Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

The Cost of Sin


The Cost of Sin

Depending on your tradition, the words to the 5th petition of the Lord’s prayer will vary. Some say ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. Some say ‘forgive us our sin as we forgive those who sin against us’. And we say ‘forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’. As we approach Holy Week and the story of what Jesus is about to do for us, the word ‘debt’ is most appropriate to help us understand this whole week. Think about what a debt is - a debt is something you owe someone. If your refrigerator breaks and someone comes and fixes it for you, and you say to the repair person - bill me - then you are in debt to the refrigerator repair person. At the end of this week, Jesus will ‘repair’ you - Jesus will fix the problem of all the sin in your life. So just like the refrigerator repair person, we owe a debt to Jesus for what he has done for us. Then Jesus cancels that debt by paying the cost for us. No bill is coming - your debt is paid. Then Jesus tells us to ‘go and do likewise’ - as iI have forgiven your debts, you now have to forget the debts owed to you by those who have harmed you; those who are wronged you. You need to cancel that debt as well. And you know why it is in the prayer? Cause it is hard to do! We ask God to help us do this. We essentially say - As Jesus forgive my debts, my sin, help me to remember that and then help me do the same for those who have wronged me, those who have committed sin against me. And we say it every time we say the prayer to remind ourselves……
And by remembering the events of this week, it helps us see what the cost of paying my debt is - it is a high one. The cost of my debt, my sin, is the death of God’s son.
On Sunday morning of this last week of Jesus’ life, Jesus gets up and he and the disciples all began to walk into Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus sent a couple of his disciples to find him a donkey to ride, because the prophecy declared that the messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. This was the day of gathering for Passover and Jews from all over were traveling into Jerusalem to get ready for the Passover. Hebrew law required that everyone who was able was to come to Jerusalem for the Passover – this was the reason all these crowds were on the road that morning. Everyone traveling is in a festive mood – they looked forward to all coming together during this celebration. You would come to see people you only saw once a year, you would gather for feasts and parties as the week would build up to the Seder meal and the Passover rituals near the end of the week.
Think of a festival or gathering you go to every year that you look forward to and see people you only see there and everyone comes together and just has a fun relaxing time. That was Passover in Jerusalem. Jesus comes riding a donkey and the people are thinking the Messiah is going to come in and overthrow the Roman government in Jerusalem; they are singing Hosannas because they thought that Jesus was coming to give them back their land – to kick out the Romans and once again there would be a Hebrew king governing the people of Israel. So the celebration heightened as they did what you did for a King, - wave palm branches, lay your cloaks on the road, sang Hosanna. What a great time – the great celebration of Passover and just like the first Passover when they were released from slavery, they would now be released from the oppression of at the Romans Into the city they go, rejoicing and having a great day! Jesus, the disciples and the crowds continue into Jerusalem under the watchful eye of the religious leaders who are leery of what is going on. All this allegiance to this wandering teacher was disturbing. The leaders were worried their power would be questioned. This teacher had the crowds all worked up looking for change. Change is never good when you are in power and the religious leaders were understandably worried. Even today we are cautious of new ways and new ideas and change;. Jesus was turning everything the Jews thought were absolutes and telling them there were new

