Sermon

Lynn.8

Pastor Lynn Rubier-Capron

July 14, 2019

I was sitting in the Verona Diner this week talking to a man I will call George.  We ended up talking about all kinds of things, and one of them was the church.  He wanted to know:  “Do Presbyterians think that action is important, or do you think that what you believe is important?”

I told him, first, thank you for writing this week’s sermon for me! And, second…

I’m not going to tell  you what I said because I wonder what would you tell him?

I actually want to take a close eyed vote.  Would you be willing to participate?  The reason I want you to close your eyes for this is because I want everyone to feel they can be honest.

So, everyone, please close your eyes. 

Raise your hand if you think what you believe isn’t so important, but it’s what you do that matters:

Raise your hand if you think that what you believe about who God is and who human beings are matters:

My new friend’s question is one of the most important questions of our time. 

The book of James says “faith without action is dead.”  So, if you voted for the first option, there is your biblical support.

And, the entire gospel of John is written so that we, who have never seen Jesus in the flesh, can hear and know him and make a decision for ourselves about who he is and whether or not we will be one of his disciples.

So, if you voted for the second option, you too have biblical support.

Have you ever met someone who spends the majority of their time working for the well being of other people, they are in fact passionate about it, but they are just done.  They are burned out.

Unless our action is part of something that is bigger, that unites us to the source of life and each other – that burn out will happen.  There is too much need in this world for one person to engage and remain filled with hope, faith and love.  Action alone will empty us.

And, have you ever been around someone who spends a lot of time studying scripture or reading theologians, but their depth of knowledge only seems to focus them on a very tiny community of esoteric thinkers or maybe Bible thumpers?

Action is about the body, what we do.  The book of James is correct, faith without action is dead.

Knowledge is about the head.  John is right, it is better to know who we are and whose we are because it focuses  and clarifies how we spend our time, energy and money.

But we are not beings with only two parts: the head and body.  We also have these wonderful hearts.

The heart is the seat of spiritual perception.  When our head drops down into our heart, knowledge and passion can cooperate with each other. And when our heart is seated quite firmly in our body, then we have the power to act on that which our heart and mind were created to do together.  We weaken ourselves and our impact when we neglect any one of these three aspects of our humanity.

There are so many ways to nurture our hearts.  I hope all of you spend time and energy doing just that.  Today, I am going to spend the rest of my time speaking about prayer.

The same thing can be said about prayer and our heart that I just said about our body and our mind. 

Have you ever known someone who spends all their time looking for the next spiritual experience?  They just turn inward and eventually their world is mostly trapped in their own imagination. 

The purpose of prayer and Christian meditation is so that our mind and body have access to and can be fed by that which the heart was created to do: perceive spirit.  Prayer is God’s gift to us so that we can be as powerful and effective in this world with our bodies and minds as possible.  You know that when heart informs action and knowledge, and when knowledge informs action and heart, and when the ability to do backs up knowledge and heart, then you have a whole person who can do something.

For that reason, I’m going to save the rest of my sermon time and use it in this morning’s prayer.

***

We are going to spend more time than usual this morning in prayer, practicing how we allow our hearts to be tuned up.  We will use two scripture passages from today’s lectionary, Psalm 82 and Colossians 1:1-14. 

I encourage you to turn to page 522 in your pew Bible and find Psalm 82. 

This psalm teaches our hearts to love and hope for God’s larger  world.  

As I read verse 1, imagine yourself standing on the side lines in the courts of heaven and see what the space looks like. 

Now, you are standing in front of God and God’s court is also standing there.  As God speaks the words of verses 2 -4, notice that God is speaking to all who are in God’s court.  Notice what happens in your heart.

Read verse 2 – 4

So now, your heart and God’s heart are tuned to the same frequency regarding the weak and the fatherless, the afflicted and the destitute.

As I read verse 5, this is once again God’s voice speaking to the divine council about the wicked who judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked:

Read verse 5

In the real world, the foundations of the earth are shaken when the weak and fatherless are left to those who abuse power. 

If you raised foster children, or if you fight for the needs of people who are dealing with weakness of any kind, if you spend your energy and time on other people’s needs, what does it do for your heart to hear God say how real your work really is?  I’m thinking of nurses and teachers and parents, fire fighters, ambulance workers and officers. I’m thinking of stake holders in the courts of power who risk loss of power so they can advocate.  It wears on the human heart to always come back to the fight, unless we connect our heart to it’s source.

In verses 6-7, God speaks about those who seek gain at the expense of the weak:  As I read these words find God’s perspective.

Read verses 6 -7.

And with the worlds news and the national news, our state news and the issues that the Verona town council and school board work on every  single day, let us all say this prayer together that is verse 8:

“Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to thee belong all the nations!”

Maybe, as we have prayed with psalm 82, you have gotten in touch with some real world things that seem beyond your daily actions and responsibilities.  Maybe, you have found space in church for the very things that are going on in your life and which need God’s help and power.  Either way, God has fine tuned our hearts through psalm 82.  I believe our actions and our beliefs will resonate with far more power this week if we stay in tune.

The second  scripture passage that will help us pray is a prayer report from the book of Colossians. 

You can find it on page 187 in the new testament of your pew bible, it’s very close to the end because the pagination starts over with the New Testament.

If you look at verse 3, you can see the beginning of the prayer report:

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, and because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”

This prayer certainly begins with heart.  Who do you thank God for in your prayers?  Take a moment and do that now with a moment of silence…..

Now, find verse five and look in the middle of that verse.  It starts where we left off:  because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.  You see that?  We are going to start with the next sentence. 

Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth.”

This unites our heart and our head.  When our heart understands some basic things like: this life of faith is going some place that will feel like heaven.  And, when we live into our faith it bears fruit in the world – then our hope is fed through our heart with God’s own vision and love. 

And, because I have now borrowed the amount of time left that I had from our shorter sermon, I will skip down towards the end of this prayer report to verses 11 – 12:

As you do your ministries, attend to the responsibilities God has given you, take time to refresh and  relax, read the paper, say your prayers and interact with other people, I will pray this as a prayer for you.  I invite you to follow along and, as I pray for you, I hope  you will open to the Spirit of God who made these words so that your heart might perceive how very much you, all of you, are loved:

(vv. 11 -12)

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

What is it like to pray for our loved ones, our friends and neighbors using this prayer report from Colossians?

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.