Hi Friends! Here is the worship service this morning with my congregations. If you’d just like to hear the sermon you can fast forward to about 16:23. The scripture readings are Psalm 103:1-18 and Matthew 5:1-12. I’ll share the transcript of the message below if you’d rather read it.
Bless to Me
Heart Prayers: Blessing the World
We often find it easy to pray for our family and friends. We love them and want what’s best for them. We see them or talk to them often, we know what is going on with them and often know their prayer needs. But what about the stranger? What about the wider community? What about the world? How do we pray for something as large and big as the world?
Would you please pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable to you, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
We’ve probably all prayed for a stranger in some way, but have you prayed with a stranger? Since becoming a pastor I’ve had several opportunities to do this… whether over the phone with someone calling for help, or meeting someone and praying with them.
I’m not gonna lie, praying out loud is not my thing. It brings me a great deal of anxiety. I worry over whether I’ll do it right, if I’ll say the right words, it I’ll sound … well, stupid. But I just try to pray from the heart and if it sounds silly to human ears oh, well, God knows my heart and what it is praying and that is all that matters. Right?
I don’t think though, that all prayers have to be in words. I may have shared this story with you all before, I don’t remember but I think it fits here so if I have, you can hear it again.
Long before I was your pastor… Our little family went out to lunch with Shannon’s family one time when we were visiting. It was a little bitty restaurant and we were a pretty big family but they squeezed us in. The four of us ended up sitting slightly off from the rest in a booth to the side. Where I was sitting, I was facing the person in the next booth and she was facing me. Our eyes met several times and over the hour or so we were there I noticed her crying off and on. I heard her talking to the waitress, who was obviously a friend, about going to the hospital the next morning. I could see her listening in to our family conversation too. She would laugh with us and sometimes I could see her actually join in the conversation too from where she was though none of us could her. The tears she shed though really got to me. I wondered what was bothering her. I worried over her, so as I saw her preparing to leave, I got ready to get up. As she stood up so did I and I went over and asked if I could give her a hug… now you guys KNOW I’m not a big hugger of people I know let a lone a stranger !! I felt so strongly that this woman needed a hug, so I offered. She burst into tears and hugged me so very tightly. She then told me she was going in for heart surgery the next day and this was her “last supper” so to speak. She told me her husband had passed away and her kids lived out of town and so she was kind of on her own for this. I could tell she was scared, so we hugged again and I told her that I would be praying for her. She thanked me and told me that she enjoyed eating with us, she had been pretending that she was part of our family! She didn’t want to be alone. Anyway, I really feel like that hug was a prayer all in and of itself. At the time I would have never offered to pray aloud with someone but the offer of the hug was probably way better in that moment anyway. It was a kind of heart prayer.
Heart prayers. That’s what we are talking about this week. Both of our scriptures talk about blessing and being blessed and our introduction talked about how “the language of blessing connects us heart to heart.” This week I sent out an email asking for you all to send me prayers for the world and asked the question “Where is God’s blessing needed most?” Several of you sent in wonderful thoughts and prayers. I’ll share those after this message but I want you to know that as I read your thoughts and prayers, I was touched. I felt the heart of your prayers in my heart and I think this is the point.
Heart prayers connect us heart to heart and heart prayers don’t have to be heavy with words, they can be more action related or better yet, BOTH!
So how do we pray for the stranger? It may not even be a stranger but how do we? How do we pray for the world? Well, how about we donate to our local food pantries. Pick up an extra can of chicken, beans, vegetables or box of pasta or bag of rice and take it over to our little pantry or blessing boxes. It doesn’t have to be a lot. As the old saying goes, every little bit helps! Clean out your closets and take clothes you haven’t worn in years and donate them to a homeless shelter. In the United States – VOTE.
In this global pandemic, we can also wear a mask, social distance, put other’s needs fore front in our minds and hearts. Place yourself in someone else’s shoes. Offer grace to those who are struggling – NOT judgement. Be kind, be patient, be loving, share. These are all things we teach our children… it shouldn’t stop when we grow up. In fact, honestly, as we grow up we find we need even more kindness and patience, we need to share more and love more! We need more grace.
Have you watched children lately? I’ve found that when they are young, they do most of this naturally… oh they have their selfish moments, don’t we all, but they offer grace better than anyone… it’s as we grow older it gets harder and harder. We become cynical and judgmental and we seem to lose some of this.
This week I got share a Bible story with the children of Bonner Springs and Edwardsville. The story I got to share was Jesus blessing the little children. As I read the words, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” I was struck once again with the simplicity of Christ’s teachings. The next verse talks about how we need to receive the Kingdom of God as a child…. The Message Bible says, “With the simplicity of a child.”
It makes me wonder if Jesus was telling them all those years ago and even still us today that we are making it way too hard. Prayers don’t have to be complicated. Love doesn’t have to be complicated… I don’t think it he could have put it any simpler… Love your neighbor as yourself. Do to others as you would have them do to you. It’s pretty simple and yet there seems to be some struggling with it.
If you were need, wouldn’t you hope that someone would help? If you were hungry wouldn’t you hope that someone had put food in the pantry? If you were sick wouldn’t you hope there would be a Samaritan to help? If you were sad, afraid, confused, depressed… wouldn’t hope someone would listen?
I think the simplicity of it all sometimes confuses us. We look for things to be harder, or maybe we just don’t want it to be that easy because that would require us to put others first, to show compassion, empathy. We even try to make praying really hard sometimes… We are afraid of not saying the right words, of sounding silly, of just not getting it right… God knows our hearts, open them to him and let him open them, our hearts to our neighbors through action. Sometimes, we are God’s answer to someone else’s prayer. Amen.