Sermon: Do I Believe What I Just Said?

imagesWe tried something new with our Sunday time this week. It was just Steve & me (and THAT DOG, of course) so we had some freedom to tiptoe into this sense I keep getting from God, that I should trust Him to provide inspiration on the fly.  I tend to go off-script when I give talks, anyway,  but I do this with the safety net of a VERY prepared talk (with a clear beginning, middle and end) to catch me if I get lost out on a tangent. My freedom comes (or so I thought) from good preparation.  (imagine an arrow pointing to Puritan work ethic here!)

This week, I prepared a talk as usual. It was…meh. I wasn’t excited about it, but I persevered under the, “Well maybe someone else needs to hear/read this, and so this will be a blessing to them!” theory.

Yesterday I woke up, got some coffee, and sensed God say, “Psalm 34.” So I read it. It’s a good one, written by David right after a strange episode where he faked insanity to get away from a King he feared might kill him.  It’s full of praise and celebration for everything God does for us–particularly delivering us from trouble.

I was caught up in the inspiring words–I love a good pep talk. But then at the end, it felt like I crash landed into the reality of what we’ve seen over the past few years, where God’s powerful salvation from evil people and circumstances seemed hard to come by; like we were frantically dialing spiritual 911, but maybe we lived in one of those difficult places police avoid and where it takes emergency help forever to arrive.

So I looked up at my ceiling (you know, where God lives) and said, “What do you want me to do with this?”  I didn’t want to just put some pretty frosting over the messy cake of my doubts.  I sensed God asking me questions. I wrote them down.  Then I scraped my meh talk that might maybe bless some random people, and we spent our Sunday service time answering these questions, praying about what they unearthed, and watching God reassemble our cake, so to speak, as He helped us us perceive what He’s doing, and encouraged us to believe that this hope David writes of is real.

Here is Psalm 34 along with the questions, if you want to give it a try. As you read, ask, Do I really believe this?

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.  Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.  I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.  Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

Questions: 

1. When have you sought the Lord and seen him answer?

2. Would you describe your everyday countenance (facial expression) as radiant?

3. What to you make of this declaration that the angel of the Lord “encamps” around those who fear him? What does this mean for you?

4. Do you fear God?

5. How do you go about taking refuge in the Lord?

6. What would it mean for you to lack nothing?

7. What would it look like in your life to turn from evil and do good?

8. What would it look like to seek peace and pursue it?

9. Do you sense that the Lord’s eyes are on you and his ears are attentive to your cry? Or that he has turned away?

10. Is there a way you can move back towards righteousness (right relationship with God)?

11. What do you make of these bold promises of redemption, salvation, comfort, and deliverance from ALL troubles?

12. How do you tell people when God comes through for you?

***

It was so helpful to talk through these questions, rather than just letting them run amok in my head. It made me think of the reminder in the letter in the New Testament written to the Hebrews, where the author says, essentially, “Don’t stop meeting to spend time with God and encourage each other!”  There are things that get sorted out much better/quicker/faster/more completely when you’re with other people who add their faith to yours. It’s an exponential kind of thing, and it amazes me.

Dear God, thank you that when we ask, you sort us out. Bless our questions and help us receive your answers. Make our faces radiant. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Faith Community Talk: Be Healed

We had a really encouraging morning.  THAT DOG did not eat the communion bread (despite an impressive attempt), and we prayed for God to heal each of us…then watched, rather stunned, as God answered our prayers – two bad cases of congestion, GONE.  Not everyone we prayed for was healed (yet?) but this felt like a pretty great start.  Here’s the talk:

*** 

Sometimes I don’t know how strongly I believe something until I hear someone else emphatically declare that the opposite is true.  This is how I realized how sure I am that Jesus heals people today.

I was at a writers’ conference a few years ago, and an author was speaking about her new book where she described her ministry to the homeless and hungry in the Bay Area of California. She sees a lot of suffering in her work, and I think someone asked her something like, “How do you help people bring those needs before God?” 

I don’t remember the precise words of her answer, but it was something about how God sends people to fill needs, and how we all need to become those people. And then she added, “I have a lot of people ask me to pray for them when they’re sick. And I don’t pray for them to be healed. I pray that God bring them peace.”

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I was INCENSED by this answer, reacting far out of proportion to what she’d said.  But I was troubled that she tell a hundred or so people that this was the proper Christian approach to sickness and prayer.  When the talk was over, it took me about an hour to process why this had hit me so hard.

Part of my reaction was that I’d SEEN God heal people in response to prayer; I’d witnessed it firsthand. God didn’t often use me that way (although he had on one occasion, and several times when I was part of a group praying for someone).  But also, as I thought about the Bible, it seemed bizarre to think that God wouldn’t want us to pray for people to be physically healed. It’s what God’s representatives DID in the New Testament.  It went hand-in-hand with proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. It was part of how they conveyed the message of how Jesus changed everything about the relationship between Heaven and Earth.

In that moment I realized that believing that God heals in response to prayer is very much a part of what it means to me to be a Christian.

That said, I did absolutely nothing about it…for years.  I prayed for a few people here and there. But then I had my faith kicked in a bit by some prayers that weren’t answered, and so I kind of stopped trying. I was like one of those little kids who can’t ride a bike right away and so gives up ever riding and just decides it’s not for them.

