John 14:1-4a, Acts 7:55-60, 2 Chron. 7:14, 16:9, et al.
This sermon is a bit longer than the others, but it is necessary because of the topic. You will understand as you read knowing also it will end by introducing the topic for a mid-week Bible study. Let us begin!
In John 14:1-4a, Christ proclaims: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. Let not your heart be troubled.” It sounds a bit like telling a completely distraught person, “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.” Maybe 2 months ago that might have worked for us too. But now? And perhaps such would have seemed enough for the disciples a week ago as well. But now they had come back to the hornet’s nest, to the willful Jerusalem, who kills the Lord’s messengers and stones the prophets. Jesus had already allowed his friend, Lazarus, to die, had raised him from the dead, and had entered Jerusalem to a parade of sorts from the marveling crowds, as they prayed the Psalms on their way to the temple to celebrate the Passover feast causing the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders, to put their plot into motion to have Jesus killed. Challenge was at the door: Jesus and his disciples were about to add to social, religious, and political history, never to be matched or surpassed in their world.
World History is littered with politicians and government officials making all kinds of challenges and promises. Some of those challenges and promises have been bold and daring ones. Bold ones like the one inspired by President John F. Kennedy back in 1961 when he stated – “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” NASA made good on that promise when Astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module on to the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969 at 10:56 p.m. (EST) More than 500 million people around the world heard him say, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Other promises/challenges have not been so lofty, nor did they come to fruition. Back in 1988, then presidential candidate George H. W. Bush at the Republican National Convention promised the nation “Read my lips: no new taxes”. That phrase helped Bush win the presidency. However, a little more than two years later in the fall of 1990 when the nation was faced with higher deficits and the prospects of severe cuts in government entitlement programs, President Bush agreed with Congress to raise new taxes.
We all know that it is easy to promise something, but it can be next to impossible to keep those promises. In our Gospel passage Jesus makes some very direct and distinctive promises. In fact, as you read the passage you discover that Jesus makes distinct promises to His disciples; promises that I believe are still valid today. But before we look at some of these promises, let us review exactly: WHAT IS A PROMISE? How does all of this fit together? Regardless of age, ability, busyness, or chaos in the home….we can take a cue from Suzanna Wesley. We can pray. We can pray amid chaos. We can pray during uncertainty. We can pray during fear. We can pray amid everything going on in our lives.
So, on this Mother’s Day, amidst COVID-19, I wanted to talk about the importance and power of prayer. Prayer, in the Christian life, is where the rubber meets the road. Prayer shows where our dependence is. More importantly, it shows WHO our dependence is on. Do we depend on our circumstances, our jobs, our savings, our healthcare, our spouse, our children? Spouses, children, healthcare, savings, and more are especially important. But ultimately, on whom do we depend? Where is our hope? Who are we trusting in above all? And let me take it a step further. We not only CAN pray amid the chaos and the storm, but we also NEED to pray… period.
One such promise is an everlasting spirit of abiding peace through PRAYER. Today we are going to be looking at a central aspect of the Christian faith, and to be real, a very central aspect to be a Mother: A teacher gave her class of second graders a lesson on the magnet and what it does. The next day in a written test, she included this question: “My full name has six letters. The first one is M. I pick up things. What am I?” When the test papers were turned in, the teacher was astonished to find that almost 50 percent of the students answered the question with the word Mother.
Happy Mother’s Day! As I was thinking about Mother’s Day and the task, the difficult task mothers have in raising children, caring for children, thinking about children, being concerned for their children. my mind immediately goes to the necessity of prayer. Am I right?! I think of the mother’s need of speaking with God and relying on God’s strength, power, wisdom; along with His insight, His patience, His forgiveness along with. His leadership to parent.
My experience as a Methodist and my addiction to things and events historic, I remembered the events of a woman/mother there was a woman who lived 300 years ago who had a hectic life, with ten children, a husband who was a pastor and traveled often, and yet embodied a commitment, a zeal, a passion to find her strength from the Lord alone, Her name was Susanna Wesley.
