Prayer based on Luke 22:39-46
Jesus prays in Gethsemane
This night is so heavy
So far beyond control
And we’re so heartbroken
Our sorrow draws us to sleep
We try to pray
One eye open
But we don’t last long
We’ve been hopeful, only to fall again
We’ve tried and failed and tried and failed and tried…
So we sleep our sorrow-full sleep
You sorrow, too
But in your sorrow you keep watch
You question and comply with God’s call
You wrestle in prayer
And go back in for another round and another
Pray for us
Help us choose the same
Tell me, Dear Tree
A Lenten prayer/poem of sacrifice
Based on Luke 23, The Crucifixion of Christ
If you want to sing this, the meter is 86.86 double (CMD)
Suggested tune: KINGSFOLD (United Methodist Hymnal #179)
Tell me dear tree on which my Lord,
My blessed Lord did hang,
How could you hold the spotless Lamb,
Be party with the gang?
That cheerless day, that shadowy hour,
My blessed Savior died,
To free my soul for heavenly things,
O tree, you must have cried.
Yes all your fibers must have screamed
For you one time did live
A green and growing tree, alive,
But your whole self did give
To be the instrument of death,
To be the very tree
To be the place for Christ to die
Upon dark Calvary
Wait! Do I hear a shout of joy
From somewhere deep within?
Your duty done; the battle won
So all the world might win.
How beautiful your love for Him.
He sewed it long ago
You bore the weight. You took the stain,
And now the world must know
The tree of death felt every wound,
Felt all the pain and loss.
She loved her maker through it all,
Was glad to be His cross.
Teach me dear tree on which my Lord,
My precious Lord did die
To treasure grueling duties done
So Christ is lifted high
For the next few months, I’m reading a chapter from the Gospels each day. This is part of the Summer in the Scriptures reading plan sponsored by the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Click Here for the reading plan.
Colorblindness affects 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world. Most people see 10 million shades of color. A colorblind person only sees around 100,000 shades.
A company named EnChroma invented glasses to help colorblind people see color. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube recording the emotions of people seeing color for the first time. Here’s one of them.
Like these glasses, stories have the power to help us see, open our eyes, wake us up.
Sermon recording starts here
This morning, we’ll read a story from the prophet Nathan, praying God will use it to open our eyes and souls. As I read it, close your eyes and imagine the story.
After I read it, I’ll give you some questions to think about. This is not a quiz. Just jot down some impressions.
If you know the story or the reason the prophet Nathan told this story and who he told it to, set that aside for a moment. Look at it with fresh eyes. No spoilers for the rest of us
The Story of the Poor Man’s Lamb. 2 Samuel 12:1-4, The Voice Translation 1…Two men lived in the same city. One was quite rich and the other quite poor; 2 the rich man’s wealth included livestock with many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man owned only one little ewe lamb. He bought it and raised it in his family, with his children, like a pet. It used to eat what little food he had, drink from his meager cup, and snuggle against him. It was like a daughter to him.
4 Now a traveler came to the city to visit the rich man. To offer a proper welcome, the rich man knew he needed to fix a meal, but he did not want to take one of the animals from his flocks and herds. So instead he stole the poor man’s ewe lamb and had it killed and cooked for his guest.
What do you love as deeply as the poor man loved his lamb?
When you think about the rich man’s actions, what feelings are stirred up inside you?
Read the story again
How is the story speaking to situations in our country?
How is the story speaking to you?
Stories are powerful. They have the ability to help us see, to open our eyes, to wake us up. A story can help us better understand a situation, see something from another person’s perspective, or see our own prejudice and sin.
Stories like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood warns us about the abuse of power, the abuse of the Scriptures. How horrible injustices like slavery, oppression, and rape can become institutionalized with a society.
Stories by Dr. Seuss. I am The Lorax, I speak for the trees
What stories have opened you up, opened your eyes, awakened you to something going on in the world or going on within yourself?
