Saturday, 31 August 2013

Sermon Opoho Church - Sunday 1st September 2013 Pentecost 15

Readings: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16,  Luke 14:1, 7-14

May our hearts and minds be open to you O God that we may hear your word, and listen for your message for each one of us.  In Jesus name.  Amen.
So how many of us get upset when someone is sitting in our place when we come into church?  And how we feel unsettled, discombobulated when we have to sit elsewhere?  Well that was nothing in comparison to the role of seating places around the table in ancient times.  The arrangements were complex and nothing short of a serious breach of etiquette if you got it wrong as host or as guest.   Every person had their place in the pecking order – and the worst possible scenario was if you placed yourself above where the host had determined you should be.  Then, in front of everyone, you would be asked to move down to your proper place.  Shame, very public humiliation, total embarrassment. And so it is that, again, Jesus uses a very simple tale of everyday practice, familiar cultural behaviour, to bring a much deeper message to the people of the time and to us. 
For these mealtimes, in the ancient world, were incredibly important – they identified you, stated to the world who you were, what place you held.  You can see the same importance being given to the early church to the Eucharistic meal – gathering around the table primarily identified them as the people of God.  But we have to remember that then and for the people of the time, it wasn’t just a tale of expected social behaviour and the odd oops moment when you got it wrong– it went much deeper – your placement was a sign of the value that the community placed on you.   Your value was inseparable from what others thought of you, it was a complete loss of face that we, in our individualistic culture of today, might find hard to comprehend.
We also don’t relate quite so much to this story of hierarchy around eating places in the home any more – but there are plenty of other ways that we do ‘status’ and ‘ranking’ in hospitality is there not.  Corporate boxes and choice seating – achieved by money or status or both,  invitations to free lavish ‘do’s’ because of connections or money or perceived potential – and we can take a certain amount of pleasure that we have been singled out, invited in, arrived!
Then there is the way that the world of advertising manipulates our sense of self worth.  Personal looks, possessions, worthy or worthless according to some corporations view of what is ‘the top table’ so to speak. The world still manipulates our sense of self, does it not?
So was Jesus just telling a story on how to avoid social embarrassment or even was he giving out some cautionary advice for the spiritual go-getters of the time.  Is it about using humility just so that we will be advanced, giving us a strategy for gaining a foothold in the kingdom?  For Luke seems to go on to say that it’s actually a bit of a nuisance if you get the reward for your humility and meekness in the here and now – much better to be rewarded in heaven.   Build up your spiritual capital now for a much greater return on investment later.
And what a very troubling interpretation of this parable this is in fact– for from it it, it is only a small step to believe that we are to use good deed to the the poor and needy for our own advancement, that we are diminish who we are now in order to enter the kingdom later, and that we have to work in some way to earn our rewards. This thinking leaves I would suggest a troubling legacy in our church today – where humility and works are still needed to be accepted by God.  And you know what that says – that the cross isn’t sufficient!  That grace is not enough!
So where else can we go with this?  Maybe here.  Maybe Jesus is poking fun at the very concept that our status, our worth is something to be manipulated, transacted in any way, shape or form by this world. Saying that this whole cultural value system around a person’s worth is shot and deserves nothing less than our total derision.  Now that sounds more like the subversive message we would expect from Jesus for his people – showing us that we are not to use the world’s ways of getting on, of allowing people or deeds to determine our worth in God’s eyes. 
It challenges any thinking that the only way to gain the kingdom is by belittling ourselves in some way, being less than who we can be.  And for some among us that is still a very real understanding of what it means to be a Christ follower. 
Christ tells us: We are valued as we are and encouraged to be who we can be.  Some lines from a poem by Marianne Williamson:
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure about you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.[1]

Jesus teaches us to live in the confidence of love – of being loved for who we are and of loving others.  The lines of love – for God, neighbour and self - all need to converge into one whole and complete way of life where we can be the best we can be for God.  We are to neither put our own interests first, spiritually or materially, for that exploits others, nor are we to diminish ourselves for that is destructive to self and ends up lessening what we have to give to others.
The letter to the Hebrews makes just this point.  Our reading for today begins: ‘let mutual love continue....’ and ends  ‘do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’
Christian community is about being who you are so that you can be who you need to be to others.  

When we come to this table as a community of Christ we are not some of us more worthy than another, some of higher  status that others, some of us less deserving than other.  We are all one in Christ and all welcome in his presence.  We put aside all anxieties of worth or status knowing that we are loved and accepted for who we are, valued beyond all measure by God and nourished by a life poured out for us, so that we can be who God wants us to be. 