Susanna Wesley was born in 1669 and died in 1742 at the age of 73. She was the youngest of 25 children. You heard me correctly, 25. She was the mother to 17-19 children, with ten children surviving. From that alone, she knew and understood grief. with 10 children, a traveling husband, and chaos. Of the 10 children, 2 of them would impact this world in a significant way for Christianity. Susanna was the mother to John and Charles Wesley. John Wesley is the founder of the Methodist denomination. His brother Charles Wesley was a leader in the Methodist movement and is known to have written over 6,500 hymns including ”Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”
Jesus Christ chose them to impact this world and they walked with the Lord and were faithful to his call. There is also, however, no denying that the prayers and devotions of a godly mother no doubt had an impact on their lives. With ten children, and a preacher for a husband who traveled often, life in the Wesley household was surely a bit chaotic. As a believer, could she spend time with the Lord? How? Where would she go, Jesus She would sit in a chair and place an apron up and over her head. When the apron was up, she was spending time with the Lord. Her children and others learned quick that unless there was a dire emergency, you do not mess with mamma when the apron is up, and she is with the Lord. She would do this daily for 1-2 hours. 1-2 hours each day, she would spend with the Lord in prayer. She knew the power and the importance of prayer and she did not neglect it.
Today is not about a history lesson. But I wanted to bring a piece of the past before us and absolutely crush our present circumstances with it. What do I mean by that? This season we are currently going through with COVID-19 is truly a difficult season. Men, women, mothers, fathers, grandparents, married, single, it does not matter who you are, or what stage of life you are in, your lives have been impacted by this virus. For many it is an inconvenience. Not being able to go out to eat and mission sporting events, or grocery stores out of the foods we like to eat. For others of you, however, it is far more than an inconvenience; you may have lost your job or lost a loved one. You may be on the front lines working an essential job that puts you at risk every day wondering if you will be infected. This is a global event that will be spoken about until Jesus returns. It has had that much of an impact on our global community.
How does all of this fit together? Regardless of age, ability, busyness, or chaos in the home… we can take a cue from Suzanna Wesley. We can pray. We can pray during chaos. We can pray during uncertainty. We can pray during fear. We can pray during everything going on in our lives. I take it a step further. We not only CAN pray during the chaos and the storm, but we NEED to pray… period.
So, on this Mother’s Day, amidst COVID-19, I wanted to talk about the importance and power of prayer, Prayer in the Christian life, is where the rubber meets the road.
Prayer shows where our dependence is. Did you know this past Thursday was National Prayer Day? More importantly, it shows to WHOM we depend. Do we depend on our circumstances, our jobs, our savings, our healthcare, our spouse, our children? Spouses, children, healthcare, savings, and more are particularly important. But ultimately, who do we depend on? Where is our hope? Who are we trusting in above all?
While teaching His disciples Matthew 28:19-20 says: ” Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
These verses are in the context of missions, evangelism, and discipleship. But they are verses that he will be with us and empower us, strengthen us for His mission.
One more verse. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. It sounds to me like he wants to strengthen every one of you. To support you. All for his glory.
So, let us live our lives for him, and ask him to help us have a heart that is fully committed to him! And that can be seen through our prayer life.
One of the most common difficulties with prayer that I would like to address is some Christians If you do not have a desire to pray, you are not alone. I and many believers do not have a natural desire to pray. But I heard it said before, “If you do not have a desire to pray, then pray. The more you pray, the more you will have a desire to pray.”
Tim Keller in his book Prayer tells us that when we pray and we don’t feel like it, ”the best guides for this phase urge us not to turn back but rather to endure and pray in a disciplined way, until, as Packer says, we get through duty to delight. ‘We know Jesus is calling us to prayer. We know this. So, let us pray. Let us pray about COVID-19. For vaccines, for safety, for healing, for health, and all those that are being impacted. And when we do not want to pray, let us pray anyway. For if we continue, we will move from prayer being a duty, to prayer being a delight.
This morning, the most important thing we can do today is to hear and rest in these promises that Jesus gives us: Jesus promises us that if we place our hearts and faith in God and in Him then we can experience “Abiding Peace.” Jesus promises us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus promises us that He is preparing for us an everlasting place (home) to experience God’s love, mercy and grace. Jesus promises us that if we will pray, we can experience God’s ever-expanding power in our lives.
Blessed be all Mothers and those who hope to be. Amen,