In prayer, we praise and thank God, but we also pray for the things we need and want for ourselves and for others. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught his followers to say, ‘give us this day our daily bread’. Bread can mean the literal bread we need to live and thrive and is featured in a number of miracles in the Bible. Bread can also represent Jesus as the one who feeds our souls.
Adam Hamilton says, “When we’re literally hungry, we pray ‘Give us this day the bread we need’. When we have plenty, we pray ‘Give all of us this day the bread that we need’, we are both praying for and offering to help those in need. And we are also praying for the bread of life, Christ, who satisfies our hungry hearts.” As we continue to study the power and meaning of the prayer Jesus taught, we will consider what it means to ask for, and be given, our daily bread.
Matthew 6:10 “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
As we continue to look at the Lord’s Prayer, we explore what it means to have God’s kingdom come and who will be done. It has been argued that this is the most important line in the prayer that Jesus taught his followers. Author Adam Hamilton writes, “In fact it is the central concern of Jesus’ whole ministry. His teaching, life, death, and resurrection focused on announcing God’s kingdom, inviting people to be a part of it, and encouraging people to not only pray, but to live in such a way that God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” To live in God’s kingdom is to do the will of God when we embody the love and compassion, and the hope and grace of God. The Lord’s Prayer becomes more than a prayer, when we see it as a call to action and a guide to living out God’s vision of the world.
Luke 11: 1 “Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
This Sunday, we begin a series about the Lord’s Prayer. It was a prayer Jesus directed his followers to say when they wanted to learn how to pray. For many years, the prayer has been faithfully recited in churches as part of their worship to God. But, how often have we actually really considered what the words mean to our faith and to our lives. The first line: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” proclaims the majesty, power, and holiness of God. It lays the foundation of who we pray to, one who is worthy to be honoured and praised. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring the meaning and power of the prayer Jesus taught.
Ezekiel 37: 4-5 “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”
There is story in the Bible about dry old bones in a valley that come to life through the spirit of God. It might bring up images of dancing skeletons or a scene from a horror movie, but the metaphor used by the ancient writer was meant to give the reader hope in desperate times. God’s Spirit was, and is, always a source of life.
Many of us have experienced our own “valley of dry bones”, especially in the past two years. The isolation, illness, loss of income, and total change of routine because of the pandemic, may have left us feeling hopeless and discouraged. However, even when we might feel like that pile of dry bones, God’s Spirit never falters. For in the most difficult circumstances, we are assured that through Jesus, death was overcome, and through the Holy Spirit, we can know new and hopeful life. Thanks be to God.
Acts 2: 1-3 “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”
When the first followers of Jesus gathered together one day, it turned into a surprise party with the Holy Spirit as the guest of honour. It was shocking, it was perplexing, and it was joyful. It changed the way they lived out their faith and began a new chapter in the history of Christianity. All the surprising, amazing, unexpected events that occurred in the early church, which are described in the book of Acts, would never had happened without the day of Pentecost, the day the church was born. Since that day, God has continued to come into our lives in new and surprising ways!
*Due to a technical issue, there is no recorded worship service available this week.*
An Ironic Escape
Acts 16: 25-26 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.”
Hard-won freedom is a term we use to mean freedom gained after a great effort. We can apply it to the end of a conflict, letting go of something that is holding us back, or an escape from some kind of imprisonment. Freedom is a value we uphold as important and necessary in this world and we strive to ensure everyone is free.
In the Bible, the book of Acts describes an interesting story of a slave girl, two disciples, a jailer, and an earthquake. In an unexpected twist, everyone we assume to be free is not, and everyone we assume to be enslaved, has been freed. We learn that freedom can be both physical and spiritual, and that God offers freedom through Jesus, the Risen Lord. As we continue to explore the surprising acts of God, we consider what freedom means to us.
Acts 16:14 “A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.”
Have you ever taken a well-planned out trip, but then found yourself on an unexpected detour? Maybe it made your trip even better! Trips, jobs, relationships, pandemics… life can take us on many different kinds of unexpected, but possibly amazing detours.
In the early Christian church, disciples travelled far and wide to share the good news of the gospel. The apostle Paul had a vison to travel to Macedonia, so he took a detour where he met a group of women who listened to his teachings. One woman, named Lydia, opened her heart to believe and became a follower of Jesus. Her life took an unexpected and amazing detour as she began a new journey of faith. Who knows what kind of detour life will take us, when we too follow Jesus?
Acts 11: 15-17 “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning…If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”
Most cultures and countries have foods and specialty dishes that are unique to them. In Canada, we can count poutine, maple syrup, and a Tim Hortons’ double double as special. There are also traditional meals eaten at holidays like a turkey dinner with all the trimmings at Christmas or an outdoor BBQ on July 1st. Food has a way of making us feel like we belong, and a shared meal has a way of bringing people together, even people who are very different from each other.
In the early church, one of the differences between people was what they ate. So, God called the disciples to re-think what they believed they could or could not eat. By being open to an unexpected menu, followers of Jesus from different backgrounds and cultural beliefs found common ground in their faith and worship of God. They came to understand that all people were welcome at God’s Table, just as we are today.
Psalm 100:3 “Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
Little children love to imitate what they see parents, siblings, or other children do. They learn by following the example of others and we have to demonstrate to them good and healthy ways of living. The answer to “Where did they learn that?” can usually been found by looking at ourselves. It has been said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and it’s true that we act like those we admire and respect.
Christians believe we are created in the image of God and can therefore act in the ways of God, sharing grace and love and mercy. In the early church, the first followers of Jesus lived by the example he had set for them. Jesus’ disciples followed in his footsteps to heal, pray, teach, and care for others. We too are called to be Christ-like, to show the same compassion, share the same good news, and imitate the same love as Jesus.
Acts 9: 17 “He laid his hands-on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Sometimes we might say that nothing surprises us anymore. There are many strange and unbelievable things that happen in politics, entertainment, and on social media that we might become immune to surprises. Yet, there is always room for acts of kindness, changes of heart, and new opportunities to surprise and amaze us.
In the Bible, there was a man named Saul, who was persecuting the early Christian church and who really seemed beyond redemption, until God surprised him. God spoke to Saul and caused him to lose his sight until he went to a follower of Jesus who prayed over him and healed him. In a dramatic change of heart, the man became Paul, a believer in the gospel of Jesus, a faithful disciple, and the author of several books in the Bible. Over next few weeks, we’ll be exploring the surprising Acts of God.