ways to look at what they thought was truth. New ways to understand their role as God’s people. The leaders thought everything was fine the way it was. They thought they were being obedient to God the way they were. By that afternoon, however, after everyone has entered the city, we see Jesus not joining in on the party, but sitting on top of the hill overlooking Jerusalem and weeping. He knows that this great celebration and this happy mood and these hopes of a new government will be crushed by the end of the week – things will not turn out as these people who are now so full of joy think it will. As the week goes along, the mood will quickly become dark. Jesus knows that everyone is going to turn against him and even his closest disciples would abandon him. On Monday, Jesus goes to the temple and he see what is going on there and he is really angry. The temple has become a market place selling sacrificial animals, overcharging people who are trying to pay the temple tax - and he grabs a bullwhip and he runs everyone out of the temple in disgust over how they have corrupted the worship of God. The religious leaders who not only sanctioned this market place, but who also profit from it are really worried now. They knew they had to get rid of this man - immediately. Jesus appears every day in the temple teaching and telling parables. There are crowds standing around listening to these stories. The Pharisees are hearing these stories as well and became very angry because they knew that Jesus is not only talking to these crowds who are around him, but Jesus is talking to them as well. Jesus is reminding the religious leaders it is not about them and their power but about their being faithful to God. And they are upset. The religious leaders looked around and saw the crowds and were afraid of what the people might do if they arrested Jesus, so they try to figure out how they are going to get rid of him.
Jesus’ teaching at the temple however changes as the week goes along. His teaching is much more serious than the people have heard before, much more about sacrificing your life, your time, your money for God. His teaching was about how one needed to put God first over everything else. About how choices were going to be difficult and about how no longer being a descendent of Abraham was enough to be part of God’s people. The Religious leaders came and questioned Jesus and they didn’t like his answers about how they had missed the point of what a life as God’s people was all about. The people who had crowded around Jesus and hung on every word he said began to drift away as well. He wasn’t saying what they wanted to hear anymore. He actually told them to pay their taxes to Caesar. He told them, give all they had left to God……. As the week progressed, Jesus continued his difficult teaching, telling the people who were left that if they followed him people were going to hate them. He talked about death. As the crowds left, so did one of his disciples. Like the crowds, Judas is disillusioned because Jesus is not doing what Judas thought he should do. Like the crowds, Judas wanted Jesus to do something radical. Like the crowds, Judas wanted Jesus to do something political and that wasn’t the direction things were going. So Judas thinks he can force Jesus’ hand by turning him in. Surely when they come to arrest Jesus, he will be forced to act in a different way; Jesus would be forced to start the coup against the government.
And by Thursday, all the crowds had left. There was no one left willing to listen to Jesus. it was only his disciples who were with him. And not only did one of them betray him, but one would deny him, and all but one of the remaining 10 would desert him. Only John would remain with him to the cross.
What a difference a week makes. Holy Week begins today. We began the service with the waving of palm branches and we end with the somber music and a somber mood to remember this is the way this week will go. It begins with celebration and ends with death. It began with large crowds and ends with Jesus all by himself as he goes to the cross. A death of an innocent man, who dies to pay a debt for us; who spends the week trying to help us understand what being the people of God is all about; a man who still goes to the cross even though everyone has deserted him…. A man who goes to the cross and looks out over those who have beat him and made fun of him and have put a nail through his hands and feet and in his agony cries out for God to forgive them – and to forgive us.
And he reminds us that every time we pray his prayer, we remember what he has done so our debt is paid.
Amen.

