To the Saints in San Carlos:
Greetings from the Federal District of Washington, where it still looks rather wintry
but for several days the temperatures have been in the 60s. That will change over the weekend.
This coming Sunday, you will be in the good pastoral hands of Rev. Elder Tauoa Mauga Head. I will be back next week and look forward to leading worship on the 7th and final Sunday of Epiphany, Transfiguration Sunday.
I will continue to say something about prayer on Sunday mornings. It is always a good topic and it will be a good topic for Lent, which will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 22nd this year.
Remember, whoever you are, great
your prayers are pleasing to God and make a difference in this world.
Sermon on Prayer
5th Sunday of Epiphany
February 5, 2023
The scriptures I have chosen today, from Deuteronomy, the Gospel of John, and the Letter to the Hebrews, are of fundamental importance. All of the Holy Scriptures are of fundamental importance, but some are more fundamental than others. That does not, I assure you, make me a fundamentalist.
In Deuteronomy today we hear that when Moses presented the Law to the people of Israel, he presented it as a choice between life and death:
“I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.”
There is an old teaching that when the Covenant was offered by Moses and accepted by the people, the Covenant was made not only with those living at the time, but all of the souls ever to be created, including us, all of us together. Today we are still illuminated by the living word of the law, the word made flesh, and in being illuminated, we are made one breathing, harmonious congregation.
That’s pretty fundamental.
The entire New Testament makes a similar offer, an offer of new life to all people, under the law of Jesus, a new way to enter into relationship with the Lord of Life. Without getting into arguments about which is better, let us simply say that Judaism and Christianity are different understandings of law and a different understanding of God, with a number of similarities.
The Gospel of John begins portentously with the same words of the Book of Genesis “In the beginning . . . “
But instead of “In the beginning God created heaven and earth,” John says “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” The Word of God, Jesus the Christ, was in the beginning with God and all of creation was made by this divine God and son partnership. This life, this divine relationship, is the light of the universe, the light of human life, the light and life that hurls us into being and lights us on our way.
Then the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us of the importance of Jesus for our prayer life:
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."
This God who created us somehow is accessible to us:
"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
We know we hurt other people and we know that other people hurt us. These are the inevitable facts of life. Some days we manage our lives pretty well and some days we don’t and we can’t seem to do anything about it. We just hurt too much. And some days we hear about really awful stuff happening to good people. And this hurts, even though it did not happen to us. We can’t do much about that either. So we call upon God, we pray. And pray with confidence that God will hear our prayers.
Since we have already had our prayer time this morning, let me just remind us of the basics of prayer as taught by the Rev. Flora Wuellner, my great teacher at the Pacific School of Religion.
1st of all she emphasized that God is real and hears prayer and somehow prayer helps God move things along.
2nd she suggested visualizing the person you are praying for; really hold their presence and their name in mind when you pray.
3rd she suggested praying with friends. Share whom and what you are praying about with others. That clarifies your purpose and magnifies your efforts. This we do.
4th she urged regularity, a set time every day. This we also do.
5th Come to stillness and use your breath. Sit still and breathe and see what comes up. Just simple meditation is good prayer; very pleasing to God.
Finally, she suggested praying in any manner that opens your heart. There is nothing wrong with set prayers, the Lord’s Prayer, prayers from a book, prayers you learned in childhood, if they bring you peace. You don’t have to utter your own prayers. Borrow feely from wherever.
I hope this helps. I love being part of this praying community. My favorite part of our service is the sharing of joys and concerns, when I feel the beating heart of this praying community.
We have already prayed once this morning, please pray silently as I pray for all of us:
Almighty God, give us faithful hearts and welcoming arms in this house of prayer. May we be such good witnesses to your love and faithfulness that people will come here as pilgrims came to Jerusalem in the days old. Give us the joy and challenges of newness and growth in our faithful witness and service, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Moses said, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.
 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God;  all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
- Pastor Richard Hyde
Community Church of San Carlos