As we wrap up our discussion of the current prayers of the season, we hear from a number of staff members about each of this season's prayers. We also hear from the RCC family about how they've been pressing into these prayers, how they've seen God moving, and what they are grateful for. Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:12-13; Revelation 5; Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Revelation 7:9.
The sixth prayer of the season focuses on racial reconciliation. Looking at Acts 2, the story of Pentecost reveals God's heart for people who are broken and in need. The upper room was full of over one hundred people praying in humility. God comes in power, but God comes to each person in their respective tongue. He meets them where they are with the Holy Spirit and the power of the gospel in the language they understand. And the people are reconciled to God and each other. God is the ultimate reconciler. As we step into the kingdom work of justice and mercy, may we first be listeners to understand the stories of our neighbors. May be build relationships to break down barriers. May we see them as image-bearers of Christ.
Josh continued our discussion of our prayers of the season, further developing the conversation about "looking outward." In Psalm 146, we read the psalmist's pep talk he's giving himself as he chooses to praise God despite his circumstances. The psalmist prays about how God steps into situations faithfully and continually because of who God is. We see the reminder that what we worship forms us.
Josh shared a couple of quotes from Debie Thomas this morning:
1) "We are confident that God will heal us in body, mind, and spirit. We are assured that God will be there to lift us up when we fall, steady us when we stumble, and care for those among us who cannot care for themselves (the stranger, the orphan, and the lonely). We are not told specifically how God will meet these needs for us, and there is no guarantee that the answers to our prayers will be what we expect -- another of the 'surprises' of divine providence. God does not hesitate to use us ourselves to answer our own prayers, for not all the wonders of God will 'break in blessing on [our] head' (from the hymn by William Cowper, 'God Moves in a Mysterious Way'), God does not promise in every instance to change things for us; sometimes, we are changed for things. And a large part of our faithfulness is the wisdom to perceive the difference!"
2) "The righteous one works tirelessly for justice, giving food to those who are hungry, setting free those who are bound, healing the blind, watching over strangers, and upholding those who are most vulnerable in the world -- the orphan and the widow! The wicked are those who do not cooperate in 'mending the world.' They always prioritize their own self-interest. The psalmist asserts that God brings ruin to these. The reader of the Old Testament often turns to the books of the prophets to find compelling words calling communities to justice and righteousness. An unrecognized but consistent strain in the Psalms, however, is the same insistence and call to be a justice-seeking people."
Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns from Pentecostal Theological Seminary shares a message from Hebrews 12 to help us celebrate All Saints Day and remember the saints among us and who have gone before us. All Saints Days teaches us that grace is relational as we pray with the saints. We are part of a grand, ancient community. We are not alone. Hebrews 12:1-2.
If you are interested in Dr. Johns latest book that Josh mentioned, you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Transforming-Gifts-Menopause-Unexpected/dp/1587434393
Josh continues the discussion of our new prayers of the season (P.O.T.S.) using the lectionary passage for this week from Mark 10 about Bartimaeus. Jesus is on the way to celebrate Passover, but he stops to hear the prayer of Bartimaeus and meet him where he is. Jesus demonstrates the importance of creating space to hear the stories of those around us even when we are in the middle of doing something ... even doing something for God. Spiritual formation is more than learning the spiritual disciplines or consistently engaging with them. Part of spiritual formation is discerning when to put aside even our spiritual agenda for the sake of the others who need our help. Mark 10:46-52.
Our CityKids Director, Jessica, shares a message from 1 Samuel 3 about young Samuel and Eli. Jessica leads us in an imaginative prayer walking us through the story of the Lord calling Samuel. Hannah, Samuel's mother, gave Samuel a strong foundation of faith and dedicated him to the Lord to serve at the temple under Eli's mentorship. Eli had baggage of his own yet the Lord called him to continue to serve in the temple and share his relationship with God with young Samuel. Samuel was willing to serve and participated with God as he continued to serve the people as God's messenger. The worship journey for this week: "God calls, so we listen and answer." 1 Samuel 3.
Josh continues the discussion of our current prayers of the season. Service is a part of spiritual formation. RCC has church staff -- most of whom are part-time -- but the work of the church involves all of the members of the body. There are places for every member of RCC to serve in one of the ministries led by the staff. Be prayerful about where to serve at RCC. 1 Peter 4:7-11; Romans 12:4-9; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
This is the Hearts That Serve prayer: "Lord, we pray that our RCC family would be awakened to their specific place of service in our body in a way that enables them to be committed to our local church physically and spiritually through discipleship that forms hearts to serve the body out of this revelation and ownership of their roles as parts of the Body of Christ."
Kara shares her heart this morning about one of our newest "prayers of the season" (P.O.T.S.) -- Spiritual Formation. We have a responsibility to make ourselves available for the Spirit's formation in us and of us. Kara shares the what, why and how of spiritual formation and reminds us that (1) it is a slow process with the goal being to abide in relationship with Jesus; and (2) we have a part to play in our own formation and the formation of those around us. 2 Peter 1:3-7; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Luke 6:43-45.
Kara shared a quote from Dallas Willard today: "Sometimes we think of spiritual formation as formation by the Holy Spirit. Once again: That’s essential. We can’t evade it -- formation by the Holy Spirit. But now I have to say something that may be challenging for you to think about: Spiritual formation is not all by the Holy Spirit. None without the Holy Spirit. But there’s always more involved. And here again we run into the problems of passivity over against activity. Here lies the deepest challenge to the very idea of obedience to Christ in our times. We have to recognize that spiritual formation in us is something that is also done to us by those around us, by ourselves, and by activities which we voluntarily undertake."
Josh wraps up our discussion from the Book of James looking at what the early church looked like and what a church embodies that reflects the wisdom James describes. The early church was a singing church, a healing and confession church, and a praying church. James calls us individually to wisdom but also as a community of faith to live that out collectively. To be a vulnerable beloved community and to go after those who have wandered off to remind them that they too are beloved. James 5:13-20; Ephesians 5:19.
Josh shared a quote today from Barbara Brown Taylor:
"Like the sinner, she is to use her vulnerability to engage the vulnerability of others, in a community where people agree not to look politely away -- where mutual confession is practiced, along with anointing of the sick and pervasive prayer, sin and sickness cannot isolate people for long. Through these communal acts of faith, attention is removed from the individual self and returned to the larger body, so that God has more room to work. In this way, the wisdom of God edges out the wisdom of the world, at least for today."
Josh continues our discussion from the Book of James. James is talking about wisdom. Where does it come from and what does it look like? James unapologetically declares that it comes from God. It isn't found in titles or positions or offices. It is characterized by humility. It is pure, peaceful, gentle, unhindered, and without hypocrisy -- among other things. The wise person is one who wants to hear from God. James 3:13-4:3; James 4:7-10.
Josh shared a quote today from William Barclay:
"One of the most difficult things in the world is to argue without passion and to meet arguments without wounding. To be utterly convinced of one's own beliefs without at the same time being bitter to those [beliefs] of others is no easy thing; and yet it is a first necessity for the Christian teacher."