Skip to content
Aug 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 28, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome!                 May the Lord be with you!

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Talk: Beth Khorey


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Scripture Narrative I’m drawing from today is:

Luke 23:23-49


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

 2 OTHERS there identified as “CRIMINALS” v.32

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Today – an invitation comes to us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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





Andy Root (Church and the Crisis of Decline)

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

(See Liturgy of Eucharistic Prayers)

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

Art used by permission of artist.

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

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

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

Leave a comment