive us all our sins!

And in forgiving us, God opens the way for us to have a new relationship with God. The future opens up, and it becomes possible to live as a beloved child of God.

Part of living as a beloved, forgiven child of God is learning to forgive as God forgives.  Forgiveness becomes a way of life. 

We forgive because we are forgiven.  We become new creations – it’s like God gives us a heart transplant, removing our sin-sick heart and replacing it with God’s own heart. 

A heart of love and mercy and forgiveness and grace.

Yes, God forgives us unconditionally. So how does that go with praying “forgive us as we forgive.”  That doesn’t sound like grace.  That sounds like God won’t forgive us unless we forgive everyone else first. 

That sounds like most of us are in trouble.

Because most of us have someone one who we think “God wants me to forgive them????!!!!

And.  We. Just.  Can’t.


Well, you just don’t understand what she did to me.

But if I forgive him, then he gets off scot free.

I’ve forgave him once, but he just keeps doing the same thing over and over again.  He blew his chance.

She is the one who wronged me – she should apologize first!

When you look at forgiveness that way, you make forgiveness about the other person.  And it’s really not.  Forgiveness is about you, about letting go of the past, about loving with God’s heart, about living the life abundant God created you to live.

God loves us enough to forgive us.  God loves us enough to not want us to be stuck in our own unforgiveness.  So Jesus teaches us to pray, "forgive as we forgive."  

In a very real sense, we only truly experience God’s forgiveness when we take that forgiveness we are given and use it to forgive others.  When we're mired in grudges, and anger and resentment and all the other stuff holding on to hurts bring, we miss out.  

It's like someone has given you a gift.  It’s wrapped beautifully.  You can hold this beautiful gift and marvel at it, and feel wonderful that someone loved you enough to give it to you.

But unless you unwrap the gift….you never really get to enjoy it.

Yes God forgives us.  But unless we forgive, there’s something that holds us back from fully living as God intends us to live.

That’s what forgiving others does.  It releases us from your bondage to the past, and opens us up to experience life the way God intends – right relationships, love, joy, peace, hope, wholeness.

Still, it’s not easy to forgive.  Sometimes it’s painful to forgive.  Sometimes we forgive in little bits, sometimes it takes a long time to let go of the past hurt to forgive.  Sometimes, the hurt is so deep, it feels like we can never, ever let it go – to forgive would betray our very selves.

Jesus knew this.  Jesus knew that we humans have a hard time forgiving, and yet we need to be able to forgive in order to  

I think that’s why Jesus teaches us to pray “Forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others.”  It’s prayer that is both our plea for forgiveness and God’s promise that we are forgiven and that God’s forgiveness gives us the grace and mercy to forgive others.

No matter how many times we may need to pray.

We’ve already confessed to God and asked for forgiveness.  Now we’ll end by praying that we can forgive as God forgives us. 

1.   As a congregation, we’re going to pray the first part of the Lord’s prayer, stopping after “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,
2.   Then we’ll take some time in silent prayer to ask God to help us to be able to forgive.  Maybe there’s someone in particular, or a situation you need God’s help to forgive.  Maybe there’s a grudge you need to give to God instead of hold on to. 
3.   After a few minutes, we’ll close with “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”

“Jesus, Lord, use this time to teach us to pray…

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

Time for individual prayer

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Saturday, August 3, 2013

11th Sunday after Pentecost: As in Heaven so on Earth - Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

Readings for this Sunday:  Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Psalm 145:10-14, Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:9 - 13

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Thy kingdom come... 
What would it look like if God was sitting on the throne of the world?

Because, that’s what we’re praying, when we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

We’re not asking for
·        not a physical realm with boundaries – a static limited thing - which is what we think of when we hear ‘kingdom’
·        but that God is ruling, sitting on the throne of the world – the reign of God

What would it look like if God was sitting on the throne of the world?
·        Look at creation – ‘it was good’
·        Look at the 10 commandments – state them positively – reconciling relationship with God, description of how the community of God lives
·        The prophets – Isaiah – the feast on the mountain, rich foods, wine, no more pain no more grief, tears wiped away
·        Mary sings about this kingdom:  Luke 1:50-54  His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;  he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
·        Jesus’ own description of his mission in revealing that the kingdom of God is near- Luke 4:18-19  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

When God is on the throne of the world, everyone is loved, everyone is valuable.  The earth and all that’s in it is valued as the beautiful good creation of our Father. The lost are found, the hungry fed, the lonely friended.  There is peace and wholeness and reconciliation, justice and mercy and grace and right-living and right-relationship – all those things summed up by daily bread, forgiving and receiving forgiveness, strength to resist temptation and deliverance from evil. 

Thy will be done...
In God’s kingdom, God’s will is done:  all those things that affirm life, draw us to God, and stop sin, evil, the devil and even death from getting in the way of God’s reign:
·        By reconciling humanity to God through Jesus
·        By sending the Spirit to live in our hearts – teaching us how to live as reconciled children of God
·        And although God’s will and kingdom come about with or without our efforts…Christians have this habit of working to bring the kingdom of God:  caring for the sick during the Roman plagues, hospitals, soup kitchens, missions, quilts kits food drives, harvesting a neighbor’s field, dropping off a casserole (or a salad) participation in larger justice issues like civil rights, human rights overseas, cancer walks and crop walks, standing up for a child who is bullied. 
o   It’s what our response to God’s kingdom coming to us through Jesus, our response to God’s grace and mercy in our own lives.
o   This response is God’s will also – just as we were placed in the garden to care and tend for us, we still care and tend for the world, partnering with God, being Jesus with skin on

When we pray “God, come and sit on the throne of the world”, we also pray “God, come and sit on the throne of my heart.” And that prayer plunges us into the midst of God's kingdom coming, and God's will being done.

My internship pastor called the Lord’s Prayer, “Jesus’ mission prayer.”  When we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” we are signing on for that mission too. 

As in heaven so in earth
This is really good news.  For God’s reign and will are not something that happen far off only in heaven, but right here, right now on earth.  Although we know that God's kingdom will never be fully realized until Jesus comes again, we look for those places where God's kingdom is breaking into this world, breaking the grip of sin and evil and death.

This is what Jesus promised every time he proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is at hand” 
– right here, now, breaking in every day,
·        Every time someone comes to faith
·        Every time someone experiences the presence of God
o   In a sunset
o   Or in the kindness of a stranger
o   Or in a comforting word
o   Or in the words of a hymn
·        every time someone sees God in the face of a stranger,
·        every time someone is fed
o   or clothed,
o   or a injustice is corrected
o   Or a family member is reconciled…

Or any of the myriad places and ways we see God at work in the world today! 

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

…means that the God is continually working
·        to reconcile the world,
·        to redeem the lost,
·        to restore the broken,
·        to enable us to live as God created us to live.

and that means hope for the world.


So, let us pray…

This morning we are going to pray for God’s rule to break into our world, just as God desires it to.

  1.   As a congregation, we’re going to pray, “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

  2.   Next, we’ll take time for each of us to pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done, thanking God for bringing salvation, asking God to bring God’s kingdom to those places that need it, asking God to bring the kingdom in us, and through us to the world.
a.   You can pray this out loud or silently.
b.   If you’d like to, and I encourage this, turn to someone next to you and take turns praying your prayer of praise out loud.

   3.   After a few minutes, we’ll close with “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”

“Jesus, Lord, use this time to teach us to pray…

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…

Time for individual prayer

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Our hymn of the day is “Take My Life and Let it Be,”  - a prayer asking God to break into our lives and, through us, break into the world.