Margaret Garland

[1] Marianne Williamson.  ‘Our Deepest Fear’ in Return to Love.  Harper Collins, 1992

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 11th August 2013

Heroes of God’s Long March  -  Hebrews 11. 1-3, 8-16
Prayer:  God of our fathers and mothers in the faith, of Sarah and Abraham, of Isaac and Rebecca, of Rachel and Jacob, as they listened and heard what you said to them then, help us to listen and hear what you are saying to us today.
Book of Hebrews up to this point pretty tough slog, high priests, and covenants, and worship and sacrifice and so on. But when come to chapter 11 like entering another sphere, one of most familiar chapters in Bible. Been called the Westminster Abbey of Scripture. Visit Westminster - amazing experience because so many of heroes of the British, the ancestors of my human story, buried there, and walk over those cobbled stones and wonder about all the feet that walked there before you. And here have hall of heroes of history of faith of God’s realm. And it all about faith. Interesting question to begin with - just what is faith.
Some define it as “believing what you know isn’t true” as the Queen put it in Alice in Wonderland “Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Nor is it positive thinking or hoping for the best, the optimism that everything will turn out all right. One anonymous preacher “That you are sitting before me in this church is a fact. That I am standing and speaking to you from this pulpit is a fact. But it is only faith that makes me believe anyone is listening” Samuel Butler said “What is faith but a kind of betting after all.”
Much nearer the mark is Martin Luther “Faith is a living deliberate confidence in the grace of God, so certain that for it one could die a thousand deaths.” And of course Martin Luther wrote that wonderful hymn of faith “A mighty fortress is our God” when that an ever present possibly – when he faced by all the forces of the Empire and Catholic church out to put him to death as a heretic. “A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;… And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us; We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.”
And here at beginning this chpt 11 have only definition of faith in Scripture. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Two critical things here.
(1) being sure of what we hope for. Writer describing what faith already has, It already possesses in the present what God has promised for the future. Inwardly people of faith have a confidence today, here and now, when all hell is breaking loose around, that the promises of God for peace, for mercy, for justice, for salvation can be trusted. Faith in this sense is a response to the trustworthiness of God. It is demonstrated by the faith of a Martin Luther King as he sung “We shall overcome” while marching toward the state troopers on Selma Bridge. Faith trusts God’s promises that “that swords will be turned into ploughshares” and that “mourning and crying and pain will be no more” and is so certain of it that it acts on the reality of it.
Faith is very strongly related to hope. Without one we do not have the other. And the biblical concept of hope is quite different from what we understand by it. As in “I hope it will be a fine day tomorrow” or “I hoped we would win the rugby today”. For us word implies doubt (perhaps with ABs against Australia at moment no doubt about that next week, but with the Highlanders next year?????? – believing the impossible! Well there is still next year as we have been saying for many years) For biblical writers hope implies not doubt but certainty, not “the prospect of what might happen, but the prospect of what is already guaranteed.” Because it is not dependent on ourselves, other people, or circumstances but the character of God. Another black person, contemporary of MLK , Muhammad Ali, said that “It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself.” But he came to see that faith in himself in the end insufficient and came to have faith in God, although perhaps a different understanding of God than we might share. And this is the great biblical theme that our faith, our hope, our confidence is based not on ourselves, or other people, or Hebrews 11.  
circumstances, but on the God who was revealed to Israel as Yahweh and to us more fully in Jesus Christ.
(2) And so the second point in this definition is what faith sees: it is certain of what we do not see. The writer is here affirming the ability of faith to see or discern realities that are not currently visible, partly because they belong to our future. As Paul put in 2 Corinthians, what can be seen is temporary but what cannot be seen is eternal and so we walk by faith and not by sight.
GK Chesterton tells of a small girl in a city park, walking with her mother beneath torn skies and tossing trees, and not liking the wind at all. It blew in her face, made her shut her eyes, made fun of her hat of which she was very proud. Complaining repeatedly of the ceaseless atmospheric unrest, she burst out, “But mummy why don’t you take away the trees and then it wouldn’t wind anymore.” On that remark Chesterton bases an essay on the widespread confusion of visible effects with invisible causes. That we so often see events as being caused by what we can see; such as a revolution by rioting mobs, violence, demonstrations etc. In fact the real cause is the revolt in the human mind and spirit. The whole of this letter to the Hebrews is based on the fact that there are two realities, one which is visible and can be seen with the physical eye and the other which is invisible and can only be seen with the eye of faith, partly because it is future. And so to the person of faith, as the writer points out in v3 the universe is not simply an aimless swirl of energy and matter but a creation, an expression of the love of God which continues to be sustained by God’s hidden providence as it moves toward the fulfilment God is continuing to work to complete. As in other areas people of faith do not simply see the physical circumstances and events around them, but discern in them the gracious activity of God. And as one writer put it “Hope is hearing the melody of the future. Faith is to dance to it.”
It is for this kind of faith which dances to God’s tune into the future that the writer tells us the ancients, our mothers and fathers in the faith, were commended by God. And so in the next 40 verses he leafs through the annals of the OT to tell us the stories of some of these. And focus of our text today out of this gallery is on Abraham and Sarah.
Mention Abraham and Sarah, although focus in our tradition been on Abraham, but OT written in a patriarchal society, and so written from perspective of the men, and women often forgotten, but at least in this brief summary Sarah is brought into it, because without Sarah’s equal amount of faith none of this could have happened. Already in this letter in ch 2 all who believe are regarded as descendants of Sarah and Abraham and in ch 6 they are presented as the example of those who through faith inherited the promises.
Abraham and Sarah were called to set out on a journey of faith and find in them many of the qualities of all faith journeys.
 First the journey required a deep trust in the God who was sending them. They responded to God’s call putting their hand in God’s hand even though they did not know where [they were] going. Throughout this letter the writer is eager to point out that the responsiveness modelled by these individuals was due to their deep trust and unwavering confidence in the God who calls.
 The journey of faith was also disclocating uprooting their family for generations. Abraham and Sarah were willing to leave behind what was secure, prosperous, peaceful, enjoyable. Ur was a very sophisticated city and they were willing to leave all this and wander off into the unkown and uncertain. Faith sometimes requires this from us.
Courage. Set off not knowing what lay beyond. No google earth to scan ahead and see what going to. Takes great courage to do that – why some people never move on from where are. Reading about African animal, impala. Can jump over 3m high and further than 10m. But can keep enclosed in 1m wall because won’t jump if can’t see ground where will land. We like that. Try and jump if can’t see where going to land. True emotionally also. Reluctant to jump into something not know were going to end up. Takes courage. And sometimes God calls us like Abraham to step out not knowing where will end up. As Martin Luther King put it, “Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
 Another characteristic persistence. Given great emphasis. Even when they entered the land and received the promise of inheritance didn’t become theirs immediately. Possessed only in promise not in deed, because already inhabited by others. And they lived in cities while Sarah and Abraham and their children and grandchildren lived in tents. But Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel, shared this same persistent faith of Abraham and Sarah. Notice what sustained them. They were looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. As already mentioned people of faith can see another reality beyond the circumstance and events surrounding them in the present.
 And the final characteristic of people of faith is dependence on God. Here Sarah is specifically mentioned in her own right. God had promised them they would be progenitors of a great nation, descendants be as many as the stars in the sky or sand on seashore. But Sarah was barren and Abraham well past age of fatherhood. So couldn’t happen merely by own activity and efforts. Dependent on activity of God. And that is the acid test of faith – are we still trusting God when without God coming to the party nothing is going to happen.