***

Today we’re going to pray for healing.  God told me to do this after last Sunday, as I was getting ready for bed. I sensed God nudging me to read Mark 16.  I opened my Bible to see that this is the final chapter of Mark’s account of Jesus’ life.   Right in the middle, Jesus gives these departing instructions to his Apostles:

“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well.

I sensed that it was a direction for this Sunday’s gathering, so I fished around for some specifics:

  • I always try to incorporate Jesus’ basic message of “believe and be saved” into my talks, so I didn’t think this was the direction God was giving me.
  • I was not going to import snakes or ask people to drink poison. (I think these are more, “If you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself in this sort of predicament, faith in Jesus helps” instructions, rather than “Pursue this to prove you believe” forms of worship, although it would make for quite a gathering…)
  • When I looked at the final line – and they will lay their hands on sick people and they will get well – and I got this excited feeling inside, like when you get really good news.

So that’s what we’re going to do.

To do this, it helps to have some sense of why we might believe such an unlikely thing is possible; why we’d spend time on this, rather than say, praying for peace or the ability to bear up well under adversity.  Also,  I find that the best way to work up the courage to try something is to hear stories about others who have tried before me. And when I do this, I want to know two things:

  1. What made them think this was a good idea?
  2. How did it go when they did it?

I’ve spent this week immersed in stories of modern-day people who do this regularly. For example:

  • I re-read Miracle Work by Jordan Seng, who was a pastor in our former church and now runs a church with a powerful healing ministry in Hawaii where, about once a month, they hold a service that is all about praying for sick people.
  • I read a book by Heidi Baker, a woman who runs an enormous home for former orphans in Mozambique, who tells of how she felt like she should pray for blind people, so she just started going up to any blind person she could find and offering to pray for them, until it worked and God restored their sight restored. I’ve heard Heidi speak several times and have friends who work with her in Mozambique. I feel like she and Jordan are credible witnesses to this happening now, today.

I spent some time thinking back to an experience I had with praying for physical healing. I was at a faith-based gathering. The guy running the event asked everyone who needed healing to line up, and then the rest of us were asked to go to them, ask what they needed prayer for, and then pray for them to be healed. I had NO FAITH that I could do this, so I went up to a friend of mine who was asking for prayer because I could admit to her that I was not any good at this and she should get someone else to pray for her for real after.  She just smiled and nodded, and said she was suffering from TMJ. I put my hand on her jaw and said something like, “Be healed in Jesus’ name.”  And she was.

I don’t know if this was a big deal for her – she’d never mentioned TMJ to me before, so maybe it was just a mild annoyance. But it was a huge deal for me, especially because I played NO ROLE in it happening, other than just going along with the program. This further solidified my conviction that this is part of what God does in our lives here today.

As I thought about all of this this week, I kept coming back to two promises in the Bible:

One, which Anne mentioned last week, from Ecclesiastes: “God has made all things beautiful in his time.” This invites the question: What does God want to make beautiful, here today?

 And the second, from at letter written to the Hebrews: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:7-8

PetersMotherInLawI thought the best way to see what that meant was to spend some time traipsing around after Peter, one of the disciples who spent time with Jesus during his life here on earth. So that’s what we’ll do right now. As we do this, I want you to keep two images in mind:

  1. How, Peter is sort of an overeager little brother with Jesus, taking in the things he sees around him in a kind of wide-eyed way and trying to do it himself any chance he gets; and
  2. How we can look at Peter in this same big-brother way, trying things he tried, based on what we see in who Jesus was yesterday and believing it’s the same today and forever.

Note: This is not meant to be a definitive history of Peter’s life or ministry. Rather, it’s a overview of what Peter saw, what Jesus said, and what Peter then did with that.  Most of our passages come from Mark’s Gospel – which is quick & action packed and sort of lends itself to this kind of consideration.  The italicized portions are quoted straight from the Bible, and in some places I’ve summarized or prefaced to give context – those are the parts in regular type.

Let’s dive in:

In the first chapter of Mark, right in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we’re told:

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”  As Jesus walked beside the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon [Peter’s original name] and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.  Mark 1:14-18

They picked up a couple of other fishermen along the way – James and John – and eventually went to Simon & Andrew’s family home.

Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. Mark 1:29-31

That’s an interesting out-of-the gate story, no? Later that night, we’re told that people from all over gathered and Jesus healed many who had various diseases.  Mark 1:32-34

A man with [a skin condition] came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean!” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.  1:40-42

While Jesus was preaching, some men cut a hole in the roof of the building and lowered a paralyzed man down to him.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son your sins are forgiven.” [then he said to the man] I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, too his mat and walked out in full view of them all.  2:1-12

After they had witnessed all of these things, Jesus appointed twelve apostles, of whom Simon was the first. Jesus gave him the name “Peter.”  Mark 3:16

Then things got wilder:

Peter and the other apostles watched as Jesus woke up from a sound sleep to calm a crazy storm that was tossing their boat all over the place. Mark 4:35

Then when they finally make it across the lake, they’re greeted by a man so filled with demons that he lived in the tombs, cutting himself, crying out, unable to be subdued even with chains. Jesus has a conversation with the demons, tells them they have to leave, and then grants their request to be sent into a nearby heard of pigs, who promptly throw themselves into the lake and are drowned. Everyone in the region is so freaked out, they beg Jesus to leave. Mark 5:1-17

And then after this, Peter and the others witness a shift, as healing happens without Jesus initiating it:

A large crowd followed and pressed around Jesus. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.”  Mark 5:24-29

Jesus didn’t initiate or participate in that, it just happened because of his power. 5:21-34

Peter is one of only three apostles who watches as Jesus goes into a room where a little girl is lying dead. Jesus kicks out all the people who don’t believe, and then we’re told, He took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him and when in where they child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”) Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old).  Mark 5:37-42

Peter saw Jesus raise a child from the dead. I imagine that would change one’s perspective on what is possible.