The Greatness of God

The Greatness of God


In the 13th chapter of Matthew Jesus tries to describe for us what the kingdom of God is like. This description of the Kingdom of God is much like the elephant story where 6 blind men tried to describe an elephant. None of the blind men had seen an elephant before and they very much wanted to understand what an elephant was like. So they were taken to an elephant so they could touch an elephant and get an idea of what an elephant looked like. But each man stood at a different place around the elephant and only touched the part of the elephant they were standing by. So one man exclaims as he touched the trunk “An elephant looks like a snake!”. Another man stood by the tusk and said, “The elephant is sharp and deadly like a spear”. Another man touched the leg of the elephant and said this elephant is just a big cow. Touching the tail the blind man said, “Why this isn’t an animal at all, it is just a rope”. One of the blind men grabbed the ear and said, “An elephant must be a big fan!” and the other blind man touched the side of the elephant and said, “An elephant must look like a wall.” Then the men began to argue, A fan!, A Snake, A Cow! It’s just a rope”. They continued their argument and none of them could think about putting all those images together to really understand what an elephant is like. And so it is with the Kingdom of God.
In the 13th chapter of Matthew, Jesus is telling parables that help us learn about the Kingdom of God - and what is important is that you have to read the entire chapter to get a picture of what the kingdom of God is - if you just read a small section then you have an incomplete picture - just like thinking an elephant is just a snake, or a fan or a rope!
Jesus starts off with the parable of the sower. It is a pretty familiar one - the sower sows seed and the seed lands on different soils. Some of the seed grows and some doesn’t; some of the seed grows but something happens and it never grows into a plant and some of the seed flourishes and grows a wonderful crop. Jesus tells us this seed that lands in good soil and grows is like the Kingdom of God. What he is saying is this, those people who are part of the kingdom of God are the seeds that fell on good soil and took root and grew. And that is you! You are the Kingdom of God.
You are here. Sometime in your life the word of God was sown in your heart and it took root and it grew and it is still growing and here you are. You are the Kingdom of God.
God’s kingdom is right here and right now and you are part of it. It is not a place, but the kingdom of God is made up of everyone who is a true believer wherever they may be.
Jesus then tells the next parable where he says that a man sowed his field and and everything was growing well and then all of a sudden all these weeds started growing. It reminds us that we as the Kingdom of God live in the midst of many people who aren’t believers and are not part of the kingdom of God. There are unbelievers all around us. But we need not to allow that to affect us and to stay steadfast in our knowledge we belong to God and not worry about the non believers - and know that God will sort it all out in the end.
So we know the kingdom of God is us - and that all around us are people not part of that kingdom.
Now Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed - something that is really small but if we remain firm in our faith, the kingdom will grow and will continue to grow. Because Jesus says in the next parable, if we go out among all those unbelievers in the world and they see our faith, and they see how important God is for us, then they too can come to hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus uses the idea of of taking yeast and mixing it in the dough - you don’t need much yeast to make the dough grow. And by simply mixing with others and living our faith, God’s kingdom will grow. Hear the important part of that though - we need to make sure people we are in contact with during the week know the importance of our faith and of our church.


But that is not all, the kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field and the treasure, which is a relationship with God; membership in the kingdom of heaven, is so valuable the man sold everything
he had to keep it and the next parable is the same - the kingdom of God is worth so much it is like a great pearl the man sold everything in order to possess. That calls each of us to think about how much being a member of the Kingdom of Heaven means to us. What would you be willing to give up or to sell or do without to be part of this kingdom?
And finally Jesus tells the last parable which reminds us again - we live in a sinful world full of sinful people who don’t care about God or the things of God or about living in God’s kingdom. And we aren’t to worry about that - that is God’s job. But again, don’t let it sway you from your faith.
So you put all these images together and we get a picture of the kingdom of God - the Kingdom of Heaven - it is made up of us - the children of God - and it is the most valuable part of our lives - so valuable that we should be willing to give up everything if we have to in order to be part of that kingdom. And we know that by being in that kingdom, God will call us his forever.
You have to put all those pieces together to really understand what this kingdom is all about - just like the different pictures of the elephant.
The last petition of the Lord’s prayer reminds us about this kingdom. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. We end the prayer much as we begin it. Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name is reminding us that we come before God understanding his power and his greatness and we end the prayer understanding his power and his greatness.
Just a little ‘trivia’ about this last petition of the Lord’s prayer. It is not in the prayer Jesus taught to his disciples. It is not part of the prayer in Matthew or in Luke. Now if you have an older Bible Version such as King James you will find it. The writers of earlier translations added this last petition because it was commonly used and the newer versions like our New International have omitted it because it was not part of the ancient texts. We don’t know when it was added - probably early in the history of the church. However the words are biblical - the exact phrase is found several places including 1 Chronicles 29:11 and Revelation 1:6. Whoever added this phrase just felt like the prayer needed a proper ending. Instead of ending on the note of asking God for something, we end on a note of reminding ourselves once again who God is - the one who is ruler of the kingdom and the one who holds all the power.
But the point of the last line of the Lord’s Prayer is just like the benediction at the end of our worship. It is a doxology - a way to praise God as we leave his presence in this time of prayer. It was a way of picturing what we are doing here - we come before God and basically say, “God you are great and I honor you.” and then we ask God for stuff - and then we end by saying “God you are the ruler of the kingdom of which I am a part - you are the ruler of the Kingdom of believers.” Before we leave his presence in this moment of prayer we say, “And God, before I leave I know, with all my heart, that you have all the power over my life and I honor you for that.”
This last petition also reminds us about what Lent is all about. It points to the promises we live under in the ultimate reign of God for all eternity. The passage in Revelation 11 -
15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
As we end the Lord’s prayer, we are ending with the knowledge that we aren’t just in the presence of God now - but this God who deserves all of our allegiance and all our praise, is the God who will be the ruler of our kingdom - this kingdom of heaven we are part of now and forever! There will be a new heaven and a new earth where the whole universe - everything that exists - will praise God and be part of his kingdom! And there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more violence, no more death. Amen!