And so shaped by a faith like this look at the kind of qualities Abraham and Sarah possessed.
Two thing in particular:
(1) Continuing confidence despite the uncertainties of the present. v13. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them from a distance. They never got there. When Abraham died he and Sarah had a son but no inheritance. They only owned a graveyard and the promised multitude had not arrived but faith is itself enough to live by because they could see their destination in the distance and could already taste it.
Martin Luther King, the night before he was shot, 15 years after inspired by a courageous woman Rosa Parks, the blacks of the south had set out on their long march to the promised land of racial equality, and 5 years after he had stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said “I have a dream”, King preached his last sermon. He began by taking his bearings and finding his identity with “God’s children in their magnificent trek from Egypt, through the wilderness toward the promised land” and concluded:
# Video clip?
“We’ve got some difficult times ahead. But it doesn’t really matter to me now, because I have been to the mountaintop. Like anybody else I would like to live a long life. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land…. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”
And he and the others marching with him were sustained by that confident faith which like Abraham and Sarah, could already see their promised inheritance through the eye of faith and so trusted in God to deliver what God had promised.
(2) A continuing quest, always seeking, never satisfied to settle down. They admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth… looking for a country of their own… longing for a better country a heavenly one. This picture of a pilgrim people, always on the move, journeying toward their final destination comes through again and again in the NT. I love the title of Ernst Kassemann’s commentary on Hebrews “The Wandering People of God.” Followers of Jesus are never satisfied to settle down and live comfortably with what they have in this world as it is now, because they know it is not their final destiny, not all God has promised for them. The best is yet to be and they anxious to be on the move toward it.
Want to make an important point of distinction here about this better reality God has for us – a heavenly country, a city… whose architect and builder is God, and so living as strangers, pilgrims, in this world. Often, coming more out of Greek dualism than biblical narrative, seen as heavenly being up there, rather than down here, spiritual rather than material. The perspective of the biblical narrative is not that God is wanting to rescue us out of a fallen evil material world, taking us up to a spiritual heavenly realm, but rather that God is working through Christ by the Spirit to redeem and recreate a world which is once again good, as God created it. God’s story ends in Revelation 21 not with the redeemed being taken up out of earth to heaven but rather the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God so that now the dwelling place of God is with humans, a city in which “the glory of God is its light” and “the nations” will walk by that and so “will not make war any more” and “and the lion and the lamb will lie down in the field together”.

