Why We (Don’t) Pray

First in the series, “School of Prayer”

Luke 11:1-10

“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Every time I read that verse, I think to myself, “Yes, Lord, teach me to pray because I’m not very good at it.” The disciples of Jesus were observing him in one of the many times he was at prayer—they admired his ability to connect with God, and I really admire those who have a great prayer life. For some, it comes naturally, but for most of us it’s a learned behavior.

Jesus proceeds to take his disciples to school—the school of prayer. And whenever we think about prayer we want to be like kids going back to school. We tend to start out well. We get our new prayer book and Bible, maybe even put on some new prayer clothes, we get out our pencils and journal and we think to ourselves, “This year I’m going to do be an A+ pray-er every day.” But a few weeks into it we become distracted, life creeps in, and we go back to sporadic prayers—the kind that are only prayed in worship, in church meetings, muttered before meals, and lifted when we’re in a desperate situation. The excitement of the first day of school soon becomes the panic of cramming for an exam you forgot was on the syllabus!

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The Jeremiah Option

A sermon given at the Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church Camp Meeting – August 6, 2017.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14

Well, here we are—our second annual Camp Meeting worship service! They say if you do something once it’s an event, but doing it twice makes it a tradition. This is one tradition of our church that I’m very excited about.

I’m excited about it because it’s actually part of our larger Methodist tradition. When John Wesley began preaching the gospel of grace in 18th century England, there were many in the Church of England who were threatened by this upstart Methodist movement; to the point at which Wesley was banned from preaching in many of the churches. Wesley soon took up the challenge of his friend, George Whitefield, and began to preach outdoors in the fields and market squares. In one famous incident, Wesley was barred from preaching in the church in which he grew up and where his father had been the rector, so he went outside and stood on the one piece of ground he knew that the church leaders could not eject him from—he stood on his father’s grave stone and preached with power. From then on, Methodism became a kind of wilderness, outdoor kind of Christianity—always moving to the frontier and where the people were.

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Rules for (Not) Judging

Matthew 7:1-6

“Don’t judge so that you won’t be judged.” It’s one of the most widely quoted teachings of Jesus and one of the Scriptures that even non-Christians are quick to point out. We hear it used a lot these days in conversations that tend to be controversial as a way of kind of saying, “Live and let live” or “What I do is my business alone and no one has a right to say otherwise.”

In fact, a study by the Barna Group a few years ago, which was written up in the widely read book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity, revealed that nine out of ten young people view Christians as “judgmental.” Given Jesus’ command to not judge others, this means that many people view Christians as hypocrites.

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Our True Citizenship

We are “citizens of heaven” but our home and work is here where the King ultimately dwells.

Philippians 3:17-4:1

This week we will celebrate the 241st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence—the day when the British colonies in America chose to throw off the yoke of monarchical colonialism and become their own nation (or, at least the day the paperwork was finished–the vote for independence actually took place on July 2). Rather than being citizens of Great Britain, we would (eventually) become citizens of the United States of America.

In many ways, the American Revolution signaled the beginning of the end of colonialism for all of the great powers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Britain and France would wind up surrendering their foreign territories over the next two centuries as the name “colonial” became synonymous with oppression of indigenous peoples. People generally want to be citizens of their own country, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. We value that citizenship and see the country where we live as our true  “home” no matter where we might travel or live abroad.

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A Different Vehicle: Reflections on the WCA Gathering

It was late in the evening when I arrived in Memphis for the Wesleyan Covenant Association meeting last Thursday. I headed straight to the rental car counter to claim the “economy” car I had reserved, but when I got to the window the agent said, “Sorry, all we have left in economy are those Smart Cars.” She pointed to a vehicle that was clearly smaller than any roller skate I had ever owned—a car so small that I wondered if I would have to strap my small carry-on to the roof to get it and myself to the hotel.

I didn’t respond right away to the agent’s news, choosing instead to alternate between looking incredulously at her and at this “car.” I had that line from Seinfeld pounding in my memory: You know how to TAKE a reservation but you don’t know how to HOLD the reservation; and that’s really the most important part! I was beginning to resign myself to the possibility of rolling up to a meeting with my peers in a car so uncool that a Schwinn bike with a basket and streamers on the handlebars would have been a hipper option.

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