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Monday, March 10, 2014

03092014 First Sunday in Lent (Lent 1)

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

With the recent years of Super Bowl Commercials we always think of the fun ones that tug at our heart strings, whether it is the Budweiser Clydesdales now being paired with a dog that believes it is one of them.  To the Geico commercial where the Gecko talks about car insurance.  When I was a kid one of the Super Bowls introduced a new perspective on an animal that still endures to this day.  It is the Energizer Bunny, who keeps going and going and going.  I can still see it even today the Energizer Bunny banging the drum and it keeps going.  The bunny not only is relatable for adults and children, but kids NEED batteries for their electronics, especially in my day growing up.  And the Energizer Bunny with the ‘banging drum’ was a welcome funny addition to the Super Bowl Commercials.

As Christians we like the Energizer Bunny have a God that keeps going, by continuously giving and giving to us.  Whether in the air we breathe, the food that we eat, the jobs we have or the crops that grow in the field.  God gives us what we need even without our asking it.  In our conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer today we give God the greatest affirmation of Who He is and what He does for us on a daily basis.  Let’s pull out our bulletin insert for this morning and read responsively as a congregation the “What does this mean?” section.  “The Conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.  What does this mean?  This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us.  Amen, amen means “yes, yes, it shall be so.”  With the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer may we firmly believe in our AMEN.

Gracious Father in Heaven, hallowed by Your Name for when we pray Your prayer taught to us by Jesus Christ, we begin to understand that You hear us as we pray.  Sometimes Your response is unheard or unseen by us, because it was motivated by our selfish desires, but in Your time You fulfill our prayer in ways that glorify You.  May we daily understand You give to us out of Your bounty and power and we can glorify You with our life, because of what Jesus Christ did on Calvary for all of mankind including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Before us this morning are Batteries, A Bunny and a few Presents.  Each of these are expressions of what the Lord’s Prayer concludes with when we pray it.  It is clear from the Batteries and Bunny we think of what God continuously gives us.  Yes we have to change the batteries or hook our device to a charger in order to insure it is fully charged, but God daily refills our needs even without our asking.  Consider if you will, God even when we do not come to church whether for a ‘personal day’ or even for a sensible reason like a farming or family emergency, God still gives us what we need.

Sarah has a Leap Pad that takes Batteries.  Instead of buying batteries every time, which gets expensive, we have gone to rechargeable batteries.  It does require us to know where the charger is and does mean when she may want to play with the Leap Pad and the batteries are on the charger that she has to wait.  And this waiting for Sarah, though frustrating at first has a positive benefit, it helps her to learn that unlike in our society when we ask God for something we may not immediately hear a response, but just as with batteries eventually they will be charged and replaced in the device and she will be able to play her games like “Doodleville” or “Pet Shop”.  And the same is true with God’s answering prayer, eventually God answers our prayers, but again in a way that insures His Glory is revealed.

Thus in this final petition of the Lord’s Prayer we affirm what we are asking for from God with a simple response of “Amen”.  “Yes, Yes, it shall be so.”  We say this response in firm faith trusting in what God will provide for our best interest at the proper time.  It won’t necessarily be what we asked for nor want, but what we are given is God’s gift to us at the proper time and in the way in which we needed it.  Personally, this was a hard pill for me to swallow.  When I worked at the Community College in North Carolina, I thought I would be there until I retired.  In my praying this prayer and the “AMEN”, God moved me out of my comfort zone there.  It was not a gentle move, but caused me to question God and try and make sense of why.  I struggled with God and wrestled with Him, because I looked at it from a human perspective, not a God perspective.  Looking back now nearly nine years later, the reason for my being let go was in order for Michele and I to have Sarah and for us to come to Western Kansas.  Looking back it was painful, but I trusted God then and continue to now and God was faithful and gave us Sarah and you the people of God and I wouldn’t change anything.  But this took a measure of faith, which didn’t ‘break me’, but ‘built me’ and changed my perspective and God revealed in due time His plan for us to have Sarah.

God clearly heard our prayer as a couple and answered it in His time.  That is what our praying the Final Petition of the Lord’s Prayer is all about.  The presents that God gives us are clearly gifts beyond our deepest and wildest imagination.  And this is exactly what God’s gift on the Cross of Calvary of His Son Jesus Christ was meant to be, beyond our deepest imagination.  In Jesus Christ death, we have been set free from the bondage of this life and freely given the greatest gift of eternal life.  Hence the presents I have before us are symbolic of this.  For us as Christians the presents are symbolic of the gift of Jesus Christ for all mankind that came in a lowly manger.  For Michele and myself another of our greatest presents from God is Sarah and we are thankful for her each and every day.  But there is an additional reason I have these presents here before us this morning.

The presents that are at the foot of the batteries and bunny are from a special lady of this congregation.  You see they are presents prepared by Clarice Martell.  In her ministry here at Emmanuel she prepared each of these presents to be given to individuals that needed a blanket.  They represent the love she had for someone that she did not even know and God will use them through us as a congregation to insure the individual receiving these presents will have a warm blanket.  This is the certainty of the AMEN that Clarice prayed every time she concluded the Lord’s Prayer.  This is the free gift of grace she emulated because of what Jesus Christ did for her and for each of us on the Cross of Calvary.  The present before us is only a symbol to remind us of the greatest present of Jesus Christ given for all mankind.  And that present is offered freely and without cost to each of us because of God’s great love for each and every one of us.  Including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning who pray, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.”.  AMEN.  AMEN.

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