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Pastoral Letter, January 30th, 2023

Last Sunday’s sermon, in light of so much violence in our world, focused on prayer and that will be the focus of sermons for a while. When we confront the intractability of our problems, what else can we do besides pray?

Sermon, with illustrations, will follow at bottom.

I will be in Washington for about ten days, beginning February 6, missing one Sunday, February 12.

Next Sunday’s readings:

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 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. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” John 1:1-5 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.

- Pastor Richard Hyde Community Church of San Carlos Sermon Fourth Sunday after Epiphany January 29, 2023 Annual Meeting

Rich or poor, male or female, young or old, we all need to pray:

It is now the Fourth Sunday in Epiphany. Christmas is fading from memory and the Three Kings are on their way home by another route to avoid King Herod. It is a good time to begin with basics of the Gospel message and nothing is more basic than Deuteronomy and the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. So I will talk about the verses we just heard and I will develop that into some words about prayer. In Deuteronomy we hear Moses speak to the Hebrew people: “The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day.” We should imagine Moses speaking to us today, for all of us in a sense were there. We are here, in covenant with the Lord and with one another. We are not alone here on Sunday morning; we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. A few sentences later God also addresses the Hebrew people and us: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” I am the Lord your God. I sent my son to you to lead you out of the land of sin, out of the house of resentment and into the joy everlasting life. Through the scriptures God speaks to us today, every day. It is a great blessing just to be alive here and now to hear the word of the Lord. Then we hear in the Gospel that Jesus heals a man filled with an unclean spirit. The Gospel writers spend a lot of time telling us what Jesus did on earth. Three things stand out: he spent a lot of time healing people and a lot of time forgiving sins and a lot of time praying. Often he did them all at the same time. Physical health, psychological health, spiritual health. Jesus forgives the sins that we commit and heals us of the sins committed against us. The famous prayer he taught us offers us forgiveness of our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive . . . 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. And often we can’t do anything about that other. So we call upon God, we pray. We wish Jesus were here to work a miracle for us. We do what we can do and when we reach the limit of what we can do, we pray for God to take over. What else can we do? 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. 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: 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. Deuteronomy 5:1-6 And Moses summoned all Israel, and said to them, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your hearing this day, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day. The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said: `I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’ Mark 1:21-28 And they went into Caper'na-um; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

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