Friday, September 24, 2010


This past Sunday’s sermon was not only about prayer, it was prayer. We could preach about prayer 52 Sundays a year and never come close to covering all of its aspects. We could pray 24/7 and never finish. Someone once said,” Prayer is not what we do, it is who we are.”

Some people are bothered by the notion that prayer or, as in the case of Hebrew [OT] scripture stories, conversation with God changes God’s mind (Genesis 18:22ff; Exodus 32:14). Others are quite convinced of and comfortable with the notion that God’s actions are tied directly to people’s prayers (Matthew 21:21-22). I know that:
• Prayer makes a difference in mine and others’ lives;
• Prayer makes me more attentive to the work of God in the world and in my life;
• Prayer is about reinforcing my trust in God;
• Though I don’t fully understand the “how” of prayer’s efficacy (Does it change me only, or also God?), I still practice it, in the similar way that I use a microwave even though I do not fully understand nuclear science.

Here are some other thoughts on prayer from C.S. Lewis:

“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me."

"Almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments one following another...Ten-thirty-- and every other moment from the beginning of the world--is always Present for Him. If you like to put it this way, He has all eternity in which to listen to
the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames."

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Monday, September 13, 2010

Where's the Grace in THAT?

I tried not to proof-text my sermon too much this week, but the Pharisees (Luke 15:1-10), who grumble that Jesus “eats with tax collectors and sinners”, seemed to be tailor-made for the “Dove World Outreach Church Media Frenzy” of this past week. I’m guessing that Terry Jones is oblivious to the irony that he is a prime example of how ridiculous and dangerous it is to generalize and stereotype an entire faith by the actions of a handful of extremists who claim to be acting on that faith’s principles.

I don’t recall Jesus burning the Torah, as a way to spread the gospel message. When I contemplated the possible burning of the Qu’ran, Islam’s holy book, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Where’s the grace in that?”

A pastor friend shared a story about C. S. Lewis, who was once asked to settle a scholars’ debate about the most unique characteristic of Christianity. Lewis is reported to have said, “It’s grace.” God’s love is “string-free” and not dependent on our goodness, wisdom, actions, or anything else related to who we are or what we’ve done.

That’s a very powerful characteristic, but also one that challenges us. When we are on the receiving end of grace (like the 1 sheep of 99 and the 1 coin of 10 in Jesus’ parable), it is a wonderfully unimaginable gift, and we are deeply grateful for grace’s great-reversal of the “less-than” sign (Remember your math class?) that the world aims at our life. When we are called to give it, however (especially to someone who has hurt us), it is a little bit more difficult to swallow.

Some moments we find ourselves square in the middle of Pharisee Street, grumbling about grace’s long reach and compassion, convincing ourselves that we are good enough to be judged by law, instead. Other times we are well aware that we are the one sheep of ninety-nine in desperate need of grace. In many situations we find ourselves among the ninety-nine, wondering whether another “one sheep” is worth it.

Our congregation’s vision, adopted by the Session, prominently displayed on our church sign (the last frame in the video), and the primary tool by which we attempt to measure all our endeavors is, “Reveal God’s grace now and to all generations forevermore.”

If you are interested in a visual and audio reflection on this, which I used as the final illustration in our TouchPoint Worship Service, check out the YouTube video I posted. I would put a direct link in the blog, but I can't figure out how to do so, even though there is an "Insert Link" button right in front of my face. Isn't technology wonderful?

© 2010 Todd Jenkins