This is why people of faith are never prepared just to settle down in this world as it is now, accept what we have now as good enough, because it is all there is. Because we know that God is working in it for a better future and discerning that we are moving on with God, acting with God toward that, looking forward in faith to the day when as Revelation again puts it they will be God’s people and God will be with them and be their God. It is this perspective, our seeing in faith what God is doing beyond merely what our physical eyes show us, and our knowledge of the future God is going to bring in, that keeps us going, whatever the sometimes despairing reality of the world we currently find ourselves in might be, not clinging desperately to our little plot of the world as it is now for our security, but rather in faith, as the last verse of our reading puts it longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Rev Dr Kevin Ward, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Dunedin.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 4th August 2013 Pentecost 11

Readings: Hosea 11:1-11, Luke 12:13-21

We pray:  May the words of scripture speak into our lives and may both the words spoken and our understandings be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen.

When Jonathon was only a child, I loved him.  I would look over him, keep him out of trouble, rescued him that time when he got stuck up that tree and got him safely down and home.
But then, as he got older, other people, other things began to call him, take his attention.  You could say he worshipped other Gods, like the latest computer games, designer clothes, booze, with his mates picking on the different and the weak.  But still I stuck with him, got him out of trouble, made peace with those he had hurt, but he never admitted that he needed or even knew that I was doing this.  Sometimes at night when he was deeply asleep I would lean over and kiss him, hold him, tell him that I loved him. No response of course.    
And now – he wants to go right away – leave home, back to the dangers of being at the top of a spindly tree without anyone to catch him when he falls, pursuing in all those things he worships.  I get angry, of course I get angry – just want to shake some sense into him, sometimes want to cut him off completely and see how he likes it – all alone, no one to pick up the pieces.
But I can’t do it – I just can’t.  I can’t bear the thought of him alone, hurting, there is no way I can act out my anger in this way.    I love him and, when I remember that, all thought of severing our relationship just dissolves, and compassion, understanding, forgiveness just make my heart want to burst.  I love him and I will be there when he is ready to return, when he turns his face to home again – for where I am will always be his home.

