Engaging in a Journey
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
It has been said, "A picture is worth a thousand words," and this picture of the bridge below is very representative of the journey that we, the congregation of St. Paul's, are now engaged in. The Very Reverend Nancy Brown has retired from service to St. Paul's. We are thankful for that service.
Nonetheless, where do we go now? What should we do? As the picture suggests, the only road ahead is the road forward. Yes, onto the bridge, each and every one of us! This is a suspension bridge so, with each of us on it, walking, it will swing from side to side and shake making it scary to go even one step further. Moreover, we can't even see where this bridge leads to; so why take it?
Ironically, the Epistle and Gospel Lessons for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost and the ending of Reverend Nancy's Pastoral relationship with St. Paul's were filled with huge nuggets of wisdom, hope, and strength for us as we cross that bridge. The beginning of the Epistle Lesson, Colossians 2:6-15, states very succinctly:
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Christ is our strength as we move forward both as the congregation of St. Paul's and as individuals. How so? Through Word and prayer. Beginning with the Word of God:
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And a light unto my path.
Thus, God's Word shines directly on our feet, illuminating right where we are at. It also illuminates the pathway we are to follow. Is the path lit clearly through the end of our days? No, but it is definitely bright enough to see our next steps as a congregation and as individuals.
Now, on to prayer. In the Gospel Lesson from July 28th, the Disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray:
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
It seems the Disciples were curious, "Hmm, Jesus prays to God and He is definitely different and more capable than we are. Maybe He'll show us how to do this too!" Prayer is simply dialogue with God so, why would Jesus, who is God, need to pray to God? Regardless of one's perception about the Trinity, Jesus deemed it essential to have dialogue with God and so should we.
We have the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) which provides many profoundly and evangelically worded prayers for 'common' situations. What about not-so-common situations?
The point is, Jesus treated as essential His dialogue with God and so should we. Jesus would even 'ditch' the people at times to steal away to pray; that's how important it was to Him.
Prayer--our dialogue with God--is equally important. We all readily admit that communication in any relationship is important. Our relationship to God is of the utmost importance and communicating with Him is equally, if not more, essential in our relationship with Him.
You may be thinking, "Well, I don't have the words to pray like those prayers in the BCP." If God knows the number of hairs on your head and your every thought, word, and deed, you don't need an eloquence with words to communicate with Him. Rather, He would be much more appreciative of your speaking from the heart.
Remember Moses? He didn't think he had the skills to lead God's people out of the land of Egypt. So, God said, "Oh, ok. I'll see if I can find somebody else," right? No, God said He would be with Moses and also provided Aaron, his brother, to help. Also, remember the prayers of the Pharisee and the Publican. The Publican's prayer was sincere--from the heart. While the Pharisee's prayer was from his attitude of arrogance. While the Pharisee's prayer may have been representative of his heart and both prayers were 'heard' by God, which do you think was heeded?
So, as we go forward as a congregation and as individuals, as we step out on to the bridge, as it swings and shakes, as we move along the bridge but still cannot see where it truly leads, pray for St. Paul's and for your own, individual, walk along the bridge.
1 What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
2 Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer! Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer!
3 Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge-- take it to the Lord in prayer! Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In his arms he'll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.