All Praise Be to the Father

All Praise Be to the Father

When I was working as a chaplain one aspect of my job was to go into patient’s rooms after they were admitted and just let them know the hospital offered chaplaincy services and if they needed something to page me and I would ask them if they wanted prayer. Most of the time I got a “I’m good thank you”, and occasionally “I’ve got my own pastor”. A few would say yes to prayer and even rarer, but the most enjoyable, were the ones who opened up when I came in and we would have a nice conversation.
One of these conversations came from an elderly lady who was very ill but when I went in and did my opening spiel she asked me to have a seat ‘join her’ for a while and I did. She told me she wanted to give me her testimony and started telling me about her life. She said that she had been an abandoned baby, literally left on someone’s doorstep. A family took her in but she was horribly abused and taken from them and passed around from home to home, none of which were good situations and in most of the places she was continually mistreated. But she told me that while she was never taken to church, she somehow sensed a presence of a heavenly Father in her life - one that didn’t abuse her; a father who loved her and even though she didn’t really understand who he was, he was there for her in those dark moments, late at night when she was alone. It was this heavenly Father that got her through these difficult years growing up. When she finally was old enough to go out on her own she became involved with church and finally realized who this heavenly Father was; this father who had been with her through her entire life. And even though she now had a picture of who he was, she knew that he had always been with her. I said something to her like, “I’m surprised you have such a positive picture of the heavenly Father considering the earthly Fathers you knew.” She answered me, “Yes, that was the whole thing. Every earthly Father I knew hurt me, but I knew I had a Father who loved me and that is all that mattered.” What a power testimony and that story has stuck with me and has really helped me understand what it means to have a heavenly Father - earthly Fathers can be wonderful but we know they aren’t perfect - and yet in those moments when we need that fatherly care, we can always remember we do have a perfect Father who is with us all the time - who holds us and loves us and provides for us - and sometimes helps to correct the path we are on!
So when we pray the Lords prayer and we start out ‘Our Father’ we are acknowledging this perfect father who lives in heaven so he has a wide view of everything that is going on and wants only the best for us. We pray with the full knowledge that this Father has his ear tuned into us and hears every word and knows everything we need and everything about us. This Father has no personal agenda other than what is best for us. Isn’t that wonderful to know….
If we really think about it, it puts this prayer into perspective. We aren’t just reciting something we have learned, but we are bringing ourselves into the presence of the Almighty God - but not a distant, entity out there somewhere, but a Father. When we say the prayer we are to envision those times in our youth where we climb up on daddy’s lap and talk to him and feel that love and security….
Then our prayer continues, “Hallowed be thy name”. Now it is the time to acknowledge how truly great God really is. Yes, he’s like a Daddy, but a Daddy with ultimate power. We ‘hallow” God which means we God the honor due him and before we start asking God for stuff, our daily bread, our forgiveness, help to avoid temptation, we praise him. We give value to him. We remember who God is - I kind of think of God sometimes as the the Wizard of Oz before we found out he was the little man behind the curtain. Remember “I am the great and power wizard of OZ” and that big booming voice and the big enormous head in the cloud. And not to be frivolous with it but there was a great power in that image. It makes you fall to your knees.
That is the picture we often get when we read scripture. This hallowing God, worshipping God, that is so powerful we fall to our knees. Revelation 4:8-11 gives us this picture (Read).