Hosea tells of the love of God for Israel  and it is a powerful story, a story of love and frustration and heartbreak and of choice – a choice to love not discard.  I found re-telling this story in my own words helped me to hear more clearly the deep love of God that transcends all our behaviour, all our turning away and that just will not give up on us, ever.  We do need reminding of that don’t we.  I suspect that there are still lingering thoughts that, as we might eventually give up on someone who keeps on hurting us, letting us down, so God will eventually have had enough of us. 
But it’s not true – never has been, never will be.  This story shouts out at us that God is the one in whom we can confidently place our security, that God will ever be there for us.  The other gods that we rush off to pursue, whatever they might be, are ephemeral, full of false promise and dubious long term gain.
Jesus, the greatest of storytellers, gives us this same message in the Gospel reading we had today.  The parable of the Rich Fool invites us to consider the futility of garnering wealth against a future when the future might end today.  It’s pretty blunt isn’t it? You fool – this very night you die – then what use is your great storehouse of treasure.  Your real treasure, the one that will not fade or be given away or crumble under you feet is your relationship with God and with your community – and you are totally neglecting that as you concentrate on storing up this, this stuff for a future that is not yours.
And in this day and age how might that story be told – it’s not necessarily a barn with grain but it could be a 80 hour working week to get rid of the humungous mortgage on the flash house, or a parent who hardly ever sees their child because the ‘best school’ is too long a flight away and school fees leave no travel money or the church whose offerings all go to keeping their decaying building afloat – mission and ministry neglected as maintenance devours their time and money  --- I am sure you can fill in with some other thoughts here.
Our trouble is, says Jesus, that when we focus on shoring up the future in a way that excludes the now, there are few  guarantees and little to recommend it.  We think that somehow happiness, peace will be found when we have achieved these things – that things will be better – we just have to work hard and strive for them, that the more effort we put in the better will be the result and that if the here and now has to suffer, then so be it.
Well, breaking news, life is about the here and now and we don’t know what the future holds.  Whether we are rich or poor, of faith or no faith, life is good for some of us some/most of the time and bad some/most of the time.  Nothing wrong it doing a bit of planning for the future, looking out for some securities in our lives but Jesus tells us that when our focus becomes such that our relationship with each other and God is neglected, storing up against an unpredictable future is just nuts.  Whatever takes us completely away from those relationships, whatever other god it is that bemuses us so much that we have no time to live in the richness of life with Christ and each other in the present, that needs to be challenged.
This is something for us all to think about individually – is there anything in our life that has absorbed us so much that we have lost the now? 
Today however I want to specifically look at something I think is a really serious issue in the church at the moment – an issue that has completely taken up the energy and focus of much of the church to the extent that present relationships of church, God and people are at extreme risk.  It’s all about sex, sexual relationships, sexual orientation, sexual norms.  People trawl through the scriptures looking to find supporting evidence for differing viewpoints, almost seeking to tell Jesus what he would have said on this pivotal issue had he been aware it was such a threat to the church of the 21st century.  No all you can find is Jesus saying we must love God, each other as ourselves.  No help at all.
Every assembly in NZ for over forty years has had this issue debated in some way and it has become all encompassing over the last 20 years.  Then came the Marriage Equality Bill which led to huge debate last Assembly and the passing of a majority vote supporting marriage as between men and women – a view that some of you will agree with and some not and some be uncertain.  Last week – a glimpse of sanity – a report from the Book of Order Advisory Committee (whose very name brings up that phrase ‘decently and in good order’) confirming that, according to our church polity and reformed and reforming understanding, this is something for individual churches and minister’s to discern.
Then on Friday I read the Affirm response to that paper urging all members to deluge the Moderator , the Committee convenor and the Assembly Secretary with their outrage at this report, praying that among other things God will arise to defend his own honour and glory. 
Jesus wept. What are we doing here?  Is the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ truly making Jesus Christ known in this place and this time or is it so embroiled in filling up its barns with so called ‘enforced right thinking’ for the day of judgement that it has no time, energy, focus, desire even, to be the body of Christ and care for community. 
Is this what it means to have a life rich toward God?  I don’t think so.  Is this building up relationship with God and each other in community?  Not in my book – the church is way too distracted.  Is this reaching out in love and care for all people in the security of God’s love that never lets us go? Not being a good example of that are we?
I pray God that we all in this congregation, along with the wider church, here and throughout the world, will continue to live in the riches of a life rooted in God, and in care for community, for each other, and turn away from those things that distract and prevent us from the love and care of all people.  Amen 

Margaret Garland

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 28th July 2013 Pentecost 10

Readings:  Psalm 138, Luke 11:1-13

Prayer:  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen.

I want to begin today with a memory of young adulthood – away from home but still seeing my parent’s prime role in life as being there for me.  And so when I rang home, usually for something, and there was no reply, it was remarkably unsettling – where were they, why had they moved away from the phone (landline of course in those days) when I needed them.  Why had they turned their focus away from me?  Silly now but an honest recollection for then.
Rachel Remen in her book Kitchen Table Wisdom tells a somewhat similar story from her childhood – this time about the focus of God.  She says that when she was small God was still discussed in the public schools.  She remembers one assembly in which the principle, a fervent fundamentalist, delivered a fire and brimstone kind of sermon to the entire school.  She read a passage from the bible and told them it was important that they all kneeled and prayed three times a day because they needed to remind God that they were there.  Thinking back she may not have said it in so many words, but this is what Rachel took away.  You prayed because you had to make God look at you.  If God’s face was turned away from you, she told the hushed assembly of children, you would wither up and die, like an autumn leaf.  And at this time, Rachel recalls, she was sure she actually held up a large dry and withered leaf.  Even as a five year old it seem that God had a lot of other things to think about besides her.  And then she thought – what would happen if, when she was praying, God blinked, what would become of her?  And she spent several sleepless nights until she was able to ask her Rabbi grandfather ‘what happens if God blinks?’  He was able to assure her that God just knows she is there all of the time, in the same way she knows that her parents are there even when she can’t see them.  You know how a child’s mind works here – literal truth.
How many other unhelpful, or downright dangerous perceptions of the role that prayer plays are out there?
There are the ‘gimme’ prayers that are encouraged by our ‘gimme’ culture.  God I pray for a lotto win or the designer clothing that will make me look cool or the rain to go away because I had a sunshine event planned.  I even know of someone who prayed that a parking spot would appear for them because they didn’t want to walk too far.  And when we add in the nagging prayer for things we want– if I ask often enough, God will give it to me.  If I ask on my knees even better and if I ask in as many creatively different ways as I can think of, then how can God resist.  Prayer for me, by me, might as well be to me as well.