Matthew’s Gospel account contains perhaps the best-known story about Peter:

Jesus has sent the apostles ahead of him on a boat so that he can have some time alone to pray. The boat was against the wind, and so being tossed around quite a bit by the waves.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Walking on Faith by Benjamin McPherson

Walking on Faith by Benjamin McPherson

 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

 Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said. “why did you doubt?”

 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret…People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the ege of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.  Matthew 14:22-31, 34-36.

And not long after this, Peter was the first to confess to Jesus, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8:27

Matthew then tells us that Jesus replied,

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah…And I tell you that your are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 16:16-19

And if all of this wasn’t enough, Peter was then one of the “core three” apostles who witnessed Jesus transfigured on top of a mountain, and then conduct a conversation with Moses and Elijah, after which God himself enveloped them all in a bright cloud and said about Jesus, “This is my son, whom I love; Listen to him!”  Mark 9:2-7

Soon thereafter, Peter had an interesting conversation with Jesus, where he pledged his undying devotion. Jesus said, in effect, “Please…you’ll deny me three times before the end of the day…” And that’s exactly what happened. – Mark 14:29-30

This was an important moment, for us to note: it shows that Jesus knew Peter –what he was capable of AND how he would fail – better than Peter knew himself. Peter’s limitations did not limit God’s plan for his life.

Shortly after this, Jesus was crucified.

Let’s Pause and think about that for a moment. Imagine the scene:

All these people had put their hope in him, believing he was the Messiah. They’d changed their lives, given up old things to follow him, seen miracle after miracle (and a lot of fighting and persecution, too).  Now, it seems like it may all have been for nothing. Everyone who knew and loved him is sort of milling around, numb and unsure what to do.  At a very real level, they’re struggling just to figure out, “what do I do now?”

Mark 16 tells us about what happened on the third day. We’re told first that three women went to Jesus’ grave to care for his body, but his body was not there.  After that, things got interesting:

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. 

Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. 

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

He said to them: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well.

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.  Mark 16:9-20

Jesus told the apostles to stick around until they received the Holy Spirit.

We’re told about this in the book of Acts: how this galvanizes Peter, turns him into a brilliant orator, and how after that he walked in the authority he received.  For example:

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer- at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

images

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk.  Acts 3:1-8

 The Apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared to join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Never the less, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.  Acts 5:12-16

***

 Quite a story, right? A regular fisherman, transformed into someone who carries the healing power of Jesus, even in his SHADOW.

What I love about Peter’s journey is that it shows us his learning process: he tried these things because:

  1. He saw Jesus pray for people and see them healed; and
  2. He heard Jesus tell him he could do this (and other things, like walk on water) too; and
  3. He was brave (or uninhibited) enough to try.

He saw, he heard, he did.

And as anyone who has ever inadvertently taught a small child an inappropriate gesture or a swear word, you can attest that this is exactly how we learn new things!

This is why we looked at Peter’s life today. So we can see this passing down – we see Jesus with him, and then we see him walking this out.

Now I DO believe in praying for peace, especially those who are sick. We need God’s miraculous peace, too. And there are times when the healing we pray for does not come right away, or we don’t see it. We don’t know the whole story.

But we’re invited, called, to offer what we have, as Peter and John did that day. And what we have is a relationship with Jesus, that bridges the gap between us and God, and makes impossible things possible.

This is the “good news” people talk about when it comes to Christ – that even if you think, as I did, “But I already know God” there is MORE to know, and a deeper relationship available, with all sorts of gifts and fruit and miracles and surprises.  Today, we’ll ask God for a piece of that MORE.

Let’s pray…

Sermon: I Didn’t Know I Could Ask For That

Here are the talk notes from today’s Faith Community. We were going to record it, but with my head cold, I thought I’d spare you the audio. Enjoy the read, and blessings!

UnknownI Didn’t Know I Could Ask For That

In Psalm 66, the psalmist says, “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.” This feels especially apt this morning, as I’ve been thinking about some of the things that drew me towards Jesus in the year or so before I came to church.

If you go back to about fifteen years ago, my life was pretty rough: I was on the run from an abusive first marriage, living under an assumed name in a really mangy apartment.  I’d been a practitioner and teacher of new-age spirituality for about ten years, but had all sorts of doubts because it didn’t seem to work, for me or for anybody I met.

