Last week I talked about thankfulness for all that we encounter in our lives. I want to start by saying how thankful I am to be the pastor to the wonderful people of the United Methodist Church of Preston Hollow. This past week the North Texas Conference released the list of appointments for the 2020-2021 appointive year, and I am humbled and feeling exceedingly blessed to be re-appointed to be the pastor of such a wonderful congregation.
All of you make me so proud, with your stand for equality for LGBTQ+ persons, your continued work and support for North Dallas Shared Ministries, the work and relationship you have fostered with the Preston Hollow Elementary School and the surrounding community, and now your stand with our sisters and brothers of color as they seek justice and equality among the wider community. You are standing tall and shining bright for our world to see. Your witness does not go unnoticed, you are becoming known as a church of love for all and action for those who feel unloved and unwanted. God is blessing all of us through you.
As a part of being thankful, I have to admit to you that I am in prayer daily for each of you…by name. Every day, I lift each of you in prayer for God’s continued blessing and protection. Prayer is an interesting thing when trying to define it. How do you get a handle on what prayer actually is? What does it accomplish? What is its aim?
For some, prayer is a time when we plead, beg, bargain and cajole God to get what we are asking for. Its almost like we see God as this entity with all this power who will intervene in our daily lives in some miraculous way and change, correct or improve what’s happening to us.
I know, I know, we’ve all heard it said “prayer changes things.” Let’s think about this for a moment though, how does prayer change things? Do we believe God sits in some ethereal place sending out every thing that happens to us? If we have cancer, did God cause that to happen? If we have a bad run of luck, did God send that dark cloud our way? If we are experiencing pain, anxiety, depression, did God cause those to be a part of our experience? Is it possible that what we endure comes from God as a punishment for some transgression on our part?
If we believe any of this to be true, do we then believe if we say the right words, with the right intentions in our hearts, God will take away what is plaguing us?
So prayer become an exercise in being truly solicitous, appropriately humble, and rightly worshipful of God, and through that right combination God will then intercede on our behalf.
What I understand about God is, God works in and through the natural realm as we live our lives. What this means is God does not send out plagues to punish, or make our lives difficult because we have dissatisfied God in some way. God is a beneficent God and wants only for our lives to mirror God’s love.
God does not remove mountains before us, but God helps us to have the ability to climb them. God does not make bad things disappear when we say the right words, God gives us the strength to endure them. God does not change the outcome of anything happening to us, rather God goes with us through those things as it builds our faith and character.
This is important to understand, God is not in the business of fulfilling wishes, desires or requests. God is in the business of empowering each of us to be a force for love and compassion in our world.
So prayer is really more about a conversation with God about what God wants for us. God speaks with us in our time of prayer.
When we seek to have a true conversation with God, God is there speaking to us in very clear ways.
When I say to you I am praying for you daily by name, it means I’m having a conversation with God about how I can love you more and more. When I talk to God about H.M., or Charlotte, or DeeAnn, or Jean, or Martez, or Tom, or Mark, or Fran, or Nicassia, or Holly, or anyone of you, I am asking God what God wants for you. Invariably, I hear God saying, I want the very best for my child Sharon, and my child Kathy, and my child David, and my child Margaret, and my child Jean. My conversations with God about each of you result in my greatest love for each of you.
God loves each of us so much, and wants for us the best life possible. In wanting that life for us, God wants us to be a shining example of God’s love to all the world. This is what makes me so proud of each of you. Day by day, you continue to show God’s love for those around us, especially those who are treated less than, who are oppressed, who are downtrodden. When they are hungry, you feed them, when they are thirsty you give them something to drink, when they are abused or mistreated you give them a sheltering arm and stand with them against whatever form of oppression seeks to harm them. In short, you are true images of God. I am blessed to be your pastor, and blessed to serve among you.
May God’s continued image be revealed through each of you.
Blessings and Peace,