He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”Something about this picture spoke to me of prayer.
And so Jesus says, Let me tell you a story… A man goes to his friend’s house late at night. But his friend yells out the window, “go away. I’ve put the kids to bed already.”
The man persists saying, “I really need your help. My family just arrived from far away and I don’t have anything to feed them. Please help.” The friend insists it’s late, come tomorrow. (what a jerk, right?!) Eventually the friend gives in and helps the guy. That’s like prayer.
Can you see the disciples squinting in their misunderstanding? Sort of shaking their head… so God is a jerk but if we persist, God gives in? Are we the jerk? Are we supposed to help one another? I don’t really understand Jesus.
No, No… God isn’t a jerk. We have a wrong picture of God. God’s not like us. Even in the middle of the night. No matter what we ask for, God will most certainly give us the Holy Spirit.
Wait a minute Jesus… what if we asked for food (like the guy in the story), God still gives the Holy Spirit?
That’s right, the Holy Spirit. The answer to our request is the Holy Spirit. We need healing… we get the Holy Spirit. We need food… the Holy Spirit. We need patience… the Holy Spirit. But I didn’t ask for the Holy Spirit... But that’s what you get. The Holy Spirit is the conduit. The Spirit is how God gets stuff done.
This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. 2He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. 3The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!” 4Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, 5saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, 6buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” 7The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. 8Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? 9On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.
The harvest here in NJ has begun to change from early summer greens of kale, swiss chard and collards. I belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) and in my box this week was summer squash, cucumbers and the first two tomatoes of the summer - one green and one red. It's time to buy blueberries and freeze them for the winter. In two week's time, we'll have melons and eggplant, peppers and peaches. What do I see? Summer's harvest.
What else do I see? Houses selling for more. The Dow on the rise.
What else? A woman without healthcare in need of mental health medication. A couple without healthcare in need of counseling. Another family broken and suffering.
What else? A man out of work unwilling to approach the welfare office and yet facing power and water shut off notices.
What else? A wealthy family spending everything they have to overcome sickness and keep their family together.
What else? I see the mourning of the African American people in light of the jury's verdict for George Zimmerman.
I see the Egyptian government seizing assets of the leaders of the Muslim brotherhood while Muslims everywhere begin their holiest, most communal celebration, Ramadan.
I see Civil war in Syria.
All the while, I focus on my summer harvest - feeding my family and enjoying my air conditioning. I live with extreme wealth, certain comfort and reliable safety. What do I see? I see harvest for some but not for all. I see riches and certainty and safety juxtaposed to poverty, sickness and unrest.
My world is not unlike Amos' world. And to Amos' world, God said, "I will turn your feasts into mourning, your songs into lamentations... I will send a famine. Not for bread or water but for the word of the Lord. You will search and search but you will not find it."
What do I see? Harvest for some but not for all.
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
In 1997, Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood received the lifetime achievement award at the Daytime Emmy’s.
With an audience filled with the most handsome soap stars and beautiful women with decadent gowns and sparkly make-up, he walked onto the stage and made a small bow.
Then he said this, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence." And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, 'I'll watch the time.” Slight laughter trickled through the crowd until they realized that he was serious. And he expected them to do what he asked… so they did. They took 10 seconds to remember those who have been kind to them, those who gave them a break, those who helped them become who were that day.
One second, two seconds…. Five seconds, nine seconds, ten seconds. Members of the audience at that point were clenching their jaw to hold back tears and the mascara painted eyes were glittering like rain on a chandelier.
Each of us can name people who helped us become who we are. There are some who gave us a break, who have offered us kindness, mercy, a helping hand. Would you, along with me, take ten seconds to think of people who have helped you become who you are today? Seriously... ten seconds.
Someone once invited me to enter the story of the Good Samaritan in the place of the half-dead person lying by the road. Imagine hearing the story as one who has received life saving help from a stranger, from someone who you would never have imagined would have helped you. Imagine hearing the story as one who needs a neighbor as opposed to trying to figure out who our neighbors are or aren't.
Necessity is the father or mother of invention. Perhaps when we realize that we need a neighbor, we will understand how better to be one.
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.” 8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
We are always in search of the magic pill. The pill, the treatment, the miracle injection, the easiest way to be completely healed of whatever ails us. We certainly don't want our doctor to tell us to go on a diet, eat less sweets, stay away from salty food. And even worse is when we're told to exercise.
Stop smoking or drinking too? What?! My lifestyle isn't the problem. My sickness is the problem so give me the miracle pill and I'll be on my way.
That's what I hear when Naaman says, "I thought he would wave his hand over the spot and I would be healed." But instead he told me to grovel seven times, dipping myself in their muddy river. It's not what I wanted to hear. I wanted a magic pill.
But his servants call him on it - also a great angle for this considering this text. All of the action comes from the servants beginning with the young girl who serves Naaman's wife. The servants say to him - but he did sort of give you a magic pill. You just have to do something. It's not hard either. Dunk yourself in the water seven times. What's so hard about that? If he had asked you to do something hard would you thought it more worthy of your time and effort. They completely reframe it for him - sneaky!
Naaman wanted to do nothing for his healing. Elisha asked him to do something. His servants make it sound as if Naaman would've done great things for his healing.
Where are we in our healing? Do we want the magic pill? Do we want to do nothing for wholeness? Would we do whatever it takes? Would we dip in dirty water seven times, whatever that might mean to us in our context?
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