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Sep 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 25, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning and welcome to the RefleXion Community.  Peace be with you!

Tonight at sunset begins Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish new year 5783 in their High Holy Days, and the beginning of what is called the 10 days of Awe, which ends on Yom Kippur.  These are often delivered as days of repentance, to be seeking reconciliation with people you have wronged, and we could all take this under advisement.  And here is another layer of the meaning and purpose of Rosh Hashanah. 

During this time, Jews commemorate the creation of the world; and the Jewish nation recalls its responsibilities as God’s chosen people.  We’ve all heard that phrase “the chosen people,” haven’t we?  Have you thought about what that means?  What were they chosen for?  Not as much chosen for salvation; but chosen to be in a special covenant with God.  They were chosen to receive the Torah, the Law, to learn to rely on His provision (remember the wilderness years), to be led by the Shekinah Glory, to be a kingdom of priests, and of course the privilege of bearing Jesus, the Messiah.  The Jews had a particular purpose with obligations and duties which flowed from a willingness to accept their status and God’s purposes for them.

What about Christianity?  You know, so often, we think about our calling as individuals—and that’s good: “What has God called me to do?”  And isn’t it also critical to ask what we as His people in the new covenant are called to be?  Do we know what our covenant is?  This week I have enjoyed remembering the great privilege we have and the wonder and mystery of the Church Age.  Jesus said that He chose us; we didn’t choose Him.  Peter says we are a chosen people; again, I’m not talking about chosen for salvation, but chosen for a particular purpose.  As the Jews had a particular purpose, what is our purpose?  And how are we ministers of the new covenant and the glory of it?  We have special privileges and spiritual blessings meant to be used for the world. As the Jews, we, too, have a particular purpose with obligations and duties which flow from a willingness to accept our status and God’s purposes for us.  Let’s remind ourselves of that as we enter this new season.  Be blessed!  Let’s pray:

Thank you, Lord God, for calling us a people under the Name of Jesus.  We want to lean into that calling with a willing mind, a whole heart, and a free spirit.  Thank you for Your mysterious ways – ways far above our ways – and ways we can trust.  Lead us Spirit in the Way everlasting, for Your Kingdom, by Your Power, and for Your Glory.  Amen  

Morning Talk: Jim Calhoun

In the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians Paul spills the beans. He tells a secret. He reveals a mystery.
In chapter three he tells us there is a mystery of the Gospel and then spills the beans.
And this is the mystery: that Gentiles were included in the plan all along, from the beginning.
“Fellow heirs”
“Members of the same body”
“Partakers of the promise”
(Eph 3:6)
This was a surprise. This was a surprise even if it shouldn’t have been.
The history of the Jews and the stories of the Scriptures showed this over and over.
From time to time, maybe most of the time, the Jews lost this thread of the story.
From the chosen people to the best people.
The Jews were chosen to worship God and to be a light to the nations.
They had a special work to do for the benefit of the whole world,
but often this degenerated into thinking they were special.
A move away from God. A retreat into pride.

So the notion that God loved the whole world just the same as he loved the Jews seemed silly, impossible, wrong.

The story of Jonah
There are a lot of people who still think that God loving others in the way God loves them is silly, impossible and wrong.
The sin of empathy.
So Paul discovered, or rediscovered, the mystery and spilled the beans:
The Gentiles, including most of us,
including most of the people on Earth through all of history,
are loved and wanted and pursued and rescued and held up and held together by God.
Just as it was always intended, just as it should be.

Let’s just pause and take a scope of who this includes: Everyone.

Please take note:
Jesus didn’t call us because we are better than other people.
And we aren’t better than other people because Jesus has called us.
There is no essential difference between us and anyone we meet.
This requires a little care in handling.
It is true that some people perform admirably while other perform poorly through life.
Some wander from the path of righteousness this way while others that way.
We can and ought discern better ways from lesser ways.
We can and ought promote better ways and discourage lesser ways.
All of this is well.

When we go wrong is thinking another human is less worthy of a human
because they are not on my team, holding my particular
theology, or culture, or appearance.
Sometimes we want to be merely the arbiters of truth.
But it isn’t enough.
Other times we want to be the guardians of justice.
But it isn’t enough.
We can’t fall into the trap of baptizing our resentments, our anger, our hatreds.
We can’t fall into the trap of some form of Christian Supremacy.
It is so ugly.
So depraved.
So lost.
It is a betrayal of everything Jesus has been for us.
In truth we are stewards of Grace. We gather up and distribute God’s grace.
We gather it up so we have a sufficient amount, but we don’t keep it to ourselves.
We don’t hoard it. We don’t withhold it. We distribute it to a world in need.
We distribute it to our neighbors.
To the people we rub shoulders on the daily.
To our enemies even we share grace.

This brings us to a sad a difficult truth.

There has been a great turning away from Jesus.
It is on two fronts.
We often think of the reality that fewer and fewer people go to church and identify as
This I think is the result of a more painful, far more dispiriting reality.
Many still in the Church have replaced a vibrant, experiential life of living with God
with the defense of Christendom and the battles of the culture wars.
They focus on issues of truth and justice and have left aside the greater concerns of grace and mercy.
Somehow, and for reasons of their own, some of our brothers and sisters
have lost the thread of the story.
This matters.
There is an odd phenomenon that comes when people are fixated on truth and justice.
Not every time, nor with every person, but often enough that we need to take note.
We need to understand that often winning becomes paramount.
And the need to win will justify any tactic.
So some people lie to defend the truth.
They manipulate facts, make false claims, muddy the waters, deceive, promote unfounded
conspiracies, refuse to use the best evidence, all to “defend the truth.”
And they will cheat to defend justice.
Make false accusations, commit fraud, hide essential information, plan attacks, create
divisions and factions, stir up envy and resentments to defend justice.
When you hear Christians calling for change in our society, in our communities, in our politics, make sure it looks like Jesus.
Make sure it seems like they are full of the Holy Spirt.
That they are kind and gentle.
That they love their enemies in meaningful and tangible ways.
That they are patient and under control. That they tell the truth.
That their words and actions embody the joy of being Christ’s own.
That their ways of doing things match up with what they want to accomplish.
That their plans and dreams exclude manipulations, shows of power, coercion, violence and force.
In short, when someone claims to be acting in the name of Jesus watch them and
ask yourself if they lead and end with love and they are filled with grace.

Chuck has been teaching from Luke about prayer.
I wanted to offer this talk as a side bar to his work.
So all of this so far is the necessary preliminary.
Martin Thornton on prayer:
A Faithful Remnant
Proficient Christians

Paul’s prayer
(based on the fact that in Christ there “is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28)

Paul prays for the Ephesians knowing they too are stewards of grace.
“that you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being”
“Christ may dwell in your hearts”
“rooted and grounded in love”
“to know the love of Christ” in all fullness
And “be filled with all the fullness of God”

This is what it will take to be stewards of grace in the days that are ahead of us.
This is the grace we will need to refresh us, to encourage us and to motivate us.
If I am going to be honest, I have given this talk once already here in Reflexion.
It was a shorter form to be sure.
A few weeks ago when I filled in for Nancy I prayed the prayer printed out.
The thinking I shared today, and more, was welling up in me as I prepared the prayer.
The prayer:
Heavenly Father
In this age and in this land
Where we have tried to bring your kingdom by power and force
Where we have abandoned your path of loving others
Where we exchange truth for lies.
Renew our experience of your good great love,
Compel us to love each person we encounter,
In our private lives and
In our public lives,
With the very love you pour into us
Grant us a compassion that is robust,
Remembering those it would be easy for us to forget:
The dismissed, the outcast, the rejected, the troubled, the unlovely
Those without homes,
The destitute,
Those born in other lands,
Those born in other neighborhoods,
The stranger,
The refugees whose homes are torn apart by war and violence,
Those held prisoners,
The old and the sick,
The orphaned and abandoned,
The misused and abused,
The fearful and angry,
The addicts,
The mentally ill,
And all who have none to care for them.
Help us to bring healing those who are broken in body or spirit,
Even the resistant, the belligerent, the arrogant, the ignorant
And to turn their sorrow into joy.
Move the hearts of every man and woman,
Who claims your name,
So the barriers which divide us may crumble,
Suspicions disappear,
And hatreds cease;
That our divisions may be healed,
And we may live in justice and peace;
Grant all this, Father,
for the love of your Son,
who for our sake became poor,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sep 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 18, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion Community!    Peace be with you!

First of all, please forgive me!  Last week I told you that the Greek word “ailurophile” meant butterfly lover…well, what it really means is cat lover!  Now how could I get those confused?  I do love them both😊 There doesn’t seem to be a word for butterfly lover, only butterfly collector, which is “lepidopterist.”  Thank you for allowing me to clarify.  Mea Culpa!

This week as I was meditating on the Prayer Exercise that Chuck gave us, I noticed how many times the word US is mentioned.  First of all, ONE of His disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach US to pray.”  In Jesus’ response, which we know as the Lord’s prayer, He says we should say, “Give US,” “Forgive US,” “We OURSELVES,” and “Lead US not into temptation.” 

Wednesday, September 21, is designated as World Gratitude Day. So, this week, I’d like to say how I am particularly grateful for US, both here on Sundays and in our Lectio Divina groups.  Sincerely.

One more Greek word that comes to mind then is “Theophile,” which means Lover of God.  I am eternally grateful that the Spirit led me to this community of Theophiles.  You are my friends.  In the first verse of the Book of Acts, Luke refers to the letter’s recipient as Theophilus which means “Friend of God.”  I desire to be that, and I know you do too.

Pray with me: O God, may we never forget to be grateful for life.  May we approach it with wonder and hope, and a quest for the holy in it all. Lord, teach us to pray, that Your Name and Your Kingdom will be a blessing to all of us. Provide us Provision that we might share with the others of us, Peace that we may live in and offer Peace to everyone one of us, and Protection that we might boldly go about doing good in the world for the sake of all of us.  In Your Name and for Your Kingdom.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his ipudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.” Luke 11:5-8

Intro: Have you ever considered how fortunate we are,

To have a record of Jesus’ private conversations with his disciples?
– here is Jesus, enlightening them to an essential facet of prayer
• we would not know this without Luke’s report of it
• this is why it’s important to me to study it carefully
– notice, Jesus’ preferred method of teaching was storytelling
• in two parables, he will reveal God’s heart toward us
• between the parables he gives specific prayer instructions

Our goal is to discover the meaning Jesus intended to communicate through this parable
– we must have that, because it was important to Jesus that we know it
• but I’m going to include some of my personal observations
• there are two ways I read, explore, and meditate on this story
◦ the first is cerebral – I read with my mind
◦ the second is devotional – I read with my heart
– with my heart, the entire parable talks to me about prayer
• and in ways Jesus may not have intended
• parables are not usually allegories
◦ in allegory, every detail stands for something
◦ parables typically teach one point using analogies
• my devotional reading is more allegory than parable

We’re going to start with a question:

Did Jesus us this parable to reveal what we need to bring to prayer,
– or did he reveal something about God to whom we pray?
• what we typically hear (and is implied by our translations)
◦ is that the parable teaches us how to wrestle things from God’s hand
◦ the parable tells us, God’s hand is already open

The parable begins with a question: “Which of you . . .?”
Jesus will begin the parable in verse 11 with the same words
– in fact, he begins several of his parables this way
• he describes a situation and asks what they think or what they would do
– Jesus walks disciples into this imaginary scene, in order to take them beyond it
• I see Jesus engaging their imagination with a story
• to enter prayer, it helps sometimes to use a little imagination
◦ we cannot see, hear, or feel God’s presence when we pray
◦ but we can imagine his presence
• what I do, is picture in my mind what I know to be real
◦ I use my imagination to get my heart and mind in that place
◦ but everything else about prayer is in spirit and in truth
– so take your imagination from the shelf, dust it off, and follow his parable
• the story is not our destination – it’s a starting point
• if we can imagine this situation in the ancient world behind us,
◦ perhaps we can imagine a better world around us and a better future ahead of us

Next, Jesus introduces the characters

First, there is “you”–his audience, and then there is a “friend”
– “friend” appears in Luke more than all the other New Testament writings together
• it is a theme that runs through his gospel
• Jesus gets in trouble more than once for being a friend to sinners
– the situation he describes is:
a friend — goes to a friend — on behalf of a friend
• Jesus wraps the parable in friendship
◦ that seems like a lovely way to talk about prayer
• Jesus is my friend that I can ask to help my other friends
◦ some of our family and friends can stop us from talking to them re: Jesus
◦ but they can’t stop us from talking to Jesus about them
– this is not the point Jesus intended with this parable,
• but it’s still a useful way of thinking about prayer
• loving friendship moves in all the directions of prayer

So a friend goes to a friend at midnight

If you want to know what is essential to prayer, this is it:
– we “go to him” – Jesus doesn’t make this point,
• he was simply building the plot of his story
• but still, if we’re not aware of going to God, and being with him
◦ then we have not prayed
◦ this is the uniqueness of prayer: it’s a conversation with God
– another thing Jesus is not saying is when it is the best time to pray
• that the friend comes at midnight is another plot element
◦ the point is that his arrival and request were inconvenient
• but still, there’s no place we cannot pray,
no situation we cannot bring to God,
◦ and there is no wrong time to pray
Not even between the moment between being demanded to say something and giving our answer
Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king . . . (Neh. 2:4-5)

I admit, I do not have a refined sense of humor

It has not matured above an adolescent stage
– so I find it amusing that this person says, “lend me three loaves”
• did he intend to return the bread after he borrowed it?
◦ of course, he meant that he would return the favor
◦ and, of course, this has nothing to do with point Jesus is making
• still, when Jesus talks about lending to others, doing so involves a risk
. . . love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return (Lk. 6:35)
– it is possible Jesus uses bread in parable connection with the Lord’s Prayer
• we could say, prayer is how we ask God to pass food across the table
• but, again, that is not the meaning of the parable

The friend explains, “a friend of mine has arrived on a journey”

Travelers in those days relied on hospitality for their survival
– this was not an unusual situation
• the details would be familiar to Jesus’ audience, so no need to elaborate
• my devotional thought:
◦ God has every human person on a spiritual journey
◦ we agree to travel with him or we resist
• I believe God wants everyone to arrive at his door
◦ and that he wants us to provide roadside assistance
◦ like the Good Samaritan

The last word of the friend’s request, “I have nothing to set before him”

In Genesis, Joseph had an awesome opportunity to impress Pharaoh
– but he knew better than to take credit for God’s role
Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Gen. 41:16)
– in prayer, I bring my nothingness to God
• and out of nothing, he creates something
• in every prayer, we come with empty hands
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it
(Ps. 81:10)

After all this, an answer came from within, “Do not bother me”
– that’s what we assume we hear from God sometimes
• but it is only the echo of an annoyed parent, or teacher, or boss
• on the other hand, we sometimes treat prayer as ding dong ditch
◦ we make our request and don’t wait on God’s step for an answer
◦ we don’t allow time to sit and listen for the voice from within
– but that wasn’t Jesus’ point either

Conclusion: The meaning of the parable hinges on one word:

My translation reads “impudence,” and in the margin, “persistence”
– but the Greek word does not have either of those meanings
• when this word is used in various Greek writings, it means “shamelessness”
◦ and it is disgraceful and not an attitude we want to add to our prayers
Prof. Klyne Snodgrass, “The question [“Which of you”] appears eleven times in the Gospels. In all of them the question asks if anyone would do some hypothetical action, and in each case the implied answer is ‘No one.’”
• so Jesus asks his disciples, “Which of you would turn away a friend who came for bread in the middle of the night?”
◦ their shameless friend may act disgracefully, but they would not be so dishonorable as to say, “Don’t bother me!”
– Jesus is not drawing a comparison of God and the sleeping friend behind the closed door
• he is making a contrast
◦ God does not shut out his children who come to him with their needs
◦ or with the needs of others
Snodgrass, “The parable says in effect: ‘If a human will obviously get up in the middle of the night to grant the request even of a rude friend, will not God much more answer your requests?”

So Jesus is telling his disciples (and us!)
God is not impossible to please
He is not like a parent or boss who is hard to win over
The theme song of the Hebrew Scriptures is:
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his lovingkindness endures forever (Ps. 136:1)
God is infinitely loving–infinitely generous
And this is the crucial truth that Jesus wants us to know about prayer

Sep 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 11, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning and a warm welcome to the RefleXion Community (and thank God it’s not quite so warm!).

May the Lord be with you!

A couple of summers ago, I had the privilege of watching the entire life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.  We have milkweed plants on our balcony.  Two years ago, we had many, many butterflies, last year very few, this summer not a one.  I’m sad.

But that year, I watched adult butterflies lay eggs, eggs become caterpillars, caterpillars become chrysalises, and chrysalises become butterflies.  I took photos and celebrated each stage of their life cycle.  I didn’t look at the caterpillar and wish it was already in its chrysalis. I knew it was becoming who it was meant to be.  Each stage was important and had its own important process.  The caterpillar’s job, which you know if you seen them, is to eat!  It begins by eating its own eggshell, then on to munch on milkweed leaves.  It will eat 200 times its birthweight in 10-14 days.   Its job is to grow and to shed its skin four times as it grows.  When it moves to the next stage, the chrysalis is formed, and then the job of the caterpillar is to let go of everything they knew about themselves (it actually liquifies inside the chrysalis), to rest, and to trust the blueprint for its formation. Then its job is to emerge as a new creature and fly, and mate, and lay eggs which starts everything over again.

Every stage matters.  In our spiritual life, what seems important to me is that we discern where we are and what we should be doing.  Maybe we should be devouring information, maybe we should be resting and letting go, maybe we should be leaving a legacy, passing on our genes, so to speak.  The Spirit is matching our experiences and desires to most benefit the stage we are in.

Just because you’re still under construction, still a caterpillar, doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful picture. I took lots of pictures of caterpillars and think they are beautiful.  If you’re standing in front of your own metaphorical butterfly zone, demolishing or building up, do what is necessary now, and celebrate it!  We are in the age of already, but not yet, aren’t we?  Take photos, enjoy your place in the world and what God is showing you.  We take heart because every part of the process matters.  We are making our way forward; we are becoming new creatures as promised.

Pray with me, will you:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.  Help us to discern the times Lord, of the world and of Your Kingdom, and of our own becoming.  Cause us to pay attention and to notice the invitations and opportunities you are giving us.  We ask for wisdom and discernment that we might receive what you intend for us, with a fullness of faith.  Our faith assures us of these things that we hope for.  We welcome Your Holy Spirit as we welcome each other this morning.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.
Luke 11:2-4

Intro: The disciples had asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray”

The Lord gave them this prayer
– obviously, it’s a pared down version of the more familiar “Our Father” in Matthew 6:9-13
• this is more like a skeleton version – they can add flesh to it for themselves
• what matters is that this prayer will connect them with God
Prophet Hosea:
Take with you words and return to the LORD.
Say to him, “Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously,
that we may present the fruit of our lips” (Hos. 14:1-2)
– the normal idea of prayer is that we come to God with words
• Jesus has given us “words”
◦ however, words are not our total experience of God
• I cannot present God with anything other than myself,
◦ who I am right here and right now — the raw reality of me
◦ my words should match who and what I am in the moment of prayer

The Bible provides an abundance of words for prayer

Almost every psalm is a prayer – and some are better prayers than our own
– sometimes when stuck reading the Bible, we can unlock the Scriptures with prayer
• I think it is good if we can learn to pray biblically and read scripture prayerfully
• what we have learned regarding contemplative prayer,
◦ is that when our attention is focused on God completely, words are optional
– I tend to overthink my prayers
• then my attention shifts from my experience of prayer to thoughts about my experience
• I need to be there, present to the reality of prayer’s unfolding

Simone Weil was an early 20th century scholar and devout Christian
– she and a friend agreed to memorize the Lord’s Prayer
• she decided to memorize it in Greek
Weil, “The infinite sweetness of this Greek text so took hold of me that for several days I could not stop myself from saying it over all the time. A week afterward I began the vine harvest. I recited the Our Father in Greek every day before work, and I repeated it very often in the vineyard.
Since that time I have made a practice of saying it through once each morning with absolute attention. . . .
Sometimes this recitation or at other moments, Christ is present with me in person, but his presence is infinitely more real, more moving, more clear than on that first occasion when he took possession of me.”
– you see, there may be more in this simple prayer than we’ve ever seen or felt

“When you pray, say; ‘Father’”

Notice this brief outline version of the prayer does not even have “our”
– is it okay if in some of our prayers we want God all to ourselves?
• perhaps we even need to have him all to ourselves
• this isn’t selfish – he is still the Father of us all
◦ and we will still log many hours in prayer for the world and its many problems
– sometimes a child needs to know that she is loved
• or that he is special and worthy of the parent’s attention
Gabore Maté emphasizes how every child needs positive attention:
“So the first thing is to create some space in the child’s heart of hearts for the certainty that she is precisely the person the parents want and love. She does not have to do anything, or be any different, to earn that love—in fact, she cannot do anything, because the love cannot be won and cannot be lost. It is not conditional.”
◦ Jesus gives us permission to call his Abba, “Father”
• this intimate address reminds that we’re not here just to ask for things,
◦ but to enjoy the Father’s love and closeness
◦ let this first word sink into your heart: Father
– the quality of our understanding of God stands or falls on having this consciousness of God
• of his love, compassion, goodness, and generosity
• the very atmosphere of our prayer is mercy and lovingkindness

The next line gives us a different feeling

Hallowed be your name – “let your name be held in reverence”
– Jesus referred to God’s name without saying it
• this was, and is, the standard practice of Orthodox Jews
◦ not saying God’s name is a way of revering him
• this second move of the prayer is important
◦ the intimacy we have with God as Father could be misleading and then taken for granted
◦ he is infinitely more than and superior to all that is human
– we have to constantly remind ourselves of the biblical significance of a “name”
C. Smith, jr., “In the world of the Bible, a person was defined by his or her name. A name embodied a person’s identity. So a name was not a label or a brand, but the essence of a person. When God changed the names of people, he gave them new identities.”
• God did not withhold his name from Israel
◦ he gave it to them so they could call on him,
◦ knowing God’s name is an awesome gift and sacred trust
• think of God’s name as if it were a photograph or portrait
◦ how would you treat that? What would you feel about it?
◦ the point is reverence for God himself – a unique attitude
Simone Weil, “[God] is in heaven. [Our] only possibility of gaining access to him is through his name. . . . [We have] access to this name, although it also is transcendent. It shines in the beauty and order of the world and it shines in the interior light of the human soul. This name is holiness itself . . . .”

What are we asking when pray, “Your kingdom come”?

The Apostle Paul taught Christians to
live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-13)
– we look forward to the return of Jesus Christ
• the whole world will be made right – and evil will be erased from the planet
• but Jesus had another message about God’s kingdom
◦ it had already arrived in himself
◦ he opened the door to the kingdom for those with faith to enter
– two dimensions run parallel to each other — our 4-D universe and God’s dimension
• in the future God’s dimension will be revealed, and it will transform our world
◦ Your kingdom come is a request those dimensions will intersect now
◦ that God will make the future, present here and now
• in prayer, those two dimensions intersect
◦ we surrender our will to the heavenly will
◦ we begin living in the spirit of God’s new world

The next line hits close to home, because it begins with “Give”

This is what most everyone thinks prayer is about –
– asking God for things – and our hearts are insatiable
The leech has two daughters:
Give Me and Give Me.
Three things are never satisfied;
The grave, the barren womb, a parched land, and the fire that never says, “Enough.” (Pr. 30:15-16)
• it’s sad if we haven’t discovered prayer is more than that
◦ it is first of all spending time with God’s in his presence
• still, we have our basic needs and he wants us coming to him
◦ we have to unburden our hearts regarding our daily concerns
◦ then we can move into deeper things, for
It is written, “[Human beings] shall not live by bread alone” (Lk. 4:4)

The next line is joined to this one by an “and”

Because forgiveness is as vital to our existence as our daily bread
– I’m pretty sure God’s kingdom has to enter our hearts before we
can forgive to the degree that we’ve been forgiven
• I cannot overemphasize the necessity of generous love
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Mt. 5:7)
judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy (Jas. 2:13)
• what God forgives is sin; what we forgive is debt
◦ we want people to pay for what they’ve done to us
◦ when we let go of that, we free ourselves
– Jesus put forgiveness in our prayers, because it is something we work on together with the Father

Two words we misunderstand: “temptation” and “evil”

They sound to us like “moral” terms, but they have other meanings
Temptation: any sort of hardship that tests our faith and integrity
Evil: (does not appear here, but is in Mt. 6:13) any sort of trouble or painful experience
– temptation can be seduction, but is usually a test or trial
• the purpose of being tested is to reveal and to strengthen

Conclusion: I’m offering you another prayer exercise

Of course, you don’t have to do this–and, no, you won’t be graded

Use the prayer Jesus gave us as a template
After each line, add your own thoughts, feelings, and words
Beside that, there are other qualities vital for prayer:
sincerity – our full attention – devotion – loyalty – and trust
Simone Weil, “It is impossible to say [the Our Father] once through, giving the fullest possible attention to each word, without a change, infinitesimal perhaps but real, taking place in the soul.”

A Second Prayer Exercise

After each line, add your own thoughts, feelings, requests, and anything else that comes to you.


Hallowed be your name:

Your kingdom come:

Give us each day our daily bread:

And forgive us our sins:

For we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us:

And lead us not into temptation:

Sep 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 4, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome Friends!              May the Lord be with you.

I gave blood at the Red Cross this past week, and I was reminded that I was born optimistic, because my blood type is…..B Positive+ 😊

It’s not really funny, because truly my work is to have the capacity for sadness. I want to move on, not to feel Sadness, but I’m learning that Joy needs Sadness.  Did you see the Pixar animated movie “Inside Out” where the emotions of Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness, and Joy were personified?  We saw into the mind of a young girl whose family has moved across country, and the stress of the move brings Sadness to the forefront.  Another emotion (Joy) always strives to be the lead emotion and tries to limit Sadness’ influence, but by the end of the movie Joy realizes that Sadness has just as much value to the internal system as any other emotion.  And me?  I don’t have to BE Sadness, but I want to welcome Sadness along with Joy.

You might be one who leans toward Sadness and might have to be intentional about allowing Joy.  Perhaps you say, “Well, how can I BE in Joy when everything is so sad?” or “Well, I tried being happy once, and I was greatly disappointed.”    And you might practice welcoming moments of Joy along with your Sadness.

When we grieve, we often have to carry both Joy and Sadness, don’t we?  Our hearts have the capacity for all of this. It’s interesting that both Joy and Sadness bring tears.  Our emotions are embodied, which can be seen in tears. So, I think that this is a part of my growth in wholeness: to be able to be aware of and to hold deep emotions with reverence and not to be overwhelmed with only one way of feeling, to let every emotion have its rightful place, and to invite a full response, this is mindfulness, whole-heartedness, and an embodied soul response.  Here are some verses along these lines:

Ps. 94:19 “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.”

Prov. 14:13 Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.”

Hebrews 12:2 “Jesus, for the Joy set before Him, endured the Shame.” Let’s pray:
We’re thanking you, God, from full hearts; we’re letting our soul record our full responses.  We’re whistling, laughing, jumping for joy, and we’re crying our eyes out.  We’re singing your song, Jesus.  Teach us every word.  Let the notes come to us this morning as we turn our attention to you.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

Intro: We have come to an important waypoint in our journey

A message that has been forming the behind curtain is brought onto the stage
– alongside the story, Jesus has taken time apart to pray
• the difference here, is that Luke uses the disciples to make this point explicit
Lord, teach us to pray

William Barclay, “It was a regular custom for a Rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they might habitually use.”
– some of us learned childhood prayers for bed-time and meals
• Roman Catholics memorize the rosary, and some AA fellowships recite the Lord’s Prayer
• perhaps that’s what the disciples wanted from Jesus–a formalized prayer
– I think something else is going on here
• we’re told that it was after he finished praying that they made the request
◦ they had observed Jesus in prayer at critical moments
◦ they witnessed the connection between his prayer and his power
• they wanted what he had – and so they asked

What’s the difference between teaching someone “to pray” and “how to pray”?

What we’ll see is that Jesus does both
– he tells them “how to” when he gives them the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”)
• he encourages them to pray, by way of:
◦ a parable, a command, and an example of the Father’s love
• teaching a person “to” pray is instructing them to do it
◦ we could learn from a book how people ride bikes,
◦ or we could learn to ride a bike, by climbing on and doing it
– that Jesus prayed is enough for most of us to see our need for it
• he’s our model for all things spiritual and true – “Follow Me,” he said
• if he needed to pray, if he saw value in praying,
◦ how much more do I need to pray?

There are two subtle “word pictures” in this verse

The first you wouldn’t know unless you studied the verse closely
– in fact, the translation I quoted above doesn’t make it clear
• Luke uses a figure of speech that is common in the New Testament
◦ the very same Greek words appear in Luke 9:18, and are translated:
Now it happened that as he was praying . . . (or while he was praying)
• Jesus’ prayer was an event that “happened”
◦ and while it happened the disciples were present
– this may not seem like a big deal, but it has meaning for to me

Our lives are a spiritual journey – we are traveling with Jesus
– as we go, things happen – some planned, others are random
• we don’t have to make things happen
◦ we don’t have to create our own learning experiences or trials
• God arranges those things without our help
– when things happen, especially unexpected or exceptional things
• it’s a good idea to pay attention — to be curious and ask questions
• I am not a deep thinker by nature (I tend to daydream rather than contemplate)
◦ but some experiences I mull over
◦ and frequently, that reflection a valuable insight or uplifting thought

Something divine is always happening, we just don’t see it
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Heb. 11:3)
• the universe hides mysteries
Fr. Romuald, “One way of looking at the genius of Christianity is to take everything with reverence. God is mystery. But so are you, and so am I, and so is the flower, so are the foxes, and everything else. It would be rather foolish to think that we comprehend the world we live in, because we don’t; we’re guests here.”
◦ to become aware of the mystery that surrounds us,
◦ we have to bring our attention what is here and what is now
• our circumstances are not random — a larger reality is hidden within them
◦ so we pause, we breathe, and
◦ open our hearts to what is beyond our sense experience

Let’s read it again: It happened while Jesus was praying
– things happen when Jesus prays – and Jesus is always praying
Christ Jesus . . . is at the right hand of God . . . interceding for us (Ro. 8:34-35)
• we do not know what Jesus prayed that day
◦ or if he even prayed a “what” –
◦ did he listen or did he speak? Commune or complain? Surrender or struggle?
– we pray through Jesus to the Father,
• but we can also pray with Jesus
• we can pray the Our Father with him, and say “Amen” to his prayer

The second subtle word picture is created by what is not said

The first thing that is not said is the name “Jesus” – the Greek reads simply, “he”
– his name is implied from the previous stories
• so it wasn’t necessary to make the specific identification

The second thing that is not said, is where they were
– a “certain place” is certainly somewhere, but the location is undefined
• so it could be anywhere

The third thing that is not said, is when this took place
– if we turn back to beginning of chapter 2 and chapter 3,
• Luke is deliberate and detailed in regard to the who, when, and where
◦ he names the people, time, and the places
• but Luke says only “while he prayed” and does not indicate specifics
◦ like the season of the year, a day of week, a time of day, or for how long he prayed
◦ it could have been any time during last trip to Jerusalem

The fourth thing not said, is who made the request
– it was “one of his disciples,” but we’re not told which one
• in fact, the Greek word for a “certain” place, is here translated “one” (of the disciples)
• Luke wants us to know that the one who asked the question was definitely a disciple
◦ but he conceals that person’s identity
◦ it could have been any one of the disciples

Now maybe I’m making too big a deal of the missing pieces
– after all, don’t we talk in this same way, with vague generalizations?
• that’s why we have “indefinite pronouns”
• we can make our point without using specific references
– so can we just leave it at that? – or should we look for a deeper meaning?
• a deeper meaning could be that Luke intentionally left the door open
◦ the prayer Jesus teaches us to pray can be made anywhere, any time, by anyone
◦ it could also be made everywhere, all the time, by everyone
• this particular moment, the then and there of prayer with Jesus, is universal

If we read the verse this way, then we make an important discovery
– prayer creates its own environment, it redefines time and space
• it is not bound by calendars and clocks, addresses and maps
• prayer takes over, making the here and the now of it sacred
◦ prayer can happen anywhere, any time,
◦ because God is everywhere and eternal
– any disciple and every disciple can ask Jesus for help in prayer
• if disciples know anything, they know to pray
◦ we cannot meet world need, end wars, change human hearts
◦ but we can approach God, breathe his Spirit, and move his hand
• I am the disciple who asks Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray”
◦ and you are the disciple who asks Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray”

When you began any conversation with Jesus, with “Lord” you’re already praying
– it’s okay for us to admit we don’t know to pray
• it’s okay to begin with baby-talk
• our first awkward steps will lead to bigger steps and eventually to running
◦ and our prayers will become increasingly effective

Conclusion: Awhile back, I read a story about a young philosopher

He visited Mt. Athos, which is inhabited by Orthodox Monks, because he wanted to learn pure prayer
– he met Fr. Seraphim and asked to be taught “the prayer of the heart”
• here’s what Fr. Seraphim told him:
Jean-Yves Leloup, “‘Before I talk about prayer of the heart, first learn how to meditate like a mountain.’ And he showed him an enormous rock. ‘Ask it how it goes about praying. Then come back to me.’”
• at first, all the young philosopher experienced was discomfort
◦ but after awhile he began learning the wisdom of the mountain
◦ those insights changed him, and he became more settled and serene

Here is where I’m going with this:
You are the disciple who asks Jesus, “Teach me to pray”
and I want to give you a similar exercise the old Monk gave the young philosopher
If you are patient, listen carefully, and reflect on what you see and hear,
I promise, Jesus will have something to teach you

A Spiritual Exercise (in contemplative prayer)

Luke 11:1-13, Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

In a quiet place, read this passage two or three times, slowly.
Imagine Jesus with you.
Ask him, “Lord, teach me to pray.”
Then, observing Jesus, write out whatever comes to you.
Give yourself time enough to listen.
Try to use short sentences.
Every day for one month, keep these notes where you will see them each morning.

Aug 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 28, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome!                 May the Lord be with you!

A few days ago, I was walking down a carpeted hallway, with my shoes and socks on, and as I took my next step, I felt something under the sole of my shoe.  It was this…..a very small pebble of some kind.  Amazing isn’t it, that the nerves in our feet can sense through socks and shoes that there’s something that we’re stepping on and send a message to our brain.  Of course, I had to stop, pull it away from my sole and investigate what it was.  It is hard, with some jagged edges; and it was removed and quickly dealt with.  However, if I would have tried to keep walking, it would interrupt my gait, and I wouldn’t be able to ignore it.

I was thinking that we might have some small, hard pebbles, not only on soles of our shoes, but lodged in our souls somehow.  Perhaps it’s a hard pebble of bitterness or resentment.  Our brain might not notice it’s there, but our heart knows.  We might feel its presence under certain circumstances or with certain people.  We might try to ignore it or get away from the trigger, or we might try to cover it with blame, so we don’t feel its pain.  Anyway, it’s not really dealt with then, is it?

Could the pebble lodged in our soul be unforgiveness?  I wonder what shape that has.  Can you picture how big and pervasive unforgiveness could be?  You know that scripture in Matthew where Jesus teaches that if we’re coming to the altar and realize that our brother or sister has something against us, and we’re told to go reconcile to the person and then come and offer our gift?  I wonder if a part of the reason for that is that then we will come to God more fully present and unencumbered. 

Seemingly small pebbles can still cause great suffering (you know this if you’ve ever had a bone spur or a kidney stone!).  Small things can short-circuit a connection. Bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness (all manner of pebbles) can slow us down; they can cause us to limp.  Some things, unlike the little pebble on the sole of my shoe, aren’t quickly dealt with, but let’s be in agreement with Jesus that we—more and more—want to deal with these things and move forward without needless suffering or a limp, and more fully present.

Will you join me to pray:
Jesus, you said that You came that we may have life and may have it in all its fullness.  Compassionate Lord, we seek Your wholeness, Your forgiveness, Your healing Peace and Presence, renewing us through and through.  You said that we should come to You when we’re weary and carrying heavy burdens.  We acknowledge that seemingly small things could be heavy to our hearts and stumbling in our walk with You. May Your healing hands rest on us; may You bring things to our awareness; may Your life-giving power flow into the depths of our souls, restoring us to peace and strength for service.  Amen

Morning Talk: Beth Khorey


  • Last time I was with you I spoke of prayer as “encounter” (an ongoing conversational reality with God).
  • within the encounter with Jesus, change can transpire – a “conversion” of sorts – something changes me as I interact with God.
  • I also mentioned that prayer takes place “communally” – the impact of my interaction with God can and does impact others – even as God’s interaction with you impacts me, impacts the world.
  • These things I spoke of were in the context of Acts 9 – Paul’s encounter with Jesus – and – Jesus’ encounter with Ananias – and Ananias’ encounter with Paul.

Today I’d like to talk a little about “prayer as participation” and after the message we’ll share the Eucharist together – A Communion of the Lord’s Supper – which is an interactive  participation in the Life of Christ.

(the Infinity symbol – a help to understand the Eucharist table)

We’ll come to this table and we’ll remember the past – all God’s storied interactions with his people – and – we’ll remember our own histories, the story of  how  GOD has interacted with us.
We’ll also remember our future hope as we hear Jesus say “I will not eat again UNTIL the Kingdom comes and is fulfilled”!
And all of the past and future our bound up  in the immediacy of this present moment when time and eternity meet in the bread and cup we partake in.


  • A comment by a Scottish theologian – James Stewart – caught my attention recently.
  • He said Jesus never gave any “argument” for prayer – it’s validity, or why we should pray – rather he just prayed. He said of Jesus that “praying was the native breath of his soul.”
  • Stewart continued: “Prayer’s well-spring lay beneath all rationality, beneath the region of argument. It lays in the depts. Of the heart which was made by God and for fellowship with God.”
  • His observations on Jesus’ prayer life led him to notice that Jesus was not at the mercy of moods – though he experienced significant changes in emotion.
  • For Jesus – prayer meant “communion with the Father…the one he loved utterly and passionately and couldn’t bear being away from him…he used every opportunity day or night to speak with God of his love.”

 (James Stewart, The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ, p.97-99)


  • It reminds me of the ancient practice of “breath prayer” – a simple practice to attach Scripture to our breath
  • shortening words of Scriptures – attaching them to our breath patterns helps me to take in the Word and the Word becomes me – I speak God’s word and my words become God’s.

Today we’ll here words of Jesus…we may even want to make them our own:

“Father (inhale) – forgive (exhale)” //  “Remember (inhale) – Me (exhale)” //
or “Into your (inhale) – hands (exhale)”

Scripture Narrative I’m drawing from today is:

Luke 23:23-49


  • Someone claiming to be “King” is crucified as a “criminal
  • crowds had gathered to ensure what their demand that Jesus be crucified was executed
  • religious leaders were there taunting and jeering to make sure their villain – the one that threatened their power structures, their ways of doing life and notions of God was extinguished.
  • Roman soldiers were there doing their job but having some twisted fun and games at the brutal expense of this holy man
  • And there were watchers– women and other disciples standing at distance watching…in “fear” of the Jews
  • The friends of Jesus were there for a while (but other accounts say eventually they all fled) except for John who stood with the mother of Jesus and other women at the foot of the cross.

 2 OTHERS there identified as “CRIMINALS” v.32

  • These two were “LAWBREAKERS” and “CALLED LAWLESS
  • Who were executed beside Jesus
  • Jesus – the King of Jews who brought the Kingdom of God near – this “innocent One”(this is what the criminal and Roman Solider testifies when they see Jesus die)

The nearness of the Kingdom in the King, the nearness of Innocence…what impact might you imagine being so near this Innocent King?


  • It’s important to know that Jesus wasn’t alone in his death.
  • this wasn’t a private or a dignified affair – it was the public entertainment of the day
  • this was sheer humiliation beyond our imagination – Jesus was stripped naked, tortured, mocked cruelly
  • Exposed to harshness:  both harsh natural elements (the sun, the earthquake, the darkness) and the cruelty on our darker inhumane natures.


 I’ve watched enough movies and read enough material to know that “torture” has been used to get the “TRUTH” out of war criminals and prisoners. You can find a number of articles and research that states torture to elicit truth doesn’t work…none the less…I’d like to say we can see and hear something of Jesus’ TRUTH when, having been tortured that fatal day, he does SPEAK:

His TRUTH flows from the Cross in the labored 7 statements recorded for us in the Gospels – 3 of which are here in Luke’s account:

34  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

43  “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

46  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” 

  • 2 statements are prayers
  • the other an invitation to participate in the Kingdom – TODAY


34  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

This is difficult for me to imagine…I’ve been hurt, betrayed, suffered humiliation, and I’ve tasted, viscerally, resentment and bitterness.
I’ve also hurt others. I’ve said harmful things and in doing so humiliated and injured others and I’ve tasted the shame and guilt of my words and actions, in regret and sorrow.
But when we hear Jesus PRAY from this agonizing place what we are HEARING and WITNESSING is his native tongue, his deepest desires, his genuine sincerity and hospitality – we are seeing embodied in Jesus the most radical form of LOVING OTHERS that a human could offer.

  • He taught “I say to you – forgive…love…pray… for your enemies and those who hurt, persecute, and spitefully use you” (Matthew 5:43-6:18)
  • And here we see the his lack of any vindictiveness, anger, hatred or even just that little bit of …“YOU JUST WAIT AND SEE…”kind of retort!

As you hear Jesus pray in these moments – “Father forgive them they know not what they do” – what impact does Jesus’ prayer have on you?

I don’t know what you are feeling, hearing, sensing – but holding some broken relationships in my heart – I know my soul wants to ASK FOR HELP…to forgive and to pray forgiveness over my relationships.


39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[c] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 

I can’t say with any certainty what “ultimately” transpires for this one who seems to be hard and cold…the contrast between the two criminals and Jesus is glaring…and makes a dramatic point for our own choice today…

I do know that In John 1 & 3 that “Light came into the world and darkness rejects the light lest its deeds be exposed” – Light can be very penetrating if we allow it to search us:

  • There could be a fear of being found out.
  • Light exposes the truth of ourselves, our motivations and our fears, and our actions
  • There may be some immediate felt shame – it’s hard to see things about ourselves…
  • Yet from the beginning – we were created for naked exposure to God – transparency – and to live without shame
  • However, when the first humans hid in shame due to their poor choices and sin – God came looking for them to draw them out with a question – “where are you?”

Today – an invitation comes to us:

Next to Jesus – Might we allow ourselves to be seen, exposed in truth? When we do…we just might hear his welcome – “today, you are with me in paradise”!

Back to the criminal’s jeer: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 

In Mark & Matthew’s account both criminals jeer and taunt Jesus.

The tone of the taunts, scholars assert, is that of SARCASTIC DISRESPECT

  • It’s biting, a type of verbal violence
  • sarcasm may in some circumstances be comic relief – yet at it’s root intention is a defensive strategy to bite and belittle the one we can’t face or the one that hurt us.
  • It’s a way of shutting down, closing the door on, a type of fingered gesture to verbally flip off someone.

The drama in the narrative is contrast – we see the extremes: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
The criminals and folks around Jesus are jeering in sarcastic disrespect. It’s pointed at the one who claimed to save them as King.

  • this is not too far off from the cultural climate we live in as the VITROLIC ATTACKS we hear now of anyone in authority or governance. The Scriptures says we are to pray for those who lead and govern us.

Contrasted to Jesus praying for the forgiveness of those crucifying and humiliating him. He knows the intricacies of the heart of every one of those wounders – he sees their unhealed wounds. Their fears and reactions come out of the pain of those wounds. Fear – left unmet – can become a brutal attacker.


They were saying something utterly and prophetically true – beyond their own cognition.

Because he chose not to save himself he can save us.





Andy Root (Church and the Crisis of Decline)

Nothing of Jesus’ death was a “CONCESSION” for him.

A concession is something that happens in negotiations – when one side gives in to what the other side wants.

  • He had clarity about the will and purposes of God from the foundations of the world
  • He knew from where he came and where he was going (John 13)
  • He lived from out of his own truest self-identity as Redeemer of God’s people
  • He agonized in his humanity in PRAYER in Gethsemane over the course his life would take and how it would end and his ultimate desire was for the will of God to be fulfilled. This was not a CONCESSION  it was nota concession made between negotiating sides! It was his own CHOICE made within the bounds of a LOVING RELATIONSHIP with God.
  • He said “No one takes my life, I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:18)
  • And when the days came for him to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die – He set his face like flint (Luke 9) he wouldn’t change his mind.

His death…and ours in the many choices we make to follow Jesus in the way of the cross – the myriad losses we suffer, the ways we choose to love others, the many ways we “die daily” (as Paul says) and trust God’s way of resurrecting that which dies in faith…IS NOT A CONCESSION

Rather it’s the point of – the location of –  encounter with God who is God who dies as life.



40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

What happened in the space and time  hanging there in those tortured hours of slow death?

SOMETHING SILENCED HIM…and in the “silence” what did he see, hear, come to recognize about himself – about this One Innocent man, the King, who was very very near to him?
I’m not really sure…but let me help you muse about it:

  • Was it enough space/ time and silence to take in the words of Jesus PRAYED? and feel the impact of the PRAYER?
  • Exposed to Jesus and seeing Jesus exposed – did he come to some clarity about his own Self?
  • Did it precipitate an awareness of his own truth and to own it through confession “I am guilty”?
  • Did owning that truth lead him to a deep inner desire for forgiveness?
  • Did the sense of inclusion of Jesus’ prayer seem inviting when he heard “them”?
  • In that labored “breath-prayer” to the Father – did he yearn for kinship with a benevolent God to find a home in God?
  • Was he deeply and utterly touched by the human and spiritual generosity of One who would pray forgiveness for being unjustly executed?
  • Was there something of hope rising within him as he was in nearness of God Incarnate?
  • And was that rising hope leading him to believe that he might get out of this thing with his life even though he died?
  • Was he gifted with faith…albeit faith the size of a mustard seed – that he could ASK the desire of his heart and TRUST that Jesus could, would hear and answer him with the capacity to save?  

I don’t know for sure what transpired in him…
But I know what Jesus did say and offered! He gave that man who was guilty of lawlessness a promise of participation in the Kingdom.

 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


The sincerity is poignant.
The intimacy is compelling.
The outcome hopeful.
Jesus prayed from his heart.
The criminal became silent and reflective.
Out of silence the guilty man prayerfully asked to be remembered.
And Jesus told him – tells us – TODAY you’ll participate in the Kingdom with Me. AND IT’S PARADISE TO BE WITH Me IN THE KINGDOM!

This is the PRAYER – in the immediacy of the present moment, held as a conversational reality of encounter with God that changes me and those I’m involved with.


  • It’s the soul’s native tongue
  • It’s the place of encounter with the living God
  • In we change – conversion occurs
  • Forgiveness is found
  • Relationships are restored
  • Hope rises and moves us onward
  • kinship with a benevolent father is felt
  • Communion with Jesus and others in the Spirit is like a paradise NOW!

DYING – any death, in terms of COMING TO THE CROSS of JESUS and bearing it daily IS NOT A CONCESSION but a location of encounter with the God who is God and who dies as life.

We move into our Eucharist prayers and invitation to participate in the Lord’s supper.

(See Liturgy of Eucharistic Prayers)

Blind Jesus (No One Belongs here More than You) by Rev. Alan Stewart

Art used by permission of artist.

The artist reimagines our current reality after the first Jesus’ meal and the historic event of the cross. Jesus outstretched his hands on the cross then so he could out stretch his hand of invitation to us now at the banquet feast of our memorial covenant meal.
ALL are welcome at the Lord’s table…many people portrayed at his side. The seat empty next to Jesus is for you. His renowned hospitality during earthy life is core to this portrayal…Jesus eats with tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and those outsiders in society, as well as anyone who would seek his company.
The artist pictures Jesus as blind – visually impaired – welcoming all.
Intriguing to me because this was one of the central paradoxes of his teaching as he interacted with religious leaders of his day.
Those who say they see are blind.
Those who admit they’re blind come to see.
The criminal on the cross who is guilty comes to freedom in Jesus.
The One who is crucified as a perceived criminal is the freedom giver – the Savior of the world.

The art is installed in St. Martin of the Fields, London England. One of the oldest Anglican Churches in the world. It’s hung on an altar.
The contemporary stain glass the artist envisioned was a cross in a type of sound wave breathing through creating a portal right at the intersection of vertical and horizontal beams.
The straight rigid mechanical lines of lead warp in as if the Spirit blows right through them creating a visceral visual movement. You can almost feel the vibrations and movement.

A way has been opened up by Christ precisely at the heart of the Cross.

Aug 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 21, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, welcome.            May the Lord Jesus be with you!

I think that we are all feeling a bit de-stabilized in this world right now.  Our faith traditions, our politics, our safety, our climate, our health, our economy—there’s so much going on that might bring to awareness our lack of control, and that tends to create anxiety.  It is only natural that we might be looking for relief, looking for someone to save us, or a way that we could save ourselves.  These de-stabilizing ways are ways that might break us or lead us on a track of attempting control– or they might facilitate wisdom, they might remind us of that “one thing we ask and that is what we seek.” 

We will not be overwhelmed if we return to the Beloved, to the One who is worthy of all blessing and honor and glory. What we do matters, our dialog in the world matters, our self-awareness matters, our physical and emotional health matter.  And we remember Jesus, who matters most; we place our trust in Jesus.  More and More.  Again and Again.  When we present ourselves to Him, we remember that He alone is worthy of all blessing and honor and glory.

Before we went live this morning, our in-person community listened to a song written and performed by Andrew Peterson entitled “Is He Worthy?”  I invite you to look for it and listen too.

Join me to pray, will you:

The world is broken, the shadows deepen, but all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through.  Your creation is groaning, Lord Jesus.  Thank you for being the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Thank you for giving us Your kingdom, Your Spirit, and for making us to be priests to stand the gap until you come to bring Your Glory, Your Peace, Your Shalom in fullness. Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, event the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and overall the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20

Intro: In any series of talks I give it’s helpful to have a reminder

We are following Jesus through Luke’s gospel learning prayer,
– by listening to Jesus and by watching him
• I sometimes forget the absolute necessity of prayer
◦ when that happens, I treat prayer like it’s optional
• many people think prayer is asking God for things,
◦ and if they don’t get what they want,
◦ they decide it doesn’t make any difference if they pray
– that’s like a married couple who consider communication to be unimportant
• prayer is the hub of our relationship with God
◦ it’s what holds it together – how we stay connected
• prayer is the breath of our spirit – without it, the spirit dies

Today’s talk may sound like I’m backing off from what I said last week

I’m not – if Evangelicals have become confused about evangelism,
– it doesn’t mean that we’re not supposed to evangelize
. . . you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way (1 Pe. 3:15-17, NLT)
• most of this chapter in Luke is about doing the work of Jesus
• he makes us his partners in doing his work in the world
◦ it matters that we do it right – which means, we do it his way: love, truth, goodness, and beauty
◦ Paul explains his “evangelism strategy” in very clear terms:
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. . . .To those outside the law I became as one outside the law . . . that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some (1 Cor. 9:19-23)

Let’s dive into the story

These disciples are the seventy-two we read about last week
– they’ve returned from their mission, and as Luke says, “with joy”
• joy is the dominant emotional theme in this passage
• it is related to the word rejoice (which appears three times)
– think of what we would like to see happen in the world
• what would excite us? what would bring us joy?
• if we saw the forces of evil weakened and diminished
◦ oppressive governments and institutions collapse, human lives redeemed and liberated
◦ an end to war and the threat of war
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire (Ps. 46:9)
. . . and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore (Isa. 2:4)
◦ addiction and alcoholism would decrease
◦ there would be no more hate crimes or mass shootings
◦ no family would live under shadow of domestic violence

Jesus had a vision of Satan’s power being broken
– he also saw the future successes of his team
• for seventeen hundred years,
◦ Christians had a positive influence in western societies
• if we’re experiencing some slippage now,
◦ it’s because we’ve become distracted
◦ we are less attached to the teaching of Jesus and more involved in politics
– in spite of Jesus’ vision of their victory over “the enemy,”
• that was not where Jesus wanted disciples to find their joy
◦ he did not want them oriented to evil or their battle against it
• the project of many Christians today is defined by what they’re against
◦ looking for dark says, or the Antichrist of the end times,
◦ or praying at the devil – “Satan, we bind you in the name of Jesus”
(why do you want to talk to him?!)

Another theme in these verses is the word “name”
– it was in Jesus’ name that demons were subdued
• this is a resource we all need to remember (with my own demons)
The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous . . . runs into it and is safe (Pr. 18:10)
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Php. 2:9-11)
– Jesus informs them that their names are written in heaven
• that’s the direction Jesus wanted the disciples to be looking
◦ and also written in heaven were the names of everyone they influenced for Jesus
• they’d been in cities and villages doing for others what Jesus had done for them
◦ whenever we affect someone in positive way in name of Jesus, it brings us joy
◦ our spiritual joy is a specific kind of energy, refreshment, renewal

Luke moves from disciples’ joy to Jesus’ rejoicing
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Luke 10:21-22)

Luke uses an odd expression, he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit
– why not, “he rejoiced in his own spirit?” or “with all of his heart?”
• it could mean, he rejoiced in what the Holy Spirit had done with the disciples
• but there’s another possible meaning, and one we must learn
– there’s a form–or state–of prayer that doesn’t come from our minds
• it doesn’t come from our hearts either–though it moves in our hearts
. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. . . the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Ro. 8:26-27)
◦ God’s Spirit prays through our spirit
◦ sometimes this is a wordless prayer
What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also . . . . (1 Cor. 14:15)
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ep. 6:18)
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God (Jude 1:20-21)
• we can pray this way any time and anywhere
“Lord, I don’t know what to pray. Have Your Spirit pray through me”
• prayer is our deepest spiritual experience
◦ in a sense, all our prayers can be in the Holy Spirit

What brings Jesus joy? The way his Father works with people
– I expect highly intelligent people to be able to guide me
• my automatic response is to turn to the experts
• but being well educated is not same as being enlightened
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the elders,
for I keep your precepts (Ps. 119:99-100)
◦ though Paul was well-educated himself, he celebrated God’s upside-down ordering of enlightenment
For consider your calling brothers [and sisters]: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, nor many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong . . . so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Cor. 1:26-29)
◦ Arthur Deikman described our “ordinary way of knowing”
(the natural way we learned as children, by observation and making associations – then the way we practiced in school, and the way of science and philosophy)
Arthur Deikman, “But a different experience of knowing is also possible.”
(his term for mystical knowing was “intuition,” but there is also revelation)
– Jesus finds joy in watching God’s gracious will at work in our lives
• in this instance, God’s “good idea” was the revelation the disciples received,
◦ that even the demons had to give way to Jesus’ name
Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!”
◦ God’s power at work through Jesus and his representatives
• in chapter 15, Jesus will tell three stories; all with same theme:
I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Lk. 15:11)
◦ Jesus thanked God for the spiritual progress of his followers
◦ and how God used them to change the lives of others

Conclusion: I want to encourage you this morning

Recognize what God has give you – the unique way he uses you
– as Jesus said in verse 22, he is still choosing to reveal God to people
• you have a role in how Jesus reaches them
◦ you don’t have to preach, or pitch, or push anything down anyone’s throat
◦ you simply use what seems like your natural aptitude
• thumbing through a meditation journal I kept eighteen years ago, I came across something I wrote to myself
◦ I felt a strong impression that this is what Jesus was saying to me at that time:
“Chuck, continue to resist Evangelical “religion,” culture, and dogma. Do not capitulate to Pharisaic faith. Stand your ground. You have not seen the success you’ve desired to achieve in reaching people outside of church who remain untouched by the gospel. But you may be preparing young men and women who will see that success. Continue to encourage and validate them, and show them the way out of religion and into the life and ministry of Jesus.”
That sounds like a Mission Statement
Get to know God’s Mission Statement for you – and live it

Aug 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 14, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!       Welcome to RefleXion.     May the Lord be with you!

When my husband was courting me, over 40 years ago, he pursued me…a couple of old-fashioned words there:  courting, pursued.  And I felt loved, that he would come after me, show me in words and actions that he wanted to be close to me, to know me.  He doesn’t make me feel quite that way anymore, and I miss it.  And I have realized lately that I’m missing that with other people too–some friends, many family members (kids, grandchildren, a brother).  And I’ve noticed that I seem to be doing all the heavy lifting in some relationships. 

But here’s the rub:  I want the relationship, and if I move away, will they actually pursue me?  Will I have lost more than even what I have now?  Or will I find that they miss me, that they reach out and find ways to connect to me?

To know that I’m really loved, it feels like I must not necessarily move away, but stand still, and see if love will pursue me.  Love is risky business.

When I am not necessarily pursuing God, if I will notice, He is still pursueing me.  But do you think that sometimes He just stands still, that He desires me to pursue Him?  Not for His ego or neediness, but just that that’s how intimacy works – Desire and Invitation. 

I pulled out an old book, The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer; and he has an interesting way of talking about this.  He says that Jesus, by His own flesh torn, removed the veil over God’s heart and gives us access to the Holy of Holies (remember the veil in the Temple was actually, supernaturally, torn when Jesus died.)  Tozer says that God has removed the veil of His heart expressing His desire and invitation to us to come closer, but that there is a closely woven veil over each of our own hearts, and it is our self-life.  He says that we must allow that veil to be lifted.

Here’s a connection to another old-fashioned term:  the bridal veil.  Today it might be just an accessory to the dress.  But traditionally, the veil covered the face of the bride as she walked down the aisle.  Sometimes it was lifted by the father of the bride and sometimes by the bridegroom, but it definitely used to be a part of the wedding ceremony.

One way of knowing Jesus is to know Him as the Lover of our Souls, our Bridegroom.  Let’s pursue Him in all the ways we can to declare that we desire and value intimacy with Him.  “Courtship, pursuing the beloved, removing the veil” all might seem old-fashioned, but I think that they will never go out of style.

Our opening prayer this morning is from Tozer, in the chapter called “Removing the Veil.”  The language is definitely old-fashioned, and I think it’s beautiful.  Will you join me?

Lord, how excellent are Thy ways, and how devious and dark are the ways of man.  Show us how to die, that we may rise again to newness of life.  Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as Thou didst rend the veil of the Temple.  We would draw near in full assurance of faith.  We would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on this earth so that we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter Thy heaven to dwell with Thee there.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Luke 10:1-2

Intro: In the first half of this chapter, Jesus launches a campaign

Of course, like Jesus himself, the operation is modest
– there’s no funding and its reps are unskilled volunteers
• but it’s the crew Jesus chose and the plan is simple and low-key
• there is a twofold purpose for this mission:
◦ prepare people for Jesus’ arrival and ministry
◦ for these disciples to experience their first solo-flights in doing his work
– Jesus begins their preparation with an observation:
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few
• based on this observation, he makes a request:
Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers
• then he gives them precise and austere instructions

The first issue I want to go over is, what he is not saying

When I address controversial subjects, I try to tread lightly
– I know there will be people who disagree with me
• they have good reasons, and I want to show them respect
• but today I just want to speak my heart
– Jesus did not send these disciples to do what we have been told to do by many Christian leaders
• that is, tell others they need to “get saved”
• “get saved” is shorthand for walking unbelievers through “the simple gospel”:
1. Every human person has sinned
2. Everyone who sins goes to hell – a place of eternal torment
3. Jesus Christ died for everyone’s sins
4. All we have to do is receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior
5. If we do that, we are saved from hell and will go to heaven
6. To continue on as a Christian you must read the Bible, pray, go to church, and preach the gospel to others
◦ if someone follows these steps, then they got saved

This is not the gospel Jesus preached – nor is it what Paul described (cf. Ro. 1:1-6)
. . . Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:14-15)
– this is also the message he gave for his disciples to proclaim
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (Lk. 9:1-2)
Heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Lk. 10:9)
Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near (Lk. 10:11)
• God’s rulership has entered the world of humans
◦ according to his will, he enlightens us to himself and frees us from a world of oppression
◦ to repent does not mean to feel sorry for your sin and apologize and seek forgiveness
◦ repent means to change your way of thinking and the way you live
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Ro. 12:2)
• the gospel is not, primarily, about going to heaven when you die
◦ it’s about living with God here and now in a way that transforms our lives
– listen to a literal translation of the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer:
Father of us, the one in the heavens,
Let be revered the name of you,
Let come the kingdom of you,
Let be done the will of you,
as in heaven, also on earth
(Mt. 6:9-10)
• Jesus is not telling us to pray, “Take me to heaven when I die”
◦ but to ask God to bring the reality of heaven into our lives now
◦ “May we live your will today, and be trapped by the influence of this world”
• when we refer to Jesus as “Lord,” we are recognizing his authority

There are a couple more issues that need to be addressed

Some churches train Christians to be salespeople for God
– this has been called “soul winning” or “personal evangelism”
• it is a form of converting or proselytizing unbelievers or people of other faiths
◦ in practice, it means either to entice or put pressure on people to become Christians
◦ typically with the promise of heaven and the fear of hell, respectively
• some people are really good at this, and they keep score!
◦ what always comes to my mind is the word “buttonhole”
(originally, “buttonhold”; to hang on to a button on a person’s coat if they try to leave a conversation that does not interest them or makes them feel uncomfortable)
◦ people with aggressive or forceful personalities are sometimes unaware of how they do this to others
– we’re told we must convert our family, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances
• there is also “cold-call evangelism”
◦ “street witnessing,” door-to-door, or preaching at every total stranger
• most of us are uncomfortable with this, regardless of whether we’re on the giving or receiving end

Another celebrated form of proselytizing is crusade evangelism
– awhile back I mentioned crusade evangelism to Barry Taylor
• he went straight to heart of it with three words: “It’s an illusion”
• we’re given impression something big is happening
◦ thousands of unbelievers are coming to God for the first time in their lives
◦ but that’s not what’s happening
– if you’ve ever been to multi-level marketing seminar, you know how it works
• machinery of crusade evangelism is highly organized and expensive
◦ the advance work is treated as if it were as important as the event
◦ churches are used to publicize and invite family and friends, and to train ushers and “counselors”
• the event itself is entertaining – music, an interview with a celebrity, laughter at times, and tears
◦ but everything is about closing the sale
1. When the appeal is made, everything slows down–the evangelists may speak in quieter tones
2. The music acts as a soundtrack, tugging on heartstrings
3. People in the audience get a sense of being backed into a corner
• if they do not comply by receiving Jesus immediately, they risk going to hell
4. Clear directions are given, with encouragement that it’s an easy step to take
5. People start to get up and move toward stage–lots of people, in fact
6. If you came at a friend’s or family member’s invitation, you know what they want
• I’ve heard many say, “I didn’t plan on it, but suddenly I was on my feet and walking down the aisle”
• when the cause of your actions are unconscious, it’s likely that you have been hypnotized
7. Near the stage you’re met by two counselors
• they go over the basics and ask if you’d like to pray (the “sinner’s prayer”)
◦ you’re asked to provide your contact information for follow-up
◦ that card you sign is the contract – and with it, they seal the deal
• you are told that you have become a Christian, God’s new creation
Karl Barth, “The great, silent mystery of most of our great orators preachers and writers consists in this that they are excellent salesmen. They know the business of catering to their customers and of arousing their desire to buy. They have learned the art of bargaining . . . . For many a great cause in the world, and for most of the so called spiritual and religious movements, it is not particularly important that they are intrinsically good, or new, or useful; their chief need is shrewd promoters and able salesmen who can sell them to a pleased public. It is the accepted way of getting things done.”

How have we created the illusion “thousands came to Christ”
– the majority of people present at crusades have already been primed
• family or friends have been working on them
• many of them are already church goers,
◦ but they never “went forward” in a service until now
◦ years ago, our church was sent about seventy follow up cards from an evangelistic crusade
◦ on all but three cards, the “newly saved” person listed a church they attended
– for every one person who gets up to walk to the stage and get saved, two counselors follow
• so in the crowd heading toward stage, two thirds are Christians
◦ but most people don’t know that, so it looks like everyone is getting saved
◦ this creates a psychological effect, such as, “I must be missing out on something if I don’t go”
• this is not biblical evangelism, it’s not Jesus, and it’s not working
◦ I should qualify that last statement; it’s not working like we think it is
◦ I know people who have come to God at a crusade and gone on to become true Christians

Jesus asked his disciples to pray for God to send out laborers

If the disciples could have recruited, trained, and deployed people for the work,
– then that is what Jesus would have told them to do
• it is God who chooses, equips, trains, and empowers his work force
• so Jesus’ last words to his disciples, was to stay put in Jerusalem (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4-8)
◦ that within a few days God’s Spirit would empower them,
◦ and they’d become his witnesses – bringing in his harvest
(notice that witness is something we become, that we are, before it is something we do)
– what if I want to sign-up? If I want God to use me in his fields?
• first, if I have the desire, it is likely that God is the one who put it in me
• second, all I’m expected to do is give witness to Jesus’ work in my life
◦ I don’t need to have all the answers to every question
Charles Spurgeon, “the difficulty is, that so often when a witness is put into the box, he is more conscious of himself than of what he has to say; therefore, he is soon worried, teased, and . . . by losing his temper, he fails to be a good witness for the cause.” If someone “questions me about other things, I shall tell him that I do not come to bear witness about other matters, but this one thing I do.”
◦ my witness is first of all the life I live – and I need help!
Lonnie Frisbee, “Believe me, I failed many times in every department—but I tried. When I would fail, God would pick me up and instruct me with this truth: We fail our way into the kingdom of God. It starts with grace, and it ends with grace.”

Conclusion: If Jesus told us to pray for something, that something must be important

Am I, or can I, be an answer to his prayer request?

If so, it would help if I could see the world through his eyes
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt. 9:35-38)
If I see what Jesus sees, perhaps I may begin to feel what he feels
Then his desire will become my desire, his prayer will be my prayer, and his work, my work
Then, in the small patch of earth that I occupy,
God’s name will be revered, and his kingdom will come, and his will be done,
to the glory of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Aug 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 7, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!           I hope you are all well.           May the Mercy of the Lord be with you.

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.  Hebrews 4:16

Some of our friends are carrying a lot of pain.  For some it’s temporary, and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel; for some it’s ongoing, and it can be very overwhelming. May our Gracious Lord offer them His Great Mercy. 

So, we know that God is merciful.  Ps. 145 says that “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”  It seems important to consider that the Lord also wants to see us exercise His character of mercy.  In the OT, God says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  In the NT, “Mercy triumphs judgment.”

God said He’ll meet us – at the mercy seat.  When Moses was given instructions for building the Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, there was to be fashioned a Mercy Seat to be set over the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies, and this is where God would meet them.  There are 16 verses in Exodus and more in Leviticus and Numbers about the gracious availability of the mercy seat in the Tent of Meeting. 

The LORD is full of mercy, but how do we operate in mercy?  I want to put a little twist on that.  I think that some things we already possess need to be activated.  I think many of the fruits of the Spirit are like that:  Patience, Kindness…they show up when they are needed. I believe mercy is like that too. 

I have a friend who suffers with many long-standing physical ailments.  She has a heart of gold and always wants to commit to serving others, ministering in Jesus’ Name etc.  But very often she cannot finish the work she wants to do, or even has committed to do, because of her frailty.  And she adds to that burden of sickness with Shame. This causes her much suffering–pain upon pain. 

A while back God gave her a vision that I’ve never forgotten.  She said she saw that she was in a circle of people she recognized as people who had done many good deeds with mercy.  Jesus was handing out rewards as He went around the circle, and when He came to her, He handed her the same reward.  She said, “Oh no, Lord I haven’t done as much as the others.”  She said that Jesus told her this: “Those who are merciful and those who stir up mercy are equal in the Kingdom.”  In other words, how would the merciful get to exercise their gifts of mercy if someone else didn’t need mercy?

So, I’m speaking to all of us this morning.  We need each other in profound and mysterious ways.  Let’s remember to pray for others and for ourselves– for mercy and grace.  And let’s allow mercy to be stirred up and activated in us, for we are all God’s children.

Please join me in prayer:

Lord, 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, help for ourselves, help for others.  Let us be moved with compassion for everyone burdened with sickness, paralyzed with doubt, and those who are struggling with letting go and living with what is.  Let us not neglect the weightier matters of the law:  justice and mercy, and faithfulness.  Lead us in the way that we should go, for Your Name’s sake.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist.” But others say Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am? And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” Luke 9:18-20

Intro: This passage is a bit strange

I like the strange passages that call attention to themselves
– and force me to pay closer attention to what is there
• I would not say I did my best Bible reading this past week
◦ I took three of my grandchildren to Flagstaff, Arizona,
◦ where we shared a hotel room – so there was no private space for me to read and pray
• nevertheless, I tried, but with many apologies to the Lord
– so yesterday I sat down with this strange scripture,
• and it demanded that I pay attention
• I heard these verses tell me, This is a very important passage

Verse 18a, If Luke put this sentence in a PowerPoint presentation,

Two slides would appear in rapid succession,
– and the second slide would seem to contradict the first
• in the first slide Jesus is praying and he’s alone
• in the second slide, his disciples are with him
◦ which is it? Is he alone or are his disciples with him?
– let’s take a look at the first slide

We have come to another critical hour in the story of Jesus
– but just before it unfolds, Jesus prays
• this has been the pattern in Luke
• before, during, or after a big moment, Jesus prays
– I imagine Jesus in a quiet room – or maybe outside in a garden or under a tree
• he has shut out the world and turned to the Father
◦ the whole atmosphere around him is sacred
◦ heaven pours into the space of his prayer
• anything could happen when Jesus prays
◦ the world could burst into flames, armies of angels could descend
◦ seeing Jesus pray, I find myself feeling lost and stupid
I realize I do not know how to pray – that I know nothing about prayer

Now, the second slide – the disciples were with him
– how could he be alone and the disciples be with him at same time?
maybe he was the only one praying, and they were just there
◦ perhaps observing him, learning by watching
maybe he was alone in prayer, as if having a private conversation
◦ he was alone, but only in regard to humans – he was with the Father
maybe he was alone they way all of us are alone when we pray
◦ God does not embrace people en masse, but one at a time
◦ no one gets lost in the crowd
▫ we cannot minimize the individual attention we receive from God
▫ if we do, our prayers can become empty words
◦ when we turn to God, he is near and gives his full attention
◦ and for that golden moment, we are alone with God
maybe Jesus was alone the way he was always alone
◦ he wasn’t like anyone else – even his own disciples didn’t get him
◦ in Matthew, what follows his two questions and statement, is that Peter rebukes Jesus
– Jesus was always alone, because he is an incomprehensible mystery

Verses 18b-20, And now the big moment–and it hinges on two questions

What is the word on the street?
– Luke already gave us a foreshadow of the rumor mill,
Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him. (Lk. 9:7-9)
• the first thing about these speculations that intrigues me:
◦ each one refers either to someone long ago or raised from dead
(technically, Elijah would not have been raised from the dead, because he didn’t die)
◦ the crowds recognized a supernatural dimension in Jesus
• the second thing that intrigues me,
◦ no one in the crowds was saying he was a fake,
◦ or that Jesus was a nobody – nothing more than carpenter
– why did Jesus want to know what the crowds were saying?
• I think the point, is to bring the question into sharp focus: Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
◦ if he were only a prophet, a John the Baptist or an Elijah,
◦ then he may be a great reformer, but that would be all
• just another voice for God in a nation that had heard many voices
◦ it was important to learn the chatter of the crowd,
◦ but Jesus also had to hear the disciples’ answer

The disciples lived closer to Jesus – spent more time with him
– they had a more complete knowledge of him
• Peter’s complete answer in Matthew:
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16)
◦ Mark’s streamlined version, You are the Christ (Mk. 8:29)
◦ Luke, You are the Christ of God
• the promised Messiah – the anointed One – Israel’s rightful king
◦ according to the prophets, the Messiah would usher in a new age
◦ he would establish the kingdom of God on earth
– why wasn’t this suggestion regarding Jesus rumored among the crowds?
• because Jesus did not look like the Messiah they expected
• and the kingdom he preached was hidden, invisible (Mt. 13:11, 31-33, 44-46)
◦ the kingdom was present and powerful with Jesus, but not as a political force
◦ people wanted a political Messiah, a military commander

Our concern in these talks is prayer – SO,
– why was it important to Luke that Jesus prayed before asking the questions?
• Matthew tells this story, but doesn’t mention Jesus’ prayer
◦ Mark tells the story too, and he also leaves out Jesus’ prayer
• Luke tells us Jesus prayed–and in this odd context: alone-yet-with
– here’s how I see it:
• Luke knows he has nothing more important to say regarding Jesus than who he is
◦ did the crowds know? Did the disciples know? Do Luke’s readers know?
• this was Luke’s purpose in writing the story of Jesus
◦ do we know who Jesus is?

Someone might argue, “The most important thing Luke had to say about Jesus is, that he was crucified and then rose again”
• but that is only important if we know who it was that was crucified and raised
• so the right answer regarding the person of Jesus had to be stated
◦ his identity had to be revealed
◦ and as we go on in Luke, the revelation becomes increasingly fuller–e.g., Lk. 24:25-27, 44-47

One more stage to the story
And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” Luke 9:21-22
(I told you this passage is a bit strange)

If this story opens with what a seeming contradiction, at this point, Jesus seems to undermine what he wanted to establish
– “Okay, you know the truth. But don’t tell it to anyone!”
• if knowing his identity is everything, why keep it a secret?
– N. T. Wright, a respected New Testament scholar, suggested that “once Jesus was thought of as a potential or would-be Messiah, the movement would swiftly attract attention of the wrong sort.”
• his ministry would’ve been brought to an end much too soon
• or, because he was a different Messiah than expected, it would have caused them to stumble

But there may have been other reasons he kept it secret–for instance:
1. this is a discovery each person must make on their own
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Mt. 11:27)
No one can come to me unless the Father draws him. . . . Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me (Jn. 6:44-45)
2. we can never eliminate the mystery
• that God’s work is transcendent, hidden, beyond knowing
• that is the mystery of the kingdom of God
3. what God desires most from us is our faith–our trust
• not mere belief in a truth
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder (Jas. 2:19)
• a personal–and sometimes painful–trust in God

Conclusion: I think Christians in the United States need to wake up

To be a Christian, means that a person knows Jesus
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed . . . you put up with it readily enough (2 Cor. 11:4)
I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him (Jn. 5:43)

When I come to know Jesus for who he is, he shows me myself for who I am,
and I learn things I would have rather remained buried
But though Jesus knows me, sins and all, he gives me life in himself
This is what Luke is telling us and what John said so succinctly:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name. (Jn. 20:30-31)

Jul 31 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 31, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Jim Calhoun

The Lord be with you

Thank you Lord for all the gifts you so freely prepare and give to us. For the natural world, your creation, with all of its beauty and wonder, We thank you, Lord.

For our daily bread, our food and drink, sometimes scarce, sometimes abundant, sometimes a surprising unexpected delight, and always with you a feast, We thank you, Lord.

For all those we love, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our adversaries and enemies, and our brothers and sisters with us here, We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious and good and lovely in the lives of men and women, revealing the to us your presence, We thank you, Lord.

For your abiding presence in our lives, moment by moment with us, and the call, the opportunity that we may abide with you, We thank you, Lord.

For your forgiveness, your tenderness toward us, your gentle call to come close, We thank you, Lord.
For the healing, repairs, and wholeness you work into our lives, We thank you, Lord.
For the opportunity to love others as you have loved us, We thank you, Lord.
 Cause us to remember
and hold close
every gift you have given us. Let us sit with them,
name them
and let them fill us with your great love
Inspire us with gratitude
and compassion
to share with others in our lives
just as freely as you have loved us.
Help us to overcome our cynicism,
our being overwhelmed,
our forgetfulness.
Help us to overcome
our natural inclinations
to pettiness, resentments,
withholding, self-protection
and fearfulness.
Show us how the gifts you have given us can now be gifts to others. We thank you Lord, Amen

This Morning’s Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Luke 9:12-17

Intro: I do not play hooky on Saturdaysever

My day is devoted to preparing myself and my Sunday talk
– so even if I spend a half-hour staring at the wall, it’s okay
• either my brain needs time to sort things out or my soul needs inspiration
• but yesterday I went AWOL for three hours and God let me and met me
– a few years ago, I ran into a man of God I had heard a lot about
• I was leaving a chapel where I had officiated a wedding,
◦ and Phil Aguilar was arriving at that chapel to officiate the next wedding
◦ it was a brief, chance encounter – nothing more
• but three weeks ago I felt God wanted me to make contact with him
◦ so Pastor Phil cleared some time for me, and we met yesterday
◦ we found ourselves bonded in Jesus
• our meeting did a lot for me, so it was a great day

Luke’s story opens with a great day
– Jesus took his disciples to an out-of-the-way village, Bethsaida
• but when the crowds found out he was there, they tracked him down
and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing (Lk. 9:10-11)
• I wish I had been there! That was a great day
– by late afternoon, the disciples became worried
• the people needed to head home while they still had plenty of light
◦ then Jesus threw disciples a curve, You give them them something to eat
• helpless, confused, the disciples were up against a wall
◦ but Jesus took over and saved the day

We are tracking Jesus’ prayers and teaching on prayer in Luke, but . . .

The word “prayer” does not appear in this episode
– I’m assuming Jesus’ blessing of the loaves and fish was a kind of prayer
• there is a Jewish prayer recited over the bread before meals
Barukh atah Adonai Elohehnu melekh ha-olam
ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz (Amen)

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe
who brings forth bread from the earth (Amen)
• “to bless” can mean “to praise”
◦ but can also mean to give shalom from one’s own soul
– so we can give a blessing of praise or thanks,
• but we can also release a blessing
◦ as father’s did for their sons or the priests did for the people
◦ Jesus was not going to skip the blessing
• as we observe him in this instance, what do we learn?

We learn something about his gestures: that he prayed with his body

We’re looking for verbs in this passage – the action words
he took, he looked, he spoke, he broke, and he gave
• Jesus is praying with his hands, his voice, his head and his eyes
◦ a person who sings with passion does not move just their lips
◦ they shut their eyes tight, clinch their fists, and flex every muscle
Their entire body sings
• in scripture, when people prayed passionately, they did it with the whole body
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice
(Ps. 141:2)
◦ we can pray with our bodies while driving – like conversing with passenger
◦ many have found it helpful to do a walking prayer:
Moving through stations of cross or a prayer labyrinth with Jesus
– I think the most common posture of prayer in church,
• is with that of humility – with the head down and eyes closed
◦ here is Jesus praying with his head up and his eyes open
• previously we saw that at Jesus’ baptism, the heavens opened and God spoke
◦ this time, Jesus looks up to heaven and he speaks

Do you see what Jesus is doing?
– his looking upward was a gesture of reorientation
(turn your head and eyes, and you turn your whole body)
• the disciples looked at the huge crowd and their slender rations,
◦ and hit a wall, but Jesus opened the window of heaven,
◦ from our side of the wall, and miracles flowed out
• looking up, Jesus brought to the people an awareness of God
◦ looking up, Jesus made God present to the crowd
– so his blessing is not a mechanical tradition,
• and people are not in a breadline at a soup kitchen
• this event has become an encounter with the living God

We learn something from Jesus’ glance heavenward

The disciples were worried – the people were getting hungry –
– there was no convenient source of food nearby;
• something had to be done, and it had to happen NOW
– I think it’s beautiful that Jesus did respond to the disciples quickly
• he got things moving – he had his disciples organize the crowd
◦ he took hold of the bread and fish, and he blessed them
◦ he did not skip this simple action, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them

For Jesus, this was like a family meal or a dinner with friends
– the bread had to be blessed
• and there was time enough to look up to heaven
– life in the 21st century is busy, fast-paced, and complicated
• there are many times when we realize our need for prayer,
◦ but we tell ourselves, “I don’t have time to pray right now”
◦ it can always feel this way – no time to pray
• we have time to glance at our watch, or in our rearview mirror
◦ or at the person next to us
◦ so we have time to glance at the sky, and through the sky to “our Father who is in heaven”
– the glance is enough to reorient, to wake up, to connect

For me, there is something to be learned about gazing upward

A couple years ago I came across the word attunement in an essay by Daniel Siegel
– (at first I thought he had made up the word and I didn’t like it)
• recently I read an explanation that made sense
◦ Gabor Matè describing connection of infant with mother, explains that the baby needs more than to see a mother’s smiling face
Matè, “What they needed were signals that the mother is aligned with, responsive to and participating in their mental states from moment to moment.” . . . This sharing of emotional spaces is called attunement.”
He goes on,
“Its clearest expression is the rapturous mutual gaze infant and mother direct at each other, locked in a private and special emotional realm, from which, at that moment, the rest of the world is as completely excluded as from the womb.”
• there are moments when prayer becomes attunement
– I am sure that you have been somewhere with other people
• and one of them is a special friend – then a person makes a comment or statement
◦ and instantly you and your friend look at each and share a smile
◦ you don’t have to say a thing, because you both already know
• you have a connection,
◦ so just a glance opens the flow of communication
– prayer can be a glance toward heaven, IF
• you’ve already spent time prayer-gazing at Jesus

I have been reminding you that you are an artist

I’ve also mentioned that the Psalms are a kind of spirit-poetry
– listen to this:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth (Ps. 121:1-2)
• the poet looks to the tall, stable hills – but nor for help
• the hills are a starting point in prayer,
◦ the beginning movement of our eyes upward
◦ the hills are an inspiration, we go to One who made hills

Conclusion: Friday morning I borrowed a poem for my med.

It’s from Song of Solomon (I know my thoughts weren’t the intended meaning of the verse)
– but what is true of lovers is often true of our feelings for Jesus
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely
(Song. 2:14)
• when we were in Colossians, we read:
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:2-3)
My most valuable earthly possession is a “thing”—that’s all
If I ask, “How can I not be fixated on things in this world of things?
Paul says, “It’s easy for a dead person”
The more alive I am in Christ, the more dead I am to the world

Look up and lay up treasures in heaven,
because where our treasures are stored,
that is where our hearts will be

Jul 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 24, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to RefleXion.  Welcome back, Chuck.        May the Lord be with you!

Have you been seeing the fantastic images from the James Webb Telescope?  Aren’t they wonder-full?  The telescope itself is so amazing, all those mirrors, the guidance system.  And it got me wondering about how we communicate with the telescope and, well, how we communicate with anything in space, in the beyond, and how we communicate with God.

 I do not understand electromagnetic waves.  I researched it this week, because I am truly interested and wanted to be somewhat informed; but, radio waves, light waves, bandwidths, frequencies, etc. are not what I know much about.  But here’s what I get:  Communication relies on two things:  A transmitter and a receiver.  A message is sent on electromagnetic waves, say radio waves, and they are encoded.  The receiver collects and demodulates them so we can receive them, perhaps as audio waves, if we’re tuned in to the same frequency as they are broadcast.

What makes clear communication?  tuning in to the right frequency, the distance between the transmitter and receiver, speed, power, and lack of interference.

Where am I going with this?  If I want to tune in to God’s Voice (considering I am the receiver and He’s the transmitter), first of all, I must know that I am built to tune in by my spirit.  God’s Spirit and my spirit operate on the same frequency.  We are wired to hear.  Then I must stay close, rely on the power of the Spirit, and  avoid any interference (that would cause static in my ability to hear clearly).  Meditation practices are one way I can do this.

I’ve heard, and still hear, people say that they don’t want to meditate because it is opening ourselves up to anything.  I think a better way to speak about Christian meditation is that we are being receptive, not “open to anything”. We are tuning in, as we are made to do, to God’s frequency, letting go of any interfering noise, coming as close and being as quiet as we can, and waiting for the resonance.

How do you tune in?  How does God feel to you?    

I feel it as a kind of aliveness, an energy, something in me is in agreement with. 

Join me to pray, will you:

God, the heavens declare Your glory.  Day after day they continue to speak and make You known.  You don’t have to come so far to speak to us.  In You, we live and move and have our being. You do not rely on the mechanics of the material world.  Nor do we.  We pray that Your dear Voice would be sure and sweet to us, determined to get through to us.  May we also hold dear the ability to recognize Your Presence.  Your Spirit will bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  We praise You that You are showing us such glorious images of the universe.  We praise You that we are a part of Your glorious creation.  Hear us Lord, as we pray.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Luke 6:1-16

Intro: We are following Jesus through Luke’s gospel,

Paying attention to the times he prayed or taught on prayer or encouraged people to pray
– if I ask, “What is most notable about this prayer?”
• isn’t it the statement, that all night he continued in prayer to God?
◦ that is bound to make an impression on us,
◦ especially those of us who use prayer to put ourselves to sleep at night
• Luke knew we would react to this aspect of Jesus’ prayer
– it may be that we will have nights when we cannot sleep
• we’ll be so upset or anxious, we keep going back to God
• Paul had many sleepless nights (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27)
◦ but I don’t believe this is the same as Jesus’ all-night prayer

Just so we’re clear – God never asked for all-night prayers
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety (Ps. 4:8)
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep (Ps. 127:2)
– a few leaders in the early Church advocated getting up to pray at night
• some monasteries still practice midnight vigils,
◦ but that’s not the point of Jesus’ all-night prayer
• it’s typical of new Christians to apply every verse to themselves
◦ I try to explain gently, “It’s not always about you”
◦ it’s usually about the characters in the story
– praying through the night, or getting up to pray is a potential tool
• it is like fasting – it’s there when you need it
And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days (Lk. 5:33-35)
• we don’t make prayer more effective by adding minutes and hours or by self-deprivation
◦ there is a different message for us here

Luke is showing us something about Jesus

What do we learn from his all-night prayer?
– some teachers see an example of Jesus’ intimacy with the Father
• in John’s gospel, Jesus frequently stresses he did not act on his own–cf. Jn. 5:19-20
• so he approached God to maintain an open channel
– others see an example of Jesus being refreshed and re-energized
• that all-night prayer was the source of his power (see v. 19)
– these are lovely thoughts, and there may be some truth to them,
• but Luke does not point us in these directions
• typically these explanations urge us to do the same as Jesus; that is, spend a night in prayer
◦ but that’s not Luke’s point
◦ all-night prayers are not going to make us miracle-workers

What are You doing, Jesus of Nazareth?

When You hike up that mountain to pray?
– do You kneel on the ground?
• do You stand with hands lifted to the sky?
◦ are You doing all the talking, or do you listen as well?
• Does Your heart break as You pray?
◦ break for the crowds of poor people, hopeless and lost?
◦ break for the blind and deaf, the leper and the lonely?
– what are You doing up there, all night?

Sometime later, Jesus will tell his disciples,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Lk. 10:2)
– maybe that was his prayer
• we may get a hint from his prayer in John 17:
I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me . . . . I am praying for them. . . . I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:9, 20-21)
– there is a reason why I believe Luke is implying something like this
• it has to do with what happens next
◦ Jesus called his disciples to himself – already there were many
◦ and from them, he chose twelve and named them apostles
• immediately after that, he was bombarded again by the crowds
◦ so to understand his all-night prayer, we can start here

Jesus went to God in preparation for what would come next

Jesus had arrived at the next stage of his ministry
– this all-night prayer, like his baptism, was a rite-of-passage
• the crowds were going to keep coming
◦ making it more difficult for him to get to all their villages
◦ and more difficult to provide a personal touch for each person
• Jesus needed helpers to share in the work
◦ but he had to be careful in his selection of these particular disciples
◦ so he consults his Father to confirm his choices
– what I’ll share now are my own thoughts and meditations

My first thought: I find comfort that Jesus went to God

He shows me the way – and the value of that spiritual connection
– his life was a partnership with the Father
• and our lives are a partnership with Jesus and the Father
◦ again, from his prayer in John 17:
you have given [your Son] authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (Jn. 17:2-3)
• I do not need to justify my total dependence on God
– that Jesus went to God before choosing the apostles,
• reveals the importance of not skipping that step
• we often feel rushed into decisions – to meet deadlines, and so on
◦ or we feel we have enough information to take action on our own
◦ there’s a story in Joshua in which he and the leaders of Israel were conned and the story serves as a warning
So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD (Jos. 9:14)

My second meditation: Jesus went to God on behalf of his followers

Did he spend an hour praying over each apostle? Twelve hours of nighttime prayer?
– I want to imagine his prayer over each apostle
“Thank You Father, for John. I want him to be with me always. His enthusiasm gets in his way a bit, but still, he listens, he pays close attention, he is the first to understand me, and his spirit is open.”
• and so on, from Peter and his brother Andrew, all way down to Judas Iscariot
• on their last night together, before his crucifixion, Jesus turned to Peter and said,
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers (Lk. 22:31-32)
– wouldn’t it be wonderful to know Jesus prays like this for you?
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Ro. 8:34)
. . . he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25)

My third meditation: Jesus does more that pray for us

All night long he has this secret conversation with the Father
– now he invites us into the conversation
• my most intense prayers have been conversations with Jesus
◦ usually they are conversations that he started
• prayer is an open door – an open invitation
– Luke’s point with all his references to Jesus’ prayers and teaching
• is that we can pray too; we can join Jesus in prayer

Conclusion: In my last talk, Jesus slipped into wilderness to pray

Here he climbs a mountain – maybe the closest place that provided solitude
– in the symbolism of scripture, this could suggest two types of prayer
the wilderness: self-emptying prayer, where God is everything
the mountain: is often a place of revelation–looking and listening
◦ many believers travel through wilderness of prayer before reaching the mountain
◦ Moses was forty years in the wilderness before he arrived at Sinai
Elijah was forty days and forty nights in the desert before he came to Horeb
– for most of us, prayer involves more wilderness struggles than mountain-top visions

So it’s important to remember, God is present in both spaces — all times and places
Our prayer experience is specific to when and where he meets us
So it’s not whether we’ve ever prayed all night,
but whether our prayers are real – in spirit and in truth
whether we pray with awareness of God’s presence
Because if our hearts are elsewhere when we pray, we have wasted our time
Henri Nouwen, “Every human being is called by Jesus in a unique way. But we have to be looking for God, we have to be willing to spend time with him, and we must allow others to become part of our spiritual discoveries.”