Teach us to pray - Reflections - 7-20-16

 Texts for Sunday July 24, 2016
 10th Sunday after Pentecost

 Genesis 18:20-32
 Psalm 138
 Colossians 2:6-19
 Luke 11:1-13

 My soul feels a bit weary and battered. It has been a hard few weeks around the country and globe. The public life as citizen of this nation/world seems to be wildly spiraling away from the common good…. As well as common sense. A lot to pray about...
“We pray for the people of (fill in the most recent city/nation’s name that has experienced violence or terrorism).”

As the person who edits the weekly prayers that are read aloud on behalf of the whole congregation, I feel like I have needed to cut and paste the phrase above into each week’s prayers recently. Then what petition follows? What is our “ask”? Certainly God’s presence in the midst of it all. Comfort for the victims? Gratitude, or fortitude, for those public servants who respond in such emergencies? How to reach across the barriers that divide us?  Civility, respect, goodwill? Peace?

What would you write? What would you have our prayers say? What do these tragedies have in common? What makes them different?  Some people say that our prayers are God’s call to us for action, to be a part of the answer to the prayer. If so, what do we need to be doing?

In the Genesis story for this Sunday, Abraham seems very comfortable in his relationship with God.  And frankly, God seems very comfortable in his relationship with Abraham. He chose Abraham as the start of a nation by which other nations would be blessed. Abraham and his descendants would live by righteousness and justice. 

In this story, Abraham was able to stand beside God to challenge and push God about righteousness, justice, and mercy. Surely this God of justice will be just, right? How many good people, righteous people have to die? How many are too many in terms of “collateral damage”? God heard Abraham and gave ground on this. 

Spoiler alert: The cities are destroyed anyway.  Evidently there were only four righteous. In recognition of his relationship with Abraham, God spares Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and his family from destruction. 

Have you ever challenged God? Or at least maybe wanted to challenge God? Did you feel God listened and considered what you said?

In the Gospel, Jesus’ followers ask him to teach them how to pray. So he teaches what has become known as “The Lord’s Prayer”. It feels a bit like an extension of that “love God and love neighbor” discussion that has been going on the last two Sundays.  Note the pronouns used are plural. We are all in this together.

Where have you seen signs that the kingdom has “come”? How can we be an answer to “Give us this day our daily bread”? How easy is it to ask for forgiveness? How easy is it to forgive? What can cause our trust to waver?

Jesus then tells a story of friend asking friend for help. It goes back to that hospitality thing from last week…. Pound, pound, pound…. Friend I need some bread. I’ve got a late night visitor. Do you really want to make me look bad by not having food to offer?  Do you really want to look bad for making me look bad by not having food to offer?  Jesus says surely the person in bed will get up just to make the other one shut up.

About what have you pounded on “heaven’s door”? 

And then Jesus assures us that if we ask, seek, and knock, God answers. We schmucks are able to answer our children’s needs appropriately. Jesus says if we can manage, “how much more” do you think God can handle the job.

What do you want to ask? What do you seek? Where do you want to knock?

Your comments are always welcome; use the space below.

For more reflections on these texts, see the G.I.F.T. post for 7-24-16.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245