At the beginning of the prayer, while we begin with this idea of a loving caring Father, we continue with a bigger understanding of who God is. God is the creator of the universe, the creator of all things, the God who can part the red sea and rain down hail fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. The God who encompasses all the power and might we could ever imagine. The God who has so much control of the forces of nature he can raise his son, and raise us, from the dead. The God who can do what we think is impossible. The God who is so great whose presence brings us to our knee.
By putting this moment of praise, of worship, at the beginning of the prayer we are saying that the primary purpose of this prayer and of our life is to join the angels and sing Glory to God!
1 Peter 4:11 says:
11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
As people of God, everything we do should be an act of worship. The word worship means according to Webster’s:
to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission. If you go back to the root, the word comes from a word that means simply “to give worth or value to something”. We open our prayer with the idea that we are coming before someone we need to value - in an extreme and extravagant way. Not just during this prayer, not just so we can get what we want, not just during this hour in the sanctuary, but all the time in everything we do. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Do everything for the glory of God.”
We get ready to say the Lord’s prayer. In our minds as we begin this prayer is this dual image of who we are talking to - cause I think that is what the beginning of this prayer is all about. These are not words we recite because we know them by heart and it is what we are suppose to do. We are speaking these words to the entity we honor and worship as our God. When we begin this prayer we should do so with the picture in our minds of coming before this great and powerful one who created you, who created the world around you, and yet tells you to climb on his lap and call him ‘Daddy’.
And at the same time we envision ourselves as before the great and powerful God whose very presence makes us fall to our knees. A God who tells us that this should not only be our attitude when we begin this prayer, but all the time in everything we do.
It is pretty powerful.
Lent becomes a time when we consider our attitude towards God. What do you really think about God and when do you really think about God and how do you think about God. To consider the fact that we are God’s people and God calls us to give him value, to worship him, in everything we do.
So the next question becomes, what does that look like? How do I do that?
It is just a matter of keeping in our mind - is what I am doing right now honoring God? Would God be pleased with what I am doing right now? Am I acting on Loving my neighbor as myself and loving God will all my heart” in the decisions I am making?
Sounds like a lot….. Sounds hard… and it is. And we don’t like to hear hard things…. Nothing about Lent is easy. You are told to spend 40 days in self examination and self reflection. We are called to spend 40 days considering our sins and we are called to spend 40 days thinking how we can see God as a loving, caring Father and as a powerful creator of the universe who literally can do anything.
We need to spend the next 40 days thinking about how our attitude can be one that honors God in everything we do.

Amen.

