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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Focus: Promises Kept, Prayers Answered

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:  "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."  And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."Luke 4:14-21

This week’s gospel shows us Jesus in full stride. He is back from a month of fasting and prayer in the desert. He has put Satan and his temptations to rout. And he’s raring to go. In Luke’s gospel this is Christ’s debut as a preacher. And significantly, he begins his ministry, not by making promises, but by revealing that he is the answer to all the promises that God has made to his chosen people over the centuries.

His new covenant is not a rejection of the old. It is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. He is the long-awaited answer to so many hopes and prayers. He will surprise and delight many. He will anger and outrage many more. But in all things, he will precisely conform to God’s law and God’s prophets. Jesus has come to deliver salvation. But he will do it on God’s terms, not on man’s.

There’s a big lesson here for us. God’s answers are a lot wiser than our questions. Jesus proclaims liberty to prisoners and to the oppressed. But he has not come to plan a massive jail break or start an armed insurrection. He has come to free us from sin and overthrow the kingdom of pride, hypocrisy and greed. In prayer we should seek God’s will for us, not try to impose our will on him. As a child I remember praying up a storm for a toy I wanted for Christmas. I didn’t get the toy. And only later did I realize that God had surely answered my prayer. He was telling me to pray for something worthwhile. Stop wasting my time and his. It wasn’t the answer I wanted. But it was the answer I needed.

After reading Isaiah’s prophecy predicting the Messiah, Jesus tells his neighbors that the scripture has been fulfilled in him. They are amazed and then outraged. They had prayed for a superhero, a caped crusader, a masked avenger. And here was this soft spoken carpenter’s son telling them he is the answer to their prayers. From the perspective of two thousand years, we can appreciate their confusion as well as the profound wisdom of God’s answer to their prayers.

What do we pray for? Do we have an active, ongoing conversation with God, constantly seeking his will? Or do we pray only in extremis, throwing a “Hail Mary pass” in wild desperation when all else has failed? John Wesley gave us some terrific advice on prayer and priorities confiding that: “I have so much to do that I must spend several hours in prayer before I can do it.” Not surprisingly, the best advice on prayer, comes from the author of the greatest prayer of all, when he prayed to the Father: thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. God knows what we want and he knows what we need. He listens. He loves us. He keeps his promises. He answers our prayers. Talk to him.


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