I was sort of desperate in those days for spiritual encouragement, and so sometimes I go to the Christian Living section at Walmart, looking for some hope (because who doesn’t shop for hope at WalMart?) One day, I saw this little book called The Prayer of Jabez.

imagesThe book described this one-off character in a chapter of the Bible that’s mostly chronological family lineage. But in the midst of that, this guy Jabez gets a special paragraph, where we’re told, pretty much without context, this:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.  –1 Chronicles 4:9-10

I’d never looked that closely at the Bible, but I liked that story. I started praying the prayer every day – asking God to bless me, enlarge my territory (whatever that meant), and keep me from evil so I didn’t hurt anybody. It seemed nicely all-inclusive.  I wasn’t praying for any specific thing in those days, because I kind of needed everything:  Some days there might be a vague sense that if my “territory” was enlarged, I’d have some friends or people to do life with, or maybe a career of some sort, or an apartment that wasn’t just a couple steps up from camping. And around this time, my boyfriend completely forgot my birthday. No one else here in Boston even knew it was my birthday, which just felt horrible. It made me wonder, What am I doing here? I don’t even have anyone who knows me enough to say Happy Birthday?  I had no “territory” to speak of – really all I had was my dog.  This vague prayer fit my needs really well without forcing me to delineate, every day, every single thing I didn’t have.

Months later, I had this weird series of events lead me to a church, where I made a bunch of friends.  And my birthday the next year was kind of incredible. I had a party, and about 35 or 40 people came.  New friends wrote long notes of encouragement in thoughtful cards. A bunch of people made funny T-shirts to commemorate the occasion. It was such an experience of abundance, a stark contrast to all that lack from the year before.  God had truly expanded my territory.  And through those friends, God changed the trajectory of my life –

  • I met my husband,
  • I wrote a book about the experience that gave me a new career,
  • Steve and I have lived in a variety of home, some nicer than others, but all better than that first place.

***

You’d think after an experience like that, I’d have been a Prayer of Jabez devotee. But the truth is, I didn’t really make the connection back then, and I lost track of the Prayer of Jabez in the years that followed.

This week, though, I was reminiscing a bit about these early days of my faith – before I was part of an official culture that was Christian, when I was just sort of bumping into whatever God put in front of me and responding to it.  In remembering all of this, I thought back to this Prayer of Jabez experience, and morning last week, I looked it up in my Bible. There it was, in the middle of a long list of family lineage. And yet it read differently than I remembered:

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!” Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

The last line seemed strange, asking God to keep you from harm so you’ll be free from pain?  Could you even do that?

  • To pray not to cause others pain, as I’d done before – That seemed humble and very “Christian.”
  • To pray to be free from pain myself? That seemed kind of selfish.

I pulled out my computer and looked at different bible translations of this passage, thinking maybe my NIV had an unusual take on things. Here’s how Jabez’s words are recorded in the various translations:

NLT – “and keep me free from all trouble and pain!”

ESV – “keep me from harm [or evil] that it might not bring me pain!”

Amplified – “keep me from evil so it might not hurt me!”

The venerable King James  – “keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!”

I realized that the translation used by that little book I’d read – the New King James – is kind of an outlier in how it translates this verse from the original Hebrew.  I don’t think it was “wrong,”per se.  But it is eye-opening, at this point in my faith journey, to get this whole new way to approach this prayer. I mean, who wouldn’t want permission to pray,  “God, keep me free from all trouble and pain, keep me from harm that it might not hurt me, from evil that it might not grieve me!”?

It sounds so selfish, and yet there it is in the Bible, suggesting not only that we pray for this, but that we expect God to respond, and to grant our request.

This messes a bit with how I think about things.

***

Until a couple of years ago, I’d always considered myself an outsider to most conversations about suffering. I didn’t see myself as qualifying to participate. I’d been through some things, certainly, but I’d gotten through them.  Suffering seemed to have a quality to it that didn’t feel like I could claim, something long term and awful and inescapably terrible.

Then one summer, I shared with a family friend a couple of personal things that were hard for Steve and me around infertility.  And she looked at me with the sweetest look of compassion, as if what I was telling her about our struggle was long term and awful and inescapably terrible. “That is such a heavy cross to bear,” she said.

I just sort of stared at her, unsure of what to say. I’d never thought of it like that.

As awful as this might sound, her assessment didn’t crush me. It was uplifting, actually, like a revelation. It was like, “Oh – this has a context in my faith life.” God used her observation to bring me peace. And since then, this cross is still there, and we notice it, but is lighter, and not a struggle to carry.

(I should pause here to say that this was a rare helpful moment in an ocean of unhelpful faith-based advice about the place where our faith & our suffering collided.  PLEASE don’t leave here and use the phrase “that’s such a heavy cross to bear” on one another! I’ve learned that suffering is as personal as salvation – I think it’s something God “transacts” with each of us differently, individually, and personally. We can learn from others’ stories, but there’s a point past which we can only travel alone.)

One thing I can see in almost everyone I know who comes through pain and suffering well is that whatever “it” is does not define them.  I think of the Apostle Paul– thorn in his side, jailed, beaten, fearing for his life and even stoned (possibly to death) on one occasion. And yet while these are colorful parts of his story, those aren’t the things we mention first about him. (Imagine if you were brought back from the dead – wouldn’t you build an entire career around that as the central event of your life?)

Instead, these incidents are secondary to the larger story of Paul: his travels;  the people he reached and told about Jesus, the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit; how he changed direction on a dime in response to God’s leading from place to place. There is SO MUCH we talk about with regard to Paul that is way bigger than his suffering.

