Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Big Is Your Kingdom of God?

Reflections on Spinal Tap and Matthew 15 at St. Thomas Houston, 2013

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Learning to Pray with Jesus

Ash Wednesday Sermon, Christ Church Cathedral, 2013

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I Am Pretty Sure God Wanted Us To Have A Lot of Meetings

Sermon on the Transfiguration at St. Christopher's Houston 2013

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God Made A Farmer

Diocesan Council Address 2013, Houston Texas

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Ash Wednesday Meditation

I was little.  Maybe I was 6.  I sat with my mother in the pew at Church of the Good Shepherd. 

My mother held my hand and we went in and found our pew, in the middle, the left hand side, the Gospel side.  My mother knelt…I fidgeted and I slid up and down the pew.

She prayed…I fidgeted and whispered her name over and over again.

She was quiet…I fidgeted and tried to get her attention, I pulled on her dress.

She told me to kneel with her and to pray to God before church began.  I said, “I don’t know what to say to God.” I’m sure I said this with a very loud voice.  She whispered to me that I was to go see my father.

I sulked. I sulked out of my pew. I sulked all the way back to the back of the church to the church doors…past the crucifer…past the torch bearers…I sulked past the lay readers…I sulked up to my father (the priest) standing at the back of the procession.

I looked up with my best sad face, I marshaled the tears, and I blubbered. Mom says to pray to God. I don’t know what I am supposed to say. What do you say to God? Does God even listen? Will God listen to me? Mom says pray. I don’t know how.

My father leaned down to me and said, “Go tell God good morning and hello. Introduce yourself.  That is all you need to do.  Go tell God hello; like you might to an old friend.”

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we pray for the first time.  It doesn’t matter how one grew up. It doesn’t matter the tradition of one’s family.  Somewhere, in some quiet place, in some way, at an important time, everyone utters a prayer to God.

In a moment, then the moment is gone, a word of prayer bridges the gap between heaven and earth; between the creator and the created.

Some of us get mighty good at praying.
Some of us get very good prayer voices.
Some of us are good at making prayer gestures.

But in this season of Lent we are reminded of the importance of simple prayer and a simple conversation with our maker.  We are reminded of our need to go see a good friend…an old friend.  We are reminded to make ourselves known.  We are given an opportunity to again in a small quiet place, in a quiet voice, to say “hello” again to God.

Jesus, in our lesson from Matthew offers a bit of guidance. It is as if he is saying, “Hey…don’t get in people’s faces about your prayer life.”

Allow your prayer life to remind you of the importance of giving…but don’t be all high and mighty about it.

Don’t use that God voice when you pray.  It irritates God and everybody else. 

Being public with your faith is not all it’s cracked up to be. It is a lot better to pray privately and sincerely.  It is better for your life to model the very best of God’s love…then when people ask you about it you can tell them.  Sometimes the obvious is not as good as the subtle.

Remember when you pray that God knows what you need so you don't have to always be telling God out loud with a long list of how you would like life to be...

Please don't look dismal and sad.  Look happy and enjoy your relationship with God.

Remember that what matters is the love of God, the love of neighbor - these are the treasures worth having.  So pray and live for love.

If we opened the bible up and looked at this passage what we would see is that Jesus is teaching his followers to pray, and he offers to them what today we call the Lord’s Prayer.

It is as if Jesus is saying, “This is a good way of doing it. Pray like this.”

Jesus says, say “Our Father”.  Begin this way because we are to seek as intimate a relationship with God as I have.

Pray “Who art in heaven”.  When you do you’ll be reminded of your created nature as a gift from heaven. Life is given to us from God. We also recognize in this short phrase that we are not God.
Say to God “Hallowed be thy name”. In response to the grace of being welcomed into God’s community, bowing humbly and acknowledging our created nature, we recognize the holiness of God. We proclaim that God’s name is hallowed and that we are not holy.

Remember and ask for God’s kingdom to come; “Thy kingdom come”.  The words of Jesus remind us that, like the disciples’ own desires to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus, this is not our kingdom. The reign of God is not what you and I have in mind. We ask God: by your power bring your kingdom into this world. Help us to beat our swords into ploughshares that we might feed the world.

Say, “Thy will be done”. We bend our wills to God’s, following the living example of Jesus Christ. We ask for grace to constantly set aside our desires and take on the love of God’s reign. Let our hands and hearts build not powers and principalities but the rule of love.
“On earth as it is in heaven”.  Ask God to give us eyes to see this kingdom vision, and then ask for courage and power to make heaven a reality in this world. May our homes, our churches, and our communities be a sanctuary for the hurting world to find shelter, to find some small experience of heaven.

Then pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”.  In prayer we come to understand that we are consumers. We need, desire, and just want many things. In Christ, we are reminded that all we need is our daily bread.  And as we surrender our desires, help us to provide daily bread for those who have none today.

Ask God to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Sanity and restoration are possible only because God forgives us. Because of that sacrificial forgiveness--made real in the life and death of Jesus--we can see and then share mercy and forgiveness. Help me personally offer sacrificial forgiveness to all those I feel have wronged me. I want to know and see my own fault in those broken relationships. May I be a sacrament of your grace and forgiveness to others.

“Lead us not into temptation”: As Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge and replaced God with their own understanding of reality, we need help turning away from our own earthly and political desires and turning toward the wisdom of God in Christ Jesus. So we remind ourselves how we are so tempted to go the easy way, to believe our desires are God’s desires. We have the audacity to assume we can know God’s mind. Show us your way and help us to trust it.

Please God, “deliver us from evil”.  Only God can deliver us from evil. There is darkness in the world around us. We know this darkness feeds on our deepest desire: to be God ourselves. That deceptive voice affirms everything we do and justifies our actions, even when they compromise other people’s dignity. It whispers and tells us we possess God’s truth and no one else does. Deliver us from the evil that inhabits this world, the weakness of our hearts, and the darkness of our lives, that we might walk in light.

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen”  I want to remember that I am powerless. Help me give my life up to an higher power and devote my life and love to God and my neighbor.   Help us to see your glory and beauty in the world, this day and every day.

So, in Lent…perhaps as your Lenten discipline, say good morning to God again for the first time; like you might say hello to an old friend.  

Pray simply, maybe just use the Lord’s Prayer every day.  Pray simply.  And let your prayer bridge the gap between heaven and earth.


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball