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Aug 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 7, 2022

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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.”

Jul 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 17, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, dear ones!          May the Lord be with you!

A while back, I was waiting for my car to be serviced and a woman with a young dog, actually a puppy, came in to the waiting room.  The puppy was wearing a vest that read, “Support Dog in Training.”  She told the dog to Sit, and he did.  But he was looking all about, distracted with everything in the room.  Then she said, “Settle,” and the dog sort of half-heartedly relaxed, but was still very distracted as if he would jump at the chance to be released from this torture of sitting.  She looked at him and kindly but firmly repeated the order, “Settle.”  He calmly lay down beside her with a completely relaxed posture, head down, not looking for any way out.

I borrowed these terms for myself; knowing that often I am like that puppy, distracted by many things.  I can move from Sit (ok I’m sitting, Lord) to Settle–letting go of distractions, settling my heart (I’m safe, I’m loved, one thing I desire), settling my mind (I’m fixed on my intention to be-here-now, letting go of everything else), as well as settling my body, relaxing my muscles, relaxing breath.

Then I was introduced more recently to the beautiful phrase “Sink Down to the Seed.” Isaac Pennington wrote those words in 1661.  Pennington was one of the early members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers.  Here it is in context, I call it a prayer to settle our souls:

Give over thine own willing, give over thy own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee, and be in thee, and breathe in thee, and act in thee; and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of Life, which is its portion.

Sink down to the Seed.  So now, the movements for me are Sit, Settle, and Sink Down.

I’m offering those words to you.  You can use them in your Quiet Time this week if they seem right to you.  See where they take you.  Are they helpful?  Do they seem lovely?  Do they speak to your soul, as they do to mine?

So, as we begin:  Sit.   Settle.   Sink Down to the Seed that God has sown in your heart.

Morning Talk: Beth Khorey

I’ve chosen ACTS 9, the episode of Saul’s encounter with Jesus as a demonstration of my
definition of the religious word “prayer.”
PRAYER: an ongoing conversational reality with God, myself and others.
Monastics for centuries have said in a “nutshell”:
ALL OF LIFE IS PRAYER
PRAYER IS ALL OF LIFE
Prayer is an integrating dynamic:
• OF ENCOUNTERING JESUS–his person, his words, and his works
• OF CONVERSION OF SELF OR SOUL–or the continuous change (or transformation) of the soul in Christ
• OF EXPANDING OUR COMMUNAL EXPERIENCE within the TRI-UNITY of God and others in
the world.

What Jesus pointed to as the two great commands to follow were LOVE GOD and LOVE
OTHERS as I love you. In conjunction with spiritual reading and faith formation practices, PRAYER
CONTOURS THE WAY JESUS-FOLLOWERS:
• live and die,
• learn to love in tangible life giving ways,
• experience conflict both inner and outer – the frictions and fractions of being human and
longing for the Divine
• which leads to forgiveness and the freedom of being forgiven, (absolved of guilt and
shame)
• to see the invisible and visible signs of God-With-Us in the world
• endure hardships and heartaches, patiently, with the hope of restorative healing and
reconciliation
• and the imagination to inhabit God’s-story, embodying it as a “livable faith”
o something more than spectator or observer – but as a participant
o something more enriching than the acquisition of religious knowledge and information
out of curiosity – but a becoming a flourishing and wise person as God intended
[Please read ACTS 9]

(In public domain)


PRAYER as ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS
(With reference to the painting by Caravaggio – a visual narration of Saul’s
conversion as told in by Luke, Paul’s traveling companion and author of Acts.)
A story of Saul’s on his murderous mission to apprehend Jesus’ followers, “breathing threats”
with the backing of the “religious leaders”!
Back Story: In Chapter 8 Luke tells us: that Saul approved and applauded the execution of
Stephen one of the early friends of Jesus.
Saul was a young zealous Jew – trained, skilled, educated, and because of his Hebrew pedigree,
he was given a prestigious position with the religious leaders to take on a this mission with full
backing and authority to APPREHEND and ARREST any friend of Jesus.
Saul encounters Jesus on his way to Damascus (the conversational reality begins!)
• Jesus, comes – (always coming to meet his people) – with disruptive invitation to stop the
violence
and reorient Saul on a new course.
To STOP the violence: German scholar Klaus Wengst stated of God’s people (The Church),
We are “the sphere of interrupted violence in the midst of a violent world.” (quote taken from
Michael Gorman’s, Cruciformity)
• A Light Shone From Heaven: (later in Paul’s life I wonder if he was thinking of this moment
and connecting dots when he said to the people of Corinth:
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of
the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
2 Cor.4:6
I believe this was a Genesis Moment for Paul – a generative moment of making a NEW
CREATION in Paul – (thinking of “prayer” as generative, making new as I encounter Jesus, the life
and the LIGHT of the world).
(I think the NEW CREATION is linked inextricably to stopping the violence, the death, the damage
of sin and destructive actions of humans bent on life “without” God.)

PRAYER as CONVERSION
We may know this episode in the life of Paul as his “conversion” and conversion is another
religious word that may connote a “one time event.” Unlike what we might have understood of
conversion in the Christian tradition–I don’t think it’s a one time event … but rather more like the
entrance into ongoing conversational reality of relationship with God in Christ.
Our conversion is not static but fluid.
• It ebbs and flows into developmental spiritual growth;
• it takes place in the prayerful conversation and encounters with Jesus (through his person
and his Word); with our relational exchanges with others; and in our circumstances
It’s an ongoing, lifelong rhythm of change
While still retaining foundational marks of the JESUS-FAITH and the JESUS-STORY we find
ourselves in need of:
o rethinking,
o re-imagining
o re-embodying the whole God-story… in order to grow in relationship with God, the
self and others
Thomas Merton (a 20th century American Trappist monk, activist, writer and theologian of the contemplative life) wrote:
“We are not converted only once in our lives, but many times; and this endless series of
large and small conversions and inner revolutions, leads to our transformation in Christ.”
(quote taken from Bradley Holt’s, Thirsty for God)

I would like to suggest that Saul’s encounter with Jesus and conversation shaped an ongoing
imagination and prayerful dialectic with Jesus for the rest of his life: for his experiential life, his
vocational work and his circumstances (as Jesus stated in Acts 9 “he is my instrument…I will
show him all the things he will suffer for my name’s sake.”
)
• Paul’s conversation didn’t scrub him of all his education and knowledge of God from the
Hebrew Scriptures rather the analogue to that knowledge with Jesus
• Jesus would begin to intricately stitch together all the Scriptures in Paul (as he wrote in Romans 1 says the “Gospel of God” is the whole story)
• Paul would become the best source for telling the integrative story of the Jesus-life
• For centuries, leading scholars and theologians continue to parse out Paul’s literature to
make sense of the Jesus-life
• Psalm 139–and Paul in some of his biographical literature indicates this is true of himself–God knew him in the womb – his entire life was known by God
• His knowledge and education is put to use – AND – put in appropriate order after
meeting Jesus (Php. 3 – counting all things loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus)
(With reference to the painting)
Combined with the Scriptural narration – there’s a rather revelatory artist insight offered to us in
the painting by Caravaggio. It shows me a little bit of how Saul’s encounter, conversion and
conversation with Jesus contoured his personhood:

The Artistic intuition reveals these things:
LIGHT FROM HEAVEN SHONE ABOUT HIM
• The otherliness of the exaggerated use of light and darkness – Saul is bathed in brilliance
– shining on his face – in contrast to his dark surroundings as the overshadowing of the
Divine Presence “off the canvas frame” indicating it comes from “outside” of our selves
– it is Other than our selves.
• Articulates a change: something of the Genesis account hints at the description of the
Holy Spirit hovering, brooding over the dark waters – the formless and void – precreation
earth – in a waiting anticipation for the new creation to take shape.
• Light and darkness also articulates the paradoxical poetics of Saul’s sightedness (he
could see, yet was blind, he was blinded, yet could see). His eyes and ears needed Divine
adjustment in the New Creation-Making of his being.
HE FELL TO THE GROUND
• let’s say he was “grounded” maybe for the first time . . .
• This grounding posture conveys the soul’s receptivity in prayer to God’s Spirit who imbues
the soul with power to change the human self.
• Bodily posture is the most vulnerable – we are the least physically strong on our backs –
indicating a type of openness, vulnerability and humility, that became for Paul a
patterned posture (Php. 2 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, who humbled
himself . . .”
)
• Defenses dropped/Knocked off his high horse, sword falling to his side – All the horse-like structures and weapons used to power up, posture ourselves as better, stronger, bigger, “more than you.” All this
falls away in the presence of Jesus (through prayer – the ongoing conversational reality I engage in when meeting Jesus – who comes to meet me – to stop the violence and to convert my soul and transform me into His likeness).
{Michael Gorman in his work of Pauline literature in his book Cruciformity asserts in the early days of his
conversion Paul was with the disciples (Acts 9:19), learning the ancient creedal prayer of Php. 2 from
which Paul would base his entire spirituality and teaching on to the entire Church.}
INNER AUTHORITY
• Lastly Paul askes: “who are you LORD?” – an intuition emerging, though unrecognized in
his conscious state – that who he was meeting was “The Lord.”
• In prayer we learn to listen to the inner intuition and authority. It is THIS voice – the voice
of Jesus we follow. (Paul was given “authority” by the religious leaders – now, he learns
the real authority in his life – Jesus).
A revelatory experience of TRUE DIVINITY and TRUEST HUMANITY engaging together

HERE’S THE INVITATION FOR US
When we follow Jesus as LORD, instead of a “muscled up” – clinched fists, highly defended stand, we take a posture of vulnerability, honesty, arms open as receptive (almost a “cradle posture” of a babe waiting for parental embrace)
It’s an invitation to live the Jesus-Paradox:
• weakness is the new faculty of understanding;
• strength is located in risked vulnerability;
• true power is reconstituted in Christ’s own HUMILITY, DEATH and resurrected life;
• and love is demonstrated in a self-donating hospitality through the Spirit of the Crucified-
RISEN LORD JESUS.
It’s a new creation identity and vocation: “FLESH AND BLOOD DID NOT REVEAL IT”
• Instead of gaining authority, prestige and position from religious leadership or popular
political affiliations or crowd wining – people-pleasing antics – We follow Jesus, we learn
to listen to his voice, discern his guidance, we live and move and have our being in him.
It’s also a creation model of vocation: we act in the authority of Christ–to co-labor and
collaborate with Christ, in the power of the Spirit of Christ for the sake of Christ being
formed in others (Galatians 4:19)

PRAYER as COMMUNAL ACTIVETY
PAUL WAS PRAYING / ANAIAS WAS READY IN PRAYER
JESUS and PEOPLE – this is how deeply Jesus is relationally committed to people – it’s UNION.
“Why are you persecuting Me?” Indicates just how integrated Jesus is in the life of his friends.
“I in them, and Thou, Father, in Me, that they may be made perfect in One…. And the glory which
Thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be One as we also are One.”

(John 17)
• Unless we come into this realization, religion is reduced to a privatized affair – and that’s
just not what God’s Story pictures.
• HUMANITY is God’s intimate and ultimate concern – his heart beat beats with
compassion, reconciling and redeeming the people to himself in Christ.
• I believe wholeheartedly Paul learned something KEY to his formation – GOD IS FOR US –
NOT AGAINST US – and that we are to live for Christ’s sake and the sake of others.
• The only way I know to become “FOR OTHERS” instead of “AGAINST OTHERS” is in and
through the ongoing conversational reality of encounter and conversion through the
Jesus experience.
WHILE PAUL WAS PRAYING . . .
• PRAYER includes waiting and listening.
ANOTHER CONVERSATION WITH JESUS WAS HAPPENING…
• Ananias is addressed by Jesus in a vision simultaneously to Paul’s silent prayer
• Ananias is responsive to Jesus: “HERE I AM LORD”
• Ananias has his own encounter and conversion experience in conversation with Jesus –
specifically with his perception of Saul – the way he thinks and sees another person he
doesn’t know personally. In prayer, Saul goes from perceived enemy (AGAINST US) to
Friend of Jesus – enabling Ananias to meeting him with affectionate intimacy “BROTHER
SAUL”

• Ananias is led from a posture of defensive distance-keeping to nearness and intimacy as
he “lays hands”
HEALING often transpires within a COMMUNITY of pray-ers.
Thomas Merton shortened the John 17 prayer of Jesus as:
“I in You (Father) and You in me;
You in them;
Them in me.”
THE OUTCOME
Saul sees and is filled with the Holy Spirit – a redemptive baptism into new creation life.
EARS TO HEAR THE VOICE OF JESUS
EYES TO SEE THE FACE OF JESUS

CLOSING PRAYER
I am going to close with a prayer that is a poem written by E.E. cummings (1894–1962)
I Thank You God . . .
I thank You God for this most amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(I who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Jul 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 19, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

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

The air we breathe….did you ever meditate on air?  The Genesis story of beginnings tells us that God created Light and Dark, Heaven and Earth, the Seas, (no mention of air), Plants and Trees (don’t they need air?), stars, sun and moon, sea creatures and birds, beasts of the earth (birds and beasts need air!), and then men and women.  Maybe the elements were created to form air. 

I don’t know, but what we learn is that when the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, the man became a living soul.  Finally, some breath, so we are God-breathed into life; were the other creatures?  And His Breath is not just oxygen, because we can pump oxygen into a dead body, and that will not bring it to life.  God’s Breath is Life itself. (Our True Father on Fathers’ Day)

And think about this, the air we inhale is also exhaled, as is and was the air that every creature from time immemorial breathed in and out.  We’re connected in some fundamental way. So, while we aren’t likely to breathe the same atom of oxygen that Brad Pitt did, every breath we take has, at one time or another, been associated with another living organism.  It’s recycled of course.  The plants breathing in the carbon dioxide we exhale give us back the oxygen we need, but if the plants are polluted, is the air they return to us also polluted?  Once again, a reminder that we are connected to all of life.   

We know that we have polluted air, and not just with the industrial waste and smog.  But do you think that our air can be polluted with anger, or division, or fear? 

What if the air we breath in can be further polluted by us with the stuff we carry around: shame, fear, anger, and then we breath that out?  There is actually a contemplative compassion meditation practice called Tonglen where the practice is to breathe in someone’s suffering and to purposefully allow that air to be transformed by the gifts of our heart:  peace, kindness, goodness, wisdom, and then exhaled for the benefit of the suffering person or for the world.  Interesting, isn’t it? 
Just some things that I’m pondering.

Morning Talk: Cheryl Smith

Philippians Overview
Joy is to be resident in our lives
John 15:11 Over
800 rejoicing texts (Pollyanna)
Psalm 16:11
Joy in our culture can appear
Irresponsible
Insensitive
This is due to a misunderstanding of Joy

Our joy resides and is due to Jesus
Who He is
What He has done
His promises

Philippians
Known as the Epistle of Joy
Joy mentioned in every chapter
Extraordinary
Paul in prison in Rome
Awaiting verdict from his trial before Nero
This epistle tells us about Joy

Perspective of Joy
Pursuit of Joy
Priorities of Joy
Practice of Joy

Philippians 1- Perspective of Joy
Verse 1- Servant of Jesus
Paul’s perspective
Paul was not the victim of Nero, Rome, unscrupulous men, false accusations
Paul was a servant of the Jesus the Messiah
As such wherever Paul was – Her served Jesus
Whatever Paul did- He served Jesus
However Paul acted was in service to Jesus
Paul gave everything to Jesus – Use this Lord for your glory
Therefore, Paul found reasons to rejoice even in his trial and imprisonment
Great mission field – preached Christ and the whole palace guard heard it
Emboldened others
Even those who didn’t like Paul were preaching Jesus.

Verse 21 – For me to live is Christ and to die is gain
With a perspective like that joy is assured
Keep me here and I will continue to serve Jesus with joy
Kill me and I go to be with the Lord in the presence of Joy

Philippians 2- Pursuit of Joy

The pursuit of Joy is to have the mind of Christ
Verse 5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation taking on the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross.”

The mind of Christ will guarantee Joy in our fellowship and relationships
Consolation in Christ
Comfort of Love
Fellowship in the Spirit
Affection and Mercy
These done with the mind of Christ will result in joy
Like minded- same pursuits
Same love
One accord
One mind

Vv. !2-18 God is working individually with us and corporately to work in us a desire and deliberation toward His good will
He works this through our circumstances
He works this in us as we hold on to the Word of Life
Paul then mentions two men who had this joy imparting mind of Christ
Timothy
Epaphroditus

Philippians 3—the Priorities of Joy
Not rules and regulations that others try to add to Jesus
Not accomplishments of the past
Not the measurements of society

These priorities lead to: Comparison, competition, criticism, conceit and condemnation
Priorities are:
The knowledge of Jesus Christ
To know Jesus as much as humanly possible on earth
To be found in Jesus
To claim His righteousness as my own
To know the power of Jesus
To fellowship or join with Jesus in my suffering
To forge forward
Leave the past to the past
Find the purpose of Christ for me
Heaven!
Eagerly wait for Jesus to come
Transformation of our lowly bodies to be glorious like His

Philippians 4—Practices of Joy

Help others to get along – Euodia and Syntyche
Practice His presence – Rejoice in the Lord
Take everything to the Lord in prayer
Every anxiety
Every problem
Every dilemma
Every request
With thanksgiving – thanksgiving reminds us of
All we have
All God has already done

Filter your thoughts – Keep only the thoughts that are:
(Cognitive Therapy)
True
Noble
Just
Pure
Lovely
Good report
Virtuous
Praise worthy

Learn (a process that you apply yourself) to be content by
Drawing on Christ’s strength
Knowing that God will provide all your needs always
Give as the Philippians did (18) be generous

God desires that His children be Joyful Children
Take time to think of all the reasons you have to rejoice in the Lord
His presence
His productivity in your life
His peace

Joy is promised for us through the work of Christ for us and in us
We can rejoice today because we have the perspective, pursuit, priorities and practices of Christ which will produce Joy!

Jul 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 10, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Jim Calhoun

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.
Amen

This Morning’s Talk: chuck smith, jr.

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray Luke 5:12-16

Intro: A man, “full of leprosy” came to Jesus

This was a bold move – desperation can inspire great courage
– lepers were not allowed in cities or to approach others
• if he did, he was sure to hear the shouts of angry voices
• he was not only isolated from community – but rejected by it
◦ it was a sad, lonely life
◦ and he had done nothing to deserve it
– this man came looking for Jesus, and when he found him
he fell on his face
• not literally, but he dropped to his knees suddenly and quickly,
◦ begging Jesus, Lord, if you will, you can make me clean
◦ later, a father would bring his son to Jesus, and say,
If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us (Mk. 9:22)
• the Lord did not like that; he replied, “If you can?!”
◦ notice the difference between what the father said and what the leper said:
If you can do anything
If you will, you can . . .
◦ the leper placed himself in Jesus’ hands, to do what he willed or wished
– I imagine that Jesus was pleased with the leper,
• and with a gentle smile, Jesus did the forbidden; he
stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean”

Jesus wanted to keep this miracle on the down-low
– but an event like this cannot be kept quiet; news traveled fast
• then the crowds came; some limping on crutches,
◦ others guiding a blind friend, or carrying a sick child
• huge crowds arrived to hear Jesus and be healed by him
– do you know why so many people showed up?
• not only because they heard about the miracle, but because of Jesus’ “I will”
◦ they knew he was not only able to heal, but willing
◦ they heard that Jesus was merciful
• my grandchildren work me
◦ they ask, because they know eight out of ten times, “I will”
◦ Jesus can, and Jesus will, if we ask

How does Jesus manage this massive response?

Think of it! This is the first sign of a significant movement
– this is the time to announce his next public appearance,
• to collect donations, recruit volunteers, sell books,
rent the stadiums and theaters that the Romans built all over Israel
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray
• and not this one time, but his response whenever crowds arrived
– the Greek word for desolate places is also translated desert and wilderness
• it refers to a secluded and uninhabited area
• he found a space where he could be alone, undisturbed
◦ Jesus left the crowds to be with God

Last week, we began this prayer journey with Jesus through Luke

To know Jesus requires a lifetime of ongoing prayer
– and it needs to be this kind of prayer
• an intentional move from everyday distractions to focused attention on God
◦ this was not “prayer on the go”
◦ this was making time and finding space to be with God
• Christian parents used to ask their kids, “Did you say your prayers?”
◦ but that is not what Jesus does here
◦ these prayers were not rote or repetitious
– I’ve always felt it’s unfortunate that the content of his prayers were not recorded
• but then, what would we do with them?
◦ would we ever pray with our own words, thoughts, and concerns?
• we do not know what Jesus prayed
◦ we do not even know why he prayed
◦ what it was he needed or, maybe what he wanted
Maybe he prayed from desire more than necessity

Observing Jesus, we learn the importance of a desolate place

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard people say,
“I feel closer to God in nature than in church”
– it’s true that God’s creation provides the best inspiration
• the fragrance and colors of a forest, or austerity of the desert,
or sounds and rhythms of ocean awaken something within us
• it’s a luxury to find a secluded, quiet meadow or shoreline
◦ some people design gardens for this purpose
◦ in serene spaces, meditation occurs without effort
– what if we’re stuck in the city?
• Jesus taught the disciples to pray in a private space
. . . when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Mt. 6:6)
• the “room” was a secret chamber (for storage or privacy)
◦ this type of prayer is a conversation between two parties only

The point is that we find space where we can focus our minds on God
– and if we can’t find it, we create it
• a painting or photograph, plants, candle, or incense may help
• but the value of a desolate place is that you’re grateful for the basics
◦ for shade, a cup of water, a slice of bread
– it is not easy for me to find that place
• where I can clear my mind of everything but Jesus
◦ to pray and not be distracted by the things I pray about
◦ to simply be with him
• we cannot say that there are no distractions in desolate places
◦ we carry our distractions with us
◦ our brains can create dozens of worries anywhere, or drag along our wishes, regrets, or fantasies
– but in desolate places there’s less we can do about those things
• diversions are not so close at hand
• going into a desolate place is a kind of fasting

What will we do in our desolate places?

Practice the art of prayer — pray with our hearts
(Remember, you are an artist)
– how will my soul express itself to God?
• in this time of my life? Given my current circumstances?
◦ and now that I’m in this deserted, quiet space?
• listen to David, the poet:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; / my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Ps. 63:1)
◦ that is the prayer of a person who wants God for God

We will practice praying deep and real issues — pray with our minds
– not merely, “O God, get me through today” – But:
• “Lord, show me what keeps me from a complete trust in You”
• or “Take me deeper into Your will, O God”
– I’ve learned from Paul to pray my spiritual needs and longings
• he prayed for the Ephesians,
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know the hope to which he has called you . . . (Ep. 1:17-18)
• yeah, I pray that

We practice meaningful posture and gestures — pray with our bodies
– we know people who talk with their hands as much as their mouths
• we may pray with lifted hands, or open hands, or clenched fists (if our need is intense)
– prayers we see in scripture utilize varieties of body language

We will practice silence and listening in prayer — pray with our spirits
– prayer is not only learning to talk with God
• it is also developing sensitivity to the subtle movements of his Spirit

Prayer in a desolate place is often serene, intimate, and restorative

But sometimes it is the place where we face our demons
– after his baptism, Jesus
was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil (Lk. 4:1-2)
– life itself can bring us to desolate places and spiritual conflicts
• and when we meet with God, there are prayers that help us through those times too

Conclusion: Where the English Standard Version says Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places,”

The New American Standard Bible has “He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness”
Can you think of prayer this way?
that you slip away with Jesus
Many believers before us discovered a fulfilling intimacy with Jesus
they kept themselves close to him through prayer in desolate places
Spending time with Jesus is what changes lives
Our world needs believers who spend much time with Jesus,
and through intimacy with him, become like him
Our world needs that more than any other kind of Christian

Jul 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 3, 2022

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Welcome and Prayer: Jim Calhoun

Heavenly Father
So often we find ourselves at our wit’s end
not knowing how to manage day to day
At times left overwhelmed and undone. 
We fear being hopeless and helpless
We fear becoming numb or complacent or cynical.
We fear becoming bitter and resentful
We fear we may break and never be whole again
Help us to remain tenderhearted, 
Open to you
Able to know your presence when are at our breaking point
Continually transformed in you
Eager to come as you call,
Full of confidence that in you all shall be well.

Amen

Today’s Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased Luke 3:21-22

Intro: There are three words in these verses I want to highlight

“and was praying”
– between the time Jesus was immersed in water and the heavens opened,
• he was praying – and this intrigues me
◦ in the life of Jesus, this is the first mention of him praying
• of course we have only a glimpse of his childhood
◦ but those snapshots reveal someone already conscious of God
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him (Lk. 2:40) And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk. 2:52)
– in the story of Jesus, this is his critical rite-of-passage
• immediately after this Luke tells us:
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age
• baptism is also a rite-of-passage for us; an entry point
◦ it symbolizes our initiation into Jesus
◦ and baptism is also associated with a believer’s first (real) prayer
. . . look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying . . . . Then [Saul] rose and was baptized (Acts 9:11-18; cf. Acts 19:5-6)

There is another reason these three words intrigue me
– Matthew and Mark also report Jesus’ baptism
• but neither of them mention that he was praying
◦ for Luke, this little detail was too important to leave out
• in fact, it turns out Luke includes other instances like this,
◦ where Jesus prayed at critical moments that are not mentioned elsewhere
Before choosing the twelve apostles (he prayed all night; Lk. 6:12-16)
Before asking his disciples, Who do the crowds say that I am? Lk. 9:18)
At the moment of his transfiguration
And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white (Lk. 9:29)
◦ Luke also tells us, when large crowds came to hear him,
he would withdraw to desolate places and pray (Lk. 5:16)
◦ getting away to pray was a regular practice for our Lord
– Matthew provides some of Jesus’ teaching on prayer
• Mark provides less of what Jesus had to say about prayer
◦ but Luke’s attention to prayer is extraordinary
• he wanted us to know that Jesus lived prayer

“Lord, teach us to pray” Luke 11:1

The disciples made this request after watching Jesus pray
– their request itself is a prayer
• and it will be our prayer through this series
• we are going to learn prayer from Jesus–according to Luke’s gospel
– along the way, I am going to highlight four themes:
That we learn to pray with our minds
– Ecclesiastes gets to the point (though with a sharper edge than I would)
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few (Ecc. 5:1-2)
– I confess, my tendency is to say repetitious prayers
– in too many spontaneous prayers, the person strings a bunch of clichés together
“O Lord, we just pray that You will bless each and everyone here tonight; that Your word might go forth in power. Please anoint our preacher with Your Spirit. Yada, yada, yada.”
• it’s not that we have to prepare a speech or present an essay
◦ but I need to give thought to what I pray
• to make this my own prayer and use my own words
– we want to remind ourselves that we’re talking to God

That we learn to pray with our hearts and souls
– scripture encourages us to pray fervently and earnestly
– I am also thinking that we could pray more creatively
• prayer in the Psalms is like spirit-poetry
• art is birthed in the heart–with all that it suffers and enjoys
◦ all of its hopes and disappointments
• if you write out your prayer, something special happens
◦ it’s a different experience from saying or thinking a prayer
– I am not saying, create a masterpiece
• we’re not trying to impress God, but to express ourselves

That we learn to pray with our bodies
– in Romans, where Paul urges us to present our bodies to God,
• he refers to this as our spiritual worship – or “service”
◦ Jesus’ baptism prayer was a gearing up for service
• some of the service we provide God and others can be considered a prayer
◦ in this respect, we are “doing” our prayer
◦ we can be in prayer also as we perform our service
◦ it feels natural for me to pray for my grandkids when preparing their lunch
– praying with our bodies can also be with posture and gestures

That we learn to pray with our spirits
– in prayer, a fusion occurs between God’s Spirit and our spirit
– we’ll come to this when we get to the tenth chapter in Luke

Our experience of prayer will always be an encounter with mystery

There are no experts when it comes to prayer
– if someone claims that they receive everything they pray for God to give them,
run away! – they’re trying to sell you something

There is no perfect way to pray, no method or formula
– we do the best we can with what we have
• sometimes all a person can do is groan
• there are depths of prayer in which words are optional

Prayer is the easiest thing we will ever do,
– and it will be the most difficult thing we ever do

Prayer is so simple that children do it well,
– and it is so difficult that many adults give it up

Prayer is the entry-level practice for beginners,
– and it’s the ultimate service of the greatest saints

Nothing else is more rewarding than prayer,
– and nothing else is more frustrating than prayer

In prayer we experience our closest intimacies with God,
– and in prayer we find ourselves wrestling with God

If my prayers are true, aligned with God’s will, and in his Spirit,
– then the result will more likely change me than change the world or my circumstances

The shortest prayer in Bible was sometimes a person’s first prayer

It is just one word in Hebrew: hinne, “Here I am”
– this is what Abraham said when God called his name–and what Jacob said and Moses and Samuel and Isaiah
• we do not initiate this conversation with God
• he calls our name and we respond to him
◦ he first sought us out, he first reached out, he first loved us
– give this some thought
• how will you say “Here I am” to God with your mind?
• how will you say “Here I am” to God in your heart and soul?
• how will you say “Here I am” to God with your body?
• how will you say “Here I am” to God in your spirit?

Conclusion: Last week Guy Gray described Christianity as

Being on a life quest to know and follow Jesus
– does it really take a lifetime to get to know Jesus?
• listen to Paul, who had known Jesus for many years when he penned these words:
whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings . . . . (Php. 3:7-10)

Knowing Jesus is a life of ongoing prayer
– it’s not like we meet with him for dinner one time and then think we know him
• or if we meet up with him occasionally and think we know him
• Jesus tells us to keep on asking . . . seeking . . . knocking
– and if we don’t knock on his door often enough to get to know him, he says,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to [them] and eat with [them] and [they] with me (Rev. 3:20)

Every time we pause, and calm ourselves, Jesus is there
Ready to listen, to respond, to help, and to guide us to safety

Jun 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 26, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to RefleXion               May the Spirit of the Lord be with you all!

The inner life and the outer life.  If you’re like me, you may have had a season focused on the outer life and attention to service and right action.  In the past several years, the Lord has given me an invitation to focus on my inner life, and I know that’s often what I share about.  But both inward and outward attention to God are necessary.  To do the outward without the right motivation is a clanging cymbal; to be only attending to self-awareness may be a stream impeded.  I’d like to share an image that our friend, Bill Dogterom, posted on social media recently.

“Simultaneity is Thomas Kelly‘s word for both inward attention to the work and way of God in us, and outward attention to the place and ways we are in the world. I wonder (Bill says) if being able to live in both at once is similar to learning to play the piano with both hands – first beginning one after the other then slowly integrating them until they are both able to play fluidly together. Never forgetting the melody of the Kingdom which enables the music.”

Since Bill quoted Thomas Kelly, I went to my book A Testament of Devotion by Kelly.  If you aren’t familiar, Thomas R. Kelly was considered a Quaker mystic–a writer, speaker, scholar, who lived in the early 1900’s.  I’m reading a few sentences from the book:

“There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once.  On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs.  But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathing.  The secular world of today values and cultivates only the first level, assured that there is where the real business of mankind is done and scorns, or smiles in tolerant amusement, at the cultivation of the second level–a luxury enterprise, a vestige of superstition, an occupation for special temperaments; but some men know that the deep level of prayer and of divine attendance is the most important thing in the world, because it is at this deep level that the real business of life is determined.”

This is simultaneity.  Inflow and Outflow–we are always living a life of overflow.  What happens in us is expressed outwardly.  We know the Beatitude that encourages us, “Blessed are the Pure in Heart, for they shall see God.”   And, there’s a Proverb that says, Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”  Not this OR that, but Both/And.

So, I hope and pray that my life is learning to play the piano with both hands, in harmony with the melody of the Kingdom. Join me in prayer, will you:  Lord God, thank you for creating us to make music, to be engaged in harmony with Your Spirit.  We know it is not only our work, but the way of our work that becomes a blessing.  Let us be attuned to the Spirit who orchestrates our inner life and to Your work and ways in the world.  Give us opportunities to be a blessing, Lord, for the Kingdom’s sake.  Thank you for Your Presence with us, this morning and always.     Amen

Today’s Talk: Guy Gray

Three Dimensions of Christian Faith and Life

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to
pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw
that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.
And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by
them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all
saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be
afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for
they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when
they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and
began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in
villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might
touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Mark 6:45-56

We will look at three images from our passage:
• Jesus on the Mountain
• Jesus in the storm
• Jesus on the shore
Each image represents one important dimension of Christian Faith and Life

1. Jesus on the mountain, alone, praying for his disciples
Mountain scenes in the gospel are always scenes of transcendent glory.
This mountain scene in Mark 6
is a preview of another mountain scene soon to come in Mark 9 – Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.
The mount of transfiguration is clearly a picture of the transcendent glory of Jesus. It is also a preview –
a preview of Jesus in his post resurrection glory as the risen Lord.
As we read about Jesus on the mountain in Mark 6, it’s clear that Mark wants us to focus exclusively on
Jesus. Mark is the gospel of non stop action. It’s miracle after miracle and controversy after
controversy. Even chapter 6 is filled with intense descriptions of crowds, controversy, and action. But
then comes this unexpected scene with Jesus by himself. The crowds are gone. Even the disciples are
gone. And the text tells us clearly that Jesus is all alone.
Even in the dark of night, with the disciples miles away on the water in a small boat, Jesus sees them.
This is amazing.
The point of the story is to cause us to pause and consider Jesus. Who is Jesus?
If I could chose one word to describe this scene, I would call it “majesty”. This is the unique glory of
Jesus on display. This scene, along with the other mountain scenes and other scenes in the gospel
portray the unique glory of who Jesus is. He is unlike any other.
This is the first important dimension of my Christian Life and Faith. Everything depends on my vision of
who Jesus is. But actually, it’s not “my” vision of Jesus. It’s better to say, it is the biblical vision of Jesus
that matters.
Think of this dimension of Christian faith and life as the “theological” dimension.
After 50 years of studying the biblical vision of who Jesus is, I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is
utterly unique. He is the incarnate Son of God, who died for our sins, and rose again as Lord and King of
a new creation. This is the majesty of Jesus.

2. The next image is Jesus in the storm, walking of the water, intending to pass by the disciples
The disciples are struggling at the oars with the wind against them. It’s 3 am, pitch dark. They are
exhausted and afraid. Jesus appears walking on the water. But for some reason, he intends to pass
them by.
All of this is mysterious. If there is one word to describe this whole scene, it is the word “mystery”.
This is the second important dimension of my Christian life. I call it “ the mystery of Jesus in our lived
experience.”
I believe I will experience the presence and power of Christ in my life, but I don’t know when, or how, or
what it is going to look like.
I have had many profound experiences of Christ’s presence in my life. Often, they come in the most
random and unexpected ways!
But on the other hand, I also believe I can “put myself in the way of experiencing Christ.” There are
practices I can engage in that may open my heart to experience Christ. One practice that has helped me
I learned from reading St. Augustine’s Confessions. He makes a startling assertion. He says the most
likely place we can encounter God is in the past! He reasons that every experience in the present
instantly moves into the past. Because of that, it is in our memory that we can encounter Christ. He
teaches us to go back though our life experiences, moving through them prayerfully. Bringing them
before God in prayer and asking God to show us where he was in each experience. Praying to see God’s
grace and guidance and intervention. Giving thanks.
Yet even this is not a guarantee we will experience Christ. Christ is free to do what he will in his time
and way.

3. The third image is Jesus on the shore with a crowd of hurting people
No doubt the disciples were still in shock, processing what they just experienced. But Jesus is moving
forward into ministry. This image of Jesus with the crowd of hurting people is an image of the heart of
God for ministry to hurting and broken lives. One word we could use for this image is the word
“mission.”
This is the third important dimension of my Christina faith and life.
Jesus wants his disciples to move beyond simply reflecting on their personal experience with Jesus. He
wants them to join him on mission by seeing this crowd of hurting people and joining him in moving to
meet their spiritual and physical needs.

Summary
One way to think of these three dimensions is like this:
• The theological dimension
• The experiential dimension
• The missional/ministry dimension
We must hold these three dimensions closely together. Often people will focus on just one, or maybe
two of these dimension. But truly knowing and following involves all three.

Christians are on a life quest to know and follow Jesus.
• It’s a life quest to develop a biblical vision of who Jesus is in the unique glory of his person.
• It’s a life quest to experience Jesus’ presence, power, and love in our lived experience.
• It’s a life quest to join Jesus in his ministry to hurting people in our broken world.

Jun 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 12, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to our Spiritual Community.  May the Spirit of the Lord be with you!

I’ve been thinking so much this week about the image of the threshing floor from Chuck’s message last week, and particularly about the chaff and the wheat.  Have you?

I was wondering what actually IS whole wheat, wheat bran, wheat germ, the chaff.  Well, I learned that the edible part of the wheat is the kernel (which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm) and that is the part that is alive.  The husk surrounding the seed is called the chaff, and it is not alive.  But what’s interesting to me is that the chaff and the wheat kernel are made from the same mother, the same seed, the same material produced them both.  Yet, one is alive, the other is dead, or at least not alive in the sense that it can produce more life.  One is essential for the sustaining of life; one is useful for filler, bedding, or fuel for the fire. 

The kernel is planted to grow more wheat.  If you plant only the chaff, even though it’s of the same material, it will not grow.  You can imagine that with any seed, can’t you…an outer layer protecting the inner seed, but eventually the protective covering must be separated from it.

 Didn’t Jesus say something about that:  John 12:24, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. ““If it dies…”  I’m thinking it’s like the false self, the chaff. It’s not evil; it’s protective. But that’s why it’s so hard, our chaff is made of our very self, so it feels like dying.  Dying to self isn’t easy or pleasant.  You’d think we’d be glad to get rid of it, but it’s a part of us! 

And above all, trust God.  He has built in us the becoming, just like the wheat seed can becoming wheat, nothing else.   We allow the wind, the breath of the Spirit, to blow away the chaff in us in due season.  The seed of life in us will bear the fruit of life.  Amen?

Let’s pray:

God, we believe that you began a good work in us and that you will be faithful to complete it.  We pray that we will be faithful to follow your leading and put our hands and hearts into the tasks you give us.  We trust in the unfolding grace that Your Spirit breathes on us.  May we more fully believe that we are in Your care and trust that You know us best and love us most.  Now will you come to open our ears, our hearts, and our minds to receive You.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And, behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Ruth 4:1-2 Ruth 4:1-2

Intro: We’ve arrived at the most critical moment in story of Ruth

Last week, Naomi set the plot in action
– we could say that her maneuvering was relational; she was working with people
• this week, Boaz sets the plot in action, and his maneuvering is legal; he is using the law
– moving through the interaction that takes place in this scene,
• is an important factor that we could miss in all the action
• that is, the reality and depth of Boaz’s devotion to Ruth
◦ last week, Ruth asked Boaz, Spread your wings over [me]
◦ that is what Boaz does in this episode

Reading through the Bible will often bring your to a city gate

The obvious purpose of a building a wall around a city was protection
– the gate was a crucial concern – it a potential weakness
• the entire structure of the gate was built wider than the walls,
◦ sometimes with enough room for stone benches on either side
◦ otherwise, just inside the gate there was an open square
• appointed leaders would sit there to handle legal matters
◦ Abraham haggled with the elders of Hebron in their city gate (Gen. 23:1-17)
– it was inevitable that Boaz’ relative would walk through the city gate
• something unusual and interesting happens here
◦ every key character in the story is mentioned by name (cf. vv. 9-10)
◦ several other important names occur, and the chapter ends wit a list of names
◦ the naming of Ruth’s baby also has a special twist
• however, this one character–the qualified redeemer–is not named
◦ Boaz refers to him as “friend,” but that does not appear in the Hebrew text
– it is not unusual for many biblical characters to be present but anonymous
• frequently, people are not named simply because it is not necessary to know their names
• but this person was not identified by name intentionally
◦ the Hebrew text reads paloni almoni, which could mean “such a one”
◦ a person not worth naming
(the preferred translation of several important scholars is: “So-and-so.” Perhaps by the end of the story you will have figured out why he is treated this way)

(Please read verses 3-4) Boaz presents the legal issue to Mr. So-and-so

The specific concern Boaz mentions is a parcel of land
– when Israel settled in the land, it was divided among the tribes
• cities and villages were identified, and then then personal property was allocated
• the property of a family or clan belonged to them forever
◦ if a family lost its property to debt, it could be “redeemed” (that is, “bought back”)
◦ this is spelled out in the law of Moses (Lev. 25:23-28)
– so the first legal matter has to do with ownership of property
• Boaz had not mentioned the parcel of land to Ruth
◦ that was not his primary concern
• at this point, he hasn’t mentioned Ruth to Mr. So-and-so
◦ we have come to most suspenseful moment in story

Our hearts sink when Mr. So-and-so says, “I will redeem it”
– it ruins everything – Boaz tried, but failed
– in the movie, “Princess Bride,” a grandfather reads a story to his sick grandson
• a character in it says that the hero, Wesley, is dead
◦ the grandson interrupts, agitated and upset– “He’s dead?”
◦ the grandfather indicates that this story will not turn out like he expects
The Grandson: Grandpa! What did you read me this thing for?
Grandpa: You know, you’ve been very sick and you’re taking this story very seriously. I think we better stop now.
The Grandson: No, I’m okay. I’m okay. Sit down. I’m all right.
• that’s how I imagine the original audience reacting to the story of Ruth at this point

(Please read verses 5-6) Boaz presents a second legal issue

Boaz set this up, so that at first redeeming land would look good to Mr. So-and-so
– but now it’s time to drop the other shoe–a complication
• there is another regulation in the law of Moses
◦ if a married man died before having a child, an heir,
◦ a surviving brother was obliged to sire a child with the dead man’s wife, who would then be heir to her dead husband rather than to her brother-in-law
• Mr. So-and-so would have to perform that duty for Ruth and her dead husband, Mahlon
◦ then Elimelech’s property would belong to Ruth’s child, and not Mr. So-and-so
– Boaz implies another downside to this arrangement
• he specifies, “Ruth the Moabite” – Moabites were not mere foreigners in Israel
• they were specifically excluded from entering God’s sanctuary
◦ their women, in particular, caused great harm to Israel
◦ Ruth was a liability, and as such could damage Mr. So-and-so’s reputation

Mr. So-and-so’s response to Boaz is short and to the point
– his answer begins and ends with the same words: “I cannot redeem it”
• he refers to an “it,” because he is thinking only of the property and not Ruth
• I find the way he words his response to be very moving
“Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it”

(Please read verses 7-10) The storyteller reports a custom attached to transaction

What I find interesting, is that there is a memory of the law,
– but the details have become confused
• this is not surprising if we remember first sentence of Ruth
In the days when the Judges ruled . . .
◦ in those days, Israel had lost direct contact with God’s law
◦ yet they still held onto traditions and customs, though they did not understand them
• here’s how the law reads:
And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.” Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, “I do not wish to take her,” then his brother’s wife shall to up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, “So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.” And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, “The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.” (De. 25:7-10)
◦ less shame was attached to the uncooperative brother the way that the writer of Ruth remembered it

Boaz’ speech to the elders begins and ends with the same words,
“You are witnesses this day . . .”
– notice that he has no problem with Ruth’s status, but refers to her again as the Moabite
• you are probably tired of me reminding you that in scripture,
◦ a “name” means more than it does to us
◦ it is not always the person’s literal name, but the person himself or herself–their identity
• in the Old Testament there is no clear or consistent doctrine of life after death
◦ a person lived on in their reputation, their family, and the property they shared with their descendants
(that what it means to perpetuate the name of the dead)
◦ to continue to show respect for their ancestors who once lived here

(Please read verses 11-12) The blessing of the elders

Rachel and Leah were the matriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel
– more locally to the people of Bethlehem, Tamar was the matriarch of the tribe of Judah
• Tamar was also a widow, and her brother-in-law refused to provide her with a son
◦ Perez was the son she bore (to her father-in-law)
◦ the blessing, in essence, was: “May Ruth’s son be like Perez, our ancestor”
– what would it be like if blessings flourished in our culture?
• not just in church, but in social, legal, and personal interactions
◦ constant expressions of good will and invocations of divine goodness?
• neuroscience tells us we would all be much healthier
◦ our generous gifts of blessings would help to regulate the anxious or angry emotions of others

(Please read verses 13-17) The story does not resolve until this moment

Naomi’s husbands and sons had been taken from her
– if not for Ruth, she would have never held a grandchild
– in a chapter where naming is emphasized, there’s an oddity
• neither the mother nor grandmother name the baby

(Please read verses 18-21) Naomi and Ruth enjoy more than survival in the present

They bring Israel a promise for the future
– Ruth’s great-grandson would be David, God’s chosen king of Israel

Conclusion: There are two points I want to stress

The obvious one is that we have a Redeemer
– this is the message of Redemptive History
• but it is not history so much as it is a story – the story of the entire Bible
◦ God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt (De. 7:8)
◦ now he redeems us from sin and death
In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ep. 1:7)

We underestimate the value of a human soul — of our own soul
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Mt. 16:36)
Truly no man can ransom [or redeem] another,
or give to God the price of his soul,
for the ransom of their soul is costly
and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
and never see death
(Ps. 49:7-9)

This is what I hear in Mr. So-and-so’s statement,
Take my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it
There is nothing else I can say to Jesus
God has given us our soul, and given us the choice of what to do with it
He is willing to redeem our soul to himself, and we can make that choice

Once he begins to work redemption in us, everything is redeemed
Even the wrong that we’ve done, and seems irredeemable
There is nothing in us or about us that Jesus does not want to redeem
Nor is there any person whose soul he does not want to redeem
And at last . . .
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Ro. 8:22-23)

Redemption now only works in us, down to our core,
but it flows through us as well
We become messengers of redemption,
announcing to the entire world that there is a Redeemer

Ruth was a Moabite, but that did not matter to Boaz,
nor does it bother Jesus that we are not saints
The Lord characterized himself as a friend of sinners
Okay, so you and I are part of the anonymous cast
So what if our names will never appear when the credits roll
No matter, our names are written in the book of life (Php. 4:3)
Adele Reinhartz wrote a book about the many nameless people who appear in the Bible. She says, “These bit players, minor as they are, have major literary functions.”
And the same is true of us,
only our functions are not literary, but literal
and God will use us to bring others himself
Prepare yourself to play that bit role this week

Jun 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 5, 2022

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Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome – I’m so glad we get to be together today.  May the Spirit be with you!

I found a cartoon from Family Circus.  It features an older sister comforting a younger brother as they watch a storm outside their window, rain, darkness, thunder and lightening.  She says to him, “Don’t be afraid, it’s just God givin’ us some thunder and enlightening.” 

Today is Pentecost Sunday, and I wonder what the Disciples were experiencing as they gathered together to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had instructed them.  They were already fearing for their very lives.  Ten days of prayer and waiting, and then the Spirit of God descended to fill them.  I’m sure fear, even terror, was felt in that scene.  Scripture describes it this way in Acts Ch. 2: Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.  Can you imagine what they saw and felt?  I mean, when the Holy Spirit fell on Jesus at His baptism, it was a dove!

We remember that Jesus had already breathed on the disciples and declared, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  That was on the first day after His resurrection.  But this, THIS, is something more.  The Acts passage continues: And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

Thunder and Enlightening…that’s what they experienced!  So, friends, are you experiencing a bit of thunder in your world?   Perhaps you could be on the lookout for some enlightening!

I’m offering the Pentecost prayer this morning from the Celtic Prayer Book.
Most powerful Holy Spirit
come down upon us
and subdue us.

From heaven,
where the ordinary
seems glorious,
and the glorious
is but ordinary,

bathe us
with the brilliance
of your light
like dew.

The morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.” Ruth 3:1-5

Intro: This past week was about getting things done

Not everything on my to-do list–not even one, one-hundredth
– one appointment was scheduled several weeks ago
• another one that I had to plan and prepare myself to complete
◦ I’ll have more to say about this later
• my point is that in our day-to-day passage through life,
◦ I am no different than you
◦ we all have to deal with schedules and appointments and getting things done
– the Book of Proverbs offers us a guide to wise decisions and actions
• the philosophy behind the Proverbs is simple:
◦ God is the source of all wisdom – so reverence him
◦ use common sense
◦ integrity will serve you and your community better than duplicity
◦ when stuck, be creative (but stick to the path of the righteous)
◦ ask for help – seek the counsel of wise people
• it is wisdom to plan and prepare for the future

This is what we find Naomi doing

“My daughter”
Robert Alter, “This reiterated form of address is a token of Naomi’s constant affection for Ruth.”
“should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?”
– Naomi has had this concern for Ruth from the start (Ruth 1:9)
• she blessed her daughters-in-law with safety and security in the homes of their husbands
– Boaz’ interest in Ruth had not been lost on Naomi
• so she makes plans that involve some “maneuvering”
• probably a little more than the Proverbs recommend
◦ it required a special skill – more like chess than checkers

Naomi knew, at end of harvests there would be a celebration
– winnow means to use wind or a fan to separate the husk from a kernel of grain
• there was a special place for doing this – the threshing floor
◦ it was a festive event – the way grape stomping is depicted in film and TV
• and, important for Naomi’s purpose, Boaz would be present and accessible
– it was a simple plan: Ruth was to make herself presentable
• then go to the harvest festival, but stay in background
◦ she would have to keep her eye on Boaz,
◦ notice when he’s done celebrating and where he beds down
• that is when she would approach him
“uncover his feet” may mean nothing more than that
◦ from that point on, Boaz would take the lead
Ruth’s response, “All that you say I will do”

(Please read vv. 6-13) We may discern a whiff of romance in this scene

However, there is a stronger feeling of suspense
– we cannot predict how Boaz will react to Ruth’s approach
• this uncertainty is intensified when he wakes up startled and barks at her, “Who are you?”
• that’s the moment Ruth makes her intentions known
I am Ruth, your servant. Spread [the corner of your robe] over your servant
– she uses a word with a double-meaningkanawf
(it refers to the edge of something, the corner of a blanket or garment, or the wings of a bird)
• it is the word Boaz had used in blessing Ruth (chapter 2, verse 12)
The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
◦ Ruth may be saying that Yahweh would provide her refuge under Boaz’ wings as well
• a few weeks ago I said that we are all artists
◦ what I want to emphasize here is Ruth’s artistic creativity
◦ Naomi did not give her this line, she came up with it herself
it states her request perfectly, using another meaning of his own metaphor
– one other detail, Ruth reminds Boaz, “for you are a redeemer”
• we went over this last week
• a family member with a legal opportunity and responsibility

Naomi and Ruth could not have asked for a more enthusiastic response from Boaz
– Boaz had his eye on Ruth, but he was unsure of who she had her eye on
• he is pleased to learn this young woman wants him
◦ besides whatever physical attraction he felt toward her
all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman
• literally “my people of the gate” – the city gate served as town hall and county courthouse
◦ so he is referring to everyone living within the jurisdiction of the city gate
◦ that will be location of the first scene in the next chapter
– Boaz saw in Ruth something that was true of himself (Ruth 2:1)
• if we see in someone an attribute we value, it is attractive

Boaz delivers the same line Ruth used with Naomi, I will do for you all that you ask
– but there was a complication
• the success in the first stage of Naomi’s plan can be lost in next stage
• this snag creates greater tension than anything else in the entire story
– there was another redeemer who stood in the way
• and, there was valuable property at stake
• we are stuck in suspense through the rest of the night
◦ for now, nothing can be done to resolve it
◦ however, if that obstacle is removed, Boaz swears,
“As the LORD lives, I will redeem you”
(note that he does not mention the property, because that was not his interest)

(Please read vv. 14-18) Ruth reports back to Naomi

“How did you fare, my daughter?” – she is eager to know
– Ruth’s report includes the generous gift she brought home,
• and that he reportedly said,
“You must not go back empty-handed”
• this is exactly how Naomi described her return to Bethlehem
“I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:21)
– now Naomi’s new instruction to Ruth is “Wait”
• of course, we find this more difficult than doing something
• our challenge is to not let things eat at us while we wait

There is one more detail in this story I want to show you

It may not seem like much at first, but I think it’s important
– the most dramatic moment of this episode occurs on threshing floor
• the threshing floor is a recurring symbol in the Scriptures
◦ and the message it speaks comes all the way down to us
• the threshing floor is a place of identification, decision, and separation
– what happens on the threshing floor?
Things get sorted out!

The first instance in scripture is ironic, because it doesn’t mention a threshing floor
– but it should, because Gideon was threshing wheat, but he was doing it
in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites
• an angel appeared to him and commissioned him
◦ this was a decisive moment for Gideon
◦ it separated him from his life of fear and inaction, and gave him a new identity
• there were more separations – soldiers in his army were threshed out twice
◦ the kernel separated from the husk
– the next two examples are found in the story of David
• Uzzah died after placing his hand on the Ark of the Covenant — and that happened
when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon . . .
• it was a pronouncement of judgment – they were to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way (cf. 1 Chr. 15:2, 12-13)
◦ the chaff had to be separated from the wheat
• David’s last big mistake resulted in judgment on Israel
◦ but God relented when his avenging angel came to Jerusalem
And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan (1 Chr. 21:15)
◦ this threshing floor became the sacred space on which the temple was built (2 Chr. 3:1)
– one more example involved two kings Ahab and Jeroboam
• Ahab was the most evil king ever – Jeroboam was one of the best
• they were a mismatch, but had allied themselves for war
◦ when they sought first to hear from a prophet whether they should go into battle,
they were sitting at the threshing floor at the entrance to the gate of Samaria (2 Chr. 18:9)
◦ soon the chaff would be separated from the grain
(Ahab died from a battle wound and Jeroboam escaped with his life)
– both Jeremiah and Micah referred to a threshing floor as a place of judgment (Jer. 51:33; Mic. 4:12)
– for the last reference, we turn to the New Testament and John the Baptist
I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Mt. 3:11-12)

Conclusion: The positive side of John’s analogy is the gift of the Holy Spirit

Today is Pentecost Sunday — the day the baby Church was given its first breath
– the significance of this event is that we are not alone
– yes, we plan, design, prepare, make schedules and appointments
• but none of that guarantees our future or the future of the Church
• Pentecost tells us that Jesus will fulfill the word he spoke to his disciples,
I will build my church (Mt. 16:18)

Last week we saw God working through what was apparently a coincidence
This week God is at work through Naomi’s plotting and planning
(the success of her maneuvers, like our own, is never guaranteed)
The point is – God’s Spirit is present and he is at work

I mentioned my busy, stressful, and oppressive week
But Wednesday morning, I found peace
It cam through something I mentioned last week about my grandson,
when he blurted out, “It’s my lucky day”
When I remembered that, I smiled and said, “It’s my luck day”
Then I began to believe it, because I knew God was in my day
I had to remind myself again on Thursday,
and God worked it out so that too was my lucky day
But I could have saved myself a lot of unhappiness earlier in the week
if I had just trusted God fully all the way through
So prepare, plan, schedule–but above all, trust God
And that bit of wisdom can be found in the Proverbs:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths
(Pr. 3:5-6)