Give Us This Day our Daily Bread

Give Us This Day our Daily Bread

When I was young, I couldn’t wait until the Sears Christmas Catalog came out. I would wait each day as the mail would come and say, “Did it come yet?” “is it here?”. And when it came I was captivated for hours - if not days. It was called the “Wish Book” and that is what I did. I would go through and circle everything I wanted. I concentrated on the toy section but I checked out the whole catalog and I was sure to mark everything I wanted. That is why it sometimes took me a couple days because I would go through the book multiple times and every time I went through the book I would find more things……
And when I thought I was finally done and I had found everything I wanted, I would give it to my parents and tell them these were the things I wanted for Christmas. Now I probably had a hundred or more of things marked and I really think somewhere in my adolescent brain I really was going to get everything I wanted. Not that I needed any of it, but my wants were great.
I think that for many of us, we can say we understand the difference between what we need and what we want, but I really don’t think we do. What would you do if you were forced for one reason or another to give up everything you owned except the things you really needed - needed for your existence, not needed for your pleasure but needed for you existence. What would you have? What do we really need? Air to breathe, food to eat - and probably far less food than most of us like to eat each day - clothes to wear - not my 2 closets full of clothes but clothes to do what I needed - shelter. I have a really nice house but what would it look like if I just had shelter?
We pretty much need a source of income - maybe not the job we want but the job we have that pays the bills. Not money for luxuries or even enough money to save for the future, but just enough to get by each day. What would your life look like? And certainly our society frowns on daily subsistence - we are bombarded with ways to ‘save for our future’. Much like we are bombarded with pictures and commercials of the things we can’t live without - and we are told you deserve all these things.
But think about what essentials do you think you need over and above subsistence?
There is a show on Netflix called Tidying Up. In the show Marie Kondo comes to your house to help you get rid of all the things you don’t need that clutter your house. She is actually a practicer of the Shinto religion that emphasizes cleaning out what you don’t need as a spiritual practice. Shintoism sees energy or divine spirit in the things that surround us and and calls the person to only have those things around you that you value as essential. When she comes to your house to help you clean out the clutter, she has you hold every object in your house and if it doesn’t immediately give you a feeling of joy you are to get rid of it…. And when you watch the show it is amazing the amount of things she convinces people to get rid of!
We are people of things and clutter and many wants and very few needs.
In the Exodus passage we read this morning, Moses has freed the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. They have crossed through the Red Sea and are now living in the desert of Saudi Arabia. What we need to understand is that the purpose of this journey of the Hebrews through the wilderness is not only to get to the promised land, but to learn they could depend on God. So they begin their journey and it isn’t too long before they are worried God won’t care for them. They accuse Moses and God of just freeing them from slavery so they could be abandoned in the wilderness and die of thirst. And God in his patience, provided water for them. And continued to provide water for them when they needed it.
Now they cry out for food. “We are hungry!” they cried out to Moses and they accused him of the same thing again. “You just brought us out into this desert so we could starve!”. And God in his great patience provided for them manna.