The Scriptures are very powerful for doing this. The Bible is unlike any other book you will ever read. God’s Word is living, active. God communicates with us through the Scriptures.
If you go to the Bible looking for history or science, you will be disappointed. But if you go to the Scriptures looking for God, you will find God. By reading the Scriptures we learn what God’s voice sounds like. We learn the character of God.
God speaks to our souls and our character. It’s why we need to be reading the Scriptures regularly and reading the Scriptures with others. We read so it becomes more than head knowledge, it goes deep to become heart knowledge and soul knowledge. It brings a change in our life.
2 Samuel 12:1-15
The prophet Nathan tells this story to King David. David has an emotional reaction to this story, just as you did. He is awakened inside.
5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
David is read to ask, “Who is this?” David’s going to hold him accountable.
7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”
It’s a hit in the chest at this point. Truth bomb.
Nathan reminds David who he really is. What David has done is out of character. David’s become something twisted, having done great evil and sin.
Nathan is a close, good, faithful friend to speak the truth to David so he can be awakened to his true self, so he can see what he has done.
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. ….
Nathan lays it all out. I know exactly what you have done.
David, the one who is called the man after God’s own heart.
The faithful shepherd boy who defeats the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone
Who then becomes the leader of the armies of Israel, a brave warrior who leads them to great victories in the Name of God.
Who is chased by a jealous and violent King Saul. Does David fight him or take revenge on him? No, David forgives him and proclaims again he is Saul’s servant. David is a humble, disciplined man.
When Saul is dead, God raises up David to be King. David unites all the tribes of God’s people, bringing them into one nation. David sets up the capitol in Jerusalem and in the center of the capital, David places the ark of the covenant where the presence and worship of God will take place.
David, the one who writes many of the Psalms we still read today.
David, who dances with abandon in the worship of Almighty God.
David who has many wives and could snap his fingers and have even more.
David, who is now king, abuses his power. He looks down from his palace and sees Bathsheba bathing. (How crazy is it that Nathan doesn’t use her name!)
David sees her and wants her and summons her. What can she do? Nothing because he is the king. He rapes her. He commits adultery. Then she gets pregnant.
From there it gets worse and worse. There’s deceit. There are lies. Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, is brought home. David tries to cover it up by manipulating Uriah, but it doesn’t happen. He’s a man of integrity.
So David basically puts out a mob hit on him, sending him back to battle in the very front of the line, knowing he’ll be killed, so he can marry Bathsheba.
It is awful. He has stolen the poor man’s lamb. A man who was faithful to fight for his country.
Nathan is calling him out on it. Because that’s what friends do and that’s what prophets do and that’s what a story does. A story opens us up to where we have blindspots. David is totally blind to how twisted he has become.
Nathan reminds David who is truly is. This is who you are and this is what God has done for you. What you have done is evil.
What does David do? David repents.13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Our sin does not just affect ourselves, it ripples. Look at all the lives- Bathsheba’s life, Uriah’s life, the lives of all the insiders who knew what was really going on in a breach of trust. It ripples all the way up to God. It breaks relationship.
God through Nathan calls David back to himself.
This is not a fairy tale. David repents and everything’s all right. It isn’t all right. The consequences of his actions ripple and tear his family apart. It’s a mess. God redeems it.
This is the power of a story. This is why we stay in God’s Word. This is why we have close friends who are going to speak the truth in love to us and call us back to ourselves. And this is why we worship the One, True, Living God who speaks us and forgives us and gives us eyes to see.
Do you want eyes to see? We live in a time where we need to be awake and alive and true and trustworthy. We need to be the people of hope. We need to be the people of integrity. We need to stay awake to all that’s going on because we have the Word of Life.
How did the story speak to you? Did it speak to you personally? A family, business, community, or national level? What is God calling you to do?
