When a nightclub opened on Main Street in a small town, the only church in that town organized an all night prayer meeting. The members asked God to burn down the club. Within a few minutes, lightning struck the club, and it burned to the ground. The owner sued the church, which denied responsibility. After hearing both sides, the judge said, “It seems that wherever the guilt may lie, the nightclub owner believes in prayer, while the church doesn’t.
It’s true that an unfortunate number of good, hard-working church goers never pray. Praying - one of the easiest things in the world to do because there are no correct words that must be said, no particular postures that must be emulated - is one of the most difficult disciplines people find to adopt. This morning and for the next few weeks we are going to take a look at a prayer that was given to those who did not know how to pray - a prayer that is just as applicable today as it was 2,000 years ago. In today’s gospel, Jesus’ disciples ask Him to teach them how they ought to address Almighty God. He responds by giving them a prayer. “When you pray, this is how you speak to God, ‘Our Father ...’”
One of the things parents do while waiting for a child to be born is to pick a name for their baby. They usually begin by bouncing names off one another. How does this one sound, or this one? How does the name sound with our last name? How about naming a daughter after my grandmother? How about naming the baby after my last girlfriend? Names can be part of a family history or they might have come from a grocery store booklet with the imaginative title “What to Name Your Baby”. Names may be made up because Mom and Dad can’t agree on a name or names may be chosen because they happen to be popular that year, like when all the little girls are named Brittany and all the little boys are named Kyle. What’s in a name?
The bible tells us that the experiences of life, both good and bad, come equally to all God’s children. That being true, maybe you will understand when someone says to you, “I think I’m having one of those ‘I’ve died and gone to Hell’ days”. Those are the kind of days that usually start out alright and then go downhill. You get up to a clear, sunny day. Your spouse looks especially handsome or beautiful, the kids seem like great treasures from heaven. Then something happens and what began as a heavenly day turns hellish in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, divorce sounds like a plausible and pleasant course of action; leaving the kids abandoned on a stranger’s doorstep seems like the right thing to do. But that will solve nothing, because the nightmare seems to be coming as much from inside of you as it is from the outside. The day seems long, the ears of God shut. You didn’t plan for the total meltdown of the household, or your life, but here it is and it seems like the end of the world. What happened? Well, I’ll tell you what happened. God had plans for your day that you weren’t ready for. You were surprised by what, till today, had been God’s secret plan in your life. As His plan began to unfold before your eyes, you responded with fear, anxiety, anger and rebellion. Will similar events happen again? Very likely. Will you respond the same way? You don’t have to.
Over the last few weeks we've been looking at what we call The Lord's Prayer, that prayer we recite every Sunday following the Prayers of the the People listed in your bulletin. It's a prayer that those who have been in church for a long time, know by heart, and in some instances may recite it without really thinking about what they are praying. So this summer we have been looking at that prayer on a sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase basis in order to understand it a bit better and make it more relevant to our lives and faith. Today we are looking at the line “give us today our daily bread”.
There is a topic in church circles that is really an enigma. Many church committees and boards at all levels of governance spend most of their time discussing the topic in some form or other. It is fought over, cried about, pleaded for and occasionally celebrated in these meetings. But heaven forbid this same topic be brought up in the sanctuary. Somehow, we think God is only interested in spiritual things and God is only listening when we are in the sanctuary. The topic, of course, is money.
A.J. Gordon was a Baptist pastor of the Clarendon Church in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1800’s. One day he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, “Where did you get those birds, son?” The boy replied, “I trapped them out in the field.” “What are you going to do with them?” “I’m going to play with them, and then I guess I’ll just feed them to an old cat we have at home.” When Gordon offered to buy them, the lad exclaimed, “Mister, you don’t want them, they’re just little old wild birds and can’t sing very well.” Gordon replied, “I’ll give you $2 for the cage and the birds.” “Okay, it’s a deal but you’re making a bad bargain.” The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around the back of the church property, opened the door of the small cage, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue. The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ’s coming to seek and save the lost, those who by the standards of many would be worth very little, but for whom Jesus paid with His precious blood. “That boy told me the birds were not songsters,” said Gordon, “but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, “Redeemed, redeemed!”