His suffering was real.  But one gets the impression that the pain did not affect Paul the way you would expect.  That somehow he did not feel pain, to put it Jabez terms. I don’t think this was numbness or oblivion, or even grim determination.  I think it ties into what Jesus meant when he said, after telling his disciples of the grief they would soon suffer and how they’d all be scattered:  “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

What if part of what we can ask for as children of God is “Let your hand be with me and keep me from evil that I may not feel pain”?

What if this were our regular experience of life?  That we would have trouble, but through Jesus, we have overcome the “everything” that brings that trouble, such that our experience is minimized enough that we are free to do the work and live the life God has for us?

We see this in other scenes in the Bible:

  • When the apostles are flogged and then chained in prison, and they’re just hanging out singing happy songs to God.
  • Or Stephen, being stoned and yet looking up at God happily, praying for God to forgive his murderers.

I always feel awful when I read these stories, because that is just so not me.  I’m not that good or pious or holy. And I can’t even fake it all that well. None of us can (can’t you always see through the façade when a fellow believer is trying so very hard to be FINE, and to rejoice in our suffering under their own steam because THAT’S WHAT GOOD CHRISTIANS DO? I’ve been on both sides of this lie. It just makes us strained and strange to be around, all that fake, fine cheer.)

I think Jabez asked for, and received something else, something very different. I think we should ask for it too.

One final note: This brings to mind the question you hear sometimes in motivational circles: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? or, What would you do if you had all the money you could ever need?

Those aren’t good questions.  Any calling or dream you have will cost you more than you think you can afford, and it will include failure.

And yet I sense that what God might be saying here is that through Jesus, it’s possible for us not to feel the pain of our loss and lack in the same way – that rather than causing us to be stopped by the pain, it’s somehow more like the ‘burn’ of exercise that spurs us on because we know we’re accomplishing something good.  (After all, if we’re being attacked by evil, it often means we’re getting somewhere for and with God.)

What I sense here is God saying that miraculously, mysteriously, through him, we can rise above these real experiences of hurt and heartbreak until they are only a footnote in a much larger, much better story.

Let’s pray:

Oh Lord, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”

 In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Sermon: Calling All Superheroes

Here is the talk from this morning’s Faith Community. This one came out about how I wrote it (which either means I’m getting better at this, or that I was off my game…)

Our opening Psalm of Worship was Psalm 18, a story sung by David to celebrate how God came through for him when he was in an impossible situation and fearing for his life.  Check it out first–it’s inspiring.

Calling all Superheroes

 One of the most interesting aspects of starting something new like this faith community is how many chances it gives Steve and I to choose:

  • Do we  share what goes on behind the scenes of this creative process, as we try to listen to God and figure out just what it is we’re creating here;
  • or do we show just the final product, in the unspoken hope that you’ll think we have it all together?

We tend towards the first option—the open, behind the scenes approach. It makes the story more interesting, I think. We prefer interesting stories to perfect pictures (partly because perfect pictures are just beyond us).  And we’ve learned that in this creative process, as we interact with God, things always turns out differently than we expect.

This week, I spent my study time working on a sermon that sussed out what we mean when we talk about “faith community” and being part of a larger “spiritual family.” These are phrases that could be taken a number of different ways, so it seemed worth defining our terms, both for our own purposes (it’s hard to say if you’ve built what you were aiming for if you’re not clear in the beginning what the plan is) and for anyone who might wonder if being part of this might be for them.

I prepared a lovely, stirring talk. It began with Genesis and the first moments of creation, went through the first family (Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth) and even gave a brief nod to Noah, his son Shem, and how they were in the linage of Abraham and ultimately, Jesus.

It talked about this miraculous ways God creates families—biologically, and through people he “grafts in” to our lives through faith in Jesus. There were thoughts about how we work within these family or community dynamics, about things like love and acceptance, encouragement and honor.

 It was lovely, and true, and FINE. But as I looked it over yesterday, this talk made me itchy & unsettled.  As I stepped away from it to run some errands, I realized why:

All that stuff is true about family and community, generally.  But it’s not THE truth about what we’re hoping for in THIS community. What I really want is NOT a group of people being nice to one another and cheering each other on.

I want a gathering of spiritual superheroes. images-5

 I want to surround myself with people who are excited about God – not because that’s a proper thing to do to get to heaven. But because it means we get to be catalysts and witnesses as God brings hints of heaven here to earth.

images

Like the Psalm of David we used in our worship today, we want to be the people who say: “Let’s respond to God, and expect something cool.” And then point at the miracles and say, “That right there? That was God.”  Because when you carry with you a real story about God being true and ACTIVE here now, today, you have the power to change the world, every time you share it.

We don’t change the world with our attitude or our positive thinking.

We change the world with our stories. 

 The Apostle Paul wrote about this in a letter to his friends in Corinth, a group of people who were building their own faith community.  They were having some difficulties figuring out who was in and who was out, and just generally how to be and what to do.  There were lots of questions. Paul had provided some answers in an earlier letter. But here, Paul reframes the whole conversation:

“From now on,” Paul says, “we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 

 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 As God’s fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor. Now is the day of salvation.”   -2 Corinthians 5:16 – 6:2

 I read this, and think, This is the commissioning of spiritual superheroes.