Prayer: God we thank you for speaking to us. It is amazing that you would want to have anything to do with us. Your love is that great and your patience is that great and your mercy is that great. We thank you that we can come to you just as we are. That we don’t have to hide. We don’t have to pretend. We pray for eyes to see. Awaken us and keep us woke. Give us a story to share, a story of mercy and grace and forgiveness. A story of new life and hope and truth and justice. A story of belonging. Thank you, Lord. Make us new. Give us eyes to see. Amen.
Story of My Uncle David Playing This Game:
Person One hides a small object in the palm of their head. They hold their fist over the head of another person and say, “Heavy, heavy hangs over thy head. Animal, vegetable, or mineral?”
The 2nd person makes a guess, one of the three. If they guess right they then try to guess what’s in the person’s hand. If they guess right, they win what’s in the person’s hand.
Hard, impermeable, solid
Inanimate, sense-less, dead
Stones can be useful. They are useful for building things- a house, a fortress, a wall.
One of the things stones are not useful for is a home for God, a place for the Spirit of God to dwell.
Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands.
Sometimes people think God lives in buildings. The ancient Israelites thought God lived in the Temple in Jerusalem. In Ezekiel’s time, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, so where’s the presence of God now?
God reminds the people through Ezekiel that God doesn’t live in stone or things made of stone. God lives in flesh.
Think of Jesus. The Word of God was made flesh, not stone.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
What Hardens our Heart? So many things can harden our hearts. One thing can make is soft again. The Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit is available to every single one of us. Every person you will ever meet, ever see.
The Spirit is available to turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. So we can be like Ebeneezer Scrooge. We can be like the Grinch. And it doesn’t just happen at Christmas.
Our heart is the center of our being, the birthplace of our motivation. Whatever we place our primary trust in, that is sitting on the throne of our heart. If it isn’t God, its an idol.
What hardens our heart?
Revenge, Resentment, Rebellion
Control, Perfectionism, Selfishness (Consider Pharaoh in Exodus)
Loneliness, Betrayal, Disappointment
Sometimes we make choices which harden our heart. Sometimes we are not healed of the wounds inflicted upon us and our hearts harden. Sometimes our hearts are hardened by the brokenness of our world.
“Lord have mercy if I hear of another hate crime. I’m not going to stay awake, alive, and open to it. I’m going to hunker down, protect myself, harden my heart to protect myself from all that’s going on. It’s too painful and too much.”
The hardening of our heart due to the hamster wheel of trauma in our world is what most concerns me. Anxiety is rising and people are acting out.
How can we remain soft-hearted in the midst of all of this? It’s about the Holy Spirit of God. We can’t do it in our own strength.
Soften our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Soften our hearts so we can find you above the fear
Soften our hearts when evil abounds
They race to revenge, pounding with anger
Soften our hearts so we can hear you above the hammering
Soften our hearts when evil abounds
They rush to human strength, grasping for control
Soften our hearts so we can hold to your way, your truth, and your life
Soften our hearts so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow into all brokenness
So hope may fill all devastation
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people
We entrust our hearts to you
By Chris Powers, fullofeyes.com
Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
God offers us cleansing and forgiveness for the sin which hardens our hearts- Revenge, Resentment, Rebellion, Control, Perfectionism, Selfishness, Guilt, Shame
How was the Grand Canyon built? By water. The washing is stronger than stone.
Ezekiel 36:24 I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.
God offers us a home and gathers us into a trustworthy people to be our family so our hearts are not hardened by Loneliness, Betrayal, Disappointment
For Evil and Trauma, God takes the heart of stone that we want to fight back with and gives us a heart of flesh. We bring healing to the world the way God brings healing to the world, not by throwing stones.
Ezekiel 36:23 … through you, I display my holiness before their eyes
A heart of stone is cold, but flesh is warm
A heart of stone is heavy, but flesh is light
A heart of stone is hard, but flesh is tender
A heart of stone is impermeable, but flesh is vulnerable
A heart of stone is sense-less, but flesh is sensitive
A heart of stone is dead, but flesh is alive
This is about coming alive and staying alive in the power of the Holy Spirit. So we can share the holiness, goodness, and grace of God with the world.
