Adams United Methodist Church
Sulphur Springs United Methodist Church
Pastor Missy McCarthy
Music: Sue& Craig Gamet, Mike To
February 21, 2021 1St Sunday of Lent
Scripture: (Romans read by Nancy Murphy)
Children’s Moment: (Cups) You can’t pour from an empty cup
Have you ever tried to get a drink out of an empty cup? How about to pour water out of an empty cup? Can you do it? I can’t. That is like our lives with out God. It is really hard to be good all the time and be nice all the time and to help people and try to think of others…to Agape – love people for their good - unless we are filled up by God. That is why we pray. Praying is how we get filled up. It is going to the pitcher and getting filled up, so our cup is full. Then we can pour into other people, otherwise there is no way we can do it. We just run out. Sometimes we just run out of nice on our own. We need to be refilled by God – sometimes we don’t even have the words for what we need or what to do or how to help – that is why Paul reminds us we don’t have to. The Holy Spirit has us, as long as it lines up with God’s will God will work on it with us. This week, Let’s practice praying so we fill our cup every time we get a cup or a drink we say a prayer. It can be a short prayer, like “God help me to be your love to others,” or “God help me to love like Jesus.” Let’s start right now.
Welcome to the first Sunday of Lent. This is one of two times of the year where we get to take a pause, a spiritual reset, and remember who we are and whose we are intentionally. The thing about life is it is really easy to get distracted and end up on auto pilot, especially in times of emergency, or crisis and it feels like we have had a year long crisis. We worry about survival and what is next and next and we loose the big picture. We lose who we are and what we are doing and …. well our focus. That is the beauty of Lent. It helps us to get ready for Easter. It also is the time where we as the church help folks get ready to join the church. If anyone is interested in becoming a member of the church or getting baptized this is also the time of year that folks begin their intentional journeys. Let me know and we will talk about what that looks like for each of you and what membership means. This year it looks like we will be able to do a hybrid of in person and remote for those who aren’t comfortable yet.
During this time, we turn away from the things that distract us and turn back to God. The church has traditionally called these distractions sin, but over the years folks have used the words in such terrible ways that well, lets just say they have proclaimed a lot of other people’s sins, and never their own. Technically speaking though, it is simply recognizing the things that pull you away from God, distract you from God so much that you loose sight and end up off the path, and away from where god intends.
So how do we stay in alignment with God? How do we turn towards God? How do we listen? In the church we call it Spiritual disciplines – coming from the word disciple – or imitator of Christ. The Spiritual disciplines help us tune in to the Holy Spirit and keep us closer to God so we don’t get so distracted or as easily distracted….so we don’t wander so far away, so we stay in tune.
We will be looking at one practice a week in our sermons and then practicing them in the workshops on Wednesday. When I say practice, I mean that literally. Come to the zooms ready to try stuff out! This week we are talking prayer.
Paul reminds us that there are times when we don’t even have words for our prayers and still God works for those who are working in alignment with God’s will. So how does that work? I know folks who have wanted words to pray and we see the disciples ask Jesus – teach us to pray – it is why we have the Lord’s prayer. Yet, Paul reveals here, that words don’t always cover it, there is more. Prayer is more then saying stuff.
Prayer is about listening as well. We pray not so much to change God’s mind, as much as to open ourselves up to God moving in us. That is not to say we don’t affect God’s mind – just look at Moses petitioning God to save the people. Prayer helps us to connect with God and changes us though more often than us changing God. Yes, we pray for things and for people and circumstances – we need to. We can’t stop there though if we aren’t receptive to being moved….then our prayer is for naught because we aren’t in alignment with God’s will. As we learned in the Lord’s prayer series we are praying for God to use us, then we need to be open for God to move us, to influence us and to do what God is asking.
Richard Rohr says that the point of prayer is to help us to be transformed to be more and more like Christ until we have the mind of Christ as Paul reminds us in Galatians 2. When we can experience that then there is no separation from us or God in that moment of prayer, and we can set our ego aside and love others for their own good instead of ours. It struck me when I was listening to his lecture, especially since you have all heard me tell you God is not your vending machine when we pray, that is the piece I had been missing telling you. That I had been missing telling you that transforming power of prayer when we are in that time of listening to God. The time we spend with God changes us so that we can change the world around us.
So, what does it look like? What can you do? How can you start if you don’t pray? What if you already pray a lot? Prayer is anything and everything. For folks just starting out who want something to say, and well Covid – say the Lord’s prayer every time you wash your hands – it works out to be the right amount of time to kill germs and reminds you of all the key points – your awesome God, and your will needs to be done, I need to remember forgiving, helping me to answer others prayers, making your kingdom here, ect. You can work with a breath prayer like God is Love and we will work with that on Wednesday. You can talk to God like you would a friend when you drive to the store or work or wash dishes, unload all the thoughts and then spend an equal amount of time in silence, just listening, what is laid on your heart afterwards? Who is laid on your heart, what next steps? Since this last November when I prayed for you all, in the silence I heard get them ready, prepare them for a change in leadership. Mind you I wasn’t happy with that, but it is what I heard and what I have been working towards because it is what I heard. Now we know why.
This week, here is your challenge be in prayer every day. Step it up from your normal. If you pray daily add an extra prayer. If you are good at talking to God, add a time of listening to God, start with five minutes. Use prayer beads. What are you going to try?
Sunday – Romans 8:26-27
Monday – Psalm 103
Tuesday – Matthew 6:7-13
Wednesday – Psalm 150