 Every part of this gets me excited –

  • the crazy idea that change IS possible;
  • that we CAN be different, better versions of ourselves;
  • that our lives can make a huge difference to others;
  • And that there’s a way to see glimpses of heaven, here on earth.

 We have the ability to look at circumstances – even where things are dire and frustrating and impossible – and see something different than anyone else sees.

 

***

 Ever since I was little, I’ve been into the Super Friends Superheroes. Superman and Wonder Woman, Batman & Robin, Aqua Man, the Wonder Twins: Men and women and even kids with special gifts and superpowers, Hall_of_Justicebanding together at the Hall of Justice to receive assignments and form teams to thwart the bad guys and save people who need help.

I’ve blogged about this; I’ve written about it in my books.  It’s still a live dream for me, as silly as that sounds.

I don’t want these gatherings to be about being polite and encouraging.  I want this faith community to be a Hall of Justice.  Where we come together to seek God for our assignments:

  • new missions,
  • further instructions for ongoing ventures
  • getting patched up and healed when we’ve taken some hits.  Because we’ll take some hits.

I believe that faith in God is the only way we’ll see justice, here on earth.

This all sounds ridiculous, of course. Until you read the Bible.  The Bible is filled with exhortation to believe exactly this sort of thing is possible when God brings people together.

Earlier in this same letter to the people in Corinth, Paul acknowledges how self-aggrandizing this all can sound: “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?” he asks, after sharing an experience he and his team had in their travels, how they were led by God to in a “triumphal procession in Christ,” spreading the knowledge of Jesus.  “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God,”  he says.  “Not that we are content in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life….Therefore, since we have such hope, we are very bold.”  -2 Corinthians 3

These passages are representative of two powerful themes in the Bible:

  1. That when we say yes to Jesus –when we are “in Christ,”– a transformation happens. We are a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come.  It’s the offer we’ve been dreaming of, the chance to start over and be the “real” us we’ve sensed was inside but couldn’t quite get to.
  2. This experience of living out our “new creation-ness” is what bonds us as a family.  We live our lives as “Christ’s Ambassadors,” whose “confidence comes from God.” And “since we have such hope, we are very bold.”  WE get to be the ones who can say, “Can I pray for you?” or “I feel like God is saying XYZ” because of a picture or sense we get.  We get to be part of what God is doing, to bring his Kingdom to bear, here on earth.

We NEED each other as we live this out.

If we live in a spiritual world where there is this GOODNESS, it stands to reason that there is also spiritual BAD out there, and the Bible tells us that we’re not just imagining it: there is actual, personified EVIL trying to block us and pull us away from God’s best for our lives.

images-3Paul admits in his letter: how, during that same trip where he and his team were “led in triumphal procession in Christ,” they were ALSO “Harassed at every turn—conflicts outside, fears within.”

In any superhero mission, there are bad guys to fight.  But when we band together and share our skills and knowledge and talents, we can win and save the day.  It may take awhile, but the triumphal procession in Christ always trumps the harassed at every turn.

We see each other through these battles, and then remind each other IT’S WORTH IT.  We LOOK for victory, because we know that it is coming.

Two “Superheroes” for Steve & I are our friends Gavin and Emily. They used to live here in Boston; now they live in DC. We get to see each other every couple of years.

I mention this because Emily and I talked yesterday, and it was exactly this—we weren’t just catching up on each other’s lives, but at every step, our ears and our spirits were asking, “God, what are you doing here?”

For example, I shared about the heartache of saying goodbye to our foster daughter last summer, and how awful it is to hear reports that she is suffering and struggling, Emily said, “But you KNOW God must have incredible plans for her, right?”

She didn’t just mean it as a feel good platitude. She was actively wondering about that future, because she’s seen God bring miracles out of severe suffering. She KNOWS that this is how it works. So she holds that vision for me, helping me remember.  Her story of God coming through makes belief not only possible, but reasonable.  It changes the whole conversation.

This is what we do for each other.

***

As superheroes, there’s also what we do out in the world.

Paul calls us “Ambassadors for Christ.” Think about it: what is the role of an ambassador? It’s not just a PR professional.  The role of an ambassador is to navigate the early rumblings of war, to communicate clearly, “This is who we are & what we’re about” so that at least no one blows things up based on misinformation.  They try and keep the lines of communication open.

As Jesus’ Ambassadors, that’s our role: we communicate clearly who he is and why it matters.  We show that it’s reasonable to expect God to come through for us, just as he did for David in Psalm 18.  We say, “This is the good news of the Gospel.”

 If there were a “Mission Statement” on the wall of our Hall of Justice, this is what it would say, that THIS is the good news of the Gospel:

  • There is a GAP between us and God. Whether you feel it or not; it’s there
  • As long as it’s there, you can’t live the full life you were created to live.
  • Jesus is the bridge that spans this.  He is the missing puzzle piece.
  • We can cross that bridge or accept this gift (pick your metaphor) at any time. We can say, “Jesus, I want your help. Please come and set me free.”
  • This freedom comes with a rather astonishing benefits package.
  • We can’t really know what any of this means until we experience it–but we can experience it at any time.

That is the mission statement I imagine, what brings us together here at the Hall of Justice.

One of the things I love about my faith is that Jesus is such a gentleman: he doesn’t storm the gates of your life. He waits to be invited in.