What is trying to harden your heart? Confess it to God.
God, I trust you to give me a heart of flesh.
Fill me with your Spirit. Give me a heart of flesh.
Prayer:Psalm 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Sermon Series: Spirit Filled Message 4 of 5: Pour Out Your Truth
Scripture: John 14:16-17, 25-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 6/30/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
Saints QB Drew Brees Shares his testimony
John 14:16-17 Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
The Holy Spirit is the Presence of God with us right now.
The Spirit is with you and in you. Now and Forever!
God’s presence, sustaining, and blessing is all around us. You have the power to ignore and push away the Spirit. You have a choice. The Spirit will not be forced upon you.
The Holy Spirit is the Advocate = Helper/Counselor/Parakletos. One set from the Father. Exactly like the Father and Christ.
The Presence of God is a Help. The Presence is for you.
John 14:25-26 Jesus said, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
The Spirit Teaches us and Reminds us
One of Jesus’ main missions was to teach. Jesus would refer back to the Old Testament, reminding his hearers what it really meant and really said. Jesus brought the promises of God into his time period and thus our time period. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will continue to do that.
What the Spirit teaches us and reminds us is seen in how the Spirit is revealed in the Scriptures. Think 4 B’s: Bird, Breath, Blow, Burn.
We are named and claimed by God in our baptism. Our true identity is found in Christ Jesus, rooted in the eternal, not in how the world wants to label and stereotype us.
The Love Dove of Jesus’ Baptism- The heavens were opened to Jesus. He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. This is my Son the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16-17)
The fire of God reminds us of passion, our mission/calling from God, and the refiner’s fire which burns away what isn’t good for us so the gold is revealed.
Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3)
The pillar of fire leading God’s people through the darkness and across the wilderness to the promised land (Exodus 13-14)
God consuming the offering in the battle between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18)
Isaiah’s lips being cleansed by a lump of burning coal from the heavenly altar
God companioning and rescuing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
God described as a Refiner’s Fire (Malachi 3)
John the Baptist’s prophecy that the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3, Luke 3)
The tongues of fire dancing on the disciples’ heads at Pentecost (Acts 2)
When you think of Fire, what comes to mind?
Fire takes- burn down the house, forest fire, burn my skin- sunburn, radiation treatment. Devastation. Destruction. Consuming. Devouring. If I surrender to the Spirit, what will he take from me?
Fire gives- candles on Christmas Eve, campfire, warmth, light.
We get scared of the Spirit. Not sure if we want it.
What the Fire Gives by Jan Richardson, from her book Circle of Grace
You had thought that fire
only took for itself,
leaving merely ash
you had believed,
if not permanent,
would be long enough,
to be nearly
So when you felt
the scorching on your lips,
the searing in your heart,
you could not
at first believe
that flame could be
that when it came to you—
you, in your sackcloth
it did not come
to take still more
What surprised you most
were not the syllables
that spilled from
though that was miracle
to have words
what had been numb,
to find your tongue
aflame with a language
you did not know
no, what came
as greatest gift
was to be so heard
in the place
of your deepest
to be so seen
within the blazing,
to be met
with such completeness
by what the fire gives.
Holy Spirit, Pour out your truth
“That flame could be so generous.” I needed that reminder.
What we believe about God matters. If we believe God is angry, ready to punish, always watching, distant it will color everything. But if we believe God is generous, strong, good, and near, then the gift of the Holy Spirit is generous, good, and near.
We have our normal we know really well. It’s comforting and comfortable in a world that’s always changing. But, what God offers us is a new normal beyond circumstance. It is generous.
The first thing God always offers is to be heard and seen. Being before doing. God knows me just as I am. God sees me just as I am. God loves me just as I am. God invites me into all I can be.
I long to be known and seen and understood like this. That’s what I find in the presence of God. No need to hide. This knowing and seeing are so generous you can surrender to it. It is trustworthy and it is truth.
What do you most need today from the Spirit?
What do you most need to be reminded of?