We really don’t know what this manna was but we know something about it. It was nutritious, it tasted good, and it was abundant. But we also know that manna was based on need. Each morning when the Hebrews woke up they would go out of their tents, they would collect as much manna as they needed for the day - enough to feed everyone in their tents for the entire day. God had told them not to try and store it. He told them up front that if they tried to store it it would go bad overnight. And you know there were people who tried to store it and what happened - it went bad. You only got what you needed for one day.
An interesting aspect of manna - even before the 10 commandments, God had instituted for the Hebrew people a day of rest, a Sabbath. So the day before the Hebrews were suppose to rest, there was twice as much manna and that one night the manna could be stored overnight to provide for them enough to eat for the next day and they didn’t have to do anything that day to collect it - they didn’t have to work. The manna was provided the day before.
This is the concept God is trying to teach about our Daily Bread. For the Hebrews manna was truly daily bread. God provided enough for a day.
When we pray the Lord’s prayer we pray, “And give us this day our daily bread”. Every time you pray the Lord’s prayer you are asking God to provide enough for you for a day. OK God, provide me just what I need for today. One day. Not for tomorrow or next week or 10 years from now - God provide for me for today. And if you pray that - it means that you acknowledge God will provide for you for today and that means you don’t have to worry about your needs for today - or about your needs for tomorrow or next year.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-34. (read).
I just want you to think about what Jesus said…… and hold yourself back from saying, “But Jesus……”
Following Jesus is so different than how we were brought up. I was brought up and it was pounded into me that I was going to be an adult one day and that I was going to be expected to provide for myself - so I needed to know how to do things and I needed to get a good job so I could make money so I could provide….. Then Jesus comes along and says, “Don’t worry. I will provide what you need.” It is no long on my shoulders to make sure I make it through the day, but on God’s.
I guess we do need to stop and say that doesn’t mean I can go sit in a chair and not do anything and just expect God to deliver food and water to me and put a shelter over my head and put clothes on me…. altho he might. He did for Jonah when he through his fit and sat on the side of a hill; he did for Elijah when he was depressed and laid down to die; he did for Jesus after Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness.
But the Hebrews did have to go out and and collect their manna and we believe they had to do things with it to eat it…. So God may provide a means for you to get your food or shelter or clothing or water and you do what he calls you to do even if it isn’t exactly what we want to do.
The point of this is - when we pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ we are saying that we trust God to provide what we need and we are willing to accept what God provides.
We don’t pray God I would really like a 4 bedroom house with 3 bathrooms and an open concept; God I would really like enough outfits to dress to the 9’s all the time; God I want a good steak every night for dinner; God I want a boat, or a Mercedes, or name whatever….
We simply pray, “God, provide what I need today” and then we believe it. We do the job before us, we eat the food on our plate, we wear the clothes we have…
And we give thanks that we have a God who loves us so much that he will provide our needs….
But it is not just the physical needs God provides. We have spiritual needs as well. That is harder to put a finger on than our physical needs. But we have a spiritual hunger that can only be filled by God no matter what we may try to achieve that need - jobs, people, sports, hobbies, substances - the only thing that will sustain us is trusting that each day God will shower us with the grace we need, the spirit we need, to get through the day. “Give us this day this daily bread” is saying, “God I cannot get through this day on my own. Give me your spirit to get me through.” Just like manna we can’t store it up…… Each day God will provide our spiritual needs as well as our physical ones - and know the spiritual needs are every bit important as the need for food, water, air, shelter and clothing.
This Lent, as you spend time in prayer and reflection, think about your daily bread. How much do you really trust God to provide?

Amen.

Celtic Worship

CELTIC WORSHIP MESSAGE

Our Celtic Worship this morning is a collection of short ‘sermonette’s’ which are reflected below.


Introduction to Celtic Worship
Today in thinking about the influence of St. Patrick on our relationship with God, we gather to worship in a Celtic fashion. The Celts were those people living mainly in Ireland, Scotland and Wales which is the origin of our Presbyterian denomination. The Celts often looked at worship as a journey. And while we think of a journey as going somewhere in a physical sense, there is also the journey of our spirit as we allow that spirit to take us to places where we are sustained by God’s love. Celtic worship encourages you to leave what is familiar and to travel to find one’s personal understanding of being resurrected with Christ.
A Celtic service is set up like a journey as we travel closer to God - rich in liturgy and singing and the reading of God’s word.
It is appropriate that St. Patrick’s day comes in Lent. The Celts really liked the idea of Lent and in fact participated in 3 Lents during the church year. The traditional Lent like ours, a Lent during late July leading up to the Sunday where they recognized the Transfiguration and their Advent was actually a 40 day Lenten period. So almost a third of the Celtic year was taken up in the practice of reflection and prayer during Lent.

St Patrick’s Breastplate
St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a prayer of protection attributed to St Patrick in the 5th century. It is based on the passage of Ephesians that tells us to put on the armor of God. St. Patrick would pray this prayer during the many spiritual battles he encountered as he worked to spread Christianity throughout Ireland. his prayer outlines Saint Patrick's spirituality and his keen awareness and perception of the battle between good and evil and thus the importance of praying for protection on a daily basis. He would also prayer this prayer during the several times he would encounter physical violence at those who wanted to prevent his work to show God’s love.

“Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
This Lent we are spending time with the Lord’s prayer - a phrase each week. This week we take this petition, “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” because this idea of God’s kingdom and heaven coming together was very important to the Celtic people. Back in the days when people believed the earth was flat, they believed that Ireland was the closest place there was to heaven. As you stood on the western coast of Ireland and looked out over the sea, right at the horizon was heaven.
It was also the Celtic people who came up with the term ‘Thin Places’. Thin places are those places where you feel closest to heaven; a place you can go where you have a real connection with God. For me it was the place where I went to church camp my whole life. I went there a lot, the last time I was there was right before I moved down here.
The phrase, “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” wants us to think of that concept of heaven and earth coming together.; Of the picture you have of heaven becoming a reality here and in your life.

St. Patrick
Patrick was born in England where both his Father and Grandfather work for the church as a priest. However, even though he was brought up in the church Patrick was not a believer.
At age 16 he was captured by Irish pirates who took him to Ireland where he worked as a shepherd. It was here working as a slave and tending sheep that he realized that God had mercy on his youth and his ignorance and opened up for him the opportunity to be forgiven and to become a follower of Jesus. As he worked as a shepherd he developed a very rigorous prayer life that was the hallmark of his later ministry.
After 6 years of captivity he had a vision that told him he would soon be able to go home and that there was a ship waiting for him. So Patrick fled his captivity and traveled to a port 200 miles away where there indeed was a ship waiting for him. He boarded the ship and after 3 days of sailing he landed in England and walked 28 days in what he called his wilderness journey where he found himself extremely hungry. Patrick prayed for food and stumbled upon a herd of wild boar where he could eat his fill. He returned home to his family and
continued in his studies to learn more about his newly found faith. He then had another vision where a man came to him from Ireland. He said in the vision he could hear the voices of the people of Ireland calling him ‘to come and walk among us’. He goes to Europe to study to become a priest and he was ordained into the

priesthood. Remembering he vision he had, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Patrick was not always welcomed by the locals in the areas he traveled to and his work as a missionary forced him to often leave the areas in which he was teaching about the grace of Christ. In fact he was arrested several times and placed on trial where he was accused of taking bribes to perform baptisms and to ordain priests. He writes that he "baptised thousands of people" He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became 
nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too.He does claim of the Irish:Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!Throughout Ireland there are many legends stories that surround the ministry of St. Patrick but we do know that he had a profound affect on the people of Ireland and turning that country from a pagan, idol worshipping nation into a people of God.After 40 years of living in poverty, teaching, traveling and working tirelessly, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he had built his first church.Since then March 17 had become a feast day for the Catholic Church and we still honor St. Patrick for the work he did which influenced our work and worship to this day.

Celtic Knots:
The journey of Lent, like the journey of our Christian lives, is seldom a straight path. There are twists and turns, highs and lows, overs and unders. We are called to go in mission. To stop for rest and restoration. To reverse our course in repentance. To lower ourselves in humility. To hurdle obstacles impeding our progress. The journey of Lent, like the journey of our lives, is seldom a straight path. Each of you received a Celtic knot. It is also made up of twists and turns, ups and downs, overs and unders. I invite you to spend the next few moments holding the knot in your hands while you reflect on your Lenten journey, following its crooked path before we ready our selves to leave and continue our journey into Lent.

(Time for silent reflection)

The weeks ahead may be difficult, the path turning and churning beyond our ability to see. But we do not travel alone. Woven into the knottiness of our complex lives, beside, behind, within, beneath and above us, is Christ.

Clooties
In your pews you will find strips of cloth. These strips are called ‘clooties’. The Celts would take strips of colorful cloth and write a prayer on them - not a full prayer, but a name or a situation or a desire of their heart. They took the clootie and tied it to the branch of a tree. They believed that the wind was the breath of God and that every time the wind blew the breath of God would continually blow that breath of God to heaven to God’s ears!
I encourage you to sometime during the remainder of the service write a prayer request on a clootie, or several clooties if you want and as you leave today to tie it on one of the trees outside - or take it home and tie it to a tree at home and to know that every time the wind blows - your prayer goes to God!