And once he is, he is SO VERY EXCITED to get to work with you. He’s like one of those contractors you see on home improvement shows, walking through what looks like collapse and rubble and pointing out, “We’ll do this here, and move this wall, and open this all up to let in the light!”  The rubble that overwhelmed us is no big deal to him; he just clears it away.

This is what makes us Spiritual Superheroes: this experience of having said yes to Jesus, experiencing his remodel.  This is our foundation.  “The cornerstone,” as the Bible calls it, the piece that goes in first and sets the orientation of the project.

We are the projects under construction, and the contractors Jesus uses in each other’s lives.

In closing, I’ll admit: I don’t really buy that our job is to convince anyone else to sign up for a Jesus remodel.  We’re here to help each other figure out how to respond once God brings us to a place of saying, “Yes Jesus – that applies to me.”

When you say yes, you become part of the family.  It’s the path to becoming a superhero.  As the Apostle Paul said, I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor. Now is the day of salvation.

Praise be to God. Amen.

 

Sermon: A Teed up Ball, A T in the Road

From the Bible:  Psalm 29 – A Psalm of David

     Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 

     Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.

     The Voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty   waters.

     The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.

     The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

     He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.

     The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.

     The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

     The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.

     And in His temple, all cry, “Glory!”

     The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.

     The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

***

Welcome :)

Let me tell you a bit about how we came to be here.

RocksPebblesThere’s an oft-used image that comes up when people talk about life organization. It starts with a jar that represents our capacity. Into the jar go big rocks (the things that are most important to us), and smaller stones and even sand (the less important things).  The demonstration first shows how, after you put all the sand and pebbles in, it’s almost impossible to get the big stones – the important stuff—in later.  This is how so many of us end up living lives that feel totally different than the lives we dream of in our minds, with the sense that we don’t have space or time for the things that matter most. But when you dump out the jar and reverse the process, putting the big rocks in first, then there is still plenty of room for all the little rocks. Voila! Life restructured!

There aren’t that many times in life where you can dump out all your rocks and not have it be a catastrophe. But today is that sort of day for us – where the reorganizing is good, rather than tragic. Two specifics come to mind:

First, in this new season, in our new home, Steve and I want to orient our week around God.

It takes a lot of intentionality to do this, and we know we’re not alone in this desire. We’ve watched how easily this scheduling piece can slip away—how even though God is always first in our hearts, you wouldn’t necessarily know that by looking at our calendars. Now that we’re in our new house, and rethinking so much of how our time is used, establishing a faith community each Sunday morning is a way of putting that rock in first, before all the little nuggets take up all the room.

Second, on the day God told me we should have this first gathering on December 29th, He said to use Psalm 29 as the basis of our sermon. It’s not a psalm I know well, so I had to pull over (I was driving to Target) to look it up. It’s one of King David’s prayers, leading us to give credit to God for all He is.  As I thought and prayed about this later, the sense I got was that understanding God—our creator, father, the first member of the Trinity—is the big rock we need to get in the jar early in any faith initiative.  So that’s what we’ll talk about today.

***

 Experts say that your image of God is largely influenced by how you see your father here on earth.  This may be your biological father, or a father figure.  Whoever comes to mind for you when that word is mentioned.

  • If your father is domineering, for example, you’re likely to see God as an authority figure.
  • If your father is distant, or passive, or even absent, you might see God as disinterested or even disapproving.
  • If your father is powerful, you could see God as able to get things done.

This is an influence, not a definitive rule. But it’s a good thing to be aware of. Because how we see God is where everything starts, faith-wise. So tools that help us suss out what we think of when we think of God can be helpful.

(Even if we consider ourselves non-believers, this non-belief colors our experience of life in some interesting ways.)

Pop culture and psychology tell us that it’s how we see ourselves that is where everything starts. Let me tell you why I think that’s not true: We don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.

  • Research indicates we have a terrible track record for accurately picking what will make us happy.
  • When we do pick, if we get there, we’re frequently disappointed; we end up like Stevie Nicks, singing Landslide: “I climbed a mountain and I turned around.”  We’re disappointed. We thought there’d be more, or we’d do better, or life would feel different.

Self-awareness is a good thing. But it’s not a life plan.

This is what brings many of us to God in the first place: Coming to the end of ourselves, awash in this odd hope that maybe God knows us, and has a better plan. And how we see God is the lens through which we first view what He might do in our lives.

As I’ve considered this Dad/God connection for me, here’s what I see:

In broad strokes, my Dad is someone who laughs a lot, and knows how to fix things. He doesn’t take himself, or anyone else, too seriously. And he likes solutions. For many problems, small and large, Dad has always been my go-to guy to make things better.

For example, this week at Christmas, I mentioned that a chair of ours was sliding on the floor and I was afraid it would scratch the wood.  Dad said, “You could get a piece of foam rubber and glue it to the base of the chair….”  Then he went down to his basement and got me a sheet of the material he was talking about.  He doesn’t just suggest a fix, he does what he can to implement it. He offers everything he has.  I’ve always known that if my Dad had what it took to fix a problem, he’d do everything he could to help.

 I also saw God as close by (because my Dad was around a lot), funny, willing to laugh at things but in a loving way, encouraging me to take life seriously, but not myself.

