Devotions for Sunday 26th July 2020
Welcome to the Devotions sheet for this Sunday. We continue exploring Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. May you find grace and strength and connection with God from your time reading and reflecting.
Dear God, as I read (and maybe re-read) these devotions, I open my heart for what you want to give me. I trust you have what’s best for me in mind- knowing my circumstances and capabilities, and that I am part of the world-wide web of human beings and nature. I admit I don’t always see what’s really the best thing, so I’m going to risk it, sharing what’s on my heart and asking you to speak directly to mine. In Jesus’ name. Amen
This is an exercise in which I trust God can communicate with each of us.
You are invited to sit quietly and to slow your mind. Take a few moments to look at these pictures one at a time and see what feelings, thoughts, memories or hopes they invoke in you. Then share them with God and ask what God is wanting to say to you through them.
Reading Matthew 7: 7-12
Ask, Seek, Knock
7 “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to those who knock. 9 Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? 10 Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
12 “Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets.
I’ve been trying to learn French, and what’s been hard is that I don’t know English grammar. In this reading in the Greek original where it says ‘Ask’, Seek’ and ‘Knock’ they are in the present continuous tense, so they mean ‘Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.’ Not just one request, one look, one knock, and expecting a result.
Do you have any stories that confirm what Jesus said? Things you’ve lost and found? Opportunities that eventually came your way? Answers you got in the end? (I’m still looking for my memory stick that I lost last week, if anyone has seen it).
On one hand this saying is an invitation- to ask God for all we need. But it’s also saying that we have to make some effort. If we don’t ask, we don’t receive.
Is this a literal promise of God’s giving? God will give us whatever we ask for if we keep at it? Or is it a general principle of how life works? I think it is a general principle of Life. It doesn’t always work, but mostly we achieve what we’re after and if we go for it with persistence. But it is also God’s promise- as a loving Parent. Earlier Jesus said we don’t have to make long prayers. God knows what we need and is eager to give it.
We taught our children ‘There’s no harm in asking. But you have to be prepared for a ‘no’ answer.’
The No answer can be because the thing we’ve asked for isn’t really for our best. All parents have had to say no to their children many times because the parents have seen the bigger picture of what’s good for their children.
I’ve enjoyed watching The Heights on ABC TV. In this show there is a young woman, Sabine, who has cerebral palsy. She’d been told all her life that she can do anything she wants. For her this meant she had to deny her disability. The other week, it got too much and she came to a point of needing to say she needed help and have people make extra allowances for her. It was an interesting part of the show, seeing her develop- accepting her disability as part of who she is, and for her mother to see ‘You can do anything you want’ is not always a true promise.
Jesus’ teaching ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you’ is active and creative. Many other faiths and philosophers have taught ‘Don’t do what you wouldn’t want done to you’, but what Jesus said encompasses that but added to it, putting it in a positive form.
We probably all like Jesus’ principle of ‘Do unto others’ and try to live by it, but it is complicated. Asking for help is a thing we find difficult. We value our independence very highly. A question we’ve faced is about elderly parents who are struggling- is a nursing home the right thing for them? On the one hand it would provide safety and care that we couldn’t manage, but on the other they want to stay in their own home and take the risk of a fall. When values conflict with each other- how do we decide?
Perhaps the answer to this is in ‘Ask and you will receive’. When we give time and open-mindedness and willingness to accept an answer to seeking the best course, God provides the wisdom we need.
‘Do unto others’- also known as the “Golden Rule”- is a principle we can do our best to live by, knowing it can be complicated and doesn’t guarantee that others will treat us the same way back. I’m also reminded that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus isn’t giving a new and harder set of rules to live by; but is describing what God is like, and how we’ll live if we’re caught up living in God’s Spirit. God asks, seeks and knocks- on our hearts, and the world. God isn’t all powerful in the sense that God has given us freedom of choice and respects that freedom. Which means God won’t make others change when we want them to; or make us change either. God will ask, seek and knock, but not force. So we do have to contend with suffering and struggle. But like with a show like The Heights- that’s what makes it interesting, and growing in Spirit and gaining wisdom is the goal of life.
Prayers for others and ourselves
God of giving and care and strength for each of us as individuals; and God of surprises and twists in the plot of history: you are always working through the vulnerability of love towards wholeness, justice and peace.
As we face this time of pandemic, and here in Victoria we are finding that the number of cases is not going down- on the one hand we are thankful that it isn’t a lot worse, like it is in other places; but we are also concerned for ourselves, our communities and what the future will be. We have seen that our idol- The Economy is fragile. We recognise the people most important to us are often the people who are the lowest paid. We see people really struggling, we see great caring going on, we see unwise behaviour- and our whole human mix of altruism, courage, and goodness; and ignorance, selfishness and evil is obvious.
We pray for the spiritual evolution (or is it revolution) that we need to turn this time into a leap forward towards your Kingdom coming and your will being done on earth as in heaven.
We pray for those who have Covid19, and all medical workers involved. May we all take care with the seriousness it needs. We pray for all facing death and their carers; for people with difficult decisions about the care of loved ones, and those who are bereaved.
We pray for people who have lost their jobs and businesses, those who are in trouble financially, and the long-term unemployed and homeless, and those wondering how they’re going to cope when JobKeeper and JobSeeker are cut. We pray for all who struggle mentally with being confined, and for those who face family violence. We pray for students and teachers learning and working remotely. We pray for all who have no such support throughout the world.
We pray for ourselves and our loved ones- asking for what we need . . . asking for your wisdom in decisions we have to make, and courage to then act on the difficult ones . . . Help us find things we have lost- yes even little things . . . but also to find our true selves. Open doors of opportunity for us . . . openings inwards, and openings outwards . . . that we might be your people of an earthy, joyful holiness.
Help us in our prayer life to pick up the promptings of your Spirit in what our bodies tell us, what we see in others’ faces, and in your quiet voice within us. And give us the courage to go with your call.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
Know that God is good, and whatever comes,
Boldly request what you need.
Overturn the furniture and empty the cupboards to find the sacred in all things.
Bang on the door of good opportunities, until God’s smiling face is seen as it opens.
In the name of Christ. Amen