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Sep 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 11, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

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

May the Lord be with you!

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

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

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

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

Pray with me, will you:

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

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

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

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

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

The Bible provides an abundance of words for prayer

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

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

“When you pray, say; ‘Father’”

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

The next line gives us a different feeling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion: I’m offering you another prayer exercise

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

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

A Second Prayer Exercise

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


Hallowed be your name:

Your kingdom come:

Give us each day our daily bread:

And forgive us our sins:

For we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us:

And lead us not into temptation:

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