Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Good Time to Pray (Reflections on Easter 7, Year A)

4 Earnest Prayers for Disciple Makers | Living the D-Life
“All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer…” (Acts 1:14a)

Believe it or not, we’re all the way to Easter 7. My how time flies when you’re locked-down during a pandemic! The First lesson in the RCL for this Sunday (Acts 1:6-14) comes from Acts 1. Jesus is ascending to sit at the right hand of the Father, and the disciples are standing around looking at the clouds with their mouths hanging open (wouldn’t you?). Nevertheless, before Jesus splits, the disciples have to ask him one more time if this is the time when God will restore Israel to her former glory (They just can’t seem to get this earthly kingdom thing out of their heads!). His answer is basically, “Gosh, guys. I dunno. That’s up to my Dad. But you guys need to wait here in Jerusalem because something really cool is about to happen.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d find that a rather disappointing answer. It’s so vague. It’s like asking Governor Wolf when southeastern Pennsylvania will be open for business again. When can we come back to church? Nobody knows the answer. We’re just told to wait.

So what do you do while you’re waiting? Verse 14 tells us they devoted themselves to prayer. Now, I’ll bet many of us have a lot more time for prayer these days now that there’s no place for us to go during a pandemic. Still, worry about the unknown, boredom, frustration, and members of your family doing the rumba on your last nerves don’t exactly create an environment conducive to prayer. But pray anyway.

Okay, Pastor, you say, what shall we pray for? In the gospel lesson (John 17:1-11[i]) Jesus is just finishing his prayer. He asks his Father to protect the saints, to keep them strong in the Word, and to keep them unified. He might’ve been praying for us in our current situation. He rather pointedly is not praying for the world (v. 9). When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Why? Because the world will never get better unless the saints of God are willing to make it better.

Perhaps our prayers at this time should not be to change our circumstances but, rather, to change ourselves. Scientists, doctors, and government authorities will do battle with the coronavirus. Our responsibility is to use this opportunity to enter into a deeper relationship with God and with each other. Our job may well be to cultivate empathy, gratitude, and a sense of purpose so we can really know the joy Jesus prays for us to receive (v. 13).

What will happen to our congregation when this pandemic finally subsides? Will we have one big “Welcome Back” mass and then go back to business as usual? Or will this time be used to God’s glory? Will we discover within ourselves a new sense of commitment as God’s people in mission to the world? It’s something we should pray about, don’t you think?

May God bless you and keep us safe, secure in the Word, and in contact with one another.

PS- For a video of this sermonette, click here.

[i] To really get this you might want to read all of John 17.

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