That’s not a bad starting place for an image of God. My Dad teed that up really well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But even with a great start, most of us will face a time where our understanding of God goes off into the rough as the picture in our heads is whacked by the downswing of real life. (End of golf metaphor!)

FOR ME, this came in a recent season over about five years of having tangible problems that needed fixing, that I believed God COULD fix, that based on what I read in the Bible He WANTED to fix… and yet God did what looked (to me) like NOTHING.  He just let things break, and die, and head toward loss and ruin. This was heartbreaking. It seemed totally inconsistent with what I saw in the Bible: the God who longs to bring new life, rescue people, bring justice and end suffering.

images-2After about three years in this place, where things just kept getting worse, I realized I was at a T in the road. The path I’d been on was ending, and I had to make a decision to go either left, or right.

To go one way meant to consider that everything in the Bible, and even the existence of God, might be a lie. Perhaps this was all just in my imagination, a feel-good way to be with some nice people engaging in shared delusion that could not withstand a collision with reality.  Facing this way felt horrible. But possible in a way I’d never before imagined.

The other way meant to consider that God is FAR bigger, and weirder, and beyond my imagination and understanding than I’d ever thought. It was an invitation, but with no promise that I’d like what I found.  It suggested a more interesting understanding, but one that would require me to abandon some ideas about God I really loved (such as that when things get really difficult, God is just like my Dad and will jump in to fix things).

I stood at that intersection for about two years.

I inched down one road (packing up all my faith books, not reading the Bible, deciding for the first time ever not to pray), then backtracked to try the other (telling God sarcastically/hopefully, “Well if You have something You’d like to tell me, I’m listening…”).

SnakeVT080511-15-TrailWillmarthWoodsThe first road looked fine enough. On the surface, it even had some appeal: maybe I could just be normal, and spend my time fretting over my 401k. But it led to despair and a sense of, well, nothingness.

One upside, though: wandering that way taught me that the rotation of the world is not contingent upon my diligent bible study or my fervent prayers.  This was HUGE news, as I’d started to believe that it was, and it was exhausting, especially after such a long time of feeling like my prayers were broken, or being re-routed to a cargo hold in Pago-Pago.  God still did things even when I declined to participate. He is, it turns out, bigger than me, and able to function without my assistance. Thank God.

The other path was equally daunting, though.  It wasn’t well lit; I couldn’t tell what was out there, or what sun_lit_path_by_johnkyo-d2hdqpzI’d discover. But it felt bigger somehow. More majestic and compelling than anything I’d experienced. I wasn’t sure I was strong enough, brave enough, or had the energy that path required. But ultimately, that’s the road I chose. It felt like the only real choice, as trite as that sounds. (And yet I didn’t sense that God was upset at all that I needed that long, long rest, sitting at that T in the road, unable to make a decision. God didn’t seem in any sort of hurry to get me sorted out.)

On this road, I’ve found that it’s true, this promise in Psalm 29: that when the cedars break and oaks get twisted, and even mountains are moving, God gives us strength, and God gives us peace. It’s weird.

And so now, when I hear a song like Chris Tomlin’s “Our God is Greater,” what comes to mind is different than before.  The attempt to capture God in a song seems trite and silly…and yet altogether worth the effort.

THIS is why I don’t think it’s a game-ender if your father was distant, or mean, or just gone.   This simply means that if you choose to pursue faith, your “intersection” between the picture of God in your head and real life will come at a different time, in a different way.

 WE ALL have that moment of seeing differences between the God we expect and the God we experience.

Reconciling this tension is the walk of faith.

Being in a faith community means having a place to check in each week and ask, “How am I doing with God?” “What is God talking to me about this week?” and “In my gut, how am I responding?”

We can do this alone, of course.  But it’s so helpful to have other people asking these same questions, who offer two things most of us can’t pull off alone:

  • They SUPPORT our growing hope in how miraculous God can be,
  • and SQUASH our fears that He might not be real, or care, or care about us.

(As I wrote this, a picture of my friend Pascha came to mind. She was stomping on weeds along a walkway, saying “Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear…” She identified them – they weren’t flowers, they were predators – and unabashedly stomped them out in a way I’m usually too polite to do.)

We help each other Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name – to the best of our ability, in light of what He has revealed. We each bring our picture of God, and together, we’re closer to seeing Him as He really is.

As we close, let’s consider the structure of Psalm 29 –

  • It starts with a call to acknowledge God’s greatness and holiness and splendor.
  • Then it goes through a list of things God controls that are beyond us, particularly WEATHER.  There’s this language about God breaking cedars and moving mountains – showing how God can take down the very things we depend on for shelter and to build our lives, the things we believe will protect us.  He is bigger than those things.  This is terrifying and excellent news.
  • The Psalm ends with an unexpected shift, saying that in the midst of all of this chaos, The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

 It’s like an arrow, pointing to Jesus.  It’s as if David is telling us: Yes, God is THIS powerful…and there is more to the story.  This isn’t just a story about power. This is a story about the answer you’ve been hoping for.

Our faith community is about each of us finding our place in the tension of knowing: That this powerful God cares about you…and that the God who cares about you is indeed this powerful.

 Next Sunday, we’ll explore more of what that means.

For now, let’s pray the prayer suggested by Jesus, God’s Son:

      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.

     Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

     Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

     For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever.

Amen.