9th Sunday after Pentecost

When He (Jesus) went ashore, He saw a great crowd; and He had compassion for them and cured their sick…They (the crowd of over 5,000) need not go away; you give them something to eat. Matthew 14:13-21.

Scripture has a way of reaching us in ways that nothing else can. Scripture also has a way of challenging us with new or deeper perspectives every time we interact with it. This is all true because of it being God’s word to us. This section is no different. It has so much to meditate upon but I want to focus on one element for now…the compassion flowing into action.

The immediate point is that Jesus looked upon the people and had compassion upon them and He healed them. It is equally true that Jesus is looking at you now, wherever you are, with compassion. Compassion may mean “with passion” but not in a sexual way in this context. It is a more old-fashioned meaning in that “with strong caring emotion” …that is how Jesus looked on the people, on us. He looks at us with feelings that are strong and deep (please read last week’s post below). Jesus still does. He sees you struggling with illness, job loss, physical/emotional pain, and all the other issues we deal with as humans. He was both human (in every way) and God. Jesus gets it. That is good news. But that is not the end of the good news. Jesus did not walk by the needs of the crowd. Rather, He looked and did something: Compassion with action.

After Jesus healed the people we read that they are far from home and are hungry. Jesus asked the disciples to “see” the situation and not ignore it. They looked around and saw the people, so many people, and started down the path of hopelessness. They had a little but there were so many people. They looked at the resources and not the Resourcer; they looked at the creation and not the Creator. We do that as humans. We forget the truth during the struggles. But we can choose to refocus our attention.

Jesus took what they had to offer (Note: Jesus will always take what we offer to Him no matter how small it may seem to us.) and blessed it and gave it to the people. They were filled! And there were leftovers! He did not just meet the need but He met the need with overabundance. Jesus is so extravagant.

Compassion in action did not stop in the first century of the church. It still happens. We see it with Christians who feel the pain of others and do something about it. Maybe Christians share their time, their talents, their treasures, themselves. Maybe they weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Maybe they stand by during the funeral or throw a party for the graduate. They are moved with compassion to action, and in so doing, are “feeding” those they serve…abundantly.

You may have only five loaves and two fish but remember, Jesus can do amazing things with gifts given to Him. If you are “hungry” I know Jesus will “feed” you with exactly what you need and generously to boot. Amen.

8th Sunday after Pentecost

8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

8:27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

8:34 …It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

“Will you pray for me?” is something we all hear from others. And, we usually say that we will pray for the person. Depending on how close we are to the person we will pray more intensely and oftener. But, if we are honest with each other we pray for about 15 seconds and move on. And, again, being honest, our prayer may be something like, “Dear God, be with and bless ____ as only You can. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Technically, we did pray for the person and I am confident that God heard our prayer for that person and has, is, and will move in the person’s life. This is not to discourage us from praying for others. Rather, it is an opportunity to correctly assess where we are and what we are doing. Then what? Well, Scripture has that for us.

Sometimes we honestly don’t know what to pray for someone. There is a song from a few years back talking about “unanswered prayers.” So, we do need to be careful when we pray. But we are God’s children so we have no fear when we pray. We just tell our Father in heaven what is in our hearts and minds and not be shy to ask great things from a great Daddy.

While all that is true, what about the verses for this week? Imagine yourself sitting on a three-cushion sofa/couch. You are sitting on the center cushion and you are praying, really praying, and are unsure what to pray. After all, you really care about the prayer request and don’t want to “mess up” the prayer. Scripture says that the Holy Spirit is interceding (a form of prayer) for you and with you. So, on your left is seated the Holy Spirit praying with you! Scripture also says that sometimes there are prayers that are like moans…too deep for words. Someone has said that tears are liquid prayers. And what the Holy Spirit prays is always aligned with the will of God as God, the Holy Spirit, will not conflict with God, the Father.

As the commercial says, “But, wait! There’s more!” and indeed, there is. While you and the Holy Spirit are on two of the three cushions, guess Who is on the third? Yep, Jesus Himself! And He also is praying with and for you (See John chapter 17 if you want to read the specifics of some of His prayers for you.) That is pretty amazing that you have the triune God surrounding you. And two of the three are praying for you to the other third. What a blessing. You don’t have to worry if your prayer is correct or anything as the others are, in a sense, carrying your requests to the Father.

So, now let that all sink in….

This series talks about our Victory in Jesus. However, right now you may not be feeling very victorious much less a conqueror. That is okay…feelings come and go but the truth remains. You, as a Christ-follower, are a conqueror. Yep, you are. If you read the rest of chapter eight of Romans it will list all the things that are terrible but do not destroy you. If Paul, the author of Romans, were here with us now, he might add COVID19 to the list or explain that comes with the word “pestilence”. Wherever you are, whatever you are experiencing, it is okay to sit in the presence of Jesus and wonder what is going on, or will go on. It is also okay to know that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are alongside you praying perfect prayers for you to God, the Father. Prayers that will be answered!

When we ask for prayer it is comforting to know the person will pray for us. Rest in the fact that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are praying for you right now and all will be well. Amen.

7th Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. BCP

Romans 8:12-25 has a lot to offer us in this season of life. We are tossed about with worries within and stressors around us. It may seem like we are constantly getting hit by something new or blindsided by something we thought was already taken care of in life. We look ahead to the rest of 2020 with concern for ourselves, our families, and our nation and the world. But there is another option.

For those of us who are Christ-followers, we do not pretend that things are not difficult and painful. We still have death and disease in our lives. But, that is not all there is…we do not eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. No, we have a hope within us that transcends the “reality” around us. We know that we have a Father who cares for us (8:15). And we have someone who prays with us, the Holy Spirit (8:16). We know that whatever we are going through is not the destination. It is simply a part of the journey.

A while back, our eldest grand daughter had a baby…our great-grandbaby. And while we were not there for the birth, it is reasonable to assume that she suffered some birth pains. But she knew that with the pains came a promise that after all was done, she would have a baby in her hands. She knew that having the baby would be worth all the pain she would endure (8:18-19).

The Scriptures teach us that like her, we groan for an end to this struggle. We know and hope for a happy ending to the pain we are suffering now. And we believe that it will be fine someday…but today is tough. Let’s read these verses:

8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 8:24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

And so we wait…in the emergency rooms, the waiting rooms, the living rooms…we wait for the end of the groaning and pain. We wait, as believers, with tear-stained eyes, wait for what we hope for knowing that hope will not be disappointed because of the One we hope in, Jesus.

I don’t know where you are, dear one, but I know Jesus knows your exact location. I can assure and promise you that you are not alone no matter what you feel or think. And it is okay if you cry or scream or whimper. Someone has said that tears are silent prayers, so pray away. The groaning and pain will pass eventually. The horrible pain you feel will dissipate like mist in the morning and you will see Him face to face. But until then, we suffer, not in silence and not alone, but in hope and with Jesus. Amen.