Time After Pentecost Mark 9:38-50 September 26, 2021

LOOKING OUT FOR EACH OTHER

I am involved in a ministry called Via de Cristo.  It helps people grow on their Christian faith journey starting with a weekend retreat and continuing by encouraging participation in a Christian Support Group to grow in their discipleship with Jesus.

Currently I am on the leadership group for the movement in Eastern North Carolina.  Yesterday via Zoom we had our monthly meeting.  16 of us were there.  When we went around the group asking for “joys and sorrows” 4 shared with us their grief over the death of a member of their family or a close friend.

After hearing all the names and the circumstances of their death we prayed to God in thanksgiving for their life, positive effect of their life, committed them to the Lord, and asked for help to deal with the grief of their passing.   I just know in the days and weeks ahead we will be reaching out to each other to discover how they are doing on their faith journey.

The warm spirit caused by that prayer continued through the entire meeting.

Much the same happens here every Sunday morning when names and situations are sought to share prayer and support of those in a difficult part of their life journey.  We do this in the belief that part of being the body of Christ is getting support from each other during those difficult moments on our life journey.

Prayer is a vital part of the ministry of the church, both for the local congregation and the community we live.  I am amazed how often when I have been talking with people, I know that they ask me before the conversation is over: “Please pray for me.”  I find that a great opportunity to ask what the issues were they wanted offered up to the Lord in prayer.

Before continuing let’s share a few things pray is and what it is not.  Prayer for me is communication with God who has already spoken to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  If you are looking for a good outline of what God would want us to bring in praye,r pray silently the Lord’s Prayer and insert individual concerns.  For example, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  That would be a great place to insert.  “Lord God, Covid and its variants are causing a pandemic in the world, help us to discover and act on ways to bring this horrible disease to an end.”

Prayer is not a magical thing.  Some believe if the words they use in prayer rub the belly of the heavenly genie just right we will get our request.  I remember having a friend ask me to pray for them for they were convinced their prayers were not getting to God but bouncing off the ceiling of their bedroom.

I like these ideas about God’s response to prayer.  “Yes.”  “No.” “Wait.” “I have a better idea.”  For prayer is communication with God not intended to bend God’s will to our own.  In fact, I believe that prayer is just the opposite.  I believe the final petition to prayer most of the time is “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

Let me share with you two events in which I experienced prayer as a powerful force in my life.   Even before I went to college, I knew God was calling me to get trained to become a parish pastor.  I compromised a little bit by becoming a Sunday School Teacher In my congregation.  But in fall of my junior year, I came down with mononucleosis and had to drop out of school.  Mono is a disease of our blood that leads to a high fever and the total lack of any energy.  I worked part time at a local hospital.  I was so sick, word got to them that I was dying of leukemia and they took up a collection to help me.  The day a colleague from work brought the jar of money I wanted to cry I was so touched.

Not having any energy to do anything but sleep and think I began to pray.  Over the next several weeks God convinced me I needed to become trained to become a parish pastor.

Another moment that was powerful was when I was in training to become a chaplain.  My training happened two years at Wesley Long Hospital.  I was assigned to a floor.  I made certain to attend the meeting of the nurses at the change of a shift and would ask who they would like me to visit.  One day they told me of a man of German background who had immigrated to America years before.  He was experiencing irregular heartbeat and was weighed down with some issues and had requested a visit from a chaplain.

After I got to know him, he confessed he had been successful in business but had been a terrible father.  He was filled with guilt over doing such a lousy job.  It was decided he would talk to his children one by one and seek their forgiveness and begin anew as adults.  But he was still weighed down.  He was having trouble believing God could forgive him.  I encouraged him to try by confessing his sin before God.  It was a powerful moment.  When he finished, I looked him in the eye, and said, “As a minister of the Church of Jesus Christ and by his authority I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins.”  The man said this was the best he had felt in years.  The next day they were playing to stop his heart for a moment and trust when it started to beat again it would be in rhythm.  In the meantime, there were wires connected to his chest to monitor his heartbeat.

As we were ending our conversation a nurse came in to report his heart had returned to normal rhythm.  We praised God.

I have been serving you for over half a year and plan to continue as we both agree that should happen.  So, as we are entering Fall, I would like us to regularly pray for each other and the ministry of this congregation.  If you don’t know the membership and friends, we can give you a directory.  I believe the Spirit will draw us closer together by the time we conduct our congregational meeting in December.

Prayer a powerful link with God and each other.  Let’s participate together in using that gift with God and for each other.  Amen