Then there are the fix-it prayers discerned from a distance, framed by our own solutions and guaranteed by our saying of them.  God do this and do that, heal them, hush them up, sort them out, make them better people – maybe too thinking that by the praying we need do no more.  Distance prayers you might call them. 
There are what you might call the last ditch prayers – you know ‘there’s not much else to do now but pray’ – we’ve all done that I am sure. “I’ve done everything I can now it’s up to God” says a health professional when she had no more answers. And whilst prayer in dire situations is absolutely what we are to do, if that is the first and only time one might pray, then there is a problem with understanding the meaning of prayer.
If this is what you think prayer is, says Luke, then it’s time to think again. And one of the ways we are reminded to think again is through the words of what we call the Lord’s Prayer.  It’s time to think again about what we mean when we say ‘hallowed by your name, your kingdom come....”  When we set our praying, our conversations with God within the context of that phrase, the coming of the kingdom, instead of ourselves and our culture, our needs, our actions or inactions, we end up with a very different focus for  requests, our expectations and our actions.  We suddenly realise that, in seeking God’s kingdom rather than our own, our prayers become part of bringing wholeness and oneness to all.  Remen says “at its deepest, prayer is a statement about causality.  Turning toward prayer is a release from the arrogance and vulnerability of an isolated and individual causality.  When we pray, we stop trying to control life and remember that we belong to life.  It is an opportunity to experience humility and recognize grace.  Prayer is a powerful way of embracing life, all life.....  End of quote.   
It is in this way of prayer – praying for the coming of the kingdom and not for our own ends, says Jesus, that we can have all confidence in God’s response. 
It’s worth taking a moment to revisit the words of the prayer that Jesus taught or the shortened version found here in Luke.  It has been suggested that we have lost some of the punch of this prayer in translation, that in the original Aramaic the words used were seen as stronger than just the wishes they are often interpreted as today – after acknowledging the sanctity of God, then they actually seem to tell God what to do – make your kingdom come!  And the rest of the prayer follows on from this - if we are to be part of bringing this kingdom about then this is what you need to do to support us: we need forgiveness, sustenance, guidance and rescue from the things that overwhelm. 
This prayer is from a community living in the closeness of strong relationship with God, totally convicted of the need of the kingdom they glimpse to be known to the world and recognising the power of praying for and into and on behalf of the whole world. 
That is why we can have confidence in our approaching God in prayer, why we are told to have an attitude of perseverance, even cheekiness in our prayers – for the coming of the kingdom, not for our own ‘gimmes’ and fix-ups and life insurances.  And then Jesus gives us this example of that attitude.  We have the story of the man embarrassed by the lack of hospitality he is able to offer an unexpected guest and his shameless persistence in getting his next door neighbour out of bed to help. Prayer on behalf of those who are in need should indeed be persistent and outrageous – defying conventions of comfort, stretching our neighour’s reluctance so that they can, despite their misgivings, be truly neighbours. The needs of the world are met in the persistence and pushiness of prayer for the world.
And why are we so confident that prayer is heard, let alone changes things. 
Because, says Jesus, we are loved.  God loves the world, and if as a loving parent you will give only that which is good and caring for your child, how much more so will God be wanting to give only that which is good to us.  If you knock the door will be open, if you search you will find what you look for – because we are seeking the good of the kingdom.
There is much more we could say about prayer, so many more truths and misunderstandings but for today can we hold this thought – that prayer, undertaken in the care for the world invites us into an place of  power and presence, holds us in a focus of care for ourselves and others and encourages  us to act outrageously and persistently so that God’s kingdom will come.   Amen

Margaret Garland