Asked of Us

Each week in worship I share a message with the congregation.  There is always more to say than there is time to say it.  So, I’m never quite sure exactly what might be left in or what might be left out.  Not long ago I shared a message on prayer and God’s faithfulness in answering prayer.  I came to the   part of the sermon where I began talking about the two things asked of us
as we draw near to God in prayer.  The first is Honesty… we offer up the truth of our needs, longings, hopes, dreams, and desires without reservation or evasion, and sometimes the cry of our heart is simply “Lord, help me.”  Prayer can’t get much more honest than that. Then, I came to the place I was intending to talk about the second thing we bring to our prayer relationship with God… Humility.  Humility before God is the only ground we have to stand on.  As the old communion prayer says,
“We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness,
but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to partake of this Sacrament of thy Son Jesus Christ, that we may walk in newness of life, may grow into his likeness, and may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
That’s what I planned to say.  And then I would go on to talk about Job, who spent thirty-seven chapters listening to his “friends” attempt to explain the righteousness of God in a world of human suffering and human need… and then God showed up and Job learned that humility is the only way to approach and experience the awesome wonder of God in the world as it is…
“And the Lord said to Job, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?”  Job listened to God for several chapters and at last Job spoke, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted… Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me… therefore I recoil within myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”     
But I didn’t go there.  I didn’t mention Humility before God at all… I couldn’t.  I knew that I must always be reminded of how foundational Humility before God is when it comes to prayer, but looking out into the faces of a community of genuinely humble, dedicated, faithful people all that I could talk about was The Love of God and how the Love of God carries through life and death and life beyond death.  I mean, you can’t really go wrong with The Love of God.  God loves us and cares for us and all the promises of God are “Yes!” in Jesus Christ. We sang a closing hymn and went from worship out into the world.
Then came Sunday afternoon and Diana and I drove south of Aptos and took a walk on the long, open beaches.  And there, just like with Job, God got my attention.  It wasn’t through a whirlwind, but God did conjure up some of the same “Wonders of Creation” with me that worked so well with Job so long ago.  Remember Leviathan, and the wonders of the deep that God brought in to being.  Well, as we stood on the beach we watched whales spouting and splashing, a bit closer to shore dolphin playfully moved across the water, a little closer bald-headed seals played in the surf, and closer still a sea otter was eating its dinner using its stomach as a picnic table, riding the waves between bites.  In the sound of the ocean I thought I could hear the voice of God saying, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?”  All I could say in answer was, “I have uttered things too wonderful for me.”  But now I understand, Humility before God is the only ground we have to stand on… in prayer or anywhere else.  That’s true for all of us… all of the time… and it’s something we all need to know.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Mark

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