We can have hard times in our lives. I’m sure this is one of them for many of us. When this happens we rely on the strength we can count on. The strength God supplies for us. One version of The Lord’s Prayer in the New Zealand Prayer Book makes it very clear that God is there for us. This is just an excerpt.
With the bread we need for today, feed us. In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us. In times of temptation and test, strengthen us. From trials too great to endure, spare us. From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen.
I use that prayer at at night along my personal prayers. Right now the line From trials too great to endure, spare us speaks to clearly to me. God knows there are hard times and is there for us every second. Just call on God.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,
17 Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
A sign! I just want a sign! Come down God and do something! Write on the wall, perform a miracle. Show those people who don’t believe in you what you can do. Show me too so that I don’t have to depend on faith to get through.
How much we want this to happen. We want something we can see….something we can touch. But really…the important things are not tangible. Love cannot be touched. We can’t hold it in our hands. We can’t prove it yet we know it is there.
God is not visible but his acts are. His presence can be felt if not touched. Let go of wanting things we can’t have. Open our eyes….God is with us. His love surrounds us and his miracles are there if we just look.
Today I want us to think about Mary’s answer to the angel. What if an angel appeared before you and asked you to do something that would shake you to the core and change your life forever? Would you hesitate? Would you wonder if the whole thing was not real? You would have to endure the disdain and censure of everyone you knew. You could end up being an outcast or stoned to death.
I am not sure what my answer would be. What would you do?
Luke 1:34-38, 46-55
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God.36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
[ The Call of Matthew ] As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Followme.” And he got up and followed him.
We have heard this verse many time. So much that it might just wash over us. What does Jesus mean? In this case it meant leaving everything behind and just following Jesus without another thought.
It is so easy for us to sit in our churches each Sunday and say that we are following Jesus….but are we really? Do we give up things to follow him? Do we help when others need help? (not just our friends and neighbors but the unlovely also?)
Do we offer to fix things for widows and those who are alone and can’t do it themselves?
Do we offer to clean the house of a shut-in who can’t move around much?
Are we willing to go get the meds needed for a single mom who can’t leave her children?
Will we make dinner for someone who has spent their money on medicine and has no food?
Will we even seek out these needs in our community?
Doubt can be a scary word. As children we are taught that some things are just true and we accept that. As we grow older we begin to realize that not everything we were taught is true. Our exposure to the world makes us begin asking questions. Some of the truths that held us up are taken away. We find ourselves in a dark place.
Many of us believe that doubt is the opposite of faith but I don’t think that. I think the opposite of faith is disbelief. Doubt is not sinful. It is a nudge to push us forward. It makes us question and by doing so…grow. It makes us search for God and look in places we have not explored.
Don’t be afraid of doubt. Embrace it and look deeper, listen more, learn and grow.
This morning I attended the Lutheran Church that I used to work for. These are the words of the confession that was used today. For me, they were moving and powerful. I hope you find meaning in them.
God of mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you, against one another, and against the earth entrusted to our care. We are worried and distracted by many things, and we fail to love you above all else. We store up treasures for ourselves and turn away from our neighbors in need. Forgive us, that we may live in the freedom of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.